While dating can be a fun and exciting period of a woman’s life, many women find it difficult to maintain optimism while seeking a committed relationship, especially when she has been working at it for some time. While dating can certainly be challenging at times, at CTWPS we aim to help women reduce any feelings of distress or hopelessness that might arise. The first step on that path is to help women examine their thinking and behavior when it comes to dating, and this involves identifying any thinking traps that a woman may fall into as she works toward her goal.
One common cognitive distortion that can be provoked by dating is the “fortune telling” error. The fortune telling error takes place when one assumes a negative outcome will occur without fully evaluating the probability of that outcome. It acts as a mental shortcut, allowing conclusions to be drawn using limited available information. Often, the negative predictions made by the fortune telling error can lead to a woman feeling sad, resentful, or anxious. Consider the following beliefs:
“I’ve been on so many bad dates, this one will be no different.”
“Nobody will want a woman who looks like me.”
“I’m never going to meet someone who will be okay with my commitment to my job.”
“I want to end my unsatisfying relationship, but I don’t think I’ll meet anyone better.”
If this kind of thinking feels familiar to you, you are far from alone! When a woman tells herself one of the statements above, she believes it and feels it, most probably because she has actually experienced it in some way. However, while our past experience is important, it does not allow us to make perfect predictions of future dating partners or relationship outcomes. And when we engage in fortune telling and assume a negative outcome, we risk impacting our mood negatively, as well as our behavior.
For example, consider a woman who tells herself that if she isn’t married by age 35, all hope is lost and she will never find someone. This woman may find herself feeling increasingly depressed as she nears the dreaded age, which may cause her to spend less time socializing and going on dates. While nothing has actually changed about her, and there is no evidence that she has “expired” as a potential romantic partner, her mood and her behavior have changed, fulfilling her belief that she is out of the game. This woman’s fortune telling about her prospects ends up encouraging the feared scenario. Another example might be a woman who tells herself that all dates that she goes on are terrible, and so she’s not going to bother putting herself out there with this one because it will turn out just as badly. She goes into the date unenthused, resentful, or withdrawn, and the date ends up being a bust. Unintentionally, this cognitive shortcut is resulting in the opposite outcome of what she really wants, and it confirms her belief. She comes out of the date fulfilling her faulty prophecy that all dates are bad.
Here at CTWPS we work with women to influence what they can do to maximize their experience of dating. We would determine together whether “mental shortcuts” or thinking habits are inhibiting her dating life or expanding it. We would also consider ways to align her dating behaviors so that they are consistent with her long term goals of partnership. Dating and finding a partner are similar to other goals, and can definitely benefit from an approach of positivity and flexibility.