The 23 Most Common Dating Mistakes, According to Relationship Experts
Don't let these dating mistakes ruin your chances of finding true love and happiness.
The wild world of dating can be a tricky one to navigate. After all, there's no playbook on how to court someone. But just because there are no hard and fast rules about what you should do when dating, that doesn't mean there aren't things you should avoid doing on the dating scene. In fact, there are many common dating mistakes almost everyone makes. To help you be in the minority, we talked to relationship coaches, therapists, matchmakers, and more dating experts to identify what not to do when you're playing the dating game.
You're dating without any goals in mind.
Without goals and intentions, many people fall into the bad habit of dating passively, says relationship coach Kari Tumminia, MA, author of No Bad Dates. That means just waiting for the next person to show enough interest and then reacting to whatever they bring to the table, as if you're "auditioning for the position of a soulmate," Tumminia says. Instead, she recommends spending time creating a description of what your ideal relationship looks like, so that you can use it to identify which future partners or dates align with that idea and which don't.
"Dating with goals and a purpose in mind removes stress around figuring out which potential partners we should give more time and more energy and helps us create clarity around why we're dating," Tumminia says. "Knowing why we're dating removes confusion, keeps us from staying too long with people who aren't right for us, and moves us in the direction of finding good partners, faster."
You're focused on dating only one person at a time.
If you're not in an exclusive relationship, there is no reason to focus all of your energy on one person—especially if they're not just focused on you. As Tumminia says, people often forget that "dating and being in a relationship aren't the same thing." Actively dating is about "meeting, experiencing, and ultimately vetting new people in pursuit of a relationship," she says. Not only that, but dating multiple people at a time helps prevent you from "over-attaching to one person too soon" and allows you to have the chance to see people in a variety of situations before settling down with just one person.
Or you might be focused on dating too many people.
On the other hand, dating too many people can also cause some problems. Eric Patterson, a professional counselor in Pennsylvania, says being involved with too many people can often make it harder to feel "content with just one person."
"One person could have been the best cook, another was incredibly handy around the house, another had an unparalleled sense of humor, and another was an amazing sexual partner," he says. "None of these people were complete, and none of them satisfied you to the desired level, but their standout characteristics will be burned into your brain."
You text too much between dates.
Steve Phillips-Waller, relationship expert for A Conscious Rethink, says many people actually harm a relationship in the beginning by texting too much in between dates.
"Over-messaging in between dates leaves you with fewer things to discuss when you actually see each other. So keep messages casual and short—just enough to show your interest, but not so much that you kill the conversation later on," he says. "Unfortunately, shy people or those with social anxiety will use messaging as a substitute for meeting in person. But it rarely builds the same level of connection as face-to-face chats."
You're too reliant on dating apps.
Finding partners through dating apps is the norm these days, but Katie Dames, a relationship expert and sex specialist, says that if you're too reliant on dating apps, you tend to turn dating and relationships into "commodities" rather than "humanizing" the process of finding a partner.
"Common practices such as ghosting and receiving unsolicited nudes are the direct result of these apps. They have drastically changed the culture of dating," she says. "I understand why they are widely used; dating apps cut right to the chase, everyone knows why they are on the app. However, the convenience of these dating apps should not be the determining factor in using them. Their negative properties greatly outweigh their positive traits."
You're dating because you don't want to be alone.
It's fine to want a relationship, but when you start forcing connections and relationships because it's what you think you should be doing or because you're uncomfortable flying solo, then it becomes a problem.
"The word 'need' will strip you of any power you have in the dating world. Anytime you look for love with a 'need' for a partner to fill a donut hole, you give your power away and lose yourself," explains relationship expert and therapist Audrey Hope. "Anyone who succeeds in finding true love must do so by being their authentic selves and in their own power."
You settle for less than you deserve.
Nicole Arzt, MS, LMFT, board member for Family Enthusiast, says people end up sacrificing "one or two or 20 needs" because they are too afraid that they will end up alone instead. Unfortunately, Arzt says this only "perpetuates low self-esteem," and creates a pattern of people dating others they resent or don't actually really like.
You're full of negative thoughts about yourself.
You can't make room for a positive relationship if you're always stuck on the negative when you look in the mirror. Any time you think negative thoughts about yourself—like "I'm too old" or "I'm too fat"—Hope says you cut down your own confidence and worth, while elevating the person you are dating. You begin to see this person as "too good for you," which leads to an unhealthy relationship and puts your partner up on an unattainable pedestal.
You carry around baggage from your last relationship.
If you're a serial monogamist who never allows yourself the time to deal with the pain or issues that come from a breakup, then you are establishing a rocky foundation for future relationships.
"Make sure you are healed and have dropped the baggage of your last love before you take your wounds in the new one," says Hope. "Go to a therapist or relationship coach and work out the patterns and themes of what hurt, what still lingers in your heart, and where you are vulnerable."
Or you compare everyone to your former partner.
It's common to consciously or subconsciously compare everyone to your last flame, especially if you still have an emotional attachment to them, says Viktor Sander, relationship expert at SocialPro. But Sander recommends focusing on every new person you meet as a "unique individual" and learn to "appreciate them for their qualities," rather than "putting them into comparison with someone else."
An easy way to make this switch in your mind is by asking yourself questions like, "Am I happy with this person? What do I like the most about this person?" instead of, "How does this compare to what my ex did? Is it better or worse?"
You think you can change someone.
April Davis, a professional matchmaker and founder of Luma, says that even though people often hear "that they can't change people," they hope and believe that they are the exception to that rule.
"Realize more times than not, someone is putting their best foot forward when they initially are getting to know you in the dating world," Davis says. "So it is important to take them as they are and assume all their good and bad characteristics and traits are there to stay. The next choice that should be made is if those bad traits are something you can realistically deal with or if it's a dealbreaker."
You're not upfront about your feelings.
Instead of letting their true feelings show, many people act as if the person they're into will figure it out through clues they think they're giving. Of course, admitting you have feelings for someone you're not sure feels the same way is scary. But you also risk losing that person for good by hoping they can read your mind. Whether it's due to "pride, shame, or awkwardness," Davis says, not being forthcoming about your feelings is a very common dating mistake.
If you want to have success in your dating life, Davis says you need to "start letting people know how [you] feel and not hoping they will figure it out magically."
You focus too much on what you think the other person wants.
When dating someone new, many people are so worried about messing things up that they focus too much on what the other person wants. "We think there is something wrong with us, that we lack something that others are looking for, or we are 'not enough.' This causes us to want to prove to others we are worthy of their attention and that we are enough," says certified counselor Kathryn Ely, host of the Imperfect Thriving podcast. "Instead, when dating, we should first focus on exactly what we value and what we want in a relationship. When we know this information going in, we create firm, healthy boundaries, and honest communication—which is a good foundation for any relationship."
You let conversations get too one-sided.
Everyone wants to make a dazzling first impression when meeting someone new. However, Sander says you need to be careful not to be "too self-focused" and "talk too much" about yourself. Of course, the opposite isn't any better. If you're only asking your date questions without revealing anything on your end, you might come off as an interrogator.
"Studies show that the best interactions are so-called 'back-and-forth conversations,'" Sander says. "We ask something, ask a follow-up question, then share something related about us, and then go back to asking something about the other person, and so on."
You look for what's wrong instead of what's right.
Dating in the modern world is often focused on trying not to waste someone's time, says certified dating and relationship coach Jenna Ponaman. As a result, many people try to connect with others by running "through a series of questioning to quickly assess" if someone has potential or not. But Ponaman says this immediately places a barrier between you and that person, as you're more focused on "finding what is wrong" with them rather than looking for points where you can actually connect further.
You try to rush a deep connection.
According to Ponaman, many people will try to rush a "deeper vulnerable connection" with a potential romantic partner by trying to bond over pain points early in dating. "For example, people typically will talk about their exes on a first or second date, which is a big no-no," she says. "Mutual respect and trust has not yet been formed on a first date and this is where you should be putting your best foot forward while still remaining true to yourself. You do not want to set a foundation of a relationship based in pain and complacency, but rather on your strong suits and the qualities that truly make you who you are."
You start talking about the future way too early.
"Going on a date and acting desperate for love is the fastest way to ruin a relationship before it begins," says relationship expert and certified wellness coach D. Ivan Young, PCC. "Dating serves one purpose and that is to explore your likes and dislikes as you interact with another person. This is not a time for you to pour your heart out, nor project your misguided assumptions on another person. The best strategy is to simply be present in the moment and enjoy meeting what could be a good friend—or a future partner."
You come across as too needy.
Everyone wants to feel needed, but you don't want to come across as too needy or clingy towards the person you're seeing. Relationship expert David Bennett, co-founder of The Popular Man, says that recognizing signs that you're being too needy—you're always texting them first, you're checking out their social media, you're only making time for them, etc.—can help you create healthy boundaries.
You pretend to be someone you're not.
When you're attracted to someone, you often want to present your best self. But there is a fine line between doing that and pretending to be someone you're actually not. And Dana McNeil, MA, LMFT, founder of The Relationship Place, says that being unauthentic may actually be making you more unattractive to other people. After all, McNeil says it's "attractive to meet someone who is willing to own who they are and what they are looking for in a relationship."
If the person you're seeing realizes you are only going along with what they say and want and have no goals or values yourself, that might push them away. Don't pretend to be obsessed with snowboarding when you hate the cold weather just because you find out your new beau is a snowboard enthusiast. And don't feign to be into collecting old records when you're more of a pop fan just because of your potential partner's preferences. Having separate interests and likes can actually make a relationship stronger.
You're looking for a best friend, not a partner.
Despite what you may have heard, you should not be "looking for a best friend as a significant other," says Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking. Trombetti says this becomes one of the biggest issues later in a relationship and even marriage because "there are no sparks." Your partner should be a friend, she says, but friendship should not be the basis for the entire relationship.
You confuse chemistry with lust.
Most people confuse chemistry with lust and don't give something that has a potential spark the time it needs to blossom. But chemistry is something that can grow the more you get to know someone.
"Chemistry is a slow burn and lust is an attraction thing," Trombetti explains. "If you never go out on a second date because you are lacking the attraction part, you might be missing out."
You push everyone else in your life away.
Stephania Cruz, relationship expert for DatingPilot, says she often sees people become so involved in a new relationship that they "no longer leave room for friends, family, or former activities." Losing sight of who you are or what you like to do for the sake of a significant other is a recipe for disaster. Cruz says this is especially hard if any problems arise in the relationship or you go through a breakup; you then have a "harder time adjusting" and have to regain your identity.
You overlook red flags.
For the sake of wanting to settle down or just being really attracted to a person you're beginning to see, many people tend to ignore obvious red flags, like "always taking a rain check on plans" or "not being ready to settle down," says Maria Sullivan, dating expert with Dating.com. She says if you start to notice aspects of a person that you don't like when you first start dating them, don't push them aside just because this person seems to "check all of your boxes."