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Unequally Yoked: 4 Reasons We Engage in “Project Dating”

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I’m a project dater.

I’ve noticed this was a consistent behavior that can no longer be ignored. By “projects,” I mean dating guys who can be considered major works-in-progress…fixer uppers, if you will.

Project Dating

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.

 

2. Boredom

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.

 

4. Insecurity

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. 

Posted on: Feb 20, 2014

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73 comments
Shaquetta
Shaquetta

This use to be me......specifically 1, 3 and 4. I really had to work on my self-worth and I feel like a totally different person in my new relationship and he's absolutely nothing like the guys from my past. Thanks for sharing this is a really good post.

IAmLisaMaria
IAmLisaMaria

This is a great read, and why I don't date projects or potential. 

Kenya Epps
Kenya Epps

How about no to any kind of dating at all!

Michele Nelson
Michele Nelson

Oooh, some who needs fixing....yeah I'm down with "No project dating".

Michele Nelson
Michele Nelson

Project dating? Not sure what that is, let me read more.

Genn Hossenbux
Genn Hossenbux

Toynia LovesNathaniel Edmond I feel u. I do exactly the same..

Meagan Moznette
Meagan Moznette

Craig Smith remember when we talked about this? Soooo true!

Toynia LovesNathaniel Edmond
Toynia LovesNathaniel Edmond

I'll admit that I'm a project dater because I don't think that a person has to be perfect for me to love them. However, what happens is, I help this person get that job, car, into college, etc, and as soon as they start doing better they feel like they're too good to be with me and they leave.

Saran Baker
Saran Baker

Great post. This applies to family as well.

Talisha Janice
Talisha Janice

The only type of projects I like are home improvements

desireemmondesir
desireemmondesir

I'd love to hear from Paul and Renita about this, but if you know someone who is actually trying to marry someone as a project (among other things)--and the poor girl has no idea--what would you do? Is it the right thing to speak up or shut up? 

And just for the record, I'm that person that will flat out tell you if you're dating the wrong person. I have a very good sense about these things for other people. I'd rather you hate me for telling you the truth, then sit by and say nothing. Marriage is permanent. It's a covenant that God made and respects. So I'd much rather stop someone I love from making the wrong permanent decision then being the yes woman saying nothing. Furthermore, I'd want someone--who loved me--to do the same for me.


What to do, what to do....

ZkitaRae
ZkitaRae

@PaulCBrunson is that dating someone from the projects? I mean, what are you saying here, Paul?

AidanZPhiB
AidanZPhiB

@PaulCBrunson I don't date. it's a horrible waste of time especially if one person is on one page and the other is at the end of the text

Lauren Chatman
Lauren Chatman

I'll admit, even I've fallen in love with the idea of being in love, & have fallen victim to my own projected ideas of what he could be... really, it never works! He has to want it for himself, wait for it, if it is meant to be, you will be equally yoked and more suitable to navigate the relationship, while avoiding the pitfalls of unfulfilled expectations...

Holley Clark
Holley Clark

I had two kids with "potential" and it is a nightmare. Not only did I lose and waste 10 year of my but my children will never have a true father that can love and take care of them. I feel like the whole relationship was a set back and made it harder for me to be were I wanted to be in life. I work hard eveyday to over come this dating mistake. :)

Angela Maria
Angela Maria

Good Day Bridgett..this article was very enlightening. .thanks for sharing♥

Audreyess Washington
Audreyess Washington

Lesson Learned: "Don't date his potential, date his reality." If his reality is not up to your standards, move on!

iamdefstef
iamdefstef

@tina1bean I need somebody who cusses like me but still loves The Lord. It's my thorn.

Renita Bryant
Renita Bryant

@desireemmondesir  A few thoughts (to consider as ideas, not law) but first a few questions 1) Are you sure she doesn't know he's a project? 2) Is she in a place to receive feedback/input on this decision? 3) How close is the relationship between the two of you? 4) What could be her impression of how you view her fiancé? 5) Why is she #ProjectDating?


A few years ago I was engaged in some serious #ProjectDating and engaged to a very real #Project! The entire situation was draining and stifling. I ask #1 because deep down I knew he wasn't the one and I understood he brought more liabilities than assets. However, because I'm so outspoken and direct, my family & friends struggled to communicate their doubts to me. They assumed I knew their true feelings and I'd made my choice. And only until I was truly tired of feeling so drained did I decide to make a different decision and become open to everything they had to say (#2). Looking back, I wish my closest friends had been more transparent (#3). I wish they'd made less assumptions and probed. The right questions asked at the right time could be life-changing & decision-altering. (But I can't promise that now is the right time for your friend). #4 is rooted in the reality that if she already thinks you have a vendetta against her guy, she'll be less likely to find your motives sincere. You have to be viewed as unbiased and genuine in order for the message to be perceived the right way. Finally, the blog is to help us understand the WHY behind our actions. It highlights 4 primary reasons for #ProjectDating but maybe she has another one. Probe to get her wheels turning (send her the blog link too!) without forcing your opinion on her. 


When a woman is about to marry a #Project, chances are --she knows it. As her friend, try to understand the Why. 


Good Luck! 

PaulCBrunson
PaulCBrunson

@ZkitaRae lol, no that's not it - check out the post and let me know your thoughts :-)

LYHMEDIA
LYHMEDIA

AMEN!!!!! This post is from GOD !


tina1bean
tina1bean

@iamdefstef For me - it's sarcasm. I need someone who is secure enough in who he is to let me be me.

desireemmondesir
desireemmondesir

@Renita Bryant @desireemmondesir  Thanks Renita! Those are all great things to consider. Unfortunately, I've known the man marrying the woman better and longer than the woman herself does. She doesn't exactly have a reputation for being bright or intelligent when it comes to common sense so I think it's very likely she has no idea what she's getting herself into. The man, on the other hand, has a habit of #ProjectDating to cover his own issues which is a whole other story. Frankly, I just feel bad for the girl, although I can't say I'm particularly fond of her. She has no clue what she's in for.


I'm sure she thinks she's marrying up and in a sense she is, but the price once paid will not at all be worth it for any self-respecting woman.


That said, I think situation, relationship, and proximity considered, it's not likely I'll say anything to the either one of them despite my desire to. What an unfortunate situation for her to be in. :( 

desireemmondesir
desireemmondesir

@anndrex1 @desireemmondesir  So you've never had anyone approach you in love and let you know you're making an unwise decision that could have serious, negative implications? If family and friends can't do that, then who can?