Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Wrong Time for Dating

The wrong time is any time when you’re feeling blue and lonely and sad and sorry for yourself — which is, of course, the time when all of us decide, “Okay, I need to find someone.” You may be particularly susceptible to this type of thinking when your boyfriend just dumped you, your girlfriend told you she just wants to be friends, you’ve just moved to a new city and are lonely, or any other time when attaching yourself to someone else sounds easier than being alone.

I know the songs all talk about “I want you, I need you, I love you,” but need means dependency, and if that’s how you set things up, you’ll distort any potential future you could have with someone. Either you will be nurtured (and thus less needy) and the whole reason for being together evaporates, or you’ll continue to be needy. What a drag — literally! Need is a lousy basis for anything other than employing a nurse; need won’t hold up for any length of time, and breaking up is always the pits. So pull yourself together and get yourself better before you even think about hooking up with someone else.
When you’re needy,

  • Your feelings are so clouded by your pain that you can’t make sound choices regarding what you want.
  • You ask another person to make you okay.
  • You can’t see objectively what the other person is able or willing to give.
  • Dating leaves you in a worse situation than you were in before.
  • You can camouflage or ignore growth areas (for a while) that need and require your concentration.
When this relationship ends (which it’s bound to do), not only will you not be better off, but you’ll actually be worse off because you’ll have all your original issues to deal with in addition to anything that came up in this last relationship. If depression and anxiety were attractive and neediness were sexy, it would be okay to whine on a date, and everybody would fall madly in love. But you know that’s not the way the world works. Believe me when I say that the need to find another is the world’s worst reason to try to find another.
Following are some especially bad times:
  • The death of a parent, a dog, your best friend, or anybody you feel close to. The human psyche needs to reaffirm its mastery over death, so the impulse not to be alone and sometimes even to mate can be really strong when you’re feeling bereft. Unfortunately, another person can’t act as a human bandage. You need to be able to embrace the sorrow of loss and let it go before you can resume your normal life. Not only can beginning a dating experience with someone before you’ve healed mess up a potentially good situation, but it can slow the healing process as well.
  • You’ve just lost your job. First things first. You need to find another job, not a date. Because both a new date and a new job take time to find and time to get used to, stabilize before you add a complication. Because you won’t starve without a date and you may starve without a job, get the job first. Additionally, getting fired feels lousy, and finding a job feels good. You want to feel stable and healthy, not like somebody’s charity case, before you begin dating.
  • The loss of a place to live. This may seem like a really good excuse to latch onto somebody who has a place to live and a bed and a stable existence, but that n word (need, for those of you not paying attention) has to be a tip-off. Need is not good to put on another soul. I want you. Yes! I love you. Yes! I need you. No, no, no! If you don’t have a place to live, you don’t have a place to take a date, a place to sleep, a place to get phone calls at night —all that’s pretty basic. So take care of the basics and then go for it.
  • You’re depressed. There are times when all of us feel lost and alone and out of tune with the Universe. The priority at that moment is to get back in tune, not to find a human teddy bear to keep the monsters at bay. Being depressed doesn’t mean you’re hopeless; it just means that dating is going to tax resources that are stretched pretty thin already. If you’ve been feeling really sad and bummed for more than a week or two; if you can’t eat, sleep, or concentrate; if you cry easily and feel hopeless and tired all the time; and if things that used to make you happy really don’t anymore, the cure isn’t a date — it’s a therapist and medication. No kidding. Those are signs of a serious, but very treatable, illness. However, the prescription isn’t a hug; it’s some important work so you won’t feel like that again.
  • You’ve just broken up with someone. There is a piece of folk wisdom that says if you’ve just been thrown from a horse, the best cure is to get right back on. That may work really well with horses, but don’t even think about applying it to dating situations. If you’ve just broken up with someone, don’t use another person as proof that you’re still lovable. It’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to the human aspirin you’re using to make your headache go away, at least temporarily. Think of going to your bank and trying to borrow money. If you go in looking all raggedy and dirty and seedy, do you think the bank is going to loan you money? No way. If there isn’t some indication that you’ll be able to pay back the loan, the loan officer may feel sorry for you but won’t loan you money. Relationships are based on surprisingly similar theories. Somebody looking to get involved with you expects to give but also to get something back, and expects you to show a little interest (pardon the rather obvious pun). If you’re getting the idea that misery is not a very good motivation to date, you’re exactly right.

No comments: