5 Things About Dating I Wish I Knew Sooner
Dating feels impossible when you’ve tried and tried and all you’ve gotten is ghosted, hurt, lied to, and disappointed. You may think you’re stuck in that painful and repetitive cycle because you’re not good enough. But the real reason comes down to the fact that you have not been taught how to navigate the dating world and the online dating world effectively. In addition, you’ve been given false information about dating apps, relationships, sex and more. No wonder dating feels so hard!
It took me a decade to figure out the dating world and how to create healthy relationships using them. That decade was traumatic and painful which did a number on my self-esteem. Now, I’m on a mission to teach you how to date in a way that leads to a healthy relationship faster, and without all the pain along the way. Below you will find 5 things I wish I’d known sooner on my dating journey.
Talk is cheap. People say great things about themselves, but their actions are where the truth lies. You can have a great conversation that leaves you feeling certain that you’re on the same page. The next thing you know you’re disappointed again; anxious again; hurt again. You can’t believe what people say. You have to observe their actions and how they treat you over time to know what they’re really about. Sometimes people don’t understand themselves well enough to articulate their truths to you.Other times, people know if they told you the truth they’d never get a second date. Whatever the reason, what matters is that you know you can’t auto-believe whatever someone tells you. You need to go slowly and protect yourself from getting attached to who the person says they are, so you can get attached to who they actually are if they turn out to be the right person.
Listen to your emotions instead of judging yourself for having them. The anxiety I felt when dating was my emotions trying to warn me of danger. The anxiety was not excitement, it was not due to my attachment issues, nor was it because of my trauma. It was because I was dating emotionally unavailable people who were going to hurt me. The anxiety I felt when it took 48 hours to respond to a text was an indication of a problem with that person. The anxiety I felt between dates was because some part of me knew something was off. Yet everyone around me and every advice column told me I needed to “lean back,” or deal with my attachment wounds. Nothing and no one told me I was dating problematic people and that they were causing me a ton of distress. That’s why I’m telling you this now: you’re anxious, obsessive, and freaking out while dating because you’re dating people who are not acting in ways that make you feel secure, safe, and respected. When you date someone who treats you right, you won't feel anxious because they'll do the things you need them to do to feel secure.
When someone treated me poorly, it was because of who they were, not because I wasn’t good enough to be treated better. I chose emotionally unavailable and sometimes unkind people to date because of where I was on my healing journey. As a result, I was treated poorly over and over again. For a long time, I thought I was the reason people treated me badly. Later I learned that those people treated women in general like that. It was not just me. I learned that the people who are kind, respectful, and emotionally available treated me well. They treated everyone well because that was who they were. How others treated me had nothing to do with me or what I deserved. I couldn’t make a nice person mean, and neither can you. You are not the problem. You may be choosing the wrong people, but you won’t get that until you realize you are not the problem. You have to blame them so you can start to stear clear of the same type of person in the future.
The online dating world is a total mess. Dating apps don’t match you with compatible people. We’re told that when we sign up we’ll find “matches,” and all we have to do is go on dates and watch a relationship bloom. We’re not told that these sites have no way of knowing whether someone is truly ready for a healthy relationship or not. They can’t tell if someone is even really single. They have no way of knowing if you're actually compatible. I wish I knew that I was being matched with people within a certain area who didn’t smoke (essentially), and beyond that, there was no reason to expect my “matches'' to be compatible–or even single! When I finally understood this, I stopped trusting that my matches were real potentials, and started seeing them as local people I’d have to get to know. I started being more self-protective, and I stopped getting hurt while dating. I wish I’d known sooner that the online dating world is a shit show and you need to be prepared in order to make it work for you rather than against you.
If someone loses interest in you after you have sex, they weren’t looking for a relationship, they were looking for a conquest. Most of the information I got about having sex was riddled with myths and shame-based advice. I was told to wait to have sex or I’d scare the person away, or, to have sex after 3 dates so I don’t get rejected. That advice was confusing and sent the message that I was responsible for someone else’s behavior. The notion that you have to have sex at the right time or the person who is ready for and wants a real relationship will suddenly be turned off is an oppressive, shame-based idea that isn’t true. In reality, if someone is looking for a relationship, it doesn’t matter when you have sex. Have sex when you want and when your needs surrounding it are met. Don’t have sex because you fear being rejected.
None of us were taught how to navigate the modern day dating world, so it makes sense that it’s hard for most people. If you’re struggling with dating and creating healthy relationships, be sure to seek more relational education and guidance. There’s nothing wrong with you, but you may need to learn how to date more efficiently.
This blog was originally published by Caitlin on Psychology Today.