I’m going to start with a quick rundown of my dating history for context. I never bothered dating in high school, thinking that those sorts of relationships wouldn’t last and weren’t worth it. Once I got to college though, I…didn’t get much further. I saw relationships everywhere that looked miserable and seemed to end over very petty things. It was all very dramatic. I saw demanding women and inattentive selfish guys getting together constantly and I envied them. I kept thinking that if I had the chance, I would definitely be a better boyfriend and also would probably be wiser at choosing a girlfriend than some of these guys. Instead, regrettably, I became a Nice Guy; a strategy that as you can imagine, didn’t work at all.
When I eventually started dating during my first year of grad school, I decided that the best way to avoid getting trapped in the kind of miserable relationships I’d seen was to design a sort of committed friends with benefits model that in practice ended up with me getting sex and armchair psychotherapy and with her getting….to be quite honest, bad sex and not much else. I got my heart smashed 4 months into this bad experiment and yeah, I royally fucked this up because I didn’t even know what a relationship was much less how to hack them to avoid the problems I saw.
Still I was optimistic that I could do better. I’m 28 now and over the past years I’ve dated a bit in short bursts which never ended up developing into anything you could call a relationship. It just became really clear early on that these arrangements wouldn’t work out which I honestly didn’t take too hard.
The thing that has put new terror into me around the prospect of a serious long term relationship is something that happened to my best friend. He’s a transguy which obviously comes with its own snags, but he is one of the strongest, most resilient, most emotionally intelligent people I know. He spent 3 years in what ended up being a very verbally abusive relationship with his girlfriend and spent the following 3 years depressed and trying to mend himself from the aftermath. He’s doing great now, but if I were unlucky enough to end up in that kind of situation, I think I would be a lot worse at handling it. I don’t think I would have the insight to see it for what it is or the boundaries to stand up for myself/leave the way he did. He did everything right and still had to piece himself together after. This terrifies me.
Relationships on the whole seem dangerous for me to get into at my skill level even though I’m kinda old. I really would like to be in a healthy committed relationship but I don’t have enough faith in myself or humanity to risk getting hurt or hurting someone else because I don’t know what I’m doing.
How do I gain the skills I need when the world is this scary?
Courage the Cowardly Man