Recently, a friend of mine wrote to me, saying thay they they were down in the dumps in the dating department. They asked whether there was anything wrong with them, or whether they were “just dating all of the duds”. Said friend has relatively alright self esteem – They work very hard on improving themselves, they “think they are a pretty good person and they don’t play games”. They had also just moved country.
Below is my reply, which I am a little inwardly proud of.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you! I am sorry to hear that your soul has been feeling low while trying to make some sense of your new country, specifically in regards to complicated … and occasionally harrowing game of seeking relationships.
Make no mistake; looking for love is brutal. Doing so takes a lot of courage. With so many different types of peoples in the world – and a generation of us looking for the instant fix… feeling isolated is becoming an increasingly easy thing. Sometimes I think that loneliness is going to become the world’s single biggest problem before too long – if it isn’t already. And as for dating: the more that I think about it, the more disenfranchised I feel with the whole format of the current dating model. I mean, how we ever reduced something so potentially important and key to our being as the process of finding meaningful, intimate relationships down to “chairs-and-tables” style interviews, baffles me. At best, dating as we know it is a format that might work a minutely small amount of people (ie. if your love language happens to be words of affirmation – nevermind those of us who prefer physical touch / gifts / acts of service / companionship through activity)… and then, even if you are one of the 20% who prefers words of affirmation as your jam, then there is a whole swirling sea of complexity around discourse, language, what’s too much to say, what isn’t enough….. and that is JUST ONE of the MANY multitudes different biases and preferences that people have. What if you don’t think that your date is a nice person? What if you prefer confidence over shyness? What if you like tall or short, What if you only date right-handed people? and so on… You see, when we pile one’s concept of reciprocated love atop of all other societal and human preferences (eg. race, gender, age, personality, etc). then it becomes somewhat evident that the whole dating regimen is pretty much statistically flawed from the start. And it doesn’t take much to feel sad about that, even after lukewarm success and technologies like dating sites (and hook up sites)… which have a place, and yet don’t fill a void.
This wonderful article is a bit pessimistic, but I think that it sums it up pretty well: http://thephilosophersmail.com/relationships/how-we-end-up-marrying-the-wrong-people
Then there’s the ocean of conflicting “how do I find the right person?” rhetoric: which is largely well-intended but usually overwhelming, and frequently all but conflicting. And there is just so much of it! Personally, I’m a believer in “the secret is not to look” sentiment (at least, that’s what helped to keep me going in terms of retaining hope/remaining grounded/being positive and concentrating on myself instead of my lack of another for so long). But lets be honest, what worked for me is unlikely to work for many others… so take any advice with a grain of salt – and besides, people tend to need empathy a lot more than advice these days – and people with a personality like yours definitely, definitely deserve it.
So, is there anything wrong with you? Well, no, not at all. In fact, you have shining qualities that are enriching and beautiful – even if I’ve only seen a glimpse of them. One thing I love about you is that you’ve walked a very different path compared to many – a wandering, reflective, path that has taken you to a great many places – as many mentally as physical. And whilst your story has been quite different and perhaps one that’s involved a lot of hard and painful periods sometimes… it’s also contained some unique experiences that sound like they have been really beautiful to experience. Somewhere out there, you are someone’s ideal of perfect – in fact, I think you have a lot of qualities that lots of people wish that they had.
So have you been simply dating the duds? Well, not necessarily duds per se… but not only are we all different people – bet we are different people at different times in our lives. Everyone is capable of finding happiness – but then, “finding” is an interesting terminology and one that I don’t think that is accurate: for nobody really goes looking for love and then proceeds to “find” it, as they do a grocery item. It’s more akin to dragging your feet in a certain way, so that you are susceptible to tripping over love whilst not falling flat on your face (or at least, not too many times!) in the interim.
I am trying to avoid cliches as much as possible – and I’m sure that people have probably already told you to try and forget about the concept of ‘your type’ – to ‘just give so-and-so a shot…’, or to ‘why not try dating a such-and-such sort of a guy?’. For me, I’m…. weary of all of these approaches – I have mixed feelings at best. I mean, it’s one thing to keep an open mind and to see some good in others (which I know you already do to some extent), but being untrue to yourself by dating people with qualities that you despise – should also be considered a negative thing. Arguing for a middle ground might well be a perpetual and tepidly-rewarding debate; I would suggest that it is far more important to let go of the circumstances surrounding HOW we meet another, rather than concentrating on the “who”.
As I said earlier, conventional dating rarely works… so what’s left?
You’ve probably heard this one before – but I do believe that there’s something to be said for the “meet people when doing something that you love” idiom. I mean, I know you’ve very likely been there… but hey, at least if you’re doing something that you truly love – then if nothing else then you get to do some more of the awesome thing that you’re passionate about (or at least, persevering with), even if you don’t meet like-minded and interesting people along the way . Also, on that note – if you aren’t already doing it, then I strongly suggest MAKING something angry. It doesn’t matter what: take angry photos, paint something red, write an abhorrently obscene blog about something that you know that you are RIGHT about, graffiti something. Why? Because sometimes loneliness makes us feel like horseshit and dealing with it just feels better when we make something angry… and amazing, too.
You mentioned that you don’t play games – and a semi-serious park of me thought: “well, maybe you should? I mean, games can be great fun! And I think that you would be really good at them 🙂
But seriously, try new things. Maybe you’ll be awesome at them, and besides – life’s all about trying everything once (or, trying everything three times, as a wise monk once told me – because “you might just be in a mood when you try something the first time”)? Maybe it’s Photography? volunteering? handball? hand gliding? cosplay? pup play? HEY I don’t know what you do and don’t like… and for that matter, how will you unless you try? Actually on that, I have to partly – maybe even mostly agree – with some progressive friends of mine who tell me that there’s a refreshing transparency in which people approach interacting with others on a hookup/fetish site as opposed to the unending myriad of projected junk that people put up on regular dating sites. I have a theory that everyone has a fetish of some kind, once “fetish” is defined as something intimate that we love – even if it’s as simple as hugging, massage, being understood by others who also identify as asexual, even dancing could fall under that definition. But these tings are significant, I think: perhaps we learn a lot about people (and ourselves!) based on what their intimate preferences are… and for all of the challenges and hardships involved with exploring physical space with an otherwise-unknown, it can also certainly be a surprising way to get to know someone at a really deep level (and seeing a side of them that you really appreciate), that you otherwise have walked straight past.
A quick example: when I met my partner, it was at a time where I had pursued online dating for some years, with almost no tangible success. When we met, she was still finding her feet and wasn’t looking for any kind of relationship at all. At the time, we knew that we really connected with each other… but I had to open myself to the idea of us being simply “casual” for a while – which was something I’d never even considered with another. This was very different for me, but because I sensed that she was potentially someone who was really worth loving well, it became an easy conclusion (and felt much more comfortable than I could ever express in words) to go with the flow and to simply just get to know her in her current capacity for now, regardless of my preconceptions on coupledom based on what I was brought up with. (two quick asides: [a] Yes, we also tried polyamory for a while, which was multitudes more difficult for me, as I’m sure you know! And no, since thay period we have been 100% exclusive for some years now – and I tentatively expect that we might remain this way. [b] It’s true that the life stories of my partner and I are really similar, and every day I still think that I basically got very lucky in terms of stumbling across her. However, the point is that there was 0% chance that I could have wound up with her – and vice versa – if we met under different circumstances eg. via online organization or by ‘going on a date’ and seeing what happens…).
There’s obviously and excess of rhetoric that I could throw at you also… and although I’ll try and ignore all of it, there’s one more cliche (sorry, it’s an absolute cliche!) that I can’t not mention: the whole “be the person you want to date” idea has some undeniable truth to it. Put another way: well, you’re new to a new country, and that’s a big and sometimes difficult position to be in. Whilst you are certainly capable of finding yourself near someone who turns out charming today, it’s true that people tend to naturally glow when they feel at peace with who they are and what’s going on around them. So if there’s lots of other things that feel yuck and that make you sad in your life, then they might need some more exclusive attention of yours (to be sure, alongside the odd social outing even if it’s a date with your laptop and a drink at a random bar in the interim – of which your new city has plenty of fine ones!). I won’t harp on much about this as I’m sure that I’m not the first to mention such things to you… but yeah. Look after yourself first, and the rest will follow (or it won’t, but you’ll feel better anyway).
Gosh, I’m just about done with this colossus of an email. It’s a tricky caper, and it doesn’t help that everyone plays by different rules when it comes to looking for love. Even with all of the above, you mightn’t get anywhere at all. Or maybe you will. Have courage, remember that you’re amazing (and unique! so wonderfully unique). Don’t forget to try and find some occasional peace in amongst it all. And do remember that everything changes (even the dark bits).
Thinking of you, dear friend – be nurturing to your soul.