Q: I've heard people my age (30) make ridiculous statements like "I'll never find anyone" or "I'm going to end up alone." I have never been one of those people, but lately ... well it's not that I believe I will end up alone, rather I recognize that if I don't actually put some effort in to finding love, I won't find any. And this is what I'm having trouble with.
I never dated in high school or college, so with my first boyfriend after college, I didn't immediately recognize it was an unhealthy relationship. He was a big drinker, controlling, and hyper-jealous, and although he never "raised a hand," looking back, it was an emotionally abusive relationship. When I eventually broke things off, it took a long time to forgive myself for allowing the relationship to continue for as long as it did.
My second boyfriend seemed like a dream in comparison. Unbeknownst to me, he had a history of mood instability and debilitating anxiety. He was self-medicating, so I broke up with him.
That was 3 years ago, and lately I've been thinking it might be nice to date again. But I can't even go through the motions. It's like I have writer's block. The thought of flirting makes me gag and I avoid it at all costs. I see people being affectionate in public and cringe. And the worst is, if I get a crush, a cascade of events topples through my head like a bad '80s montage, and none of my crushes ever seem worth the trouble. Plus I also gained a significant amount of weight as a side effect of my own depression and a terrible job. I don't even recognize myself. And to think about kissing or having sex ... ugh ... I don't even want to think about it because it all seems gross now.
I'd like to snap out of it and feel positive and vibrant and excited to date, but so far nothing has helped. Even the fake-it-till-you-make-it route has failed me. Please help.
– Lovers Block, Boston
A: This problem calls for a doctor, LB. You mention your own depression, which makes me wonder whether you're on medication right now. If so, it's possible that the meds just aren't right for you. (Many of them affect sex drive. Some affect weight.) If you're not taking to a professional about your depression, it's time to start. All of your health care providers should be in on this problem.
You can't get excited about dating until you're excited about yourself. That's why I'm not going to pressure you to look for a partner right now. I'd rather you spend your energy on figuring out ways to recognize yourself again. It's time to look for new jobs. It's time to get healthy. I promise you that kissing won't seem so gross after you've dealt with some of these issues.
Also, I'm not sure that it's possible to fake it 'till you make it when it comes to dating. There has to be at least some genuine excitement there or it just won't work. I want you to picture the version of yourself that you fantasize about in that '80s montage (Molly Ringwald?). You deserve to be that person. Let's work on that. Honestly, I think we all have to feel montage-worthy in order to date.
Readers? Should she be dating right now? How have her previous relationships affected her ability to date? Have you ever been in a rut like this? Does she have to deal with her problems before she starts looking for a partner? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.