Monica Parikh is a dating coach and the founder of School of Love NYC, a site intended to help people find happy, healthy relationships. Her personal path has been filled with failure (a traumatic divorce) and unusual anecdotes (dating 67 of NYC’s most eligible bachelors).
In this series, The Love Trials, Monica pairs her personal insights with positive psychology and spirituality: The series is a collaboration with Aimee Hartstein, an LCSW with 20 years of experience.
Are you blind to your stumbling blocks—the ones that keep you from a healthy and loving relationship? If so, you’re not alone. As a relationship therapist and dating coach respectively, Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, and I counsel women and men who desperately want a productive, long-term relationship.
We can spot our clients’ impediments quickly and work with them to empower and effect change. Once they adopt healthier habits, our clients become capable of building satisfying love relationships quickly. When a client blossoms to their fullest potential, the transformation is truly inspiring.
While we see many different issues in all manner of combination and extremity, these four are some of the most pervasive and pernicious ones our clients have struggled with:
1. You bury yourself in activities within your “control.”
Kate was one of my first clients. An intelligent and attractive professional in her late 30s, she had no problem meeting goals. Six-figure salary? Check. Apartment in Manhattan? Check. A jam-packed social calendar? Check.
Despite all these checkmarks, Kate couldn’t remember the last time a man invited her to a romantic dinner. Her last relationship had ended 15 years earlier. Although she was surrounded by men at work, they rarely asked for her number.
Rather than admit disappointment, Kate feigned disinterest. She volunteered for more assignments, including out-of-town travel. She renovated her apartment. She walked her dog. At the end of each day, she fell into bed exhausted. When I asked her about sex, she laughed. She couldn’t remember her last passionate encounter.
In our book, Your 3 Biggest Dating Mistakes (And How to Fix Them), we counsel women and men to approach dating like any other learned skill—one that takes patience, practice, and courage to master.
“The ego is fragile. Instead of admitting failure, people often focus on the things they can control. There is no shame in admitting you need help—most of us do at one point or another,” said my co-author Aimee.
2. Your actions are rooted in fantasy.
Shane was a bubbly and effervescent woman in her 40s. She desperately wanted marriage and children. For the previous five years, she had been deeply in love … with her pastor. Although the Rev. Jim was friendly and kind, he never indicated any interest beyond a platonic friendship.
Shane did her best to capture his attention, showing up at his speaking engagements and volunteering at the church—anything that put her in his proximity. When he let her borrow a book, she spent hours dissecting the gesture with her friends. Was this a signal of interest? Were the tides finally turning?
“If someone is interested in you, they will call, text, and ask you on dates. Many people prefer fantasy to reality. It’s easier to ‘attach’ to an image because it’s safer than the risk involved with real intimacy. But this behavior is rooted in low self-esteem and fear. The sad truth is that I have seen clients waste weeks, months, or years while their real desire for love and intimacy goes unfulfilled,” said Aimee.
The complicated psychological reasons for these fantasy-based, nonstarter relationships really come down to one issue: Your apparent interest in someone who is emotionally unavailable probably implies you're emotionally unavailable too. You just haven't admitted it yet.
3. You lack boundaries—and standards.
Men were drawn to Genevieve’s exotic looks. However, at the merest whiff of interest, Genevieve would go into overdrive. She would text and call throughout the day. She would invite men over for dinner and serve elaborate feasts. She would drive out of her way to their homes. She would answer calls way past her bedtime. She always had sex on the first date—no questions asked.
Genevieve never stated what she wanted or needed, including a monogamous relationship. She mistook boundaries for “neediness.” She worried that demands (i.e., standards) would chase potential suitors away. Ironically, despite all her giving and placating, men grew disinterested quickly.
“Many people mistakenly believe that the more they give, the more love they will receive. But acting like a doormat invites mistreatment, ingratitude, and abuse. Before long, these same ‘giving’ people are stewing in resentment,” said Aimee.
4. You're stuck in the friend zone.
Martha was one of the boys. She went camping on weekends. She drank beer at the pub. She hosted Super Bowl parties at her home. Like the sneakers and jeans she favored, her demeanor was casual and comfortable.
She received a lot of male attention—just not the kind she desired. Her “buddies” would call her to share their latest foibles with other women. They often asked for her female perspective. She was a loving, supportive, ego-boosting friend. Despite her kindness, no one ever expressed romantic interest in her—a fact that left her perplexed and confused.
“I often ask clients, ‘What do you think your crush is looking for in a partner?’ Many have never engaged in this type of reflection. Soon, a light bulb goes off. They realize that they may not be marketing themselves effectively—in a way that sparks attraction,” said Aimee.
The above is not a comprehensive list of all the barriers to love, just a few of the major ones. We suggest assessing your dating habits—especially if you’re feeling frustrated by your inability to create change.
While a well-trained professional (i.e., a therapist, coach, or counselor) can help you gain deeper insight, you can also do a lot of work on your own through self-analysis. But, no matter your method, work diligently toward your own growth and evolution. Love exists for you and is well worth the effort—we promise.