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You can try our new HTML5 Flipbook!

We have a new feature called HTML5 Flipbooks that does not require Adobe Flash. This feature is still in beta so some features may not be available at this time, but check it out!

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Negative Dating Patterns

Last month I read Lori Gottlieb’s incredible, thought-provoking memoir Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. And I don’t think a single book has impacted me quite so deeply for many years (probably not since Brené Brown’s Rising Strong).

Lori Gottlieb is both a writer and a practising therapist, and in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone she takes the reader behind the scenes of her therapy practise. But Lori doesn’t just write about her patients – she also documents the year that she spent in therapy, after an unexpected breakup.

I ended up highlighting so many passages throughout this book, and it prompted deep thought on a wide variety of topics – family, love, death, grief, the stories we tell ourselves etc, etc. Honestly, I can’t recommend it enough. Please read it.

One of the many, many lines I highlighted was the following sentence: “We marry our unfinished business.”

Have you ever dated your “unfinished business”?

I’m not married. But this sentiment stood out to me, because I’ve certainly dated my unfinished business before. (How else can you explain the fact that I have had semi-relationships with two near-identical men from Houston Texas? That’s way too random to be pure coincidence. I’ve never even been to Texas!)

In a later chapter, Lori Gottlieb goes on to discuss one of her patients, who continually falls for difficult, unavailable men – despite saying she wants to break that toxic pattern. Gottlieb notes that these poor choices aren’t about her patient subconsciously wanting to get hurt again, but instead it is a desire to “master a situation in which they felt helpless…”

She goes on to write:

“Freud called this “repetition compulsion.” Maybe this time, the unconscious imagines, I can go back and heal that wound from long ago by engaging with somebody familiar – but new. The only problem is, by choosing familiar partners, people guarantee the opposite result: they reopen the wounds and feel even more inadequate and unlovable.”

repetition compulsion

As I read this I wondered whether I’ve created my own repetition compulsion. Aside from Texas A and Texas B, the men that I’ve dated in the past haven’t been shockingly similar. Yet I have been on the receiving end of similar behaviours, ghosting and gaslighting being the most frequent.

And it was alarming to consider the possibility that this might be something my subconscious was seeking out, in an attempt to correct past experiences and rewrite the narrative. (My love of narrative is a HUGE problem when it comes to dating, but I’ll save that topic for another time.)

I sat with this thought for a number of weeks, and gave it a lot of consideration. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that ghosting is far too widespread of a behaviour – carried out by all kinds of personality types, even those who seem genuinely nice and thoughtful – for my subconscious to not only seek it out, but to also foresee it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that’s part of the problem.

However, I do think repetition compulsion might be playing out in another way.

Because, here’s the twisted thing… Whenever I’m dating someone open and accessible, who makes things easy and doesn’t leave me with a giant question mark looming above my head, I feel a bit detached from the whole experience. Like I’m not fully in it.


Maybe this time, the unconscious imagines, I can go back and heal that wound from long ago by engaging with somebody familiar – but new.”


In these instances, I barely think about the accessible guy I’m dating. I don’t have to, because they’re reliable, and therefore warrant no analysis. But, because they’re not constantly on my mind, I start to question whether something is wrong with me. Why am I not more excited about them? I’ll ask. I seem so indifferent; maybe I don’t really like them that much after all? (Logically I realise the whole point is you’re not supposed to be thinking about the person you’re dating all of the time. So this is actually a good position to be in).

But, on the flipside, whenever I’m dating someone who blows hot and cold (or someone who starts off as the accessible nice guy, but then becomes distant) I suddenly get very invested. I can’t stop thinking about them. I analyse every text message. And I’m desperate to make things work (even if I don’t actually like them that much). The experience of dating someone like this makes me miserable, but at least the pattern feels familiar. I know what’s coming – eventually they will disappear from my life – it’s just a case of how we’ll get to that end point.

So, perhaps my inner control freak is subconsciously driving me towards the patterns I recognise?

Or maybe the majority of straight, single men are just ill-mannered jerks, and I’m trying too hard to find reason and logic where there is none?

The gender imbalance

The amount of self-reflection that myself and my single girlfriends do is immense. We are constantly trying to learn from failed relationships and our dating experiences. But are men putting in half as much effort to better themselves and learn from their mistakes? I’m not so sure…

A few weeks ago I was grabbing drinks with my friend Michelle Elman, and somehow we landed upon the topic of dating coaches. We noted that there’s a huge gender imbalance, because the vast majority of coaches/experts/gurus are geared towards heterosexual women.

And that’s simply because women are actually willing to invest time and money into the search for a healthy, loving relationship. Yet the issues that frequently drive women towards dating coaches stem directly from men’s behaviour.

You could watch 400 hours worth of Matthew Hussey videos online (although I personally wouldn’t recommend it), do tons of self-reflection, and it still won’t shield you from shitty behaviour. Dating is always going to be difficult if women are the only ones doing the deep, soul-searching work.

I’m personally coming to the conclusion that there are no more questions I need to ask of myself. There’s no more analysis to do. I’m aware of my flaws and bad dating habits, and I’m constantly striving to do better. So the next time I’m ghosted or gaslit, I’m not going to question whether I’ve subconsciously played a role in that outcome. Because that’s not my shit. And I’m done taking ownership for it.

Do you agree that there’s a deep gender imbalance when it comes to dating?  Do you have your own negative dating patterns? And what do you think about the concept of repetition compulsion and “marrying our unfinished business”? Comment below to have your say…

Artwork by Jennifer Darr

P.S. How to take a nourishing dating detox

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If you follow Erin Foster on Instagram, you know that she constantly jokes about being 30-something and unmarried—but that’s about to change. Foster just revealed that she’s engaged to Simon Tikhman, and I feel personally invested in their relationship after following along with her relatable dating woes for years. 

Of course, she shared the news with her signature self-deprecating humor. “How on earth did I pull this off,” she captioned her Instagram along with a ring emoji. Erin’s sister Sara Instagrammed a photo of Erin’s engagement ring, and it’s as stunning as I’d expect. The photo has racked up roughly four times her average amount of likes and comments, and it’s no wonder why. It boasts a massive, oval-shaped solitaire diamond and a simple gold band. In other words, it’s timeless and statement-making—the perfect combo. Scroll down to see Erin Foster’s engagement ring. 

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Ahh the shower curtain, the only thing protecting your beautifully tiled floor and fluffy bath mat from being soaked by your overenthusiastic, twelve step shower routine.

But buying the right shower curtain isn’t as easy as it might seem, you need one that’s not going to cling to you, spontaneously grow mould and mildew one week in, and one that will compliment the rest of your bathroom interior.

So we scoured Amazon reviews to find out which shower curtain you should buy according to the reviews, and here’s what we found…

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Brace yourselves because the 2019 Sephora VIB event has arrived. The epic summer deal runs from August 19 through 27 with 20% discounts for Rouge members and 15% off for VIB members with the code SUMMERSAVE. All of you beauty experts probably don’t need too much guidance when it comes to figuring out what to add to your cart, but here, I’m breaking down all of the beauty products I’ve tried and always recommend.

Ahead, shop the 26 beauty finds from the sale that are currently stocked in my bathroom cabinet, from the microcurrent tool that looks like an instant face-lift and the three-minute mask that makes my skin seriously glow to the lipstick I won’t leave the house without and the foundation I rely on any time I’m in front of a camera, and so much more. Go on to shop my top beauty picks from the Sephora VIB event.

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Whether it’s long, cropped, baggy, or teeny tiny, a ribbed tank top is one of the most “boring” wardrobe basics you could possibly own. It’s also the most versatile wardrobe basics you could possibly own. Layer it under a denim jacket, a leather jacket, or a cardigan, or wear it alone. Either way, when you wear it with jeans, you’ll look cool and effortless, like a model off-duty.

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Okay, so you’ve decided to part with a pair of jeans you don’t fit in. Now what? Break your donations into sections: sell, donate, recycle. I discerned which pieces could be sold by looking at a handy Who What Wear trend guide, and I put all of the seasonal, well-maintained pieces in a pile to be sold. I took them to a local consignment store (you can find one near you, or consign on The RealReal) and tried to turn a profit. Of course, they won’t take sweaters in the middle of summer, but even if you make $50, that can be applied to your costs of moving or the costs of you finding a new piece you love.

After you’ve tried selling your best pieces, you’ll want to donate the pieces that aren’t falling apart. You can do this by giving to either friend or a cause you love. I recommend doing research. Beyond Goodwill, there are companies like Free the Girls that will take your used bras and donate them to girls who are rescued from sex trafficking, or you can donate to your local homeless shelter. If something is beyond repair, the next best thing is to take them to be recycled. HM collects clothing from all brands to be recycled.

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