Knowing when to date

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Knowing when to date

Post by Kiskadee on Sat Jan 30, 2016 3:26 am

I’ve been having really mixed thoughts about dating for, I don’t know, around half a year now. I keep thinking I can figure it out, work through my feelings, but it’s just not happening. I guess my short question is, how do you know when you should be trying to date, and when you shouldn’t?

They say that the best way to create an abundance mentality is to keep meeting and dating other people, but that can’t always be true. For one thing it assumes you can even get a date in the first place, not very easy. Then it assumes you will have a good time with that person. Often I feel very discouraged after meeting a bunch of people, since they seem so incompatible, or I get rejected a lot.

I don’t enjoy the dating process, and so it’s hard for me to not be goal-oriented towards finding a girlfriend. I’m probably not going to feel a whole lot more confident about dating until I feel more attractive, so spending yet more of my life alone probably will do nothing for my readiness to date. (I’m 28 and still have never been in a relationship)

I’ve thought about stopping all attempts at dating until I get over the worst of my depression, but I’ve been thinking that exact thing for well over a year now and haven’t improved the slightest best. And while I don’t expect having a girlfriend to magically cure me, and wouldn’t put the responsibility for my emotions on her, I do think I would improve with a relationship. Like, loneliness is big factor in my depression, and I find that my mood improves with almost any company (my friends are few and not very reliable; working on that, but that’s a whole nother thing). Plus of course there’s pretty strong evidence that regular touch and sex improves depression (although I wouldn’t know about that), and just the confidence of knowing a relationship is possible for me.

But on the other hand, all my attempts at dating just seem to be making things worse. I’ve been holeing up in my place for weeks because I don’t want to keep getting hurt. I feel such an overwhelming sadness from logging onto dating sites that I can’t really use them anymore.

My friends are no help, it seems like they are convinced that someone perfect for me is just around the corner, and they mostly don’t know how much this is hurting me. Ugh, even after writing all this down I still don’t have the slightest idea what I should do. Any thoughts would be helpful, especially if you have had similar experiences in your life.
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Re: Knowing when to date

Post by Hirundo Bos on Sat Jan 30, 2016 7:51 am

Hi. I'm sorry you're hurting, from depression, loneliness, dating frustration and all of it. They are not pleasant feelings either of them, and worse in combination. My own mental health issues tend more towards anxiety than depression... anxiety and a more general emotional immaturity, problems with telling emotions apart, understanding what they mean, not being overwhelmed by them. I've been getting a handle on all of this over the last few years, and have recently gotten into some low-key dating, where I do enjoy the process, have been able to cultivate an abundance mentality, and am satisfied with friendship as an outcome. And even then, it does take an emotional toll, both the ups and downs of it. I think it does for a lot of people... There are just so many emotions involved, emotions close to the heart, many of them quite intense...

So. I don't have an easy answer for when someone should date or not. Dating sounds painful to you... and a general rule of thumb is that painful emotions (like sadness, anxiety, frustration, anger) usually give a lot of information about how far to pursue something. A certain amount of pain is expected with everything important (it's proof that the thing is important), but when it's too much pain or when it doesn't decrease with time, that's a sign to change one's approach to an activity. But depression complicates the picture... it's painful in itself, is a lens for other painful emotions, it leaves you with less energy to cope with your emotions. It comes with an instinct to avoid setting things in motion, including things that could help with the depression. Pushing against that instinct – when you have the energy for it – is sometimes a good thing. It's how I came to grips with anxiety myself.

So no easy answers, I'm afraid...

but one observation I could make is that dating (especially hoping for a serious relationship) is a pretty big deal. Even for people who enjoy it, it can be pretty scary, and emotionally taxing as well. So one way to approach it could maybe be to pick it apart a little? Find some lower stakes social activities that contains some of the same challenges as dating, push against some of the same fears, but maybe also give some of the same rewards, like having fun or connecting with someone it would be out of the question to date (thereby lowering the stakes even more)? I don't know what kind of activity that would be for you specifically. What things you enjoy, what things you've already tried... only that it's been helpful for my own part, to practice and increase my skills and my confidence in areas that can also be useful in dating.

I hope it gets for you in time, with depression and dating both...
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Re: Knowing when to date

Post by Enail on Sat Jan 30, 2016 1:28 pm

That sounds exhausting, Kiskadee, sorry you're dealing with that.

I don't think there's any way to make a hard-and-fast rule for when a person should or shouldn't be trying to date, other than pretty basic/major things like "are you capable of treating other people with kindness and respect," "do you have some strategies for dealing with conflict" and "could you handle it if someone broke up with you," which don't sound very relevant to you, or the super-vague and often useless "do you want to?"

Since you say you're working on making more friends, what about instead of officially Stopping Dating or going all-out on it, try and skew your social/friend-seeking activities to ones that are likely to also have people in your dating demographic and keep an eye open for anyone you're interested in? That might be a way to spend less time meeting incompatible people and being rejected and other painful things, while not shutting down possibilities too much.
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Re: Knowing when to date

Post by prettyinpank on Sat Jan 30, 2016 1:45 pm

Hey Kiskadee, sorry to hear that you've been struggling with depression for a while. A year feels like forever when you're trying to improve a chronic illness, but it is not uncommon in the sense that this process takes a while for a lot of us. I hope that gives you some validation that your experience is normal, though I understand it's no less difficult.

You say that you hope to ease some loneliness by dating - "Like, loneliness is big factor in my depression, and I find that my mood improves with almost any company (my friends are few and not very reliable; working on that, but that’s a whole nother thing)"

I could have written that very same sentence myself! When you don't have a lot of support in your life (family, partners, friends) it puts a lot of weight on what you do have. I think that can put you in a very vulnerable state, relying on someone in a way that can easily become unstable or unhealthy for either/both people without excellent boundaries in place.

That kind of loneliness, in my experience, is not really solvable by other people no matter what kind of relationship. It's a short term fix at best. Feeling less lonely in the way you describe takes self care, therapy, etc. in whichever way you choose for yourself that will work on your feeling whole.

You almost say this yourself, that being with friends feels good but maybe only so long as you're with them? Consider this perspective: you can't spend every minute of your life with a girlfriend, and it's possible you could feel worse in a relationship when you're alone...or with someone who makes you feel alone. You've never been in a relationship before, so I will admit this: I have been in plenty of relationships where I felt more alone in them than when I was single, I know many people who have the same experience. Relationships are like anything in life, there's a lot of trial and error. So what I'm saying is there's no guarantee that when you do have your first relationship, it will be great for your health. Does that make sense?

I think Hirundo Bos made a wonderful suggestion of trying more low stakes social things to do. It sounds like this is not a good time to get out of your comfort zone, but instead to try things you think will be fun and stress-free.

So to summarize, me, an internet stranger who has never met you and is assuming you are an amazing, interesting, caring person with a lot to offer a potential partner: I don't think you should focus as much of your energy on dating. Not because you are not ready, or that people like us with depression should not date til we're perfect. But because I hope you take this time to continue caring for and improving yourself for YOUR health and happiness. And I don't consider dating a great way to do those things, in my experience.

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Re: Knowing when to date

Post by Kiskadee on Tue Feb 02, 2016 3:54 am

Thanks so much for your support and feedback!  I think I will go with Hirundo's suggestion to keep developing confidence by doing non-dating social things (I love your username, btw).  I'm glad to hear that you have made good progress with your anxiety.  On some days I feel like I've made a lot of progress on my social anxiety (the only kind I really have), and some days it seems like back to square one.  

enail wrote:Since you say you're working on making more friends, what about instead of officially Stopping Dating or going all-out on it, try and skew your social/friend-seeking activities to ones that are likely to also have people in your dating demographic and keep an eye open for anyone you're interested in? That might be a way to spend less time meeting incompatible people and being rejected and other painful things, while not shutting down possibilities too much.

I've been trying to do this, but it hasn't worked out super-well.  Since I'm gay it seems like it I go to an activity focused on my interests there's no one in my dating demographic and if I go to a place with lots of available lesbians it's way too cruisey/uncomfortable.  Possibly I'm missing something, though, so I'll keep that in mind.

enail wrote:I don't think there's any way to make a hard-and-fast rule for when a person should or shouldn't be trying to date, other than pretty basic/major things like "are you capable of treating other people with kindness and respect," "do you have some strategies for dealing with conflict" and "could you handle it if someone broke up with you,"
1) yes!  More so than what appears to be average for people where I live Sad
2) ...unsure?  I read books?
3) probably not.
Those are helpful things to think about.  

prettyinpank wrote:
You almost say this yourself, that being with friends feels good but maybe only so long as you're with them? Consider this perspective: you can't spend every minute of your life with a girlfriend, and it's possible you could feel worse in a relationship when you're alone...or with someone who makes you feel alone.

This isn't really what I meant, although I wasn't very clear.  I'm pretty independent and like alone time a lot.  I would actually hate it if a girlfriend wanted to spend every minute with me Smile  But right now I live alone, I'm writing a thesis and not taking classes, and I have a weird job where I rarely interact with coworkers in any way.  The end result is that I can and sometimes do go days without speaking to anyone unless I make a phone call, which is a bit too much isolation for me.  I feel better after some sort of interaction:  like tonight I'm alone but spent a lot of time helping another grad student with his research today, so feel more content.
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Re: Knowing when to date

Post by Solvi on Tue Feb 02, 2016 9:51 am

prettyinpank wrote:
You say that you hope to ease some loneliness by dating - "Like, loneliness is big factor in my depression, and I find that my mood improves with almost any company (my friends are few and not very reliable; working on that, but that’s a whole nother thing)"

I could have written that very same sentence myself! When you don't have a lot of support in your life (family, partners, friends) it puts a lot of weight on what you do have. I think that can put you in a very vulnerable state, relying on someone in a way that can easily become unstable or unhealthy for either/both people without excellent boundaries in place.

That kind of loneliness, in my experience, is not really solvable by other people no matter what kind of relationship. It's a short term fix at best. Feeling less lonely in the way you describe takes self care, therapy, etc. in whichever way you choose for yourself that will work on your feeling whole.

You almost say this yourself, that being with friends feels good but maybe only so long as you're with them? Consider this perspective: you can't spend every minute of your life with a girlfriend, and it's possible you could feel worse in a relationship when you're alone...or with someone who makes you feel alone. You've never been in a relationship before, so I will admit this: I have been in plenty of relationships where I felt more alone in them than when I was single, I know many people who have the same experience. Relationships are like anything in life, there's a lot of trial and error. So what I'm saying is there's no guarantee that when you do have your first relationship, it will be great for your health. Does that make sense?

Not to head off on a tangent (and Kiskadee, I deeply sympathize with what you're experiencing, and I hope things turn a corner for you soon), but I have to confess that I'm curious as to what distinguishes loneliness that can be solved by other people (particularly in the romantic-relationship context) from loneliness that can't.  As someone who often feels lonely but also doesn't really feel date-able, I'm never really sure whether my loneliness is a sign that I should go out and meet new people (and/or date), or a sign that I shouldn't.  Is no longer feeling loneliness a sign that I'm finally ready to date?  Is that what I should wait for?  Or is it that you're ready to date once you only feel a certain specific kind of loneliness?

Genuinely curious, because my loneliness doesn't usually go away through hobbies or interactions with friends.  (They distract me from it, but it always comes back, and I often feel really alone even when surrounded by friends.)

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Re: Knowing when to date

Post by Enail on Tue Feb 02, 2016 1:57 pm

Kiskadee wrote:
I've been trying to do this, but it hasn't worked out super-well.  Since I'm gay it seems like it I go to an activity focused on my interests there's no one in my dating demographic and if I go to a place with lots of available lesbians it's way too cruisey/uncomfortable.  Possibly I'm missing something, though, so I'll keep that in mind.

Depending on your interests and your location, you might be able to dig up some activities that are not "Single Lesbians Go Here," but for some reason tend to attract a high percentage of queer women. Frex, a ways back, I briefly joined up with my local SCA and found it was, not counting me, about 40% lesbians (though not all single ones) for no reason I could tell  Shrug  But finding those kinds of places does seem like a bit of a crapshoot, so probably not something to focus too heavily on.




Solvi wrote:
Not to head off on a tangent (and Kiskadee, I deeply sympathize with what you're experiencing, and I hope things turn a corner for you soon), but I have to confess that I'm curious as to what distinguishes loneliness that can be solved by other people (particularly in the romantic-relationship context) from loneliness that can't.  As someone who often feels lonely but also doesn't really feel date-able, I'm never really sure whether my loneliness is a sign that I should go out and meet new people (and/or date), or a sign that I shouldn't.  Is no longer feeling loneliness a sign that I'm finally ready to date?  Is that what I should wait for?  Or is it that you're ready to date once you only feel a certain specific kind of loneliness?

Genuinely curious, because my loneliness doesn't usually go away through hobbies or interactions with friends.  (They distract me from it, but it always comes back, and I often feel really alone even when surrounded by friends.)

Hmm. Not Prettyinpank, but this is an interesting question, so I'm going to take a crack at it Razz  IMO, the existence of loneliness, or unsolvable-by-other-people loneliness at least, isn't so much a sign that you shouldn't date so much as something that should not be a reason to date.

Loneliness that you feel even when surrounded by friends seems like it could be a sign of lack of closeness in friendships or it could be something internal, but either way, it's something that should probably be worked on through seeking closer friendships or working on internal things rather than trying to solve it by dating.  The former might go away if you have a partner you're close to, but being the only close relationship you have is a lot of pressure on that relationship, and the latter is just not going to be helped by a relationship and putting that kind of expectation on it will probably land up destroying the relationship. But I don't think having the loneliness itself is what causes harm or creates unhealthy relationships.

I guess basically it's just generally a bad idea to try and solve problems by dating, but the existence of problems isn't in itself a reason not to date, just be careful of your expectations and how the problem might affect a relationship, if that makes any sense.
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Re: Knowing when to date

Post by Kiskadee on Wed Feb 03, 2016 2:49 am

Enail, I keep hoping something like that will happen, that sounds ideal.  It's possible I have terrible gaydar (likely, even), but I do go to a number of non-LGBT specific meetups and activities, and have never met anyone suitable that way.  I do those for friends or for the sake of the activity itself.  Which SCA do you mean, though?  I googled it, came up with a couple different organizations.  

Solvi wrote:I'm curious as to what distinguishes loneliness that can be solved by other people (particularly in the romantic-relationship context) from loneliness that can't.  

So clearly I'm not the expert on this topic, but I've also been doing some thinking about this lately, so I'll add my 2 cents. My impression is that more external loneliness (that could be solved by other people) is caused by your circumstances, and made somewhat better or worse by how introverted/extraverted you are.  Examples could be:
-Do you have a lot of friends?  Do you spend a lot of time with them?  Are you close or just hang-out buddies? (like Enail said)
-Are you in a relationship?  Is it long-distance?  Is it emotionally healthy?
-Do you live with roommates, family, or others?  Do you have a pet(s)?

More internal loneliness (that couldn't be solved by adding any combination of others) is more complicated, I think.  That would be caused by some sort of issue/problem inside of you, and would probably have to be dealt with separately and not just dumped on someone else.  I imagine this could look a lot of different ways, but here's one personal example.  Sometimes something will make me feel...off all of a sudden when I'm in a social group, and I'll feel really isolated and lonely in the crowd.  Sometimes when this happens, or right after, people are actively being nice and trying to connect with me in some way, but my hand is firmly on the self-destruct button and usually I just leave asap, feeling even more lonely.   No (I'm not proud of this but thought it might help you/someone else understand what I mean)

I'm not at all trying to say that that's what you're like, Solvi.  But I do think some of us have some emotional issues/disconnects inside that we have to figure out ourselves or with a paid therapist, and not expect dating to really help with.  (...as I answer my own original question, lol)

But I too would be interested in what other people think about this, if anyone else has an opinion
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Re: Knowing when to date

Post by Enail on Wed Feb 03, 2016 1:25 pm

Oh, sorry, it's the Society for Creative Anachronism.
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Re: Knowing when to date

Post by prettyinpank on Fri Feb 05, 2016 7:29 pm

Sorry Kiskadee it sounds like I read something different than what you intended in your first post. But I'm glad I was wrong!

I also have a lot of trouble with finding the right way to meet women. Plus with the added stigma as a bi woman...it's been tough for me to navigate dating in queer scenes. I don't think there's something to it that you're missing, though. I think that's just how it can be in some places.

Solvi: I completely agree with everything in Enail's reply to your question. And to clarify, I'm not saying you shouldn't date if you feel ANY loneliness, but take caution if that is one of your top motivators in dating. Like Enail said, specifically dating to solve a problem is a great way to get you or the other person hurt.

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