Needing to be near-perfect to "ethically" date, analysis paralysis, social inexperience, and advice columns

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Post by The Wisp on Wed Oct 08, 2014 3:21 am

(Note: This may be a bit of a rant, but I welcome advice and/or discussion, though I hope you guys don't get too focused on the details, it is a rant, and instead focus more on the big picture. Also, I got a little snarky at the end, I hope none of you all take it personally)

Okay, so I think it is probably not the best idea to be writing a rant at 11:30 PM on a weeknight, but whatever. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, but I've struggled to put it into words, so let's see how well this goes.

So, I've (obviously) read a lot of Paging Doctor Nerdlove over the past year or so. I've also been exposed to Captain Awkward through people here, and have read a probably a good 50-ish posts of hers, mostly on topics that I think are relevant to my life. One impression I keep getting from these two, and there associated communities (though more CA's, to be honest) is that one has to be at a very high level of emotional maturity and health in order to be able to date (and have close friends) ethically. As in, the advice commonly given is that you need to give yourself a lot of internal validation, stop caring about external validation as much, to refrain from dating if you have any major baggage that you haven't dealt with, etc. I tend to be pretty supportive of individualism, but I find these ideas to be taken way too far in the direction of individualism. As if you can just think your way into being a super emotionally healthy happy person. It's kinda pissing me off, because it's not like DNL or CA or their commentators somehow didn't gain confidence and self-esteem and personal growth when they started having regular sex/dating/an SO/close friends. Therapy, meditation, and online communities are great, but they're no substitute for the validation that real people who like you (for whatever reason) provide.

I mean, this blog post by Kate Harding about how the dumb luck of being in a relationship helps her be confident in her body despite the negative messages about being overweight in society (ironically, I think I found the link to this article on CA's blog). Change around the subject matter and the pronouns, and the sentiment behind this post is the same one I feel towards dating and the social struggles of shy sensitive geeky guys.

You know, the truth is that I have emotional baggage with the opposite gender. I try not to let it color my more cerebral discussions of gender nor my formal interactions with women in real life, and I am successful to a large degree. But any sexual/romantic relationship with a woman I have will most assuredly be colored by this baggage. And you what? I may be able to weaken its power a little with therapy and introspection, but ultimately there's nothing like a positive sexual/romantic relationship to unpack that baggage (is that even a correct extension of the metaphor? Y'all know what I mean).

I also have very low self-esteem. Sorry, but I'm not going to fix that by accomplishing non-social goals or whatever. External validation will be what does a lot of the heavy lifting.

I wonder if reading these advice columns is good for me? I certainly feel wiser and more self-aware about many things than most people my age. Yet, I'm also aware of all the ways I can fuck up socially and all the ways I'm not good enough to be loved and how I totally deserve that because, don't ya know, nobody is obligated to even be nice to you let alone validate you. All before I've experienced enough of the world to have any fucking context to put these things into. All before I've interacted with the equally fucked up people my own age. All before I have enough experience to be able to intuitively handle the basics of sexuality/dating/close friends, leaving me to be mindful of everything at once!

My therapist has been telling me I will, eventually, need to just be out in the social world and deal with the messiness and uncertainty and maybe hurt other and be hurt. Obviously, slowly, at a pace that won't be counterproductive, etc. etc., but that's where I need to be.

I think I'm even more prone to analysis paralysis than I was. I really value this community, and I'm not leaving it, but I'm questioning some assumptions and common advice around here and similar communities. I mean, unless you had awesome parents and no genetic predisposition to mental health issues, does anybody have "healthy" "ethical" social interactions in their early twenties? Probably not without some extremely good luck. Maybe I'm holding myself to too high of a standard.

I don't know. I feel like a lot of the advice is coming from people in a privileged position (i.e. people who never, or haven't recently, dealt with the suffering and self-doubt that true loneliness breeds). People who may have been awkward, but at least could walk through the door to a college club without meeting their therapist beforehand to calm there nerves. People who had friends in high school and college. People who actually had sex and dated in their young adult years. People who don't have an irrational fear of the opposite sex. People who never were trapped in a solipsistic bubble of over-thought. These people have the luxury of worrying about internal validation and being super duper "ethical" in their friendships and never burden their friends and partners with validating them and helping them grown. Oh wait, except when they do! But that's totally different. Once you're in the club you can do those things, but to get in you have to prove you don't need them.

Sigh... rant over. I value a lot of what I've learned here and I value all the people in this community, I'm just frustrated.
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Post by Gentleman Johnny on Wed Oct 08, 2014 3:41 am

The Wisp wrote:

My therapist has been telling me I will, eventually, need to just be out in the social world and deal with the messiness and uncertainty and maybe hurt other and be hurt. Obviously, slowly, at a pace that won't be counterproductive, etc. etc., but that's where I need to be.

Sigh... rant over. I value a lot of what I've learned here and I value all the people in this community, I'm just frustrated.

Not being good at something that matters to you is frustrating. Working to get better at is is incredibly frustrating. Whether its dating or gymnastics, you're going to fall on your ass. You're not going to improve as fast as you want to. You're going to get tired of all the work and want to quit. See that guy in the avatar photo? That guy stands on top of a pile of failures: failures in production, failed friendships, a failed relationship, the show he MCs failed twice and ceased to exist for a year each time. That costume is soaked in tears of the fallout of those failures. That guy only exists and knows what he's doing because of the pile of failures he's standing on. He only exists because I believed in what I was doing enough to pick up the pieces and rebuild again and again until I had a system that would stand up to the pressure.

The thing that I see Doc emphasize, especially if you dig back a bit into the how tos, is accept where you are, take responsibility for the changes you want to make then get out there and change it. It'll mean failing and pain before you succeed. Its your decision to make, though, whether its worth the effort. Yeah, I get it. I had basically no friends in middle school and a fairly small circle in high school. I dated exactly one girl in high school and maybe one or two more in the years immediately following. I'll leave you with a thought from The American Buddha, Fred "Mr." Rogers:

“Some days, doing "the best we can" may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn't perfect on any front-and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.”
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Post by Lemminkainen on Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:04 am

I think that you've stumbled across something interesting and valid with your discussion of "the dumb luck of being in a relationship" and the valid feelings it can bring. I know that in high school, my social skills and sense of self-worth started improving a lot when, through my skill in an activity that had nothing to do with my social skills, I gained a lot of admirers and wannabe friends. Later, when I was in college, I developed more self-confidence, better social skills, and better relationship ethics through some hookups and relationships which basically happened by accident (or at least, without me having to do much in the way of competent relationship stuff).

So, perhaps you can weaponize this moment of frustration and try to find ways of falling into some things by dumb luck. To that end, I would recommend pursuing some social situations that aren't as familiar to you, since they open up novel opportunities and offer you fewer chances to fall into self-inhibiting habits. I found that some opportunities fell into my lap when I went to college parties (where, to my surprise, a bunch of people seemed to want to dance and make out with me without me having to initiate or anything) and when I took up online dating, where, because I had no idea what the rules were, I just messaged a bunch of people in a pretty freewheeling, non-expectant way, and some of them said yes. IIRC, you're prettier than I was when I was eighteen, so there's a pretty good chance that girls will approach you at parties or other mate-seeking social settings and respond favorably to your OLD messages, or open up to you in other places. If you come out in the social world just a little more than you have, people are going to start reaching out for you, too, and help pull you the rest of the way there.

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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:20 am

This resonates too much with me.


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Post by nonA on Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:31 am

For someone who's been here for a while, you certainly don't seem to have read much of Harris' stuff about before and during his PUA days.  He wasn't this idealized philosopher-nerd you seem to think you need to be.

More generally, though, I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  The moral expectations most people put on other people are way higher, and much less riddled with special case pleadings, than the moral expectations they hold themselves and their close friends to.  Taking what they say at face value is like actually believing your dad when he says that he had to walk uphill to school both ways.  You're comparing yourself to unrealistic fantasy, and of course real-life you will come up short.

Which is one of the major lessons that most of the nerdlets here really do need to learn.  Listening to what people say tells you more about what they'd like to think than it does about what they actually are.  Going out and forcing yourself to interact, in addition to being vital for building social skills, helps give you a better picture of what you really should be comparing yourself to.

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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 08, 2014 5:56 am

I don't have anything significant to contribute but, you've talked about that 'prerequisite perfection' required to participate in platonic and romantic/sexual relationships much more eloquently than I ever could. So, thanks.

@Lemminkainen
: "I found that some opportunities fell into my lap when I went to college parties (where, to my surprise, a bunch of people seemed to want to dance and make out with me without me having to initiate or anything) and when I took up online dating, where, because I had no idea what the rules were, I just messaged a bunch of people in a pretty freewheeling, non-expectant way, and some of them said yes. IIRC, you're prettier than I was when I was eighteen, so there's a pretty good chance that girls will approach you at parties or other mate-seeking social settings and respond favorably to your OLD messages, or open up to you in other places. If you come out in the social world just a little more than you have, people are going to start reaching out for you, too, and help pull you the rest of the way there."

You know, that's all well and good for people like you (and hopefully TheWisp can cash in on his looks too) but what about those of us who don't really register as options at all?

I'll back off if this is inappropriate to the spirit of this thread.

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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Oct 08, 2014 7:39 am

I think this can be one area where the message being presented by both DNL and the Captain gets muddled. I know I've definitely seen people express a similar sentiment to you before, but my take on the situation is different.

There is no such thing as a baggage-free person. Everyone has some form of baggage, some life experiences and emotional issues, that will influence the way they relate to others and how they cope with relationships. So being perfect or near-perfect is not at all a realistic or fair thing to throw on people in order for them to date ethically.

What is important though, is to be self-aware. To have at least a basic understanding of what your baggage is, and to be honest with yourself about it. To be willing to acknowledge when your baggage is getting in the way of things, so difficult moments with the person or people you date don't turn into utter disasters. And to be trying to make at least some effort to work on as much of your baggage as you reasonably can.

And honestly Wisp, you sound like you're already managing those things.

To give an example from my own life...

I mean, to take just one part of my many pieces of baggage, there's my anxiety. It can make me very paranoid, and I worry easily. Sometimes this means if my spouse-to-be goes somewhere nearby like to the shops, or to pick up his favourite illegal treat, or to meet a friend I haven't met yet, and is 15 minutes late back... I start to panic. My mind fills with nightmare scenarios of him being assaulted or raped or killed, and of him being just yards from home but unable to call for help. 30 minutes late and I'll be in tears. And, being as this is all connected with my general mental health issues, this can have a knock-on effect on my mood for an extended period. Meanwhile my partner is a friendly, sociable and relaxed person who quite enjoys taking detours, talking to new people and regularly stops what he's doing to help others - recently he was late home because he stayed with a homeless woman to keep her safe until the drunks filing out of a nearby bar had left.

It isn't fair on my partner for me to lump that amount of responsibility for my mental health, or curtail his freedom of movement. It also isn't something I'm able to just make go away or to fix - I have been able to work on the worst of my issues, but this is one of the stubborn ones. So how do we deal with it in a way that is fair to both of us? Most of the time, my partner takes his mobile phone with him when he goes somewhere. If I get worried, I call him. He's understands that I'm not "checking up on him" and that, so long as I can call him for reassurance, there's no need for him to ever worry about getting home "quick enough".

And in the event that he forgets his phone and I get worried, I remember that this is an unusual compromise based on unusual circumstances, that he didn't forget on purpose, and don't lay the blame for my resulting emotional state on him. And he gives me cuddles and reassurance and apologies and care anyway, because that is what loving partners do when their other half is upset.

That is us dealing ethically with each other while accounting for my baggage.

It's the difference between a partner with jealousy issues being open about those and finding fair and healthy ways they and the person the love can navigate them... and a jealous partner forbidding their other half from having friends of their preferred gender, getting angry if they speak or look at anyone else and checking their phone and internet history. The jealous tendencies will never totally go away. What matters is how they are handled.

Does that make sense?

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Post by Mel on Wed Oct 08, 2014 10:31 am

I think you may be conflating a few different strands of advice here, Wisp.

There are certain types of behavior I have seen identified on DNL and CA's blog as unethical.  Things like lying, pressuring someone who's said "no" to something, attempting to isolate your partner from other people, physical abuse, etc.  If you think you are in a place where you would do things like that to a partner or prospective partner or friend, then yes, I think you have more work to do before you can ethically date or make friends.  And I don't think that's too high a standard, because most people are able to date and make friends without doing those things, and those things can do lasting harm to another person.

I have also seen DNL and CA advise people writing in who are dealing with major issues, like escaping a abusive family situation, or being fresh out of an abusive relationship, or having severe depression, that they should focus on looking after themselves and getting themselves into a healthier mental space before worrying about dating.  But I haven't seen this advice framed as, "trying to date would be unethical of you" but more "you have so much on your plate you're probably going to hurt yourself if you try to rush into more right away."  And I haven't seen anyone told they shouldn't try to make friends--usually it's specifically in reference to dating, which is more complicated and thus more emotionally fraught.

Finally, there is, I think, the majority of the advice, which includes issues like validation, which I do not recall being framed as an ethical issue either, but simply as "you will have an easier time if you can manage X, Y, or Z."  You will be more likely to find people who want to socialize with you and date you if you dress and groom yourself decently.  You will be more likely to find said people if you develop basic conversational skills.  You will be more likely to find said people if you have a certain level of self-validation, because just like those other factors, feeling at least somewhat confident in yourself is attractive to other people.  It isn't "unethical" to make friends or date when you have low self esteem; it's just harder to connect with people and present yourself as an appealing social partner.  And that sucks, but it's a fact, and I think it would be wrong for advice bloggers not to acknowledge that.

It sounds as though because ethics are sometimes brought up, you have extended the idea that following the advice = being ethical to other advice that wasn't intended to be about ethics.  Unless I am just remembering totally wrong, in which case you are welcome to point out posts to me where validation etc. are presented as ethical issues?  Otherwise, I think Bunny does an excellent job of laying out the difference between behaving ethically while having baggage and behaving unethically--it isn't the baggage that makes you unethical, it's how you treat your partner in relation to it.

I agree that it totally sucks to be in a position where you're coping with high anxiety and irrational fears and a dearth of positive experience. What's really important, as Bunny suggests, is that you take responsibility for those issues.  That you don't assume your friends/partners are doing something wrong and take it out on them if you don't feel as good as you hoped once you're connecting with them. That you don't use your anxieties or lack of self esteem as an excuse to treat them badly or to expect them to contribute more to the friendship/relationship than you do (the "I can't help it" or "that's just the way I am" excuse). That you're upfront about your needs and respectful of theirs and willing to make compromises and find ways to minimize the negative impact your baggage could make on them.

As a side note, with my mod hat one for a second, I want to make a gentle reminder that (re: the note about the Kate Harding post) we are trying to avoid getting into "who has it worse" type discussions here, and that paragraph is toeing the line. DNL's advice is mainly directed at guys because that's his audience, but I have regularly seen CA and commenters recommend that female LWs and commenters stop doing certain unethical behaviors, avoid dating until they're in a better head space, try to find validation without relying in others, etc.  There's no need to talk as if this is only directed at guys and women are getting some free pass from handling their baggage ethically, so let's avoid that line as this discussion continues. </mod>

Should you stop reading advice blogs?  Well, if they're raising anxiety issues and feelings of resentment for you because you're having trouble parsing out the different types of advice and what their intended message is (e.g., "this is unethical" vs. "this will make it easier"), maybe?  Sometimes a person can just not be in a headspace where certain types of content is helpful to them, and it's totally okay to decide this stuff is raising more anxiety than it's diffusing, so you're going to avoid it/take a break from it.
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Post by reboot on Wed Oct 08, 2014 11:05 am

One other thing to remember is that both CA and DNL are giving advice to a large audience, so some of it will not be relevant to you because you do not face that specific issue. In addition, until you start dating or forming close friendships you are not going to know exactly what your specific issues are, so the advice is more geared to raising awareness so that if you find yourself in that situation you have some tools to handle it.

Think of it as learning first aid. You may never have to deal with a finger amputation but knowing to put the finger in a plastic bag and put it on ice can be handy if it ever occurs.
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Post by kleenestar on Wed Oct 08, 2014 11:46 am

I had this whole brilliant post about ethical behavior being different from the validation and mental health issues, but then Bunny made it better and more pithily than I could. So, thanks, Bunny!

If it helps, I live with severe chronic anxiety; in my late teens and early twenties, it was totally undiagnosed and I wasn't getting any help. All I knew was that I was a miserable mess all the time. I definitely wasn't particularly self-validated! But I did understand that I needed to treat other people as ethically as I could. I didn't always succeed, and there are people I'd still be ashamed to look in the face, but I made a commitment to right conduct and learned from my mistakes.

tl;dr You don't have to lose your baggage in order to treat other people ethically, whether that's in a dating context or otherwise - and no matter how little baggage you have, sometimes you'll screw it up.
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Post by The Wisp on Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:24 pm

Mel wrote:As a side note, with my mod hat one for a second, I want to make a gentle reminder that (re: the note about the Kate Harding post) we are trying to avoid getting into "who has it worse" type discussions here, and that paragraph is toeing the line. DNL's advice is mainly directed at guys because that's his audience, but I have regularly seen CA and commenters recommend that female LWs and commenters stop doing certain unethical behaviors, avoid dating until they're in a better head space, try to find validation without relying in others, etc.  There's no need to talk as if this is only directed at guys and women are getting some free pass from handling their baggage ethically, so let's avoid that line as this discussion continues. </mod>

Oh, I didn't intend to be comparing men and women. Actually, what I was intending to communicate was that I thought it was an insightful post and could easily apply to other groups of people. That the point she made could be applied to people like me just as easily has with fat women.

Re: all

Just to clarify, I am very concerned with ethics. I'm not going to go to the dark side or anything Razz I just am feeling like I'm being told that I don't deserve to want to have real life people to lean on and help me grow. That somehow my anxiety, my baggage with the opposite sex, my low self-esteem means that I will just ruin people's lives if I try to get close to them no matter what I do and that nobody in real life could possibly have any compassion for me.  That even wanting these things makes me selfish and entitled. Maybe DNL and CA aren't implying so much, but they bring up those feelings in me.

ETA: Much more later, I have to go to classes now.


Last edited by The Wisp on Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by kleenestar on Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:31 pm

My rule of thumb is, "Give in proportion to what I ask." Not everyone will want to help you grow, but you can make it a joyful and pleasant experience for those who do.
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Post by reboot on Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:58 pm

kleenestar wrote:My rule of thumb is, "Give in proportion to what I ask." Not everyone will want to help you grow, but you can make it a joyful and pleasant experience for those who do.

And remember, you are also helping them grow because every relationship is a learning experience for all parties. No one is walking into it baggage free and with all knowledge, so it is on you to help them grow too.
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Post by fakely mctest on Wed Oct 08, 2014 2:03 pm

The Wisp wrote:I just am feeling like I'm being told that I don't deserve to want to have real life people to lean on and help me grow. That somehow my anxiety, my baggage with the opposite sex, my low self-esteem means that I will just ruin people's lives if I try to get close to them no matter what I do and that nobody in real life could possibly have any compassion for me.  That even wanting these things makes me selfish and entitled. Maybe DNL and CA aren't implying so much, but they bring up those feelings in me.

I think that, if you asked DNL and CA directly, they'd both say that wasn't their intent, HOWEVER, maybe it's also helpful to keep in mind that their sites would cease to exist without new material for us to chew over? It's not all directed at one person, of course, but since you're reading it and processing it in a solitary way (I mean, I assume y'all aren't having DNL reading parties without me Wink) it can get to feeling like everything is aimed specifically at you, particularly if you're in an anxious headspace. I know that, a number of years ago when I first got back from grad school right as the financial crisis hit and I was struggling to find a job in my field (unpaid internships? sure. jobs? not so much) and my formerly-LTR was imploding spectacularly and we lived together and everything was terrible, I did have to take a break from my obsessive reading of the Washington Post's Carolyn Hax advice columns because a lot of them were cutting really close.

I'd also say that the moment in a learning trajectory where you reach the point where you realize there's SO MUCH TO LEARN HOLY NUTS is a really common one. Some of the things that end up gettings spelled out explicitly is stuff that can and does become rote after a while, but since a lot of it is grounded in dynamics that have been inculcated in others practically from birth, the catch-up can seem particularly onerous.

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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Oct 08, 2014 2:16 pm

Don't have much to add Wisp except commiseration. I frequently feel as if I have no right to my feelings, needs or even existence without being perfect. The perfect friend, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect coworker. It's like I have a line of people two blocks long telling me all the things I need to fix and all the ways I'm wrong before I am allowed to want anything for myself.
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Post by The Wisp on Wed Oct 08, 2014 11:41 pm

Gentleman Johnny wrote:
Not being good at something that matters to you is frustrating. Working to get better at is is incredibly frustrating...
]
...but life isn't perfect on any front-and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.”

Yeah, I hear you. I agree.

I just am afraid that I can't justify putting others through that. I'm afraid of all of that, and I'm irrationally ashamed that I can't just waltz in and handle it well from the get go.

Lemminkainen wrote:So, perhaps you can weaponize this moment of frustration and try to find ways of falling into some things by dumb luck.  To that end, I would recommend pursuing some social situations that aren't as familiar to you, since they open up novel opportunities and offer you fewer chances to fall into self-inhibiting habits.  I found that some opportunities fell into my lap when I went to college parties (where, to my surprise, a bunch of people seemed to want to dance and make out with me without me having to initiate or anything) and when I took up online dating, where, because I had no idea what the rules were, I just messaged a bunch of people in a pretty freewheeling, non-expectant way, and some of them said yes.  IIRC, you're prettier than I was when I was eighteen, so there's a pretty good chance that girls will approach you at parties or other mate-seeking social settings and respond favorably to your OLD messages, or open up to you in other places.  If you come out in the social world just a little more than you have, people are going to start reaching out for you, too, and help pull you the rest of the way there.

I think this is a good idea, but it also highlights my current social position. I feel like I'm stuck. I can make pleasant small talk with various people, but nothing comes of that. I have even been attending a club, which is sort of standard "meet people at college advice", but while it has been enjoyable there aren't any consistent regulars besides the guy who runs it, and I don't seem to be forming any lasting connections. You don't get invited to parties if you have no social connections.

As for OLD, I don't have any good pictures of myself and I don't really have social life which I think comes through. I've tried OKC and Tinder, I thought my pics were weak and my OKC profile was weak, and indeed, I didn't get much interest. Maybe you guys have suggestions on how to combat these issues?

nonA wrote:For someone who's been here for a while, you certainly don't seem to have read much of Harris' stuff about before and during his PUA days.  He wasn't this idealized philosopher-nerd you seem to think you need to be.

Well, yeah, I hold myself to a really high standards. You're right there is a disconnect between the theory and practice.

HermitTheToad wrote:You know, that's all well and good for people like you (and hopefully TheWisp can cash in on his looks too) but what about those of us who don't really register as options at all?

I'll back off if this is inappropriate to the spirit of this thread.

I think this could be a productive conversation that I'd like to see, if you want to have it. I'd prefer you start a new thread in that case, though.

UristMcBunny wrote:I think this can be one area where the message being presented by both DNL and the Captain gets muddled.  I know I've definitely seen people express a similar sentiment to you before, but my take on the situation is different.

There is no such thing as a baggage-free person.  Everyone has some form of baggage, some life experiences and emotional issues, that will influence the way they relate to others and how they cope with relationships.  So being perfect or near-perfect is not at all a realistic or fair thing to throw on people in order for them to date ethically.

What is important though, is to be self-aware.  To have at least a basic understanding of what your baggage is, and to be honest with yourself about it.  To be willing to acknowledge when your baggage is getting in the way of things, so difficult moments with the person or people you date don't turn into utter disasters.  And to be trying to make at least some effort to work on as much of your baggage as you reasonably can.

And honestly Wisp, you sound like you're already managing those things.

I'm afraid that the only thing allowing me to manage these things is by cocooning myself from others. I guess I have this nerd-bias that not being cool-headed all the time is inflicting something unfair on others no matter how you deal with it. It's hard to purge that.

I mean, to take just one part of my many pieces of baggage, there's my anxiety...

That is us dealing ethically with each other while accounting for my baggage.

It's the difference between a partner with jealousy issues being open about those and finding fair and healthy ways they and the person the love can navigate them... and a jealous partner forbidding their other half from having friends of their preferred gender, getting angry if they speak or look at anyone else and checking their phone and internet history.  The jealous tendencies will never totally go away.  What matters is how they are handled.

Does that make sense?

It makes a lot of sense, and you and your fiance seem to have a great thing going!

Hrm.... I think I feel a lot of shame about my mental health issues and personal baggage. In fact, I wonder if my real fear is opening up at all, not that I don't think I could handle it ethically. I'm so very closed around people, I'm a boring small talk automaton. I don't feel like I exude any of my personality out of fear. Maybe that's why I equate myself with the toxic people DNL and CA letter-writers sometimes talk about. I'll have to think on this.

Mel wrote:I think you may be conflating a few different strands of advice here, Wisp...

snip

This all makes a lot of sense to me. When you frame it thisway, I don't think I fall into the first two categories at all.

Specifically:

I agree that it totally sucks to be in a position where you're coping with high anxiety and irrational fears and a dearth of positive experience. What's really important, as Bunny suggests, is that you take responsibility for those issues.  That you don't assume your friends/partners are doing something wrong and take it out on them if you don't feel as good as you hoped once you're connecting with them. That you don't use your anxieties or lack of self esteem as an excuse to treat them badly or to expect them to contribute more to the friendship/relationship than you do (the "I can't help it" or "that's just the way I am" excuse). That you're upfront about your needs and respectful of theirs and willing to make compromises and find ways to minimize the negative impact your baggage could make on them.

This is way less scary and much more doable than what I had in mind.

...Should you stop reading advice blogs?  Well, if they're raising anxiety issues and feelings of resentment for you because you're having trouble parsing out the different types of advice and what their intended message is (e.g., "this is unethical" vs. "this will make it easier"), maybe?  Sometimes a person can just not be in a headspace where certain types of content is helpful to them, and it's totally okay to decide this stuff is raising more anxiety than it's diffusing, so you're going to avoid it/take a break from it.

Yeah, I think I'm going to take a break from CA, but not DNL (one of the benefits of posting is that I get more clarity about what he's saying from others). She seems to often deal with situations where dumping lovers/friends is her advice, which though correct in these situations probably triggers these insecurities.

RE Reboot: I like that first aid metaphor!

kleenestar wrote:My rule of thumb is, "Give in proportion to what I ask." Not everyone will want to help you grow, but you can make it a joyful and pleasant experience for those who do.

Seems reasonable. I guess I'm not sure what I could give to somebody. I sometimes don't feel like I have anything anybody could want socially.

fakely mctest wrote:
I think that, if you asked DNL and CA directly, they'd both say that wasn't their intent, HOWEVER, maybe it's also helpful to keep in mind that their sites would cease to exist without new material for us to chew over?  It's not all directed at one person, of course, but since you're reading it and processing it in a solitary way (I mean, I assume y'all aren't having DNL reading parties without me Wink) it can get to feeling like everything is aimed specifically at you, particularly if you're in an anxious headspace.  I know that, a number of years ago when I first got back from grad school right as the financial crisis hit and I was struggling to find a job in my field (unpaid internships? sure.  jobs?  not so much) and my formerly-LTR was imploding spectacularly and we lived together and everything was terrible, I did have to take a break from my obsessive reading of the Washington Post's Carolyn Hax advice columns because a lot of them were cutting really close.

Glad to know I'm not alone in feeling this way.

I'd also say that the moment in a learning trajectory where you reach the point where you realize there's SO MUCH TO LEARN HOLY NUTS is a really common one.  Some of the things that end up gettings spelled out explicitly is stuff that can and does become rote after a while, but since a lot of it is grounded in dynamics that have been inculcated in others practically from birth, the catch-up can seem particularly onerous.

Well, also that others got to practice these things in middle school and high school where it's expected that you're learning this stuff. It does seem overwhelming.

reboundstudent wrote:Don't have much to add Wisp except commiseration. 

Thanks, I appreciate it Smile


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Post by Werel on Thu Oct 09, 2014 12:22 am

fakely mctest wrote:(I mean, I assume y'all aren't having DNL reading parties without me Wink)

*slams door to room full of balloons and laughter* NOPE OF COURSE NOT. Gosh. Would never. Embarassed



Wisp, I really feel you on the desire not to impose your issues on others, and applaud your commitment to avoid inflicting harm or distress where possible.  I'll echo what everyone has wisely said about the difference between having your life and brain 100% under control before embarking on any new relationship, and making sure you're capable of treating others ethically despite the baggage you're carrying, because that's an important distinction-- and also please remember that in any relationship, be it friends, coworkers, FWBs, spouses, whatever, there are times when we're going to do something hurtful because we just can't help it. I can think of no one dear to me who has never hurt me in any way. But when those who are dear to me hurt me, they are sincerely contrite, make an effort to repair the damages caused, and engage in real attempts to change their behavior in the future.

reboot wrote:And remember, you are also helping them grow because every relationship is a learning experience for all parties.

And can I just emphatically second this? I've had many friendships with people like you're self-describing, Wisp--shy, socially inexperienced to a greater or lesser degree, sensitive, hyperanalytical people with metric shittons of baggage--and yes, some of them hurt me badly. Some of them hurt me badly because they did not have the social experience or self-control to behave ethically towards me, just as you fear doing. But you know what else? I learned so, so much from them. I learned about what I need and can't tolerate, I learned about how different kinds of people think, I learned about different attachment styles, I learned about how affection and patience are formed and tested. And more importantly, I learned how to behave more ethically towards people. I don't regret having had any of these people in my life, even in the few cases when things between us went very sour and ended with great acrimony.

The Wisp wrote:I guess I have this nerd-bias that not being cool-headed all the time is inflicting something unfair on others no matter how you deal with it. It's hard to purge that.

FWIW, I am also aware of that nerd-bias, and I find dealing with people who are cool-headed at all times (even emotional ones) very disconcerting and sometimes downright infuriating; I find it even more infuriating when someone acts like my giving sufficient fucks to get emotional is somehow proof of me being selfish or "inflicting" my subjective experience upon my interlocutor. I give you my blessing to toss that line of thinking right in the garbage, and to be proud of being someone with a depth of feeling which makes levelheadedness difficult at emotionally trying points. It means you're a human being with a robust limbic system. Wink
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Post by Guest on Fri Oct 10, 2014 2:51 pm

The Wisp wrote:

Lemminkainen wrote:So, perhaps you can weaponize this moment of frustration and try to find ways of falling into some things by dumb luck.  To that end, I would recommend pursuing some social situations that aren't as familiar to you, since they open up novel opportunities and offer you fewer chances to fall into self-inhibiting habits.  I found that some opportunities fell into my lap when I went to college parties (where, to my surprise, a bunch of people seemed to want to dance and make out with me without me having to initiate or anything) and when I took up online dating, where, because I had no idea what the rules were, I just messaged a bunch of people in a pretty freewheeling, non-expectant way, and some of them said yes.  IIRC, you're prettier than I was when I was eighteen, so there's a pretty good chance that girls will approach you at parties or other mate-seeking social settings and respond favorably to your OLD messages, or open up to you in other places.  If you come out in the social world just a little more than you have, people are going to start reaching out for you, too, and help pull you the rest of the way there.

I think this is a good idea, but it also highlights my current social position. I feel like I'm stuck. I can make pleasant small talk with various people, but nothing comes of that. I have even been attending a club, which is sort of standard "meet people at college advice", but while it has been enjoyable there aren't any consistent regulars besides the guy who runs it, and I don't seem to be forming any lasting connections. You don't get invited to parties if you have no social connections.

As for OLD, I don't have any good pictures of myself and I don't really have social life which I think comes through. I've tried OKC and Tinder, I thought my pics were weak and my OKC profile was weak, and indeed, I didn't get much interest. Maybe you guys have suggestions on how to combat these issues?


I really do think luck of the draw has a LOT to do with these sorts of things. You can work hard on your physique and appearance and diet and all of those things, but you can't fix ugly or shy or whatever thing prevents you from engaging in sexual activities. You can be LESS ugly or shy, but you can't quite eliminate all of it, and sexual attraction is an all or nothing kind of thing, short of desperate tactics.

Lemmi clearly is the kind of person who had more mental and emotional issues than physical ones, thus why complete strangers wanted to make out with him. It had a bit to do with whatever things he did to change himself (and yeah, looks aren't everything). But strangers wanting to make out is exclusively for the physically attractive.

I think what Wisp is trying to say is that for many of us, we simply don't have that kind of genetic luck. I think in Wisp's case, it's primarily shyness that prevents him from being a fully functioning human being, which can be eliminated, but takes a long ass time. I'm just saying that it's not so much of a "do this and this will happen" kind of game, which is why so many PUAs and Red Pillers get so furious when these tricks don't work, when they discover that women have standards just like they do.

I guess a better way to put it is that certain traits are naturally favored, almost universally, among both men and women. Deep voices and masculine features are preferred in men (the more chiseled the better), and for women, primarily feminine features are preferred. The people who you see being left out of the dating game are exclusively people who don't fit those parameters. That doesn't mean that EVERY person who isn't stereotypically feminine or masculine will be left out. It's like saying "not all Muslims are jihadists, all jihadists are Muslim." So it's not Islam or the majority of the people in the religion that are a problem, it's that small minority who happen to share those characteristics.

I'm not sure if I'm getting the point across, but luck is absolutely a huge part in dating. I genuinely believe that it's a "you have it or you don't" kind of thing, because there's people out there taking dating advice for years and haven't made a single bit of progress. Just like there's people reading on how to make money and are still poor. Some of us are just doomed.

That's actually why I've stopped going on DNL, because I'm realizing more and more that the advice is for people like him and Lemmi and G-Man, who were delayed for extraneous reasons, who have the ability to succeed but were never instructed as to how to go about it.

I'll use a personal example: I can't draw or play music. You can claim that anyone can do those things, it's simply not true. I'm tone deaf and artistically deaf. I'm simply incapable of doing either of those things well, it requires a skill-set that I can't learn. I can't fly either, because I don't have wings.

Lemmi and G-Man and the Doc were birds who didn't know how to fly. In order to have a sex life and active relationships, you must be a metaphorical bird. But people like me and others on here are like penguins. We can resemble birds, we can even pass as them sometimes, but we will never be able to fly, because we don't have the physical features and design to do it. We are not aerodynamic in the slightest.

Now, I think Wisp is a bird who hasn't learned how to fly yet, since his main problem is mental and not physical. But it's still not a "this works for everyone." It does not universally work for everyone.

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Post by eselle28 on Fri Oct 10, 2014 4:14 pm

I have to say that I'm a little uncomfortable with the distinction between penguins and other kinds of birds. Some people might be penguins and I think I'm comfortable with people labeling themselves as such, but I think it gets pretty awkward when trying to extend the label to others. What if someone's a chicken, who can fly but struggles with it, or an ostrich, who can't fly but gets around pretty quickly despite that? What if someone is a penguin, but has decided it's worth it to make the long, slow walk across the icecaps despite not being able to fly, or instead values their ability to swim gracefully? That gets a little metaphorical, but I think what I'm getting at boils down to defining yourself but being careful about defining others, both in terms of their abilities and the ways they can respond to those abilities.

On that point, I think it's good to be careful when talking about the experiences of people who you see as non-penguins as well. Many people's love lives are a muddle of the physical, the social, the experiential, and some amount of luck and randomness, and I think it's hard to say when someone's barriers are extraneous or not, especially if they're barriers that aren't very similar to your own.
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Post by Gentleman Johnny on Fri Oct 10, 2014 4:25 pm

My problem with that logic is that the "universally favored" elements tend to vary from person to person you ask but they're always coded "not me". I haven't found sexual attraction to be all or nothing. I've grown attracted to people over time. I've dated people who aren't my usual physical type and people whose normal physical type I wasn't. I've seen someone with any trait you describe do just fine in the dating game. Yes, some things absolutely require you to expend more effort to find a date or a relationship. You're absolutely right that no one is guaranteed a supermodel partner.

At the end of the day, though, you are a bird. Humans are social creatures who interact with other people. You're already flying. The difference between having a friend and having a girlfriend isn't so far as you think it is. Yes, it can take time to overcome your issues. Its a hard slog full of failure and disappointment. So is anything that doesn't come naturally. So yeah, you may have disadvantages going in and no, you shouldn't shy away from them. You are in the situation you're in and can't change that. You can change your situation going forward if you're willing to put the effort in. You still won't be guaranteed a supermodel. So decide if its worth it or no for you right now and own it. Don't be dateless because no one will go out with you. Be dateless because you don't have the time and energy to work on getting better with women right now.

Or. . .you know. . .put that time and effort in. Be ready for the failures. Get up and try again. Message four people on OKC today and tomorrow and Sunday and so on until you have two coffee dates next week. When you go out to do something on your own, message someone on Facebook and ask if they want to come along. Say hi to the woman in the comic shop to get the latest [appropriate title] compendium. Just for statistical comparison, I'd say I look at about 20 profiles online per first date and go through maybe 10 first dates to find a second. Of those, I'm dating two that I've met in the last year in an on and off capacity. Its not about being perfect. Its about being your best and meeting enough people to find the one you're perfect for.

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Post by Enail on Fri Oct 10, 2014 4:31 pm

I'll also note that for many people who an observer (or even they themselves) might put into the 'just didn't know how to fly' category, it wasn't apparent that they weren't in fact penguins until after they started flying.

As Eselle says, a lot of love lives come about from a muddle of different things, and I think it's a mistake to put too much weight on what kind of bird you think you are/you think other people are, because that can easily lead to the kind of inflexibility that shuts down possibilities and strengthens blind spots.
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Post by The Wisp on Fri Oct 10, 2014 7:39 pm

You know, Glides, I maintain that it is your attitude towards your looks, rather than the looks in themselves, that is holding you back.

I actually wasn't claiming what you think I was. I was venting about feeling like I was being held to too high of a standard to even try to get into relationships. People posting in response to this have assuaged that feeling to a degree.
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Post by Guest on Fri Oct 10, 2014 9:41 pm

The Wisp wrote:You know, Glides, I maintain that it is your attitude towards your looks, rather than the looks in themselves, that is holding you back.

[tangent] I'm not a big fan of this either/or position. Why can't we accept that what holds us back is a combination of our looks and our attitudes towards said looks?[/tangent]

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Post by Enail on Fri Oct 10, 2014 10:03 pm

<mod>Folks, I think this is getting pretty far off topic (and I know I contributed to that, so, sorry!) If anyone wants to continue discussion on whether or not looks or other factors mean some people cannot succeed at dating, please start a new thread for it. Let's keep this thread to what one needs to be able to ethically try to date. Thanks! </mod>
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Post by Ron Ritzman on Sat Oct 11, 2014 12:01 am

I remember starting a thread on a similar topic in the old forums about the idea that one shouldn't date unless they are a "normal well adjusted person". Example, it's commonly believed that recovering addicts shouldn't date, at least not early in their recovery, and that's actually codified as a rule in some 12 step programs.
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