Ugh, it’s so unfair.
What did I do to deserve this?
No one ever asks me out.
Dating — or whatever you want to call the experience of interacting with the gender to which you are attracted — can be a very frustrating experience. Generally, we meet a lot of people before a connection is sparked and then pursued. And that connection usually dwindles and dies at some point, putting us back at square one, starting the whole search for a connection all over again. Basically, dating is a universal clusterfuck but it’s something that we all, at least at some point or another, take as a personal affront, as something we have a worse time at than anyone else. Like passengers at an airport going through security, we sometimes think of ourselves as victims of a process that we have no choice to participate in and that, for whatever reason, we’re the lone person to be earmarked for an extensive, invasive baggage check. Everyone else gets to waltz through without a care in the world, while we are held back and risk missing the flight to Happy Relationship Town.
I’ve been using the universal “we” here, but I’ll stop skirting the issue — I have often thought of myself in these terms, as a victim of dating, of bad, lazy, inconsiderate men, of timing. But for the last few months I have been on a mission to stop thinking of my romantic life — my life in general — as a case of me vs. everyone who is eventually going to disappoint me.
First, some facts about me: I have had issues with anxiety and depression and currently take medication to manage both, as well as participate in talk therapy. Additionally, I have “daddy issues” that are directly linked to my habit of anticipating disappointment. I don’t want to get into the details, but that disappointment is painful and ongoing in the sense that it’s not even just in the past but actively still happening in the present, i.e. not in my head as other disappointments have been. It’s something I am always working on and, well, that’s all I’ll say about that. But it’s a major contributing factor in my ability to completely trust the motives and emotions of others, despite a genuine desire to trust.
Basically, what happens is this: I want to trust that someone is genuine, so I do trust them, and then at the first sign of trouble, I start to question their feelings and motives; my focus suddenly is on all the ways in which they are probably duping me — because I am a victim — and I start to feel like crap about myself because if I was prettier/funnier/smarter/something-er, they would feel genuinely about me, it wouldn’t be fake or tepid or half-assed. And then it doesn’t work out and all I can think is that I have been duped again. Fucking idiot. Fucking asshole. Is this going to just happen again and again? I feel equal parts sorry for and hating myself. Eventually I shrug it off and resolve to start over, reciting platitudes like “It wasn’t meant to be,” which is true but this stage is also just a poorly applied band-aid because the cycle eventually starts all over again. It has nothing to do with the guy or even how I feel about him — when I’ve taken the time to consider my own feelings rather just how I think he is feeling, that is.
It was not a recent revelation at all that this cycle was terribly unhealthy and not really working out so well. I’ve tried dealing with it a few ways, always with the genuine intent of repairing my approach to dating and, most of all, my self-worth. Therapy! A dating hiatus! Taking things more slowly! Etcetera. All of these things certainly helped and I definitely feel as though, in the last year especially, I’ve made a lot of progress in not getting my self-worth from the attention of a man. I’ve been far more invested in figuring out how I feel rather than fantasizing about how that other person is feeling about me. I had one short but intense relationship that taught me a lot about myself and while it was painful when it ended, I didn’t take it as personally as I would have a few years ago.
But I still have those moments where I’m like, “Why do I have such a hard time at dating? Why does no one ever ask me out? Why can’t things just work out for me?” Or when a particular person is the focus of my despair it’s “Why won’t he call me back? He must hate me. Despite what he says, he doesn’t care about me as much as I care about him. I should have known he would disappoint me too. They always do!” But the beautiful thing about the growth I’ve had in the last year or so is that I now recognize almost immediately when I am being a complete dip shit and generally don’t allow myself to fall down that insecure, “the world is out to disappoint me” rabbit hole. I’m proud of that accomplishment, but I’m not satisfied with it. I don’t want to be fearful or expect disappointment at all. I don’t want to put the power to disappoint me in someone else’s hands. I don’t want anyone I care about to feel that burden or responsibility. I don’t want to feel like a victim because I’m not one.
How can I be? If I learn something from someone, from an experience, how can it be anything but rewarding in some way? It’s with that frame of mind that I really do try to approach all of my relationships now. What am I supposed to learn here? Give me my challenge! I’m not immune to hurt or sadness, of course — shit, I felt sad as recently as last night — I try to see it less as something that someone else has done to me and more as a knee-jerk response to a lifetime of experiences, the perception of which only I can control.