Friday, December 31, 2010

Old patterns, new people

Behavior patterns — acting in a characteristic way — begin to take hold on the second date. If you tend to be a relationship sprinter rather than a longdistance runner, you’ll continue to quickly fall in and out of love with each new person unless you do something to change it. If you typically scare the dickens out of your dates by confessing true love on the way to the car, you’ll probably act it out again unless you do something to change the pattern. Or if you’re so scared of intimacy that it takes you ten years to trust someone, you probably won’t change unless you make a conscious effort to do so. If you don’t already know your dating patterns (everybody has patterns of behavior), I want you to pay attention on the second date so you can uncover your tendencies and know what to watch for in yourself. If you’re already aware of patterns and like what you see in yourself, don’t change a thing. But if you’ve noticed a destructive dating style in the past and want to change it, follow these steps:

1. Identify the behavior.
As soon as you experience one of those there-I-go-again moments, pretend you’re a school kid at a crosswalk: Stop, look, and listen to yourself.

2. Define the behavior.
Mentally describe your behavior in a specific sentence like, “Whenever I’m nervous, I tend to be sarcastic” or “As soon as it seems like someone really likes me, I get turned off.”

3. Place it in the moment.
Try to pinpoint what set you off this time. Was it her arm brushing up against yours? Was it something he said?

4. Put it on hold.
Patterns don’t change overnight. They especially don’t change smack in the middle of a date. What you want to do, once you’ve nailed down a behavior pattern, is to relax, file it away in your brain, and look at it later on when you’re alone.

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