Q. I’m scared to write this letter, but I’m also at the end of my rope. I’m a middle-aged single woman who hasn’t aged well physically. It’s not just my body; it’s also the fact that I’m losing my hair and other changes to my appearance that seem to be age-related and biological.
I have a lot to offer someone. I’m smart, educated, have a good job, have hobbies and friends and a good sense of humor. But I can’t attract anyone’s attention on a dating site, and never seem to attract anyone romantically in real life either. I don’t have any family that’s still alive, and friends and hobbies only go so far in filling the gaping hole in my heart. I have tried for years to get myself to lose weight as a starting point, but my overeating is tied directly in with my self-esteem issues and nighttime emptiness and I just don’t have the motivation to do it with things as they are.
Please don’t tell me to get therapy. I’ve been trying for over a year and am on a million wait lists but no one is taking new patients. I just keep thinking that I can’t be the only sad-with-potential middle-aged work in progress … but where can I meet other people like me? I know they’re not on the dating sites because they aren’t attracting attention either.
A. I’m sorry about the shortage of opportunities for therapy. I am finishing a story about this very issue — how empty it can be to recommend therapy when I know most therapists have waitlists miles long because of COVID-19, the state of the world, etc. I will say that there are group therapy options. I’ve interviewed a ton of therapists for the story (publishing soon, I swear), and some say that support group work should not be overlooked. Also, your doctor might be able to help find you some specialists to deal with other issues.
But aside from that, let’s think about where and how works-in-progress make progress. They switch up their hobbies. They take classes. They play pickle ball. (I don’t really understand what pickle ball is, but it’s been recommended to me by many people over the last six weeks, and all of those people were 50s and older.) You have a very full life right now, but I don’t know how much it exposes you to new things and people. Scenery changes are good.
Also, have a friend help with your app profile. Maybe you need to switch up your pics. Sometimes the app experience is better with a support system.
I do wish you weren’t feeling a “gaping hole in your heart” because of your singleness. The right romantic relationship could be lovely, but it’s not everything. Maybe there’s a long-term project that can hold your attention and give you real accomplishments to look forward to. That would certainly give you plenty to talk about if you wound up on a date.
You do have to summon the motivation to lose weight and get healthy but not as a means to attract a partner. You need to do these things for you so you feel better. Once you feel better you will have an easier time attracting the kind of person you want.
I know way too much myself about nighttime emptiness. So, don’t sit around feeling empty at night. Go to bed early! Then get up in the morning early and go out for a walk before work.
Adopt a dog. Then take it for walks and to dog parks. You’ll be exercising and filling that gaping hole in your heart. And you can start talking to people at the dog parks. There are a lot of small things you can do to improve your self-image. And all those little things will start to add up.
^This is a great idea! I’d lived in my neighborhood for several years without knowing most of the other people who live in it but then I got a dog and, as a result of walking him, I now know almost everyone.
Work on what you can. Fill that gaping hole with education, volunteering, activity, creativity. Therapy isn’t the only way to improve a work in progress.
Hi! I also have a friend with hair issues, a woman. I believe she got a partial wig to help her out — it looks natural and really good. That is something you can do which doesn’t require a diet, etc., and might make you feel better. I think if you have good self-esteem or at least better self-esteem the rest will follow. Perhaps this motivates you to do other things? I also saw someone say to take a walk not to lose weight but even just to feel better — this works. Just go for a 30-minute walk, or longer if you are up to it, look at your surroundings — it can take your mind off things for a bit. Good luck!
Go see a doctor, not a therapist. You may need to be tested for a hormonal imbalance. Check your thyroid, too.
No dating tips, except meeting someone will be through activities, not dating services. Have meeting new people as a goal apart from meeting a partner. Not so easy in these pandemic times. You have no control over being a partner, but you do have control over *how you live your life*. It is crucial to step back from the “crisis” aspect of this. [Deep feelings of hopelessness/anxiety will only chase potential partners away.]
We are all works in progress, ma’am. OK, to be fair, some of us have made more progress than others. But I can assure you, at least half of us confident, self-assured people that you see around you are bluffing, putting on our brave faces, and trying to get through another day.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.