7 Harmful Lessons We've Learned From Dating

When it comes to the dating game, it's easy to become jaded along the way. And although you'd like to think that the lessons you learn from dating along the way are all practical — or at very least necessary for protecting yourself— a scary truth is that dating jerks can turn you into a jerk. Being treated badly can make you treat others badly. It's not easy to spot when or how it happens, but at some point you can go from being the victim to learning some pretty bad habits yourself. It can be hard to keep your softness when you're trying to toughen up and protect yourself.

"You may automatically assume that dating is some kind of game or competition to be mastered rather than something fun and enjoyable. If this isn’t checked you can lose a sense of trust and the belief that two people can meet, like each other, and form a relationship in a natural, easy way," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "The best way of combating these bad habits is to truly be yourself and don’t play games. Reach out to someone if you had a great date. If you want to be in a long-term relationship, let them know. Be yourself and be authentic and you have a much better chance of making a true connection with someone."

It can be easier said than done, because there are so many bad habits you can pick up along the way. Here are seven harmful lessons that you can learn from dating, because you're better than that, I promise:

1. To Be Cynical

I love being a little cynical, it's just part of who I am. But it can go too far and really affect up your life. Because when you're too cynical, you may be completely shut down to every and any possibility.

"One of the downsides to being in the dating pool for too long is that people start to become overly cynical and overly suspicious," Hartsein explains. "You can start to question and analyze every move or comment your date expresses." I have definitely been guilty of this one, but it's really important to keep some perspective.

2. To Be Jealous

Especially if you've been cheated on. I had this problem, and had trouble listening to the rational side of my brain that told me my new partners had done nothing suspicious, because there was still a hurt part of me that assumed it would happen again. It wore off, but it took some time .

Licensed psychotherapist Vanessa Marin writes:

You can’t prevent yourself from feeling jealous, but you can prevent yourself from acting out on that jealousy. As you’re talking yourself through a jealous experience, tell yourself, “it’s understandable that I’m feeling jealous. But I’m promising myself right now that I’m not going to act on my jealousy.

3. To Shut Down

Oh, and let's not forget the classic. If you've had a bad relationship before— or even a good relationship that ended badly— you're probably going to have some walls up. You can be cold, difficult to reach, or even punishing. It's a bad habit we pick up from old relationships and, the most difficult part about it, is we convince ourselves it's for our own good. It's not. You need to be practical and protect yourself, of course, but you have to let people in too.

4. To Blame Other People

Yeah, we've all dated some assh*les. And it's easy to put all the blame over a failed relationship on an assh*le, especially when your friends and family back you up. But the thing is, no one is ever totally 100 percent to blame. You need to be accountable and take responsibility for your role in a relationship breakdown, even if it was just a supporting one. Don't get used to putting it all on other people.

5. To Treat People As You've Been Treated, Instead Of How You Want To Be

You get ghosted, ignored, dumped in a sh*tty way, or just lied to enough times, and you start to become desensitized to it. And even if you were indignant the first few times it happened to you, it becomes really easy to take those traits on yourself and start doing all the behavior you hate because it's "just what people do." Just because you've been on the dating merry-go-round a long time, doesn't mean to drop the standards of how you treat people.

6. To Force It

We've all seen people who want to have something finally work out so badly that they ignore all the warning signs and insist they're in the right relationship. It can waste you time— and sometimes make you suffer through a really terrible relationship — but bottom line it keeps you from getting what you really want. You need to be resilient, but also realistic.

"Your standards are important and necessary!" Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell told Bustle."There's absolutely no reason to accept anything in a relationship that doesn't work for you! You have so much to give a relationship so be sure you're receiving in a similar manner."

7. To Give Up

I'm not someone who thinks everyone needs to be in a relationship — I've spent a huge, happy part of my life not wanting to be. But it's sad when you see someone who always wanted to be in one just be so worn down by dating that they convince themselves they never wanted it in the first place. It's one of the worst lessons you can learn from dating and the one to keep an eye out for. It means it's time to break a break.

“This will help you get a firmer sense of self, and a stronger feeling of self-esteem," Licensed love and relationship therapist Esther Boykin told Bustle. "Be honest with yourself about what you are looking for in a partner, and only look for this when you go back. Be selective and take your time.”

Think about what's making you unhappy and how to change it, but don't give up.

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