DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: So I’ve recently gotten out of a relationship a couple of months ago. It’s been a disappointment, but I’ve been doing my best to move on. This includes trying to get out and meet people, and going on dates, and activities up to- and including sex.
But aside from making me feel momentarily better, I still don’t feel like I’m really ready for dating. I’m not “connecting” with people- intentionally or unintentionally. And somehow it’s at odds with the desire to find someone I can be close with again.
It’s eventually come up that general opinion is that I’m not relationship material, and then nothing has ever been elaborated on that. And I don’t know what that mean, but this entire process is leaving me more and more disillusioned with this whole dating situation.
All of this is leaving me feeling like I’m not cut out for this dating thing.
Any recommendations on how I can get out of this funk?
Deep Blue Something
DEAR DEEP BLUE SOMETHING: First rule of recovering from a break-up is that there is no set length of time by which you must be completely recovered and ready to date again. Some people swear by the rule of thumb that it takes half the time you were together to get over somebody; personally, I think that’s BS. It takes you as long as it takes you. Sometimes you’re over a relationship before you’ve even broken up and you’re ready to date again within days. Other times it just hits you like a groin punch to your soul and it can take months or even years to fully heal from it. It all depends entirely on you, the relationship that just ended and how it’s affected you.
What I think is going on right now is that you’re forcing yourself into trying to date before you’re ready because you have some idea that you ”should” be over your ex by now and ready to date again. And clearly you aren’t. You’re still hurting. I’m willing to bet that, if you were completely honest with yourself, you don’t quite feel like you deserve to be with somebody right now.
Of course it doesn’t help that people are telling you that you’re “not relationship material”, whatever the hell that means. And sweet zombie Jeebus that’s an incredibly toxic attitude to drop on somebody, especially somebody who’s still dealing with the pain of a recent break up… and believe me, two months and change is pretty goddamn recent.
Small wonder you’re not really connecting with folks; you’ve got that nagging voice in your head saying “this isn’t real” or “this will never work” or “this person will never like you, not when they get to know the real you…”
So here’s what you need to do to break out of this funk. First of all: quit listening to whomever is telling you you’re not relationship material. All they’re telling you is that you’re not healing according to their BS schedule, therefore clearly there’s something wrong with you. So forget those people and their lousy attitude.
Second: acknowledge, at least to yourself, that you’re still in pain. It’s only been a couple of months and you’re allowed to hurt. You’re allowed to feel bad. Don’t wallow in misery or self-pity, but hell, you’re allowed to feel how you feel, y’know?
Take some time and feel the hell out of your feelings. Don’t do the stereotypical thing of trying to pretend that you’re fine when you’re really not. Don’t try to convince yourself that you shouldn’t be feeling how you feel or that there’s no point to it. The point is that your relationship ended. That’s a legitimate loss from your life and it should be mourned. You don’t need to weep and wail and rend your clothes, but you sure as hell deserve some time to say your goodbyes and let the pain out.
Don’t let anybody else tell you that you’re wrong for feeling hurt; they’re not you and frankly, your emotions aren’t a goddamn democracy.
Third: you need to stop dating. You’re trying to get back in the game before you’re ready. I know there’s a part of you that thinks you should be ready by now and in the back of your mind there’s a part of you yelling “Put me in coach! I’m ready! I’m ready!” But you’re not. Like a runner who’s torn a tendon, you need to give yourself time to recover.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to curl up in on yourself and be a complete recluse. Go out with friends. Be social. Have an active life. Meet new people and make new friends. But dating, even casual dating, is off the table for a while. You’re still healing. Trying to get back into the game now isn’t fair to you, and it’s not fair to anyone you’d try to date.
Meanwhile: take care of yourself. Now is the time for you to do the self-improvement work. Hit the gym; exercise is a great way to make yourself feel better. Not only can you lose yourself in being physical – shutting up that pesky voice that likes to tell you all the ways you’ve messed up – but getting those endorphins going will make you feel amazing. Plus: you’ll be getting in better shape and that’s going to do wonders for your self-esteem. Take some classes you’ve always wanted to try. Work on some hobbies. Do the things that make you feel good and help make you into the person you’ve always wanted to be. These are the things that will help you get out of that funk and back into emotional shape.
Then, when you’re feeling like you might be ready to try this whole dating thing again – and it may be a while, because it takes as long as it takes – then you can dip a toe in the water. But do it slowly. Even after you’ve healed up, you don’t want to dive right back in as if nothing’s happened. You’ve got to work your way back up, not try to win a metaphorical triathlon on your first day back. Date casually for a while, just for the sake of dating and meeting new people. Don’t go looking for a committed relationship until you’re sure you’re ready for one.
And hey: you may decide for yourself that you don’t want to date for a while, or even ever again. And that’s a legitimate choice. Just make sure you’re the one deciding that and not some asshole friends who’re deciding it for you.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: What do you do when your partner likes you, but isn’t interested in committing to you? Are there ways to help that person overcome his or her reservations? The man I’ve been spending time with wants a casual sexual relationship, and does not see a romantic future with me.
He and I have dated before, and I rushed that relationship to an early end by tactlessly asking for commitment before he was ready. While I cannot change the past, I want the person I sleep with to care about me as much as I do them, and would like to date him again if we are going to continue to have a sexual relationship. What is a tactful way for me to communicate my wishes? Are his and my desires even reconcilable?
Thanks in advance for your advice,
Enamored and Possibly Delusional
DEAR ENAMORED AND POSSIBLY DELUSIONAL: Um… I hate to tell you this EPD, but the problem isn’t how to get him to overcome his reservations. The problem is that you and your beau aren’t compatible. You want completely different things. He wants a casual, no-strings-attached sexual relationship while you want something more serious. That just ain’t going to work out.
Now maybe he feels like you were pressuring him into something committed when you asked for commitment… but honestly, it really comes down to the fact that you’re not on the same page.
The best thing for you to do is to have the defining-the-relationship talk with him and explain how you’re feeling. This isn’t about giving an ultimatum, this is about letting him know how you feel: that you really like him and you love spending time with him and the sex, but you want an actual, committed relationship. You can’t keep sleeping with him if he’s not looking for that as well. It’s not fair to you for him to string you along and it’s not fair to him to leave him feeling like you’re trying to push him into something he doesn’t want. And then the ball is in his court; either he decides he’s ready for a committed relationship with you, or the two of you end your hooking up.
It’s not going to be easy, but ultimately if you’re not going to be on the same page, then continuing on as you are is just going to lead to you getting hurt, Enamored. If he isn’t ready or willing to give you what you need, then it’s better to end things now and find someone who is. Otherwise… well, you’re going to be left hoping that he’s going to maybe one day change his mind and if he doesn’t (and let’s be honest: he’s showing no signs of doing so) then you’ve cut yourself off from finding other people who are just as amazing who want the same things you do.
I hope I’m wrong and he’s ready to commit. But I don’t think he is. Say your peace, lay out what you need from him and if he isn’t able to meet you there… well, it’s time to let him go.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)