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How to Never Date Another Version of Your Ex

by Eharmony Editorial Team - February 10, 2010

It can be so hard to keep from ending up in the same frustrating, dysfunctional relationship with a different person. Here's our tips for avoiding another version of your ex.

Sponsored by The Bounty Hunter, in theaters March 19.

In the new comedic action flick ‘The Bounty Hunter,’ Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler are two sexy exes trying to stay far away from each other … until Butler is hired to haul his former love to jail and winds up in the middle of her life-threatening drama! In real life, you don’t have to worry about such awkward situations – but staying away from your former squeeze can sometimes be almost as challenging! So how do you move forward and not wind up with another version of your ex?

Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” You’ve heard the story a thousand times. Someone thinks they’re dating someone new, someone totally different and then within a few months they realize that he’s their Ex in sheep’s clothing with the same mother issues, the same frugal tendencies and the same chronic halitosis. How does this happen?

Everyone is drawn to things that are familiar and comfortable whether it’s a perfectly worn pillow or the smell of apple pie cooking. So, the real question is, how do you determine if you’re with someone because they’re familiar or because they’re right? In an effort to make sure you never date your Ex again go through these simple steps.

1. Make a list of traits that your Ex had that you loved (things like affectionate, generous or thoughtful)

Take that same list and now make it specific. If you said “thoughtful,” ask yourself: what did he do that was thoughtful? Did he make you feel like you were on his mind in every day in little ways? Did he send you a text message when he knew you had an important meeting? Did he plug in your cell phone when your battery was low?

2. Make a list of traits that your Ex had that you’d like to leave behind (things like a bad temper, selfishness or being cheap)

Take that list and make it more detailed. If you said “cheap,” ask yourself: what did he do that made you assign that label to him? Did he fret when you bought something for yourself? Did he have money for his interests (like golf) but not enough for yours? Did he make you account for every dime?

The bad news and the good news is that the common denominator in all of your relationships is you. It’s bad news because we can keep attracting the same things for ourselves if we don’t consciously get out of our own way. It’s good news when you can see that armed with the right information, you can stop recreating negative patterns. How do you do this?

3. Look at the above list and decide what characteristics you want in the next person you date and how you’ll spot those traits

In a movie, there’s always a visual moment that represents how a character feels, what they want or who they are. In ‘Singles’, Bridget Fonda’s character’s idea of a thoughtful man was one that said, “Bless you” when she sneezed. What will you need to see to know the person you’re dating has the qualities you value most?

4. Look at your deal breakers

If your Ex’s stinginess made you crazy, how can you be sure you’ll find a generous man the next time? First, you need to be able to spot stinginess when you see it. You don’t have to be judgmental or reactive but pay attention. Let’s say he doesn’t offer to pay for dinner but otherwise seems like a really great guy. You can give him a second chance — more will be revealed. But look at his actions. Does he pay for dinner the next time? Is he generous in other ways? If he continues to show up as stingy, no matter how hard it is to do, check him off the list and move on. This is one characteristic you already know you can’t live with.

The biggest danger in all new relationships is turning a blind eye to people’s limitations and falling in love with potential. If you look at the beginning of your relationship with your Ex, you’ll probably see glimpses of what became your biggest issues. The problem is that once you’ve gotten attached to someone, you start to hope that they can change. It rarely happens. If you only have one dating mantra in your life it should be Don’t Fall In Love With Potential. Sadly, most of us have had to learn this the hard way. But now is the time to stop the insanity by not repeating this lesson over and over again.

Take a fearless look at yourself. Do you have the traits that you desire in another person? If what you value is thoughtfulness, ask yourself: am I thoughtful? If generosity is key for you, ask yourself: am I generous? When you make changes in yourself, who you pick changes and how the relationship unfolds changes. Getting clear about your likes and dislikes will help you carefully choose someone that doesn’t end up being just another version of your Ex. Make a different choice the next time and at least Einstein won’t consider you insane from the grave!