Recently I talked with a group of women who are tentatively, maybe, thinking about a dreaded activity called “dating.” These women were all emerging from the depths of long-term relationship loss, and wondering how to make social and romantic connections again. So the discussion turned to dating. This was the response.
“No way! I didn’t date before, I never learned how to date, I don’t want to learn now!”
So I think that summarizes the problem very succinctly. Didn’t do it before—probably true. Lots of lesbians didn’t date much in high school, so of course didn’t learn “how to date.” And the not wanting to learn…understandable, but not a realistic plan. I mean, some form of dating is required if you ever want to have a partner again.
Actually, dating usually means spending an afternoon or an evening with one other person to see if you have any romantic feelings for her, and therefore want more time with her. These feelings are usually apparent within one or two dates. Then there’s a Problem to handle:
What if I want her, but she does not want me? I’ll feel rejected, humiliated, depressed. I’ll be afraid to ever try again.
Or what if she wants me, but I don’t want her? I’ll feel guilty, resentful, pitying. I’ll get stuck in a boring relationship because I can’t hurt her feelings.
Given these appealing alternatives, it’s no wonder some women opt to stay home alone. Maybe they’ll do online dating sites—which is great if they ever actually meet the person, face to face, soon. But sooner or later, there’s a Problem.
Being rejected. I like you, you don’t like me, this isn’t going anywhere. Those feelings can really sting, and it’s incredibly hard not to personalize everything. But believe it or not, it really isn’t that personal. We seem to be wired to respond to different behaviors and appearances. That’s why there’s a click of “This feels right” or “We’re a good fit.” Or not.
More simply, some people aren’t attracted to Type A personalities. Others love them. It’s not a personal rejection.
So how is it to be the rejector? When I don’t like you, you like me, this isn’t going anywhere. As women, we’re very prone to feeling guilty for hurting someone’s feelings, but really, what choice is there? Don’t date at all, so no one ever gets hurt? Or try dating, and trust yourself to honor your feelings? Courtesy and authenticity help the situation—guilt will not.
In the midst of listing all the ways dating can make you feel terrible, maybe I should talk about why dating is good for you. Otherwise, why am I writing this?
There’s a way people act when they’re dating. In the animal kingdom, it’s called “courting behaviors.” Humans do grooming and preening, like showering, shaving, moisturizing, deodorizing, powdering, lip glossing…and deciding what to wear to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative. Paying more attention to self in order to look and feel better to someone else. All that usually adds up to a self-esteem boost. It’s a nice by-product!
The dating looks are good, and so are the behaviors. You know what it’s like to try to impress someone. You impress yourself! You are very active, planning interesting and fun things to do together. You practice your best communication skills, listening attentively and talking candidly. You whisper sweet nothings to each other, expressing fondness and admiration. She looks at you lovingly, and you feel the glow inside. More self-esteem growing!
Recently I heard someone say she hated dating because “you don’t get to know the real person…everyone is trying to impress each other.” Maybe we should try to impress each other more. We’d probably like ourselves, and each other, more. We’d probably be better partners.
Glenda Corwin, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who has been in private practice for more than twenty years. She provides gay-affirmative psychotherapy, and consults with professionals and the general public on sexual issues for women in same-sex relationships. Dr. Corwin leads weekend sexual intimacy workshops for women, and in 2007 conducted a research project investigating lesbian sexual patterns. The very positive responses to her workshops and research were the inspiration for the book Sexual Intimacy for Women: A Guide for Same Sex Couples. She is currently working on a book for single women, focused on dating and sex.
The daughter of missionaries, Dr. Corwin grew up in Colombia, South America. Her background gives her a deep appreciation for diversity of cultures, languages, and human connections. She also appreciates the lovely woman who shares her life in Atlanta.
For more information about Dr. Corwin and her work, visit her website at www.DrGlendaCorwin.com.