When a longtime friend asked me out in college, I immediately panicked and jumped out of the car, running into my dorm with little explanation.
We might as well have been dating with the amount of time spent together, but the idea of solidifying that made me uncomfortable. Yes, I liked him, but I wasn’t sure how much and dating meant risking what we already had as friends.
After a weekend of late night conversations with my girlfriends weighing the pros and cons and imagining some worst-case what-if scenarios, I said, “No.”
Fortunately, we’ve laughed about my initial overreaction and remained friends, but this isn’t the only time I’ve sabotaged a relationship before it began. And I’ve had friends who have unintentionally reacted similarly.
Not everyone wants to get married or even be in a relationship, but if you do and never seem to meet the right one, then you may be unintentionally sabotaging yourself before it begins.
If so, take some time to step back and truthfully look at the steps you’re taking in that direction and the roadblocks that could be hindering you from meeting your significant someone.
Reality and expectation don’t always align. It’s easy to expect a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse to fix whatever is missing in life. That puts enormous pressure on a potential relationship, and often, the reality isn’t as exciting as what we’ve been romanticizing.
Sometimes, having unrealistic expectations can even freeze us from putting ourselves out there to potentially meet someone because their reality doesn’t quite match what we have in our head.
There are dozens of ways I’ve seen friends and family meet their spouses—dating websites, weddings, work, church, college—and I love hearing all of their different stories. Some may not have the most romantic beginnings and many have told me that they initially thought this wasn’t the one.
While this goes against those meet-cute moments we’ve watched in movies or read in books, and what society teaches about love, it also opens the door to surprise. Some of the relationships that seem to have the most lackluster beginnings are the most romantic in their day-to-day actuality.
If you’re interested in someone or they’re interested in you and they meet your core requirements (such as faith, character, etc), try giving them a chance. Sometimes, a person who seems ordinary at first glance could be the most surprising. He or she may not end up being right for you, but at least you gave it a chance.
Be willing to reassess your expectations.
Although it’s great to have mentor couples who can give wisdom and insight or models for healthy relationships, we also need to be aware that not all relationships will look the same. They should have the same foundations of faith and commitment, but how that’s acted out will look very different based on circumstance, personality and even experience.
If you’ve ever taken a personality test, you know there are elaborate combinations and each one has its own dynamic. That means that if someone likes you or you’re just beginning a relationship, it’s going to look different based on who you both are as individuals.
Don’t automatically cross someone off because the beginning stages of your relationship doesn’t look like your best friend’s marriage or your roommate’s relationship. Take some time to step back and look at it for what it is. Is it God-honoring? Does it have the potential to grow into something deeper? Does this person have character?
An Unwillingness to be Vulnerable
Vulnerability is a risk. For some, being vulnerable is letting someone know that you like them, while for others, it’s sharing about past relationships or delving into a deeper conversation about faith.
This becomes even more difficult if you’re still hurt from the last relationship and feel your vulnerability was rewarded with rejection. If you do notice that you’re putting up walls or not being real with someone, try talking to them openly like you would a good friend—keeping your guard lowered is easiest when you’re willing to be your self from the beginning.
This also doesn’t mean you have to open up about every intimate detail on the first, second or even third date. Building trust takes time, and if you find yourself sharing deeply personal information to someone before you know much about them (especially if they haven’t told you personal things in return), you may want to carefully examine whether you have healthy boundaries.
There are dozens of excuses that we or our friends and family will accept because we’re waiting for the right person. It’s easy to do when you’re focusing on classes, a career—even self-improvement.
There are busy seasons in life or times when we need to focus on other areas, but make sure your perfectionism isn’t leading to more excuses. Life is full of improvisation, so even if you do meet someone at just the right time when you’re able to focus on a relationship, that doesn’t mean life will stay that way.
Besides, it’s best to get to know someone in all seasons of life as you learn to prioritize what’s most important.
Hanging Onto a Crush
Another excuse is a crush that we might have on someone who is unavailable or where the relationship seems stagnant. It’s easy to set that person on a pedestal or think that it could work out one day. This safety net allows us to avoid getting involved in real relationships where there’s interest on both sides.
Be willing to put yourself out there if you do want to get to know the person you have a crush on, but if they haven’t reciprocated, move on. You deserve to be with someone tangible who likes you for you just as much as you like him or her. Don’t let yourself miss out on other potential relationships because you’re hung up on someone who’s not interested or available.
Worrying About the Future
Not everything is about meeting that potential someone, but if you’re so busy dreaming about what’s next or waiting to move to another city or get a new job or start going to a new church, then you could miss something great right in front of you.
It’s not that you have to give up your dreams, but you do need to be aware of your present. Who are the people around you? How can you get to know them better? Are there opportunities at church or through friend groups that you’re missing out on because you’re waiting on something or someone in your distant future?
Make sure you’re not overlooking the life in front of you. Take time to sit and reflect on what you do have and enjoy the people in your life at this moment.
Katie Connors is a social media director and writer in Nashville, where she drinks a lot of coffee and gets overly excited by whatever book she's reading. You can follow her travel adventures and book reviews on Instagram @kickinkate.