Ask Elizabeth: Dating Burnout.
I have had a very hard time dating. I feel like I can’t be myself. It seems to work for others but not me… I’m feeling very hopeless…it’s getting too hard.
Well, I was in a relationship for a very long time with an awful guy-6 years. I’ve been trying to date for the past couple of years from when we first broke up. I have tried personal dating sites, paid a lot of money for expensive professional matchmakers & in the end; it’s all a waste. About me: I’m a doctor, I’m 39, and if it’s ok to say this, I’ve never had trouble meeting guys. People think I’m cute & petite & spunky & fun. I have more friends than I know what to do with. But somehow, the guys are treating me so badly. I rarely have more than one date, and they always get weird by date three the most recent heart wrenching was this past weekend. I went out with a guy that was surprisingly great. We hit it off immediately & both agreed that we felt like we had known each other forever. Unfortunately his car broke down, and we couldn’t get it started again. We could have waited for mobile repair, but it was late – it was just too late to figure it out. So we went back to my apartment. He was tired & a little drunk, so I let him sleep at my place. Nothing happened, because I’m not that way, the next morning he had breakfast with me and left. Now it’s a week later, and I haven’t heard from him. I don’t know what to do anymore…
I keep beating myself up because I let him stay over & he even crawled into my bed, wearing clothes & joked that my couch was awful! which it is! Ha!ha! It all seemed pretty PG, but now I feel like maybe he thinks that was too much too fast… even though I have been known to be a little uptight about things. I’ve never had any fling or anything exciting like that…I’m pretty vanilla. But I was a lot more carefree & spontaneous with him… and now I regret it. My life has always been about doing everything right. Whenever I do something fun & spontaneous, like how carefree I was on this date, I always regret it ;( what’s wrong with me?
Thank you for your question
I am glad you have written quite a lot about your experience because it helps me to give you a comprehensive answer. Studying to be a doctor takes a lot so discipline (I know. I went through the process to become a psychologist and that was hard enough). I really admire you for completing all that study. I image there have been times in that process where you have put your feelings to one side just to get through all the study to become qualified. I bet there are times you have wanted to be carefree and haven’t allowed yourself to be. In addition, you talk about 6 years in an abusive relationship. This is another space where we often put our feelings to one side in order to manage someone else. I am wondering if repressing how you feel has become a way of being for you – perhaps it is even something that comes from childhood, not just later life experience. It becomes hard to access how you really feel. This is why you really notice it when you give in to your feelings. It can be hard to suddenly give yourself permission to be relaxed and enjoy yourself without some sort of worry or fear of consequence, such as failing exams or a nasty partner. The problem I am seeing is that when you give in, you are making decisions that might not be safe.
I understand that when you met this guy on the latest date, you felt immediately at home with him. That’s great – but somehow, late at night, you went back to his car, found it was broken down, and he ended up at your house and stayed all night. As I was reading your post, I was feeling really worried for you. You don’t know this guy, believe me, serial killers can be very charming. So what I sense happening here is that you have repressed your feelings for so long that when you do tap into them, it feels so good that you need to be careful that you don’t compromise your boundaries and make yourself unsafe. Because, although you talk about sexual boundaries, you have accompanied someone you don’t know back to their car late at night and then allowed them into your house. I know I wasn’t there – and I don’t know all the circumstances, but you don’t know this guy – and what happened was unsafe.
You are also talking about dating being really hard. That you are finding it really difficult to find someone. That’s normal. Dating is hard; it’s exhausting. Emotionally you have to manage yourself, expectations, and nerves. If you have been in a space where you have struggled to allow yourself to have fun, then all those feelings will be compounded. Also, if you find that one person who you want to spend the rest of you life with – or even a large proportion of it – then you have been incredibly lucky. So be kind to yourself. If you have boundaries that you don’t want to have sex on the first date that’s ok, you need to do what is right for you. Remember there are many guys on dating sites who marathon date – that is they date with one intention – to convince the girl that they are seeing to put out. It is a challenge to them. So even if you did have sex with the guy you described in your question, it might not have made any difference to the end result.
I sense that although you don’t feel like you want to give up, you might be starting to tip over into dating burnout. This can be a space of trying too hard to find Prince Charming, or becoming so angry you haven’t found him that it becomes impossible to go on dates and be your best self. This is a big signal to take some time out to work on yourself. I also would like to see you take some space to find you. Becoming a doctor gives us a label, and it can feel like it feeds your soul, gives you identity and makes you who you are. However, I know that sort of study takes a lot of sacrifice, and it actually can cause us to lose ourselves. In addition, you are describing having 6 years in a toxic relationship which we know is emotionally destabilising and crazy making. I strongly advise that you slow down, take the focus off finding your ideal partner for a while and focus on finding you. Find your confidence, be carefree, get used to re-engaging in life just as you. Think about how ways you might mix with lots of people, not just potential partners. Join a club, start a hobby, go to a Meetup. These are all ways that you can re-engage in life and find who you really are. When you know yourself, this is your best chance to find you, what you really want and who you want to spend your life with.
I would like to suggest my book Stop Kissing Toads – Pucker up and find your handsome prince. I wrote this book to help women identify toxic men and understand themselves more and why they make the choices they do. Please participate in our Facebook Group Relationships and Dating Advice for Women we have lots of discussions to help you work through your own thoughts and boundaries about relationships. Of course, if you are in need of extra support you can book a Skype appointment with me here.
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