Exit Strategies: How to Stop
Wasting Your Time
Learn to recognize early when you’re headed for disaster—so you can run for cover.
These days when it comes to dating there are two common mistakes. One is not picking the right person. The other is not getting out quickly enough when you realize you haven’t picked the right person. A woman whose boyfriend throws his garbage on the floor. Another whose date won’t drive to pick her up for dinner (even though it means only going ten minutes out of his way). Another whose guy will never put her before a golf game. In Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman’s What Was I Thinking: 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories you’ll find the stories of women who put up with everything from a bad command of the English language to men who think of other women when they’re making love to you. Everyone is bound to have a bout of bad behavior now and then and sometimes leopards do change their spots. There are definitely stories about first impressions being wrong, but this article is not about those instances. More often than not, there are little hints at the outset of a relationship of things that will become big problems later on.
Hindsight is always 20/20 but we’re here to help you spot the signs that you’re headed for disaster so that you can run for cover and duck out before you spend too much of your precious time.
Pay Attention to Your Judgments
Human beings can live forty days without food and three days without water but only two seconds without making a judgment about something. We may strive not to judge but it’s a basic human drive to do so. We have opinions. We have ideas. We have thoughts. And they simply can’t be stopped. Sure, we can learn to resist voicing all of them or reacting to all of them but sometimes they should be given some attention.
Jane, a woman we spoke to, shared the following story. She had just started dating a small town guy and she had always been a big city girl. After their second date she wondered what she was doing with a farm boy from the sticks. She resisted writing him off because she didn’t want to be close-minded but two years later his provincial mentality and unwillingness to participate in social functions and cultural events ended their relationship. Jane had a hunch from the get-go that this guy didn’t have the sophistication that she was looking for. If she would have unapologetically trusted her hunch, she’d have known what to do and not wasted her time (and his).
If a voice in your head is whispering to you about his faults, pay attention. Of course, it could be a fear of intimacy, but more likely it’s your intuition telling you that this is not a match, this is not a suitable mate.
Be clear about your deal breakers and move on when you encounter them in someone you’re dating. What are your deal breakers? Addiction? Selfishness? Mother issues? If something doesn’t work for you be clear with the person that you’re dating. Say what you mean and mean what you say but don’t say it mean. Most people won’t change just because they’re told they are in possession of a deal breaker trait. Its not necessary to counsel them on it anyway. If they wind up agreeing with you that there are areas they need to grow, they’ll find a way to change and come back to you in their new and improved form. If they aren’t willing to change why would you continue a relationship anyway.
Maria told us that after dating many men who didn’t feel like grown-ups she wouldn’t date someone without a job and an apartment. These were her two criteria. When she met someone that exhibited boyish qualities that she knew where deal breakers for her, she was quick to move on. She wasn’t being cruel, she was just clear about what she wanted.
Surely, there will be times when first impressions are wrong. Times when people change. Times when people grow before your very eyes. But the bottom line is that we have to be honest with ourselves about what we’re looking for. We can be willing to bend on little things but for the big issues we should put a stake in the ground and stick to it. Sticking around hoping someone will change rarely garners the results we’re looking for.