The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again
By Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.
The thought of dating again is exciting, and you spend time daydreaming and deliberating about it, but every time you think of actually doing something about it, you're terrified. The few attempts you have actually made-blind dates set up by friends, meeting someone in a bar, attending a singles event, or seeing your ex again- have all been awkward at best, awful at worst.
Your fears are understandable. They are created by society's prevalent fantasy about dating: You and some person you don't know will meet, make an instant and 100% accurate evaluation of each other, decide to go out, and spend an evening together falling in love.
With expectations like that, you're bound to feel intimidated. It may happen in the movies, but it's just plain impossible in real life. And if you've ever dated according to that plan, you've probably had some miserable evenings. At first sight you just don't know enough about the other person to be able to declare your interest and expect that extended, pleasant, one-on-one contact will result. There have to be better ways to accomplish meeting and getting to know people.
Re-socializing as a single adult
You may not have thought about it this way, but successful dating requires skill, and the various skills it requires have to be learned somewhere. You can learn them by trial-and-error, but that's painful and time-consuming. Unlike teenagers, you don't have a lot of time to spend fantasizing, comparing notes with friends, and making mistakes. And as a single adult alone in the grown-up world, dating strangers can even be dangerous.
In effect, there's a "technology of dating" that works, and you can learn it here.
What's expected of me?
It was only normal when you were 13 to feel inadequate and insecure about dating, but at least then everyone else you knew had similar trepidations. And no one expected you to know the ropes already, anyway.
Things are different today. Not only is dating something you haven't practiced for a while (or maybe a very long time), but much more is expected of an adult in today's world. In your own mind, you've got to compete with examples set by movie stars, models, and smooth characters in TV sitcoms who usually wind up with a date in the end.
When you're constantly inundated with images of beautiful people as we are today, it's only natural to want to compare yourself (or your date) to some of today's most successful singles.
But keep in mind that these and other stars benefit from lighting, scripts, makeup, direction, cosmetic surgery, costuming, and constant retouching. Sometimes, in fact, we do get a glimpse of their "ordinary" side in the tabloids: grubby clothes, wild hair, looking more like we do.
Unlikely as it seems, on the inside, the idols we mentally compete with are as insecure, confused and imperfect as we are.
Haunted by old mistakes and bad experiences
In addition to feeling like you have to live up to a mega-star image, you may be suffering some wounds from past relationship problems. Relationships that don't last, especially the ones that end badly or that were painful, can undermine self-confidence (especially if it was not too solid to begin with) and make you fearful of trying again.
A wonderful relationship that ended only because your partner died can be especially scarring. If you're recovering from this situation, the prospect of bonding with someone new may seem insurmountable because you're faced with the possibility of going through the searing pain of loss, or the terrible ordeal of watching your beloved die while you stand by helpless, all over again.
Once you've suffered problems, pain and loss like this, it takes great courage to begin all over again. The information and methods in this book will help you recover from your past pain and loss and gain the courage to bounce back and try again.
Whatever route brought you here, if you're reading this book you are contemplating dating again, and that means you're ready to get started.
Figuring out the fearsome singles scene
The first hurdle you'll encounter is figuring out how the singles scene- that social milieu known only to the uncoupled-works, and what you must do to succeed within it.
As adults, we are used to being in charge and competent in the things we do. Plunging into a new dynamic undermines this competence-beginners are, by definition, not good at what they're doing. Allow yourself to have what the Zen Buddhists call a "beginner's mind."
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