The Problem with Dating Advice [Essay/DISC]

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Post by Solvi on Thu May 21, 2015 12:00 am

reboundstudent wrote:
Some of us may just be systematically broken in a way that can't be fixed enough to maintain intimate relationships. I think self-awareness of this is important, and determining whether that perspective is just negative thinking or is true. When we come out on the other side of that knowledge divide, at least there's some peace to that.    

Agreed.

I'm currently getting some late-night administrative work done, and this has made me realize that I've got a bit of a hedgehog's dilemma: I hate having to deliver bad news to people because I can't stop myself from empathizing with their position, and anticipating how they'll receive my emails or memos.  (And then, of course, there's the irony that I've put off delivering this bad news for so long, because of my empathy problems, that now I'm stuck delivering it while in the midst of a depressive episode.)

It's like this in other parts of my life, too; if a friend or a colleague is going through a hard time, something inside me triggers and I end up relapsing.  It's like my depression feeds off the problems of others.

And maybe that's why I can't be in a relationship, because the problem isn't just that I can't be a rock of support for a potential partner, but that the very act of trying to be supportive might end up deepening my own problems, thus leaving me even less capable of supporting someone else.  It's like a mise en abysme of depression and negativity.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu May 21, 2015 1:00 am

PintsizeBro wrote:
rj3 wrote:
V wrote:Rj 3, I think there are incremental gains along the way.

Dressing well can help you feel better and yield compliments.  Working out certainly has incremental measurable gains.  Approaching might get (longer) conversations.

And so on.  You have to savour the small victories.

Most advice-seekers don't see these as victories in their own right. Much of the time, "dateless and alone" is the state they want to change, with "fat and sloppy" an acceptable state if it didn't impede progress on "dateless and alone."

Me, I discovered that I liked my exercise - biking. It helped me explore my city and the areas around it. But it certainly wasn't what got me started and kept me at it for a long time.  I'm lucky I didn't try P90X or something like that.

This right here is the other reason that dating advice-seekers tend to fail. ElizaJane's post is excellent because it addresses exactly what you need to do, but that takes a long time and - more to the point - it requires the advice-seeker to change a whole lot of things that he doesn't really want to change.

That, I think, is the appeal of PUA. It tells "dateless and alone" types that there's a shortcut to dating success, just learn this formula and you can succeed in dating without changing anything about yourself. But it doesn't work. There's no shortcut. You can't go from "dateless and alone" to "women flock to you at parties" without changing the reasons that you're alone first.

Maybe a bit late to the party but I wanted to say what an insightful sequence of posts that was.

I don't think I am fat or sloppy, but I think I am asocial. Forcing myself to go to social events because of imagined outcomes that never occurred has not made me less so. I don't enjoy social events, and so far I haven't been able to "learn" to do so. I don't really want to learn and I don't want to be the kind of person who does go to lots of social events, so all this effort toward trying to do that anyway has produced pretty much the opposite of the desired effect.

...Sigh. If this was an engineering or programming problem, it wouldn't matter that I'm bad at it and wouldn't entirely matter that I don't want to do it. I'd be able to get concrete, meaningful hints from other people. I'd be able to analyze sample solutions. I'd be able to just think about the problem long enough and hard enough and check at every step that I'm following the right-and-proper rules. The solution wouldn't be some constantly-shifting target, even if the recoil from shooting at it still hurt a bit. To be honest, I still don't quite grok how so many people do give up on such things.

But when the best available answers are "Well, you have to enjoy it."; "Find small victories."; "Find something you like doing and do that."?

Impossible.
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Post by litterature on Thu May 21, 2015 5:55 am

The bare minimum of dateability and the conventions of signaling romantic interest are usually well coded for a given society, or at least for certain kinds of people within their particular "scenes", so they can definitely be taught. But whether someone will like you or not doesn't entirely depend on whether you know what you're doing (but it's still a requisite.)

However, everyone has different problems and some just can't be solved by simply knowing the terrain, so to speak. When things get like that I feel that dating advice isn't always useful simply because most probably the problem doesn't have to do with dating per se. Everyone can use some self-improvement, though.

As for being man-child or whatever, it isn't necessarily a bad thing I reckon. Personally I find the words "man" and "grown-up" to have very unpleasant connotations and generally never use them - to me, someone who says "grow up and be a man" makes me think of cowboy films, Marlboro commercials, pushy suits in business meetings, wives in their kitchens, suburban homes, and flags waving in the wind, that or police reports talking about "man, 26, dark hair, fair complexion, thin build, enters the building around 16:40" and I can't help but laugh at it all. Also, it reminds me of that time my mum was scolding me and said I wasn't a person yet and how bloody awful I thought that was.

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Post by Guest on Thu May 21, 2015 9:25 am

Solvi wrote:While this sounds reasonable in the abstract, my question is: what do you do when you write that list, and you realize that achieving all those items isn't likely to happen within a human timeframe?  Sure, I can get through items incrementally, but when there's so much that I need to do in order to be a good potential partner for someone, I start to wonder if it's even worth trying.  It's clear that I'll never get there.  I'm already at the point where most of my friends are now established in their careers and becoming parents, while I'm still a part-timer who's never even been on a date before.

My list IS long enough that I'll never achieve it all. This isn't a list of everything you have to do, it's everything you can think of to try.

Here's the point of the list:

The list remembers all the things you think you need to do, so you don't have to.

I didn't really like the book The 4-Hour Workweek, but there was a moment in it I loved, where the author realized he was spending hours worrying about something he had no power to affect. So he delegated his worrying. He told his personal assistant, "I want you to worry about this for 3 hours a day." She said, "Okay!" and every time he started to worry about it, he said, "I'm paying Minerva to worry about this, so I don't need to." And it worked. He stopped worrying about it.

If you have this spinning list in your head of everything you should do, you'll get tangled up and confused and frozen into inaction. If you have it written down, when your brain starts spinning through the list of everything you should be doing, you can tell yourself, "I already did this thing. I have the list. I've decided that right now, I'm focusing on making eye contact with people and smiling. I'm doing that until it feels comfortable."

No one is ever going to do everything right, but the thing is, you don't have to! You can always get better. You can never get perfect.

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Post by Enail on Thu May 21, 2015 3:49 pm

Solvi wrote:
I'm currently getting some late-night administrative work done, and this has made me realize that I've got a bit of a hedgehog's dilemma: I hate having to deliver bad news to people because I can't stop myself from empathizing with their position, and anticipating how they'll receive my emails or memos.  (And then, of course, there's the irony that I've put off delivering this bad news for so long, because of my empathy problems, that now I'm stuck delivering it while in the midst of a depressive episode.)

It's like this in other parts of my life, too; if a friend or a colleague is going through a hard time, something inside me triggers and I end up relapsing.  It's like my depression feeds off the problems of others.

And maybe that's why I can't be in a relationship, because the problem isn't just that I can't be a rock of support for a potential partner, but that the very act of trying to be supportive might end up deepening my own problems, thus leaving me even less capable of supporting someone else.  It's like a mise en abysme of depression and negativity.

That does make things difficult; a relationship that's going to cause you that kind of harm is definitely not something you want to have! If you want to, you might be able to work on being affected less by other people's distress - I can't find the link, but I seem to recall someone posted on the old forum about using visualization to help protect against that kind of empathetic stress, actually imagining a protective bubble, which sounds super-hokey but I'm pretty sure there was some fairly convincing research about it (sorry, I'm really vagueing it up in here!). That seems like it could be helpful to you in lots of aspects of your life, so it might be worth doing even without deciding you want to be working towards dating.

On a less woo-woo front, you could also try to get better at identifying people who tend to be very calm and have strong boundaries and might be less prone to triggering your own depression, and see how it feels interacting with those types. Of course, even the calmest people will sometimes be in distress, so it's never going to be a total solution, but weighting your social connections more heavily with that sort of person (if/when you feel up to making or deepening social connections) might help you keep yourself on more even keel, and if at some point you do want/feel able to pursue a relationship, that type might also prove to be a better match for you.
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