The key to successful dating: know your fears and your patterns

We are joined by coach and author Katherine Baldwin to explore how our fears about relationships drive our dating and relationship patterns and how this knowledge can transform our romantic life.

If your road to love is rocky and your dating experiences lead to dead-ends, it could be time to take a look at your relationship patterns and any fears that lie beneath them. It’s vital to understand any self-sabotaging relationship patterns you may have, to identify any fears that compel you to repeat these patterns and then to face these fears so that you can change your patterns into healthier ones and find true love.

This is enlightening, game changing work that will transform your romantic life and support you to find and form the healthy, loving partnership you desire and deserve. It’s also deep self-discovery work so I’ve broken it down into four steps to make it easier.

Sound good? Let’s begin.

1. Firstly, I’d like you to take a look back over your romantic history. You are searching for clues here – trying to identify patterns of repeated behaviour that lead to negative relationship experiences. The following questions, based on my own and my clients’ experience, might help:

  • Do you tend to fall for people who are emotionally or physically distant or unavailable but struggle to fall for available people who want to be with you?
  • Do you avoid spending time on your love life? Do you spend most of your time working, concentrating on hobbies or helping others, while dating stays on the back burner?
  • Do you find fault with every person you meet? Does nobody match up?

You may have different patterns to those listed here but the key is to mine for information and to be honest with yourself.

2. The next step is to identify any fears you might have about being in a relationship. This can be an eye-opening exercise. Here are some of the fears that I located inside myself and that others have shared with me:

  • Fear of loving and losing
  • Fear of abandonment and rejection
  • Fear of making the wrong choice
  • Fear of getting hurt or hurting others
  • Fear of being suffocated and trapped

Again, your fears may be different to these. Whatever they are, try to bring them to the surface.

I’d now like you to explore the roots of your fears. This will involve going back in time, to your childhood or previous relationships.

When I did this work, I saw that I was afraid of loving and losing because of my early life experiences. I idolised my dad and when he moved out, I felt abandoned and rejected. In that moment, I decided that love equalled loss and was to be avoided at all costs.

I also feared feeling trapped and losing my freedom because as a girl, I witnessed my mother’s marriage fall apart, leaving her alone with two kids, little money, and no career to speak of. If that’s what marriage looked like, marriage wasn’t for me, I decided.

How about you? Were you hurt, rejected, or abandoned in previous relationships? Did you lose your freedom or financial independence? Knowing the roots of your fears will help you to change them.

3. The next step is to draw the dots – to see how your fears drive your patterns. For example, if, like me, you have a core belief that love equals pain and loss, you may sabotage your relationships. You may keep falling for emotionally unavailable people because they feel ‘safe’ – there’s no prospect of real intimacy – and you may reject available people.

If this rings true, I suggest you explore and heal your relationship wounds, ideally with support, so that you can let go of your harmful beliefs. Self-reflection is a valuable exercise that will help you to consider what you can learn from past experiences, and it pays to be honest with yourself about what’s been going on. In this way, you can start afresh, judging each new romantic encounter on its own merits rather than through the lens of your past.

4. Now that you understand how your deep-seated fears drive your patterns, you can start to face your fears and change these dating habits. This can be challenging and you might need support – someone to point out when you are operating in fear or repeating self-defeating patterns and to help you get back on track. This could be a trusted friend or a professional. The key is to recognise when the urge to self-sabotage starts to hit.

Don’t be afraid to take a break from dating to focus on yourself if you need one, prioritising plenty of self-care and time spent with friends and family, so you can be sure you’re ready to date when you feel the time is right.

But if you are ready, this step will be the exciting part too. This is when you get to date with renewed courage, clarity, and confidence. This is when you get to put the past to bed and make different choices and healthier decisions.

This is when you find the love you desire and deserve.

Katherine Baldwin is a love, dating and relationships coach, midlife mentor, and the author of ‘How to Fall in Love’, a dating guide for single professionals. She specialises in supporting people to understand and face their relationship fears and to change their dating patterns so that they can find healthy, committed love. Katherine coaches 1:1 and hosts workshops and retreats in the UK and abroad.