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Five Dead-end Dating Patterns and How To Break Them

You know the signs. You're with a guy and get that gut feeling -- you're going to be hurt and lose out in the same way as before. And even though you vow that this time will be different, it all comes sadly to pass and you're back to the tissue box and Ben & Jerry's. Welcome to the world of dead-end dating patterns.

Here are the top five deadly patterns, along with potent fixes to help you escape them.

1. Not perfect -- I'll pass

The pattern: Your best friend talks you into signing up for online dating. You interact with a number of men and quickly back out of seeing them because of various defects that each one has: this guy is too cynical; that one has bad teeth; the other spilled his espresso macchiato grande all over his shirt. The reality is that you don't even give them a chance to emerge and be who they are. No one is good enough. You unconsciously project your own feelings of inadequacy onto each guy you meet or date. The flaws in them become blinding -- completely and totally turning you off. You run. Your reactions are nothing more than defensive maneuvers designed to guard against being rejected yourself. Then you end up alone, wondering why there are no good guys out there.

The fix: Listen to that voice in your head that is hypercritical of you. Then you won't be projecting so much. If you start feeling turned off when he spills his coffee, as you help him find some napkins to clean up the mess, say to yourself, "I'm being picky and critical in some way of myself, just like my mother (or father) is." Even though this feels strange it will change the way you look at men.

2. Chase me

The pattern: This is similar to "Not perfect -- I'll pass" in that you interact with a guy and then distance yourself. But in this scenario, you have great sex in his king-sized bed and open up not only sexually but emotionally. After the cozy coupling and three-hour confessionals, you get scared to death. You pull back suddenly and become unavailable, or you act crazy and/or dump him. Even if he is loving, you insist that he doesn't really care about you. Almost against your own will, you find yourself running away for no particular reason. Deep down you know that you're starting to love the guy so you have to break up with him before he can do it to you. At least that way you can control the heartbreak. What you really want is for him to smash through the barricades you've thrown up and come riding in on his white horse to claim you. But you never tell him. So you set him up to fail you. He doesn't chase after you. And you say to yourself, I knew it all along.

The fix: You need to slow things down! Remember the mantra: Jump in too fast and it's over fast. And, unless he's a real jerk, no running off! Instead, take a chance -- hang in there and be real with him.

3. I'll make you love me -- push away

The pattern: You meet a guy you like and work hard to land him -- hopping right into bed, making exotic dinners, even buying him tickets to the playoffs. You're not yourself with him -- just busy trying to be the image of what you think he wants in a woman. You're his love slave, chef, therapist, and savior. All you want, consciously at least, is for him to stay and never leave you. What you get is a phone that never rings. Your over-giving has chased him into the arms of the nearest girly-girl who needs him to take care of her! When you finally get the bad news through the grapevine, you're completely baffled by how stupid men can be.

The fix: The giving has to go both ways. Your one-sided over-giving is just masking your own fear of rejection. Understand that you can't make anyone love you. It's either there or it's not. Look for a partner who really loves you for you. (Yes, it's possible).

4. Fade away

The pattern: You finally force yourself to get out there in the land of men and date. And you admit that some of the guys have potential. Some you even like. You're polite, you act interested, and you're responsive. But for some reason, none of them ever calls you back after the initial Starbucks date. You don't get it. What's actually happening is that you're driving men away with subtle verbal or nonverbal signals that say "I don't like you" or "I'm bored" or "I'm boring." But you're not aware that you're sending these signals. So all the guys just fade away. You complain that the single men near you don't really want to have relationships.

The fix: Before a date, close your eyes and imagine that the person you're about to meet is a dear old friend who you haven't seen in years. Greet the guy and start the evening with that friendly vibe. If you like him, end the date with the same warmth.

5. Crumbs

The pattern: You're involved with a guy (who may be married) who sees you occasionally and only when it works in his schedule. For the most part, he treats you well when he's with you. If he's wealthy, he may buy you Manolos or take you out to five-star restaurants. He may be hot in bed. But he cuts you off if his wife or son needs the slightest thing. And he's never available when you need or want him. This rejection causes you a great deal of pain, yet you think that overall it's a good deal. You spend a lot of time thinking and fantasizing about him: how he's going to leave his wife or cut back on his work schedule and be with you in a rose-covered cottage or on the beach in Maui. In your heart of hearts, you know that day will never come, but you're afraid to act on that knowledge. Although you'd never admit it, even to your best friend, you believe that this second-class status is the very best you'll ever be able to get and you're damn lucky to have it.

The fix: Give up the crumbs and take a seat at the banquet table. First, break up with him. Then make a rule: I only date men who are (a) available and (b) crazy about me (for real). Try this on for size, even if it means spending time with guys who "aren't good enough" but who treat you like royalty. You need to learn what it really means to be loved.

If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, congratulations. You have the courage to really see yourself, and that's always the first step towards change. The second step is to try the "fixes" on for size. If changing your M.O. feels weird, remember: that strange scary feeling means you're on the right path to opening love's door.

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