4 Reasons We Date “Projects”

July 16, 2014
Grown Zone Project Dating Post

In my limited decades of dating, I’ve noticed a consistent behavior that can no longer be ignored — I’m a project dater.  By projects, I mean dating guys considered major “works in progress.” 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 that 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 just engaging 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 that wind up being more of a project than a partner.

After watching friends and probing family, I’ve discovered several guilty of this same phenomenon.  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 came up with for 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 see a hint of truth.

CONTROL: A major work in progress equates to a vulnerability. 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 no car), there is a deficient area of the person’s life that’s a 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.

BOREDOM (aka PROCRASTINATION): 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, it’s easier and a better 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 comes knocking and you see how much valuable time was spent trying to ‘help’ someone else fix their problems instead of focusing on your own.

PITY (aka EGO):  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 struggle to see the value they represent in the relationship, it’s destined to fail.

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 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 good 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 be largely dependent on 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 (grown-up) 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 by finger-pointing weaknesses in the life of another. Will you commit to end your unhealthy addiction to #projectdating today? 

#ProjectDating is not the GROWN way to date. What do you think?


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  • Reply Anonymous July 18, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    I agree with this concept in general but feel that there is a difference between men dating women who are ‘projects’ vs women dating men who are projects. If you believe in tr traditional men/women relationship dynamics (in a heterosexual relationship) it may be much more appropriate for men to enter into a relationship with a woman that can learn from him and benefit from his lifestyle, etc. it doesn’t seem to work as well the other way around. Relationships don’t necessarily lend themselves to equality on the men/woman dynamics thing.

    However I do agree that 2 people in theory should bring something to a relationship and both parties should benefit from said relationship. So yea…thumbs down to project dating!!

    Great post 🙂

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  • Reply stagesyou February 9, 2014 at 8:00 PM

    Interesting concept. I often hear and believe that relationships are work and require lots of work. Therefore, isnt a relationship one big project with several phases? Also, people often use their relationships to work out issues with their past. Whether it be the relationship with their mother or father or a previous relationship. I think these projects are necessary to grow if people are clear about their intentions up front.

  • Reply Sonia Thompson February 4, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    I dated someone for a while who ended up being a project. I don’t think I thought of it that way when getting into the relationship, but somewhere along the way it turned into that. It was exhausting. And while I was in it – very few of my own personal goals were advanced. I do however thinking at some point that “he needed me,” and that certainly isn’t a healthy way of being in a relationship. And it only enables bad behavior (whether intentional or not). I don’t want to find myself in another “project” situation. One way to make sure I don’t is to recognize there is a difference between helping and supporting someone else’s dream, and wanting their dream more than they want it themselves.

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