Q. I’ve heard people my age (30) make ridiculous statements like “I’ll never find anyone” or “I’m going to end up alone.” I have never been one of those people, but lately . . . well, it’s not that I believe I will end up alone, rather I recognize that if I don’t actually put some effort into finding love, I won’t find any. And this is what I’m having trouble with.
I never dated in high school or college, so with my first boyfriend after college, I didn’t immediately recognize it was an unhealthy relationship. He was a big drinker, controlling, and hyper-jealous, and although he never “raised a hand,” looking back, it was an emotionally abusive relationship. When I eventually broke things off, it took a long time to forgive myself for allowing the relationship to continue for as long as it did.
My second boyfriend seemed like a dream in comparison. Unbeknownst to me, he had a history of mood instability and debilitating anxiety. He was self-medicating, so I broke up with him.
That was 3 years ago, and lately I’ve been thinking it might be nice to date again. But I can’t even go through the motions. It’s like I have writer’s block. The thought of flirting makes me gag and I avoid it at all costs. I see people being affectionate in public and cringe. And the worst is, if I get a crush, a cascade of events topples through my head like a bad ’80s montage, and none of my crushes ever seem worth the trouble. Plus I also gained a significant amount of weight as a side effect of my own depression and a terrible job. I don’t even recognize myself. And to think about kissing or having sex . . . ugh . . . I don’t even want to think about it because it all seems gross now.
I’d like to snap out of it and feel positive and vibrant and excited to date, but so far nothing has helped. Even the fake-it-till-you-make-it route has failed me. Please help.
A. This problem calls for a doctor. You mention your own depression, which makes me wonder whether you’re on medication right now. If so, it’s possible that the meds just aren’t right for you. (Many of them affect sex drive. Some affect weight.) If you’re not talking to a professional about your depression, it’s time to start. All of your health care providers should be in on this problem.
You can’t get excited about dating until you’re excited about yourself. That’s why I’m not going to pressure you to look for a partner right now. I’d rather you spend your energy on figuring out ways to recognize yourself again. It’s time to look for new jobs. It’s time to get healthy. I promise you that kissing won’t seem so gross after you’ve dealt with some of these issues.
Also, I’m not sure that it’s possible to fake it till you make it when it comes to dating. There has to be at least some genuine excitement there or it just won’t work. I want you to picture the version of yourself that you fantasize about in that ’80s montage (Molly Ringwald?). You deserve to be that person. Let’s work on that. Honestly, I think we all have to feel montage-worthy in order to date.
Readers? Should she be dating right now? How have her previous relationships affected her ability to date? Have you ever been in a rut like this? Does she have to deal with her problems before she starts looking for a partner? Help.
Therapy card thrown. All signs point to issues you need to work on that might be too big for you to handle alone. Find someone to talk to in order to get to the root of the problem.
I second the therapy card that’s been thrown. Also, in the meantime, you might try getting back in the exercise saddle. Take a walk around the block every day, or start with something small, but do something. It might help you feel better about yourself for you. You sound overwhelmed. Take baby steps. You’re not going to feel better overnight. Good luck.
My first impression is, too, that you are self-medicating: Eating, Bad choice of partners etc. While people should love you for who you are, you don’t even love yourself. On the upside, you seem to care enough about yourself to recognize that you need to change before you can take on the responsibility of a relationship. Proceed. Step one is complete.
“I’ll never find anyone” or “I’m going to end up alone” are not ridiculous statements at age 30. The reality is that some people do end up alone. You haven’t had much dating experience and your attitude toward dating seems juvenile (you have “crushes,” kissing and sex are “gross”). You might be one of those people who end up single. You need to accept that as a possibility (not an inevitability). Only then will you have a clear head and be ready to date.
No, they are ridiculous statements. They are ridiculous because they are overdramatic, and especially more ridiculous for 30-year-olds to make when the dating pool is a lot larger than say 49. Sure, people do end up single, but preparing yourself for that when you are seeking the opposite is not the means to the end.
I can relate. Slightly different path but eventually I was at the same place of dreading dates — “gagging” at the thought is a good way to put it. The thing that most helped me was declaring a dating hiatus — just taking it off the table completely — and focusing on rediscovering my own happiness. It was a wonderful time of connecting with family, friends, and hobbies I loved (yoga, running, and climbing being great ones to help lift the mild depression I was experiencing). Coincidentally, I met my now-husband during my hiatus though I didn’t end the hiatus when we met. It took another four months before we started dating — when I was “back” to being me and excited about getting to know him.
When I picture myself in an ’80s montage, it’s the one from “Naked Gun” where they’re running on the beach and clothesline another couple.
JOHNCOCKTOSENColumn and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.
com. She chats online on Wednesdays at 1 p.m.