I’m a project dater.
Before you remind me of my glass house, let me clarify a bit…It’s understandable for people to have questions about their passion, purpose and whether or not they’re living their best life. We’re all wandering around this Earth colliding with one another as we venture along our personal journey.
However, I’m taking it a step further. I’m referring to those who have absolutely no plan, no passion, no desire, no insight – nothing. Nada. Yet, they want the material wealth that’s typically associated with monetizing a talent or that comes with just putting in plain ‘ole hard work.
Let’s talk about dating people with all the possibility but little probability of materializing those dreams. Not the man that needs time to execute a plan but the woman that fails to realize a plan is even needed: people who wind up being more of a project than a partner. After watching friends and probing family, I’ve discovered several others are guilty of this same behavior, too. While not easy to admit, consistent “project dating” (because there should be a universal term for it) says more about you than the other person .
After listening, questioning, analyzing and finally accepting, here are the 4 reasons I concluded why some of us are serial project daters.
Before assuming this post isn’t applicable to you, take a step back and look long and hard at your relationships. You might just find a hint of truth.
1. Craving Control
Someone who is a major work in progress equates to an incredibly vulnerable person. Plain and simple. Whether its financial (significant debt or minimal income), professional (no job or largely dead-end jobs), educational (limited training with few transferable skills), or situational (no residence and/or no car), the area that’s deficient in this person’s life is usually an area of strength for the project dater.
While “opposites attract” tends to be an appealing notion, dating someone because you feel a sense of control over them is not productive and lacks longterm viability.
There’s already a twisted tendency to be possessive in dating. When coupled with significant disparities in the aforementioned areas, you’re bound to have a combative and toxic dynamic. Control-fueled project daters enjoy the sense of power and position of strength this relationship offers. Initially, these project daters will appreciate their partner’s vulnerability. But, as the disparities become more obvious, so will the levels of resentment and indifference.
Sometimes you just need something to do, right? There’s nothing good on television, it’s taking longer than expected to finish writing that second novel, and snow’s on the ground so the gym is a no-go. Project dating may be the perfect remedy for a case of extreme boredom. Instead of focusing on your goals and mission, sometimes it’s easier and a more appealing use of time to point out someone else’s shortcomings.
Having to face the reality of what’s not so perfect in one’s own life is a challenge most of us aren’t willing to face. Enter the best distraction of all – a new “project.” While in these relationships, its difficult to recognize the signs. However, once things have ended, clarity and hindsight come knocking and you see how much valuable time was spent trying to “help” someone else fix their problems instead of focusing on your own.
3. Ego Tripping (or, Pity)
A few years ago, I admitted to dating an ex-boyfriend because I felt sorry for him. No joke. I’d spent months debating friends about open-mindedness and not requiring an MBA or an AMEX from the opposite sex. So, when he approached me, I decided to give it a try. I quickly realized how misaligned the pairing was – not merely because he wasn’t formally educated or financially stable – but because I failed to see him as a partner and instead treated him like charity work.
Pity made it difficult for me to walk away and my ego wouldn’t accept the possibility of him leaving me. I always saw his life benefitting from my presence as if I was the Great Messiah rescuing him from a life of nothingness. If you don’t respect your partner and if you struggle to see the value they bring to the relationship, it’s destined to fail.
Habitually dating a major work-in-progress speaks to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. When you project date with this lens, you become attracted to weaknesses and deficiencies in the other person. Not to always to exert control, but because it validates your insecurities. Their shortcomings make you feel more comfortable accepting your own. You have to believe you’re valuable, worthy, and enough before you can fully connect with someone else.
We are who we are and we know what we know. If all romantic entanglements in your past include having someone largely dependent upon you for their basic needs, the pattern has been set. It’s been said that habits are formed in roughly twenty-one days. If project dating is the norm for you, it’ll take just as long to break the cycle and start entering healthy, balanced relationships. No man or woman wants to be controlled or pitied. And, accomplishing your personal life goals will prove far more successful than passing the time pointing out (or enabling) weaknesses in the life of another.
Will you commit to ending your unhealthy addiction to Project Dating today?
This post was written by Renita Bryant and originally shared on Renita’s Mynd Matters. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novella, Yesterday Mourning. You can follow her on Twitter and read her thought-provoking blog on life & relationships.