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

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Post by Enail on Sat Oct 11, 2014 12:05 pm

From what I understand, there's a fairly specific reason for that, in that some 12 steppers believe early in recovery is a time when you're particularly vulnerable to getting into relationships just to fill the gap, which is a rather unhealthy coping mechanism. I don't know how well-evidenced or accurate that is, but I think the general idea makes sense, that in times of extreme emotional upheaval, it's healthier to focus on your own well-being and not try and add a brand-new, potentially intense relationship into the mix.
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Post by fakely mctest on Sat Oct 11, 2014 12:26 pm

Werel wrote:
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

Noooo! All my FOMO-related anxieties! Razz

Werel wrote: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

Ugh, agreed with this so hard. It took me a really long time to undo a lot of that thinking, but it's a worthwhile project both insofar as (I've found) it increases personal empathy and understanding as well as freeing up contact with your personal emotions.

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Post by eselle28 on Sat Oct 11, 2014 2:08 pm

Enail wrote:From what I understand, there's a fairly specific reason for that, in that some 12 steppers believe early in recovery is a time when you're particularly vulnerable to getting into relationships just to fill the gap, which is a rather unhealthy coping mechanism. I don't know how well-evidenced or accurate that is, but I think the general idea makes sense, that in times of extreme emotional upheaval, it's healthier to focus on your own well-being and not try and add a brand-new, potentially intense relationship into the mix.

That's what I understand as well, and I've also heard that one of the other reasons is that people who are very new to recovery often spend a lot of time going to meetings and is likely to meet any new romantic partner there. There's a concern that people who have been in recovery for awhile and who are more stable will view new, vulnerable people joining as a source of new romantic and sexual partners. I don't know how accurate that perception is, either, but it's perceived to be common enough that there's a term for it.

In any case, I think this fits in with the more gray-area reaction to Wisp's general fears than with the scary, black and white one. The restriction is more about helping the recovering person than protecting those around them, and it's one that comes with an expiration date. If you really have to be perfect to date, many people who have some time in recovery would seemingly be disqualified as well.
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Post by Gman on Sat Oct 11, 2014 6:17 pm

Glides wrote:
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.

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.

Glides, I simply have to add my opinion here and write to you that I am NOT some sort of special case that managed to "break free" somehow. I simply refuse to accept that you see me like some sort of Magical Pony of some sort. Because the reality of it, is that I AM NOT. I am still my awkward self that has trouble in creating relationships (of any kind, not just romantic) as I always was. Actually, I am just about to make a venting thread of my own, so I'll won't derail this thread anymore. 

To wisp, What Bunny and the rest here wrote pretty much sum up what I think about it myself. You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable. You need to accept the fact that you aren't perfect, and neither is any potential partner that you may end up with. But as long as you are aware to your issues and weaknesses, work hard on improving upon these weaknesses and make sure you don't use these weaknesses as an excuse to behave like an asshole towards someone, I expect you should do just fine.
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Post by meeperson on Sun Oct 12, 2014 1:20 am

I totally agree with Wisp that these dating/self-improvement advice columns give social validation and our social nature short-shrift, in part because that would pull the focus from the self-improvement/personal empowerment mantra, and require a nuanced acknowledgment of the limits of individual effort, though I think DNL and others are right to point to the dangers of seeking confirmation from others. I don't agree necessarily that this thread need solely be about ethical dating, since the title itself lists that as only one of 3-4 different topics. I echo the frustration with feeling like we need to improve ourselves, clean up our closets, as part of a project of becoming "date-able", where the ostensible/eventual goal is to find a long-term partner, so that you can satisfy the parts of your desires that are supposed to be put on ice whenever you're stuck on your own.

That said, I do think part of the dissatisfaction/difficulty of the limits of acting in isolation could stem from personal standards about whom you are willing to chase after early on, as opposed to how your standards may adjust as you get to know and become attracted to someone. I think there is this notion in self-improvement that, if only you invest enough time into making yourself "awesome," if you tally up enough "attractive characteristics", you will then become qualified to chase after highly attractive people, that you (the general you) can then afford to be shallow. More succinctly, the "self-improvement = get the hot boy/girl" brand of thinking, rather than the "self-improvement = overall quality of life and use of time improvement" approach, which is more holistic, which sees romance and sex as possible but not-to-be-counted-upon benefits.

So, from this notion, much of the advice handed out in the comments section, if not so much the columns of DNL, is that the aspiring romantic ought to go out and build an interests-based social infrastructure (as I've taken to calling it in my mind). I am a new arrival to Shanghai, and as you might know, the attitude of most Chinese men and women is that they need to get married by their late 20s, give or take, no matter what, as part of a larger project of building financial and familial stability, with individual happiness a distant second or third. It's not a common notion that people ought to go out and build friend-networks, partly in the hopes of maximizing their chances for finding romance through shared interests and opportunities to move beyond simply looks-appraisal, and partly as part of the project of having people to share experiences and develop with. So, at least in my interests communities, the membership is mostly foreign, with a smattering of English-speaking Chinese who have spent ample time abroad, and whose values diverge sharply from their parents (this is not statistically rigorous, which I must state since I'm continually impressed by the intelligence-level of the DNL community's many regular posters).

The weird thing? I'm finding it much harder to meet a single woman who expresses and maintains an interest in me than I ever have before. Back in the States, I had solid success just meeting women through OKCupid, without need for worrying overmuch about my behavior, the confidence I project, etc., with a mix of flings and short to long-term relationships (and once here in China), probably because OKC'ers are more ready and willing for these things.

Now that I've shifted into 'interested in a long-term, values-, lifestyle-, and interests-sharing partner" mode, outside the dating-focused and somewhat prescribed confines of OKc, every woman I've been interested in thus far has had a boyfriend or been too busy with work. This doesn't mean I just chuck them in the "can't date 'em/can't do 'em" pile--no such pile exists, since I enjoy my time with them and the rest of the group too much to act that way, and I can remain hopeful that something positive will come of a more open and organic approach to getting to know people and developing rapport. It's not easy, and old habits are hard to break, especially the kind of baggage that places me in the role of rejected victim if things aren't clearly on a course towards intimacy with someone I like, but I'm trying to find satisfaction in these other things, and I have seen hopeful signs in the way women respond to me there and elsewhere. If I stay the course, I think I may just find that partner I'm looking for, and even if I don't, I'm surprised that I'm actually able to maintain new friendships with women I'm attracted to without getting angry or upset by my (for now) unfulfilled desires. Disciplined thinking, and a large enough circle of acquaintances that I don't get fixated unhealthily on any one person.

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Post by kath on Mon Oct 13, 2014 9:30 pm

meeperson wrote:
I think there is this notion in self-improvement that, if only you invest enough time into making yourself "awesome," if you tally up enough "attractive characteristics", you will then become qualified to chase after highly attractive people, that you (the general you) can then afford to be shallow. More succinctly, the "self-improvement = get the hot boy/girl" brand of thinking, rather than the "self-improvement = overall quality of life and use of time improvement" approach, which is more holistic, which sees romance and sex as possible but not-to-be-counted-upon benefits.

This, I think, is a key place where the thinking "I have to be perfect to date anyone" can come from, and how it's related to "try some things to give you more exposure to people you like and to be more attractive to those people, and hopefully it'll work out." I think the second statement is what's being advised, but if one has been looking at it as racking up "attractiveness points" and hasn't yet been successful, it can be easy to flip into "therefore, I would have to be perfect to get anywhere."

But since it isn't actually a system, it doesn't work that way, and you have to wrap your mind around both chance and conscious decisions made by you, and many people you have no control over. I think that can break the brains of people who really, really like systems. Statistical systems and models work on a general level, but they have little to do with your individual lived experience. Reconciling that can be very hard.
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Post by Olmajor on Sat Nov 08, 2014 10:16 am

Sorry for bumping up an old thread, but I wanted to tell that all of the messages here have been very helpful to me. I see what my issues with dating are more clearly.

I also wanted to continue the conversation with the issues of self-esteem and getting emotional validation from others. Wisp mentioned them in the first message, and they got me thinking. If your need for social acceptance from others is strong, it's easy to believe that one needs to be perfect to date. Because, in this way of thinking, a failure in dating means that you won't get the desired validation from the other person. This is not a wanted outcome, so to avoid failures one must be socially experienced and 100% confident.

Armchair psychology, yes, but this is how I believe I have hindered my own love life. meeperson's and kath's thoughts about self-improvement are useful with this issue. A goal to become more confident or attractive to others actually means that you have to change the way you are. A better one would be to spend more time with people you feel confident with and that way increase your chances to rewarding relationships.

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