Dear 100 Hour Board,
How do you deal with romantic frustration and cynicism? I'm really struggling with motivation to date, not because "Provo/BYU/Mutual dating sucks" or whatever, but because my previous romantic experience (all pre-BYU) has been mixed at best and toxic/abusive at worst. I don't mind going on dates, but I have no motivation to follow up and scarcely ever feel any actual interest in the girl anyway. I've become too cynical and closed off to really have hope in finding a happy, healthy, fulfilling relationship. I'm not sure I know what that would look like, if I had one. At the same time, when I see other happy relationships or I'm just having off days, I feel intense, unbearably heavy loneliness with my place in life and a lack of hope in something different.
I don't really feel like I'm pining for marriage or serious courtship exactly. But it would be nice to feel like I'm at least doing anything at all to move in that direction, and I can hardly stand that I'm not. Especially knowing that, if anything, it's my fault.
I know there aren't any silver bullets, but some sympathy would be nice, I guess.
-My Name Here
I think dating itself is pretty messy, and difficult, and just hard. There are times in dating where I am completely lost, and I think that the same is true with the people I'm dating. I have some thoughts on what will work for me, and so I'll share them here.
Social support and healthy relationships (especially non-romantic) are extremely important to us in order to live a fulfilling life. I think that this video does a good job of explaining what I mean (and I think this is also a nice video). In relationships, it's important that we feel known/understood, accepted/valued/validated, have a sense of community/family, have boundaries respected, and have open, honest, direct communication. This speech given last year is a very good example of the importance of being known and what we can do about it. This means that we should have close friends that we have loving relationships with, meaning that we mutually care, understand, and appreciate. In a nutshell, we understand and care about each others' needs and do our best to help each other fulfill those needs, even if some things that we want have to be temporarily set aside.
Think about your parent or roommate waking you up when you need to go to school (or in recent cases, to get on the computer and join your class). Even though you may not want to, that is what is best for you, and they care about that, working through any awkwardness or temporary pain that getting your needs entails. This is something that I'm trying to do, trying to form close, loving relationships with those that I can surround myself with.
I don't think that these types of relationships are easy to find or make, and to some extent, they shouldn't be. Understanding takes time, and developing care for someone takes time, so these relationships form slowly. That being said, there are things that we can do to discover potential close relationships and help those relationships to develop better.
As I mentioned in a previous question, for me, it's mostly about knowing how to find someone that I will be compatible with. I know that for some people, they have to go on a few dates to really know if they'll work well with someone. For me, I can usually tell within a few times of talking with them if we would be compatible. I think the key is getting to know a lot of people, whether through club's of interest to you, in classes, through friends, at work, in your ward, or in other places that you feel like you could find someone who is similar to you. After that, it takes spending time together and doing things together to know how well a relationship would work, and go from there.
I know that the other writers have advice concerning other aspects of relationships, and I hope that this part helped.
Best of luck!
Let's talk about my love life, because it's a wreck!
Historically I have had very similar feelings to you - I crave love and companionship and passion but struggle to actually feel romantic interest in people. There are very few men who really intrigue me romantically, and I've only been in one serious relationship, so it's difficult for me to fathom what a healthy, loving relationship would actually feel like.
I recently started dating a man. He seemed to develop serious feelings for me pretty quickly, repeatedly telling me how wonderful I am and asking me to be his girlfriend on our fourth date. He told me he loved me after dating for less than two months.
And readers, that scared the heck out of me. As I mentioned in a previous answer, I like myself a lot but I don't believe anyone else does, so I was immediately suspicious and anxious about his level of interest. I felt relaxed and happy when I was with him, but invariably the day after I felt paralyzed by anxiety. I had an actual panic attack.
Anyway, long story short, despite all that time I spent pining for love, apparently I'm deeply afraid of it.
So you definitely have my empathy, for what it's worth.
Honestly, the majority of my relationships (all of my relationships?) before I got married were toxic and or abusive as well. I dated a guy for a month who thought we were talking marriage (uhh no I was in my second semester of college). I broke up with him and he immediately started to gaslight me. He said I wasn't allowed to move on to other guys since I never gave him closure and threatened to commit suicide if I stopped talking to him. This one-month relationship bled into my mission and I had to talk to the mission counselor saying all of his suicide attempts were not my fault and he had his own agency. This abuse started in May 2012 and lasted until June(ish) 2014. Honestly, for my mental health, I've blocked out a lot of that relationship. I was very depressed and thought I was going to be bound to this mistake forever.
Now after two more unhealthy relationships, I learned that as an INFJ, I wanted to fix people and be their 'savior'. I told myself that I can't force anyone to be saved and that I can only help people that want to be helped.
Now, this is going to sound super cliche, but I really wasn't actively looking for a spouse when I met Carl. I was really trying to work on myself and to love who I am before I felt like I was ready to be in a relationship. Previously, I was in love with the idea of being in a relationship or being in love. It's hard, but I don't know what I did differently in order to stumble across a healthy relationship. One of my best friends was super worried about me before she met Carl. She told me that I always chose guys that I wanted to fix, but was super relieved when it wasn't the case with Carl. So, you don't have to keep going on dates until you're ready.
Here's an article that talks about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. I don't have much advice for you other than try to be positive. It's not easy, I know. I also know that it's really hard to be open and vulnerable when it comes to dating. But once you have trust in the person you're dating, (and you believe that they're a good person) being vulnerable is worth it. You get to share who you are with someone and they'll accept you if it's right. It can be downright scary, but you don't have to open up right away. Opening up takes time. Have faith that it will work out.
I kinda scoffed at this article because of what website it was on, but I really liked some of the points it made on how to avoid a toxic relationship. Remember your worth and don't settle for anything less than you deserve. Don't avoid those red flags if you see them. Take off those rose-colored glasses.
I believe in you!
Dear Silver Bullet,
This answer comes in two parts. Part 1 is sympathy, part 2 is words of encouragement.
I totally get where your frustration is coming from. Most things in life it's very easy to tell your progress, and know how your own personal actions relate to that. If you wanted to learn guitar, you could see your progress as you go, and tell that your practicing is making a difference. If you were on a diet and it wasn't working, you could likely tell if it was your eating habits, exercise regime, or a personal health problem. Dating however, you have no flipping idea. As you know this can be quite frustrating.
It's so hard to not be able to control the situation. There's a lot that you can control such as how many people you meet, how many dates you go on, how well you treat women, etc. But you can be doing everything right and things can still not work out. You can do everything wrong and things might turn out spectacularly.
I don't know whether you have served a mission, but it's frustrating in the same way. As a missionary you can control how obedient you are, how well you teach, how many people you talk to, and on and on. You have no control however of how many people accept the gospel. I often got really frustrated on my mission because I would be working so hard, being so obedient, and basically doing everything right with no external results. Sometimes I would ask what I was doing wrong, but that was the wrong question to ask. Missionary work just has so much to do with random variability and the agency of other people. Dating is the same way. So much of it has to do with random variability and the agency of others.
I've had a lot of those same frustrations. Before I met my current fiancee I had gone on over 50+ first dates and never been in a real relationship. My fiancee had been on 100+ first dates, and had only been in a few unhealthy relationships. (Side note, my fiancee is a couple's councilor, so it was really frustrating to her when dating wasn't working out for her despite her expertise and professional experience). One thing I've learned however, is that a lot of people get married and have wonderful marriages without any previous "experience" with relationships.
I cannot tell you how many of my friends have gotten married without ever being in a healthy relationship, or a relationship in general. There is often no correlation between past experiences and future experiences. To me, that's super exciting! What else in there in life that goes from bad to amazing for no apparent reason? Imagine if you were terrible at singing and one day you woke up an opera singer Or imagine if you woke up and suddenly all your math classes were super easy. That's what dating is often like. It sucks, but then it doesn't and it's magical. If you've never had good dating experiences you are in great company with the multitudes of people who never had one until they met their spouse.
The other great thing about dating, is that it only needs to work once! You can fail 99 times and succeed 1 time and be set for life/eternity! In academics, 60% is failing. In sports, basketball shooting percentages are around 40%, and batting averages are typically around .250. If you were to get 1% in a class, or in sports, you would be an absolute tremendous failure. Percentages don't matter in dating! Dating is one of the few things in life where it only needs to work out once and that's amazing! You don't even need to end up in a relationship on purpose! Sometimes it just kinda happens.
Anyways, tldr; dating is kinda random which sucks, but on the bright side it could suddenly become amazing out of the blue and you'll be done with dating forever. Hopes this helps!
Perhaps I'm interpreting this wrong, but it seems like your question isn't so much about believing that a relationship can happen as it is about believing/trusting that a relationship can be good, and opening yourself up to that possibility. I don't have much romantic relationship experience. But I do have experience with learning how to open up and hope for something fulfilling and positive from other people.
From the time I was in third grade all the way through eighth grade, I was very consistently bullied. I was the kid who was picked last for teams in P.E. not because I was un-athletic, but because I was disliked. I can remember as an eight year old standing alone, facing the two teams and both of them chanting at me. There was one time two girls cornered me on the playground and knocked me against the metal bars (and afterward they came to my class, crying crocodile tears, claiming I had been the one to knock them around). In sixth grade, my year book was stolen and passed around to be filled with swear words.
From getting snot smeared on my desk, to garbage thrown in my hair, to the f-word written all over my things, to entire hallways of people banding together to chant my name, to groups of boys ganging up on me, to being the subject of crude jokes, to vicious smiles and half-concealed laughs, I've experienced it all. Even when I wasn't being actively tormented, people treated me like a freakish curiosity. All this left me very jaded and cynical of humanity.
By the time I was thirteen, I had trained myself not to react whenever I heard my name called. My baseline assumption for any stranger I met was that they were essentially bad, and would try to hurt me if they could. This is what I believed, because it was what had been proven to be true time and time again. I was convinced that upon meeting me, everyone instantly disliked me. It was absolutely inconceivable that anyone could possibly like me after a brief encounter.
It has been a very, very long journey to come to believe that other people can genuinely care about me, and that I can be open without my vulnerabilities being cruelly exploited or callously brushed off. In order to make this journey, I've had to choose to believe in outcomes contrary to my own experience. Which is really hard. Especially when my fragile trust is betrayed (which has happened multiple times in multiple different contexts).
I've had to accept that my past isn't indicative of what the scope of human relationships has to offer me. Yes, I've been betrayed, scorned, mocked, and ignored, but that doesn't imply that the next person I meet will treat me that same way.
You see, a rather wonderful consequence of each person being unique is that our past relationships don't have to define our future ones. This can be a dang hard principle to internalize, but I promise it's true. Despite whatever awful experiences you've had, your potential for a healthy, fulfilling relationship has not been diminished.