When you're ready to enter the dating world, whether through online dating or otherwise, look for key disclaimers that show whether your date is ready for what you want in a mate. (Al Behrman/AP)

What’s up, Doc?: In dating, look for the right disclaimers

When you’re ready to date again, you may put your feelers out or make overtures. You may tell your friends to keep an eye out for you and set you up with a date or go online to any of the dating sites. However, reflecting on your dating history, have you ever asked yourself, “How do I misjudge dates so badly when they seem great at first?” “How did I get myself into this situation — again?” “How do I always find losers?” One time, you can write it off as an isolated incident. Twice, you may or may not have put two and two together yet. But after the third time, you need to get that “something,” and not you, has you caught up in this repeating pattern in your life.

Such a repeating pattern defends itself by falsely making you believe that you are responsible for this pattern, that you sabotage yourself, that you are your worst enemy, and that you don’t deserve to meet good people so you can develop a meaningful relationship. Your lack of awareness prevents you from seeing the operation of this pattern and blocks your ability to see other options that are proper in the moment. You see others’ patterns operating, but rarely your own. You’re forever giving good advice to your children, parents,

clients and friends, but not to yourself. Or if you do, then that advice evaporates before you ever fully implement it.

How can you determine and be certain from that first date if that person may be interested in more than just a one-night stand versus interested in developing a relationship or not? Here’s one way to break that pattern from the get-go.

Usually on the first date, he will turn over a “disclaimer” like a card in a card game. To hear the disclaimer, you need to be highly aware by approaching your date as an interview (no matter how unromantic that may sound) versus being so goo-goo, ga-ga over the person, his prestigious job or educational background that you miss his disclaimer he presented to you. Some disclaimers may be: “I’m not ready for a relationship and just want to date,” “I just came out of a bad marriage or relationship,” “I’m planning to divorce,” “The last relationship ended because I didn’t want to have children,” “I have low-esteem issues I need to work on,” “I have been very unhappy in my marriage for many years,” “I’m told I’m too picky,” “I’m still trying to get over a relationship that ended.”

Be aware also how you can miss the disclaimer as a voice in your head talks you out of hearing what you don’t want to hear and into believing that you are unlike any of the other woman he has ever been involved with in the past and that you would treat him so much better. Maybe you get sucked in by identifying too strongly with your date’s problem. Or you latch onto him because of your own need to be dating again or not wanting to be alone.

Get some background on him. Ask your date about his mother and father and how he interacts with them. See what patterns your date may have with the females. See if there’s a theme that runs through them. You may want to see how his relationship with his mother was when he was younger and how it is now. If he has unresolved issues with her, he will probably have them with you. Furthermore, if you learn he’s never done any “homework” on himself, is not introspective and is opposed to ever getting therapy, that’s a definite deal-breaker.

Watch in particular your motivation in denying or passing over his disclaimers if he is not interested in what you are looking for — a meaningful relationship that could eventually blossom into a marriage or live-in relationship. Trust your gut. Be present. Be a good listener and you’ll come out OK. Remember, view that first date as an interview.

Dr. Richard Crowley is a psychologist and co-author of the Imagine All Better book and app. Email comments to doc@imagineallbetter.com.

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