Below is a list of thinking traps that can get in the way of building meaningful relationships. Each one is a mindset that limits the way we engage with potential partners. After each trap is an alternative mindset, one that is more effective for getting what we want out of love.
The Concealing Trap. I need to conceal parts of myself and withhold my truth in order to feel safe enough to be in a relationship. I need to construct an ideal version of myself to engage future partners.
Alternative: I can meet each dating experience with openness and honesty, be myself, and reveal my truth. I can be honest, even it if puts the relationship at risk. I can be real. I don’t need to ignore my feelings.
The Impediments Trap. The relationships I’ve had were mistakes and now I have baggage. They’re impediments to finding the “right” one.
Alternative: I can learn from my past relationships. Each has given me an opportunity to grow and get to know myself better. I will bring that knowledge and growth to future relationships.
The Responsibility Trap. My partners or future partners are responsible for completing me, meeting my emotional needs, and making me happy.
Alternative: I’m in control of my life, and my fulfillment depends on me. Though I can depend on my partner for love and support, it is not their responsibility to complete me or make me happy.
The Mind-Reading Trap. My partners or future partners are responsible for knowing what I want and anticipating my desires without me having to tell them. That’s what a true, loving relationship looks like.
Alternative: I’m responsible for informing my partner about what I want, what emotions I’m feeling, and what’s important to me. No one can read my mind, and a successful relationship requires communication.
The Truth Trap. My perspective is reality, and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong. How I interpret the behavior of others is the only perspective that matters.
Alternative: My view of the world and relationships is valid, but so are the views of others. I’m curious about my relationships, and I can grow and learn from each new relationship and from the different perspectives other people have to offer.
The Victim Trap. I am a victim of the circumstances of my love life (e.g., being single, my partner breaking up with me). It’s their fault I’m in this situation.
Alternative: I’m responsible for my behavior in my relationships. I can do my best to connect with people and build relationships, but sometimes they don’t work out. That doesn’t mean I’ve been wronged. I’m responsible for getting to know my own patterns of behavior and for using that knowledge to improve my relationships.