"But he seemed like such a sweetheart, I can't believe he did that to me!"
I couldn't count the amount of times I've heard something like this. Mostly from very smart, worldly women! No matter who you are and how much experience you have had dating, you can save yourself a lot of time and heartache if you understand the following basic dating principles:
1. Other people are different to you
We all operate from our own frame of reference and we tend to assume other people are more similar to us then they actually are. However, other people do not necessarily feel the way you feel, think the way you think, or want the things you want. This is not because they are 'men!' (insert contemptuous tone here), it's because they are not you.
This may sound basic but our expectations are driven by what we each consider normal and we are vulnerable to taking these things for granted. For example you might assume that most people who are your age are looking for something long term because you are. You might think that because you don't have the time to date multiple people your partner doesn't also. You might take for granted that because you would never expose your partner to sexual health risks they wouldn't expose you to them. Or, you might assume that because you met his family he must be serious about you, because you wouldn't let just anyone meet your family.
Don't leave important expectations and boundaries unconfirmed. The conversation may begin awkwardly, but if you are really on the same page it will bring you closer together, if not...better you know now!
2. Actions and words have to match up
Many people will tell you one thing but their behaviour will indicate differently. This is not generally because they are bad people, but people can delude themselves. Sometimes what we think we want and who we think we are is not representative of how we live our lives in reality.
What is more, this sort of delusion can be contagious! Out of a willingness to think the best of someone and a hopefulness that the relationship will work out, you too can pretend to ignore these discrepancies! Be observant and date smart. Don't become the "girlfriend" of a guy who says he is ready for a relationship, when you feel you are always being put second place to work, friends or other commitments. Or, don't keep seeing a guy who says he can't commit to a relationship just because he keeps pursuing you and seems really interested and caring towards you.
3. Know what you want and assess for it early.
When you begin dating you have a window of opportunity to assess for similar values and desires. For most people, the longer they hang out with someone, the more attached they get and the more vulnerable they are to the love drugs that will interfere with rational decision making.
I'm not saying that you have to lay it out in the first 5 minutes of meeting someone. But don't ignore what people say and how they treat you. Don't go to bed with someone without clarifying what it means to them and for the relationship, and, if you have been out with someone more then a few times without actually talking about what is happening, wake up! All good relationships require good communication around difficult subjects so if you can't bring yourself to raise this issue now, it is not a good sign for the success of this relationship long term!
4. Let respect rule
Do not go in to a relationship with the hope that you will change someone or someone's mind, it is rude.
Equally, respect yourself and your own preferences and don't mould yourself into what you think your date will like. Finally, assess how your date respects the areas in which you are different to him, does he criticise you? try to change you or convince you that his way is better?
Of course we are more attracted to people who are more similar to us, but in every relationship there will be differences. The key to a good relationship is picking someone whose differences you can live with.