03/11/2017 7:17 AM AEDT | Updated 03/11/2017 7:18 AM AEDT

Self-Sabotage: How We Stop Ourselves From Dating Successfully

Maximising your 'date readiness' is about getting out of your own way.

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Your core beliefs could have a lot to answer for.

'Why are you still single?'

We've either been asked the question or posed it ourselves, but what's the real answer?

People will respond to this in a variety of ways, most commonly placing the blame on surface pressures, but it's actually the way we speak to ourselves about dating that could be the real answer to this query.

"Most people play a significant role in keeping themselves single," relationship expert Melanie Schilling told HuffPost Australia. "It's common to blame external factors -- for example, 'it's too cold, I'll start dating after winter' or 'there's a man drought' -- and at the core of most self-sabotage is fear."

Self-compassion and self-awareness are the first steps in attracting and developing a positive relationship.

Self-sabotaging behaviours are usually based on fear and while people adapt these as a means of self-protection, often they can actually prevent dating success rather than guaranteeing it. These can arise from fear of rejection, vulnerability or being hurt again and giving up independence or happiness.

"Often when people have been emotionally scarred in the past -- and let's face it, who hasn't -- it's common to be self-protective. But there is a difference between being healthily skeptical and undermining your own happiness," Schilling said.

"At the core of dating resistance is usually a set of beliefs -- about oneself, about partners or about relationships."

Three Types of Negative Dating Beliefs

Schilling says that negative dating beliefs fall into three key categories and they can impact on how we approach dating situations.

1. Beliefs about yourself -- 'I don't deserve happiness, I'm useless at relationships, I'll only mess it up, I'm better off single.'

2. Beliefs about men and women -- 'All men/women cheat, they will break my heart, they always leave eventually.'

3. Beliefs about relationships -- 'What if something better comes along?, a relationship will stunt my independence, I don't have time for a relationship.'

Holding some or all of these core beliefs can impact on your level of 'date readiness' and can result in self-sabotaging your own dating success.

Schilling has devised the 'Date Ready Ladder' that can help assess where you might sit in the realm of dating and therefore, what you can do to improve your dating success.

The first three rungs on the ladder illustrate behaviours that can lead to a 'dating fail', while the top three are approaches that could lead to a 'dating win'.

Melanie Schilling
The 'Date Ready Ladder'

'Self-sabotage' is "actively undermining and blocking opportunities for social interaction or dating potential," Schilling said. "Essentially telling the world you are not interested in a relationship -- either consciously or unconsciously."

The next step up the ladder is the 'resistant' category, where "despite feeling open to a relationship, [you avoid] opportunities or make oneself unavailable for dating options".

The final step towards a 'dating win' is the 'ambivalent' approach -- "one foot in and one foot out of the dating pool," Schilling explained. "Sending mixed messages to potential dates."

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Sending mixed messages is characteristic of being in an 'ambivalent' dating mindset.

So, how do we recognise that we could be self-sabotaging our own dating lives and move out of our own way?

Schilling suggests starting by dating yourself can lead to positive relationships in the future.

"Self-compassion and self-awareness are the first steps in attracting and developing a positive relationship," Schilling said.

You can also join Melanie Schilling's private Facebook group for single women who are ready to stop self-sabotaging and start dating.