Thursday, September 9, 2010

Break the Cycle of Dating Users

Although I'm writing this with the "user friendly" in mind, it's actually good dating advice for everyone.  Everyone (male, female, young, old...) has the potential to get walked on by someone eventually, but if it happens to you over and over again, the problem is you.  You should definitely look into why that is, but in the meantime, here are some tips to help get you out of the cycle.

You need three basic things to help keep you safe from predatory people.  Attitude, behavior, and observation.  Attitude helps keep you viewing things from an assertive perspective.  Behavior helps keep you from showing signals that are green lights to predators.  Observation is you looking out for red flags.

Attitude

1. Dating is a hobby.  Remember it well.  Until it becomes a serious relationship, seeing this person is no more to you than going to the gym, fishing, blogging, shopping, whatever it is that you do.  In fact, I would suggest squeezing dates in between these other hobbies and trying not to drop one for dating.  Why?  A nice person will understand that you have a busy life.  A predator will be looking for someone who is either desperate or needy, or disproportionately giving.  A user is looking for someone they can use, simple.

2. A relationship is an investment.  As soon as you start putting this person in front of your life, you are making an investment of time, and emotion.  It should be paying off somehow.  Before you take dating to a relationship, make sure you are getting as much as you're giving.  Also, make sure that what you're getting is what you want.  If it fails these criteria, you need to cut your losses.  You want to be able to look back on a relationship and say, "It was worth it."  If you look back and say, "I'm glad I got out of there," it should never have made it past casual dating.

3. I don't need this.  This applies in so many ways.  You're lonely, so you start dating and meet someone who's "eh, okay".  You're dating someone who's showing some questionably red flags.  You're dating someone who makes you feel bad.  "I don't need this.  I don't need this.  I don't need this."  Then, you walk away.  Users need you to need them.

4. I deserve to get what I want.  Whatever that means to you is fine.  Say it out loud if you have to.  You should definitely never settle for something that isn't really what you want because you feel like you may not be good enough for something better.  You'll never know if you can get something better until you get rid of this other thing and look somewhere else.  There's a reason why this person wants to be with you, so stands to reason someone else will want to be with you.  Maybe that next person is more what you want.  A predator will make you feel like you should put up with them because you're not good enough for something better.  By the way, if you don't know what you want, start with a nice person who cares about you, treats you with respect, and wants you to be happy.  Go from there.

Behaviors.

This is mostly a what not to do list.

1. Do not ever let on that you have a history of being a doormat.  There are a few reasons for this.  The first is that a nice person may be put off by this if it comes up too soon in the relationship.  Second, a predatory person is sniffing you for vulnerability.  This is like a zebra showing off his limp to a lion.  Showing that you have a history of being used is irresistible to a user...and, that person will most likely use that to gain your trust.  They will play on your emotion and side with you about how terrible that is, possibly telling you how they know how you feel because the same thing happened to them, blah blah blah.  Since you can't actually trust someone you just met, you're better off not talking about any of that at all.

2. Do not put yourself below the other person.  This is related to the first attitude.  A user will test you for "usability" (you like that word?).  They're mentally checking off a list of things that show you can be used.  Let's call this the "User Friendly" Checklist.  Most people who get used regularly don't even realize they're doing this one.  Ask yourself:  Do you cancel your plans to hang out with this person?  Do you do them favors regularly, like pick something up for them on your way over and then not ask for the money for it?  Do you go places you don't want to go, or do things you don't want to do because it's what they want and then you don't get your turn?  Do you cook or clean for them even though it's inconvenient?  If you said yes, you're putting yourself below the other person.  Accept it.  Stop doing it.

3. Do not tell this person your life story on the first date.  A user will love knowing everything about you right away, because now they will know exactly what to say to you to play to your emotions and experiences.  Be the onion.  Give them your first date layer and that layer only.  Meanwhile, find out more about them.  This is great if they turn out to be a person you want to get to know better.  It will also give you a chance to spot some red flags without having already told them what you want to hear.

4. Do not call when it is unnecessary or inappropriate.  If they say they're going to call you, let them.  If they don't call within a few days, delete their number.  If there was a real excuse for them not to call you, they will find a way to contact you and apologize with a solid explanation.  A good person who does not call you is either not interested or busy.  Calling this person is needy at best, stalking at worst.  A predatory person is hoping to start this game of treated you like you don't matter and having you do all the work to keep coming back.

5. Do not stay with that person if they are mistreating you.  This may sound obvious, but you're probably reading this because it's happened before.  If you have a hard time judging this, you must delegate to someone who truly cares about you, like your best friend or sibling, and take their word for it when they say that person is no good for you.  It is best if you can see it yourself.  Tell that person you're no longer interested and don't answer their phone calls.

Awesome Tip of the Day.  A user hates being left.  Expect to see a lot of emotion when you break up with them because they are genuinely upset about losing what they get out of you.  Don't fall for it.  They will soon find someone to replace you if they don't already have someone in mind.

6.  Do not rebound.  You need a break after going through it with someone.  Furthermore, you need to get the user scent off you before another predator comes along and smells it.  Many users make a career off broken hearts.  Do not hire them.

7.  Do not have "make up" sex.  You can't lower yourself much more than pleasing someone who is mistreating you.  It's a reward for bad behavior and a way to cloud your mind to keep you from the real issue, which is why you're arguing in the first place.  Furthermore, it's habit forming.  Soon, they will be stirring up conflict just to get make up sex from you.  Make up sex is a drama addiction.

8.  Stand up straight.  This is the one "do" to this list.  Practice it.  Being comfortable in your own skin helps weed out some of the users, since they are usually looking for someone insecure with low self-esteem who is lonely and desperate to please.  Practice speaking while you're at it.  If you sound like you're unsure of yourself, use a lot of words like, "umm, I don't know, I guess so" you might sound insecure.  Meanwhile, the predator is thinking, "Insecure?  Check."

Observation

This is the red flag section.  If the person you are dating shows one or two of these, you should be highly suspicious.  Three strikes and they're out.  Ask yourself, "Do I need this?"  Go back and read Attitude #3 if you're unsure of the answer.  This is not an exhaustive list. These are just ideas of the kinds of things you should be looking out for.



1.  They make you feel like they're smarter, more capable or better than you are.

2.  They ask favors and they just met you, or ask for things too frequently. As a general rule, you're allowed to do one favor before they start doing things for you in return.

3.  They just need a little help getting back on their feet.

4.  They "lose" their temper.  (Hmm, lost?  I can see it from here.)

5.  They're interested in how much money you make.

6.  They talk about how all their exes were crazy.

7.  They want commitment from you too quickly.

8.  They don't like any of your friends or family and try to keep you away from them.

9.  They're jealous/possessive because they really care about you.

10.  They try to tell you what or what not to wear.

11.  They don't want to introduce you to their friends.

12.  Their friends are shady.

13.  They put you on a pedestal.

14.  They hold things over your head.

15.  They're moody.  Riding their roller coaster is a test to see what you'll put up with.

16.  They try to make you responsible for things that go wrong.

17.  Tries to cover up conflict or bad behavior with sex.

Awesome Tip of the Day #2:  There is a pattern among all user/used relationships that I've seen.  The user starts off mostly "nice", and then becomes more and more abusive, manipulative, or controlling.  They don't do it overnight.  They start by inconveniencing you or being rude or showing some other red flag and seeing how you react.  If you show that you don't notice little red flags, they will wave bigger ones.  This is a way for a user to gain confidence that they can mistreat you without losing your services.  When you get upset, they back off a little.  They're constantly flirting with that boundary, pushing it just a little further each time.  Before long, they're doing things you would have run away from in the beginning and getting you to apologize for them.

Final thought.  I think it's important to know what a predator looks for.  People like to do what requires the least effort and gives the most benefit, period.  Predatory people are no different.  This article was put together from the idea that all predators have a list of desired traits.  To avoid predators, the best thing to do is to not possess those traits.  Here's a story to help illustrate my point: 

Two guys are hiking in the forest until they come across a ferocious bear.  One guy starts running.  The other guy follows, yelling, "What are your doing?  You'll never outrun the bear!"  The second guy yells over his shoulder, "I don't have to outrun the bear.  I only have to outrun you..."
So true.  Although nothing will guarantee your safety, it's best to make sure that you are not the prime target in a roomful of people.  Predators are not typically looking for a challenge.  They usually are looking for the zebra with the broken leg, if you know what I mean.  That said, if you show some assertiveness, show that you know what you want and deserve to get it, and show that have your eyes open for red flags, most predators will simply move on to the next target.  If they see that you fit the profile of what they're looking for, they will start to focus their resources on luring you in and trapping you.  Don't be that person.  If you do get singled out, your fail safe is that you can walk away and not look back as soon as you feel you're in hot water.  If you're already in hot water, here's how you fix that problem fast.

Here's an example of a "User Friendly" Checklist:

1. First impression.  Seems nice/passive/insecure?
2. Low self-esteem?
3. Seems broken-hearted or lonely?
4. History of being used?
5. History of abuse?
6. Seems needy or desperate?
7. Willing to help out or do favors?
8. Sympathetic/sensitive?
9. Seems to feel unattractive or not good enough?
10. Is generous with money (bonus)?
11. Seems to like me a lot/want to please or impress me?
12. Agrees with me or can be pushed/bullied into agreeing with me?
13. Apologizes a lot?
14. Seems easily scared?
15. Likes to help people?
16. Responds to compliments/sweet talk?
17. Believes what I say/seems innocent/naive/trusting?
18. Has someone in their life they bend over backward to take care of?
19. Has someone in their life they bend over backward to take care of who doesn't deserve it?
20. Avoids confrontation?
21. Put up with my attitude?
22. Called me when I didn't call?
23. Forgives quickly after an apology or a few kind words?
24. Easy to turn an argument around on him/her?
25. Will have sex with me when they're mad at me?
26. Tries to save face in public or around family/friends?
27. Gives up personal time to accommodate my schedule?
28.  Lacks supportive, assertive friends?

Number 24 is a special one and I've seen it a thousand times.  I've been on the wrong side of it myself more than once, but I've gotten smarter.  I had a friend who was most of this list, and that person would always be telling me about some conflict or episode of something their partner was doing that was clearly unacceptable.  No two ways about it.  The next day or week, we would be talking and I would here all these "I statements" like, "Well, I'm not perfect either," or "I found out I've been doing it, too," (yeah, right) "I did ___ the other day so I guess they were mad about it."  If this sounds like you, you're in danger.  Repeat after me, "We're not talking about me, we're talking about you."  "We're not talking about that, we're talking about this."  It's good to remember that your faults/mistakes don't cancel out anyone else's, assuming that those faults/mistakes were not conveniently invented just for that purpose.


I truly wish you the best of luck taking charge of your dating experiences and finding greater happiness.  While on your journey, you may find that there are other people in your life that are using you as well.  Get rid of them, too.  I delete phone numbers at least once a year to keep my social life clean.  It's a liberating habit.

Please pass on this article to anyone you think it might help.

3 comments:

  1. I agree with a lot of what you wrote. I think all relationships are inherently difficult over time. I struggle with my family, friends and co-workers as well as romantic partners.

    It's interesting to me that people generally do well at pointing out flaws in other people but struggle mightily at identifying our own problems.

    Instead of hoping your good enough for them, make sure they're good enough for you. I'm not saying be a stuck up snob, but have enough self-respect to pick being single over being in the wrong relationship.

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