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Are You Ready to Date?

Boy, has dating changed in the last 25 years! As a happily married person, I never paid attention to the struggles of my single contemporaries. However, as a widow of 3 years, I recently ventured back into the realm of dating and into online dating. Wow! That’s some culture shock for the uninformed. Now, I’m sure that there are people reading this that are wondering what my starting to date has to do with therapy? Well, since I am in the business of relationships, personal interactions, and self-concept, this is a very relevant topic as dating in this highly technological, swiping app, game of numbers age morphs these concepts into something much less personal…at least at first. How does someone that is unfamiliar with the “new” rules of dating venture in? I think it’s important to have a plan, not a set-in stone rigid plan, but a basic idea of what you want to gain from the experience.

What should this plan look like? What is your expectation? Are you wanting to meet friends? Date a lot of people casually? Get into a relationship? There are apps, groups, and websites devoted to all these scenarios plus any other variation that you can imagine. I’d suggest evaluating what your needs and wants are. Have you ever dated using the technological environment of today? Setting realistic expectations is important. Although you have access to many more single people than what you would likely have otherwise, there is still the need to weed out people that you feel would not be compatible with you or your lifestyle. For example, dating an atheist if you are very religious and seeking someone with the same quality. It would be unrealistic to expect someone to change their spirituality to such a degree…it’s an unrealistic expectation. Yet, it happens repeatedly in various forms, people often think that they will “change” a person.

What about the amount of time that you are going to dedicate to your dating endeavor? If you download the apps, you can be instantly and constantly connected to any potential “matches.” However, is this healthy? For me it wasn’t, I felt tethered and “on-call” all the time. A possible solution is to look at the website or app only from a computer or dedicate a set amount of time per day to dedicate to the search. Boundary setting early on can help alleviate the anxiety and stress that can accompany the online dating platforms and help you not feel so tied to an app.

What about when you do match with someone? Have you formulated a plan and appropriate boundaries within yourself to deal with inappropriate questions, comments, and expectations from strangers? What are you comfortable sharing with a virtual stranger? What information do you need to protect? What about meeting for the first time, do you have a plan in place to make sure that it’s a safe encounter? These are all things to be considered before any of those scenarios happen. Personally, I think that best advice I received concerning first meet-ups was to keep them short, make sure they are in very public places, and go in with no expectation other than talking to someone new for a few minutes.

You’ve made it to the first meet, and you are feeling self-conscious…yep, it’s almost like junior high all over again. How can you deal with the potential feelings of failure and rejection? Acknowledge them. I’d be amazed if anyone that has done an online dating meet or has been on a blind date hasn’t experienced these exact feelings; it’s natural to be nervous. Likely, the person you are meeting with is having these same emotions to some degree, why not just put it out there? This is a genuine and open expression of what is happening for you in the moment; be yourself, that is the person you want them to like.

Dating can be a scary and anxiety ridden experience. However, it can also be a fun “re-do” for something some of us haven’t done since we were teens. Setting reasonable expectations, having a good set of personal boundaries, and being self-aware can all help in making it a good experience rather than the nightmares you read about. Now, go be your best self, and get to dating!

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Ask A Therapist: My Ex Has Dissociative Identity Disorder. Is There Hope For Us?

Q: How can I explain to an ex-boyfriend who left state and returned that he needs help for is DID? My current psychologist couldn’t answer this question, but flipped it off as insignificant.  I fell in love in Jan. 2010 with a foreign worker who was here to repair damage in the condo after carpet removal and air scrubbing.  I texted him I was i terested and we had a first date.  He ran out unexpectedly, with no excuse and did not return.  ‘Gone then for 3 months to his “country”, back once, ran out with no reason, gone another month, “for a funeral”; back, ran away, then back after another 3 months saying he was emotionally sick and went back to his home country, and was sorry he didn’t call.  During all this strange interims, I hired a detective, then, found out in July he ran to another state, after saying he had gotten a new apt., broke his leg, came back, called me after I left a message at his work, then went back to the other state, back in two weeks to give no reason for his leavings, except that, “a man leaves because a man leaves.”  My question is:  since I noticed he had DID, and he agreed, and had tried to get help, can I assume the relationship is doomed or is there hope if he gets help, that he could ever be stable, or so men with this affliction just drift through life never really finding happiness?  Thank you for reading.  I would not give him a second thought, except that I did have real feelings for him, not just because of his illness.

A: What a tough situation. I think the best approach is to express your concern about his illness and strongly encourage him to get into a psychiatric evaluation to see if he indeed does suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder. If your ex doesn’t want to get help, there is nothing you can do. If he does seek help there may be some improvement in his behavior and his stability through individual psychotherapy. I suggest you ask yourself “Why am I attracted to someone who is so unavailable and unstable?” There may be some deeper issues for you to explore in your own therapy. Thanks so much for writing in.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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