Contributed by Tanya S.

It has taken me a long time to stop dating my ex.  I do not mean that I was dating the same man for many years.  On the contrary, I dated several men. The problem is it was the same type of man.  So how did I break free from that habit?

Make a pro list. Make a list of all of the good qualities of your past partner(s).  Thoughtful, loving, athletic, whatever your favorites are, write them down.  Then write down how you knew they had these traits. Thoughtful – remembered my birthday and our anniversaries. Loving – liked to cuddle. Athletic – had lots of energy, exercised.

  • Make a con list. Make a list of all the negative traits. Selfish, prone to anger, too critical.  How did each of these traits manifest? Selfish – would finish all the ice cream and never leave any for you. Angry – would fly off the handle for no reason, got upset whenever they couldn’t find their keys.  Too critical – criticized the way you stand, your laugh, the way you walk.
  • Make a list of what you want. You probably want to keep all the good traits of your past partners.  You can take the opposite of the negative traits and add them to list: change selfish to generous, angry to calm and critical to supportive.  Then write down what actions your partner would take to show you these behaviors.  For example, you split a dessert at dinner; does he show his thoughtfulness by eating only his share?  Is she being generous by offering to pay the bill?
  • Pay attention. When you go on a date, relax and be yourself. Enjoy yourself, have a good time.  Do not treat their every move as a test, but pay attention.  If you don’t like selfish people and they eat most of the dessert while you only get two bites in, that is a sign.  If they pick apart the dinner and criticize it, that is a sign as well.  But give them a second chance, maybe they were really hungry or anxious and didn’t realize they ate most of the dessert. Or maybe they are not critical but the meal was bad.  But if the behavior repeats, let them go. This is a sign they are unlikely to change. Most people do not. Beware of the thought, “If I change this or that, they’ll be perfect.”  You are falling in love with potential, not the person. Instead, find someone that actually fits the bill.
  • Take a look at yourself. Sometimes the things we want in a mate are the things we want to be.  Are you as selfish as you think you are? Did you ever eat all the ice cream first? Maybe your ex started to do that as a line of defense.  Maybe your ex was critical because you were so critical and they wanted to defend themselves.  Make the changes in yourself and it will be easy for future partners to treat you the way you are treating them.