It’s hard finding some solid advice on the internet- but I really enjoy the articles on the website and think they’re pretty sound.
My own dilemma, if you’d be so kind and lend me an eye or two:
I’ve recently been out on some dates with an old classmate. When gushing about our time together with some good guy friends, they all full heartedly approve. Which is great. I’ve not had them all so unanimously and genuinely excited for me about my past prospects before.
However- though this guy is great, I seem to be losing my mind. I know I have some deep personal emotional issues to address on my own (I didn’t have the nicest upbringing- a lot of my childhood was characterized by neglect, abuse and depression resulting in a particularly low self esteem)- but I’ve been really set on targeting these areas and working on learning how to love myself, learning how to be self sufficient (as opposed to codependent). It’s been tough, but I’ve improved VASTLY. But mostly, I don’t want to dump my emotional problems on him. These are my issues I know I need to maneuver through on my own.
But despite my efforts, in the back of my head, when I’m with this guy, I always feel self conscious. Although he expresses interest to continue dating and we’ve already made plans for future dates, I always feel as though one day he’s going to run into someone ‘better’ and completely bail on me. Which has been a pattern in my dating history. “He’s such a handsome and well rounded man, why would he want to be with someone like me?” is a constant thought. Intellectually, I know some answers- emotionally, I feel otherwise.
Furthermore, I feel as if our last date (we went out to dinner) was a bit stunted by these insecurities- I didn’t feel completely there and then consequently, that he was perceiving this as a lack of connection.That we just weren’t GETTING each other. I felt as though everyone in the restaurant was staring at us- mostly at me- and judging us (mostly me)- like “Such a handsome young man. Why is he with her?”
( I’ve not thought to include this, but I thought it may give SOME insight. maybe? but we are also an interracial couple. He’s Irish and I’m half black/half puerto rican. I’m fair- but not as fair as he hahaha)
I know a lot of this may be a product of my difficulty of being able to trust- but how do I learn to relax and trust him? He seems completely worth it and just a great, genuine, caring guy- my solution was to learn how to be better friends with him. For me, establishing friendship helps (I mean, most of my friends are guys. I just assume friendship works better because I feel much more free and without reserve- and especially without so many insecurities). But how does one go about doing that when we already see one another romantically? Do you think I’m even going about this well- or do you see other areas of what I’ve described here to look into?
Going into something that may potentially lead to a long term relationship, honestly, is what I’ve wanted for a very long time, but now I just feel so vulnerable and unsure of what I’m doing- whether we’re moving at an appropriate pace……sometimes- I even doubt my own feelings- aghh!
See, I’m losing my mind! So of course, any and all advice is welcome- and needed haha.
– Lost In My Own Head
You’re not the only person with this issue, LIMOH. In fact, it’s incredibly common, especially when you feel like you’re dating “out of your league” as it were. You worry about how you match up. You find yourself constantly thinking that he (or she) could be doing so much better than you, so why the hell are they with you? You notice the other people who’re digging your boyfriend, people who you think you couldn’t possibly compare to and start worrying that maybe one of them is going to swan in and snatch him out from under you. Or that one day he’s going to suddenly wake up and wonder “WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING??” and disappear, leaving a human-shaped cloud of smoke where he used to be.
Or, worse, you worry that he has a hidden agenda. Is he with you because he’s into you or because he’s trying to get something into you? You worry that maybe he’s only dating you because hey, you should be grateful that he’s deigning to go down a few rungs on the social ladder and this means you’ll be more willing to put up with his shit…
And in fairness: there are shitbags out there who will do exactly that. There will be guys who will deliberately prey on women with body issues or self-esteem problems or who might consider themselves below his level.
But more often than not: the real story is that they legitimately dig what you’ve got. The problem is that your jerk-brain doesn’t want to let you believe it. It tells you that you’re not pretty enough. That you’re not cool or sophisticated enough, that you’re not the right social class, the right level of experience, the right… anything for someone like him to actually find you attractive and worth dating. And the worst part is that you want to be wrong. You want to believe that he’s on the up and up, but your jerk-brain is doing it’s best impression of your Spidey-Sense tingling, telling you that this can’t possibly be real.
All too often, the annoying voice of your jerk-brain is the voice of your emotional scars. When you’ve been hurt badly, it’s hard to be willing to open yourself up and take a chance. It’s once-bitten, twice shy only even worse in some ways because you can’t see those wounds and you feel obligated to not actually let them show. You don’t want to be one of those crazy, needy girls that guys complain about. Nobody wants to be called a Stage-5 Clinger. So you try to keep it all inside. And then you don’t want to say anything to anyone because you get worried that they’re going to confirm that yes, there’s no way in hell this guy should be with you and that… well…
But the real question is… how do you handle all of this?
Well, you’ve already made the hardest and most critical step: you’ve been working your ass off to handle those emotional scars. This is huge, and you should be proud of how far you’ve come. But the annoying thing about making any sort of progress when you’re dealing with your emotional health is that the further along you come, the harder your jerk-brain will fight against you. Our brains are, after all, inherently lazy; it takes a lot of time and effort and willpower to push yourself out of the groove you’ve been running in all this time, and your brain would rather stay in that groove where it doesn’t have to work as hard… even though it makes you miserable.
There are ways of making your jerk-brain shut the hell up. Meditation is a great one; learning mindfulness meditation is like being given the source code to your brain. The other is to learn to reframe those spiraling doubts; if they’re not actively helping you come to a solution, then all you’re doing is flogging yourself, which gets you nowhere. If you’re going to have negative thoughts, then the least they can do is be productive.
Speaking of shutting your brain up, the next step is to be willing to look at things realistically. Now your immediate impulse will be to say “but I am looking at them realistically”, and insist that’s why you can’t believe that this could work. Except it’s not. As I’ve mentioned before, we have an inherent negativity bias that gives more emotional weight to the worst-case scenarios; this is why pessimists tend to insist that they’re actually “realists”. But let’s be objective here and examine his actions – rather than your interpretation of what may or may not be going on. He’s been out with you several times – not just as a friend but romantically. Even after what you perceive as having been a possibly “bad” date, he’s made a point of making another date and discussing future plans with you.
Actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to dating and attraction. There’s what your jerk-brain says, and then there’s what he does. It’d be one thing if he was showing signs of not actually being interested – not making solid, definitive plans, being hard to pin down for dates, avoiding signs of physical affection, especially in public – then his actions would be matching up with what your brain was telling you. But it doesn’t. You’re asking whether or not he could possibly be interested in you and not listening to what he’s saying in response.
There comes a point where you just have to learn to take “Yes” for an answer.
Here’s something that you – and the many, many other people who have similar doubts about themselves and about the people who show interest – need to realize: dating isn’t about bargains, or trying to get the best “deal” you possibly can. It’s not about who looks good on paper with you or who represents the better “offer”. It’s about who makes you happy. Who you like to be with. So there will always be people who are better looking, or who are smarter, or funnier or more SOMETHING than you, and there will be people who are more whatever than THOSE people. But it’s not about who’s “the best”. With the exception of self-involved dicks (and who gives a fuck about them anyway?), people don’t treat relationships like used cars, always trading up to the next model. It’s not being on the look out for the supposedly better offer, it’s about who makes us smile and feel special. It’s about the people we click with, the ones who get us in a way that other people just don’t.
Your beau sounds like an great guy. You sound like a strong woman who’s had a shitty start and you’re afraid of being hurt, because you’re afraid that you’re not “worthy” of love.
So here’s my advice.
To start with: start recognizing your own awesome. The dude’s been making a point to show you he sees it… so it’s time for you to accept it. Don’t worry about what other people think; dating isn’t open to public discussion and they don’t get a vote in what happens between the two of you. They can stew in their own jealousy about not being as awesome as you are.
The next thing: use your words. You’ve been on several dates with this guy and this is presumably starting to lead somewhere serious… so open up a little. Tell him about it. But – as with so many things – don’t unroll this as though you have a shameful secret. Let him know that you really like him, but you’ve got some emotional scars that you’re dealing with and occasionally it fucks with your self-esteem. By doing so, you’re not asking him to be your emotional caretaker or to constantly reassure you or stroke your ego, just letting him know that these scars are there and sometimes things just trigger some doubts and makes you feel a little insecure.
If this guy is as warm and caring as you say he is, he’ll understand. And he’ll be more than willing to remind you that yes, he’s into you too.