The Problem with Getting Better

Until recently, I had been a single man for the 95% of my adult life. Relationships have been hard to come by. In the last 3 years or so I was often left wondering why a woman wouldn’t talk to me anymore. This silence usually coming after one or two solid dates where we had really good conversations and spent a good amount of time together.

It was confusing. By all accounts from my other female friends and acquaintances, I was doing the right things. I often asked those friends to give me feedback on myself as a person and I tried to give as much of an objective retelling of dates as I possibly could. “Travis, you’re fine. You’re not doing anything ‘wrong’. You just haven’t come across the right woman for some reason.” This was intensely frustrating and for a while it was causing me a fair amount of depression. Then I realized something…

One piece of feedback that would come up from time to time is that fact that women found me intimidating. “What?! Intimidating! I hardly make any money and I’m like the nicest guy in the world?! How I’m I intimidating?” That’s what I would think. Here again is the power of stories. I had grown up the fat kid that girls thought was disgusting. Part of what has taken me down a road of personal growth and development was struggling so much with criticism as a young man. In recent years, during the times I have been cut off by a woman I’ve often reverted back to that story I had as a kid, “Women find me disgusting and that’s why they walk away from me.” But this word ‘intimidating‘ kept coming up from but it just didn’t make sense with my story of being disgusting…

I was at a local coffee shop in Tacoma and the Barista’s there gave me a gift card and told me I had an admirer. They told me that this woman found me attractive but she was too nervous to say anything so she bought me a gift card and put her information on it. Then one of the barista’s told me that there were several women who have asked about me. It dawned on me that there had been times where I might say hello to a woman and I’d watch that woman nerve up and get clumsy all of a sudden. I didn’t know what to make of it. I’d think, “Maybe she’s scared or disgusted or maybe black men scare her (I know but looking for a reason..)”. Women being nervous because they find me attractive had never legitimately crossed my mind before that day.

You would think that being attractive would make dating easier. Not exactly. I do believe that when you spend time working on yourself, it makes you physically more attractive and it makes your energy more attractive. However, that does not guarantee that someone will be willing to be emotionally vulnerable with you. As a matter of fact, the opposite might happen. I’ve come to learn that when we are willing to face difficult things inside of ourselves, it often acts as a mirror to someone who my have similar challenges but isn’t yet ready to face those issues. It could be anything: health, money, career satisfaction, trauma from childhood, vices (I talk about my challenges with pornography openly and that scares the crap out of some people). I’m going to encourage you to face these things because I believe doing so will make you better and enhance your positive experience of life. But, I’m not promising it will make you less lonely. It might isolate you more and make you more misunderstood…

Yes, you are becoming more resilient. Yes, you are facing demons from your past. Yes, you are growing personally and I know it feels fantastic. Yes, some people will find this attractive and intimidating. One of the things that I had to do to let go of the depression and sadness brought about by loneliness was ask myself if it was okay if I never experienced romantic intimacy ever again. About 8-9 months ago I asked myself, “Travis, if you never had another romantic partner in your life, would life still be worth living?” My answer was an emphatic ‘YES!’ Of course life is still worth living without romance. Going to this end allowed me to do something that was incredibly freeing. Suddenly I found a deep sense of gratitude for any sort of interaction I had with a woman.

In interaction with a cashier at the grocery store, a hello to a stranger on the street, a phone call with a good friend. Whether friendly or flirty or somewhere in between, I found myself much more appreciative of the the time and interaction I got with women, however small it was. My mindset became, “Well, if this is it, I should make the best of it.” My mind let go of my ideals/stories and I began to live in the moment more. There was a brief period where I was beginning to avoid women because it was just too hard, “By all accounts, I’m a solid guy. Why am I alone?!” It was painful because I was fixated on the specific outcome of a girlfriend and marriage and kids. It wasn’t that I no longer hoped for those things, I just just held them at the same level as all other experiences with women. You got what you got.

Be clear, I’m not one of those woo woo ‘when you stop looking then it comes’ people. BS. You might stop looking and it might not come. However, if you stop insisting that life produce a particular scenario, then you can be more open to what life is giving you. In my experience, that is a much better way to live as a single person. And then, suddenly I wasn’t single. Me and a longtime friend turned a corner in our friendship. Now I’m in Arkansas with a good woman who is not intimidated by me.

Right now, especially right now, I’m betting dating is difficult. About a year ago, online dating was a sh*t show that I decided to leave because it made me feel even more lonely than I already felt. If you’re single in the midst of this pandemic and you don’t have it in you to take to the virtual world, I get it. My best advice is to keep working on you and be open to what life has given you. Be grateful for everyday. I don’t say be grateful in a finger wagging sort of way. I say it in a way to empathize with the pain that loneliness can cause… I say it knowing the freedom from pain that gratitude can create.

I know it’s hard. Personal growth always is. But, I believe it’s worth it.

Are there unmet expectations in life that are causing you emotional pain? List them. Ask yourself what life would be like if these expectations were never met. What do you need to do to get to a place of gratitude for what you do have in these areas?


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