A sizable portion of the dating pool is made up of people who think that all of the people they meet and date are untrustworthy, shallow, selfish, and manipulative.
Yet, as I’ve written previously, if all of your relationships end in psychological ruin, then that says more about you and less about the opposite sex (or whoever you’re dating). Your sample size sucks. And your ability to choose a romantic partner sucks.
There are millions of attractive, confident, emotionally stable, amazing, and yes, single people out there. You just have to know how to spot them and attract them.
1. Drop all games and pretenses. If you ever catch yourself thinking phrases such as: “If I do X, then he/she will think Y,” or “What did they mean by that?” or “What are they trying to make me think about?” or “I never know exactly how he/she feels about me,” or “He/she says A, but then does B,” then let it go. It’s bad enough being in a romantic situation where the emotions and sexual interest are ambiguous — that means that one or both of you is incapable of expressing yourselves coherently. But once the meaning of the behavior itself becomes ambiguous, well, that means one or both of you is attempting to manipulate the other one and you’re setting yourself up for disaster. It may not happen right away. It may not even happen soon. But one day, you’re in for a disaster. You’ve been warned.
2. Develop a nose for needy behavior. In my book Models, I define neediness as the underpinning of all non-attractive behavior. Neediness is when you prioritize the perceptions of others over the perception of yourself.
You need to develop a nose for needy behavior, that is, behavior from someone who values your opinion of them more than their own.
What does needy behavior look like? Lying to impress you. Fishing for compliments. Being extra sensitive or dramatic in order to gain sympathy. Framing themselves as the victim repeatedly to get you to “save” them. Picking fights for completely subjective and irrational reasons. Intentionally trying to make you jealous.
It should be noted that we all feel needy from time to time. But there’s a certain degree of neediness that should be a clear red flag, especially if someone is needy to the point of outright emotional manipulation.
The problem with needy behavior is that if it feels normal to you, then it will seem normal in everybody else. That is, if you regularly engage in needy behavior and think it’s acceptable dating behavior, then you will fail to spot it in the people you date.
“Yeah, she lied to me about her ex-boyfriend still calling her, but I think she just wanted to make me jealous. So I bought her a new handbag if she agreed to block his phone number. I think it’s a good compromise, right?”
Noooooo! You deserve to be punched in the face. Hold yourself to a higher standard and the people around you will alter their behavior to meet that standard, or they’ll simply cease to be the people around you.
3. Establish a zero tolerance policy for emotional manipulation. A lot of people can spot needy or manipulative behavior, but they tolerate it or even rationalize it away. That makes them needy as well. The reason they tolerate or justify needy behavior is because, despite being fucked up and unpleasant, it still makes them feel important and wanted. In extreme cases, these people have such low self-worth that they unconsciously feel they deserve to be manipulated and used.
You must have a zero tolerance policy towards these behaviors. Both in the other person and in yourself. Be willing to walk away the moment someone close to you begins acting this way. It’s the only way to respect yourself. It’s the only way to maintain strong and healthy boundaries.
People who excuse this kind of behavior are always going on about change. “She’s going to change.” “He’s getting better.” “She’s having a hard time but I’m helping her get through it.” But these justifications only continue to feed the toxic behavior. When you do this, you’re continuing to feed the victim/rescuer cycle, and, in fact, nothing has changed. And nothing will.
What’s most important to recognize is that the more manipulative behavior you have in yourself, the more manipulative behavior you will attract and encourage in everyone you date.
It’s insanely important to work on yourself to get yourself to a place of authentic communication in all of your relationships. This means not trying to come up with funny texts or ways to convince someone to see you. This means not guilting another person into spending time with you. This means not creating drama or getting angry as a way to keep someone closer to you.
There’s a dating karma and what you put out will ultimately come back around and wreck your world.
UPDATE: I wrote a follow-up to this article explaining the most important trait to look for in a partner. Check it out here.