Q: I’m a mess when it comes to dating. I think I’m addicted to it. Actually, I know I am. I love the highs it brings when meeting someone new and finding out if they’re interested. I love the thrill of flirting and joking, and getting to know them via email and texting — and then the excitement of meeting. Then there’s the rush of finding out there’s interest and they want a second date. But inevitably comes the harsh reality — if they get too close, I push them away. When they start showing interest I clam up and find ways to sabotage it. I’ve done this numerous times. Consequently, if someone is not showing much interest, I seem to obsess and desperately search for ways to get them to like me. My mood changes in a heartbeat if I start overthinking why they’re not into me — what did I do wrong? Why won’t they return my texts? Is this addiction? Am I broken? Help!
If it weren’t for the dark you wouldn’t know the light. Without vulnerability you wouldn’t appreciate control. And so it goes in the sport of dating these days — for every low, the opportunity for another high is just a swipe away.
You are chasing that high. It makes sense — the excitatory hormones and brain chemicals pumping through you after flirting and meeting someone can pack a powerful punch. Your drug of choice is the dating game.
A “game” is certainly what it can become. Those who handle the ups and downs of dating are people who stay a little detached. They treat it as a sport akin to darts, not the Superbowl. There is nothing wrong with this per se, unless they pride themselves on being a pick-up artist and messing with people’s emotions. Which it sounds like you may be doing, albeit unintentionally.
It makes sense that the process feels thrilling to you initially; in the beginning the pressure is off and there’s nothing to lose. The other individual is merely a demographic reduced to age, profession, height and hair, rather than an actual human with feelings. Plus you get to play out your fantasies of being your most idealized self — funny, fascinating and desired! (If only they knew how dirty your house was…)
Ask yourself what you’re really trying to accomplish, Casanova. Are you seeking drama in your otherwise mundane life? Looking for a distraction from other things you don’t want to face? Seeking an ego boost? Sounds like you don’t mind the power play when you’re in control but once they’ve got the upper hand you’re shattered. Conversely, when the rubber hits the road and they wants to move forward, you fear commitment because it leads you to feeling exposed. You may associate commitment with a loss of independence rather than a gain of interdependence.
You are more comfortable with being the chaser. I’m guessing you had to work hard to pursue your parent’s attention, so it is second nature for you to continue this dynamic today. You believe you must earn and work for attention, but then once it is captured you become bored because this type of affection is unfamiliar.
Listen to the four areas of your body that are experiencing this with you: your head, your heart, your gut and your groin. Your head analyzes, ‘does this person jive with me?’ Your heart begs ’choose to adore me.’ Your gut whispers, ‘protect me.’ Your groin exclaims, ‘pleasure me.’ Which of these are in the driver’s seat and when? Integrate all four of these important systems and you’ll be more self-aware throughout your dating process.
Is this addiction? It could be. It could also be psychological dependence. Maybe this is just a phase in your life because you’re on the rebound or recently had a big birthday and want to defy your age. Are you broken? No. And since you are not broken, you do not need to be fixed. You are not alone in the quest for romance or love, left to deal with broken arrows along the way.
Stop over-thinking during those moments of perceived rejection. Recognize that much of the time someone doesn’t text you back it’s because of their own complications. Assign yourself a positive mantra, affirmation, visualization or breath to interrupt your thoughts and get out of your head.
Speak with a therapist about what is being mirrored back to you with these dalliances. Be honest with yourself and honest with your prospects; there is nothing more respectful you can give someone than directness. Examine what void you’re trying to fill. And if there isn’t one, just try to have fun. One of these times you’ll hit a bullseye.