Dear Dr. Chani,
I am wondering what I can do about my depressing dating life. Beyond my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined that I would be dating for over ten years. I admit that during my first few years of dating, I was quick to judge people. I regret that I said no to many guys who I now realize I could have married. But how do I deal with my current situation? I fear that I have reached a dead end and I will never get married.
My dates are usually spread out and far between. Months go by between dates. When I do get offers, the guys generally have an unusual story. Recently, I went out with a guy who was divorced twice, and had a shady business venture. I went out with him for a while, but I felt I could not trust him. Other guys who I date are not serious about making time for dating, and they do not seem interested in a real relationship. In general, I feel that I cannot find a guy that is of the caliber that I am looking for.
When I meet shadchanim or network on a dating site, I rarely get suggestions. If I do get sent ideas, they are usually not the kind of people I am looking for, and I do not find their picture attractive. It seems to me that I am being matched with people who are difficult to set up.
I have tried to meet people on my own at singles events, but I am naturally a shy person. It is difficult for me to walk over to people and strike up a conversation, especially if it is someone who I want to impress. It often ends up just being a reunion for me and my single girlfriends, many of whom I only met through singles events.
One voice inside me wants to quit dating and just wait for the right person to come along. I think to myself, if it is meant to be, it will happen naturally. Why should I keep subjecting myself to the awkward and uncomfortable process of dating? The other voice inside me tells me that if I want to get married, I better be realistic and figure out how to be successful at dating.
So what do you think I should do at this point? Is there any hope for me?
Your disenchantment with dating is a common feeling. You are not alone. You have put a lot of effort into dating over many years, and it seems it did not pay off. You feel somewhat helpless and ask yourself, “What else can I do?”
One of the side effects of dating for many years is a feeling of being out of control. The truth is there are many aspects of dating that are not within your control. You cannot necessarily control who is available for you to date, how people you date behave, and how other people network for you. Feeling out of control can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. When you feel helpless and unable to control many aspects of dating, it is understandable that you consider quitting dating and hoping for a miracle.
While you cannot control many aspects of dating, there is one aspect that you have the ability to control: your mindset. The way you think about your life and about dating affects how you feel, express yourself, and behave. Your mindset has a subtle or not-so-subtle effect on how you react to things, and on everything you do. You may give off a negative vibe to others without even realizing it. Often, a shift from a negative to a positive mindset can lead you to experience more positive outcomes.
Right now, you are manifesting a negative mindset. You are looking back at the past and feeling guilty for rejecting people who could have been right for you. You are disappointed in the traits and behavior of the guys you date. You have written off your ability to gain from networking and going to singles events. In general, you are suffering from a pronounced negativity bias.
Keep in mind, that your brain is naturally wired to focus on the negative aspects of things around you. To a certain extent, a negativity bias is healthy. It enables you to pick up on negative cues and allows you to protect yourself from harm. Yet, when you approach dating with a strong negativity bias, it can hold you back from connecting to people and attracting a positive person who you would like to marry. For example, a negativity bias can lead you to be overly critical of the people you date and judge them too quickly, as you have described based upon your experiences.
Take back control over your dating by controlling your response to the roadblocks you face along your dating journey. Explore how to view each challenge in your dating experience as an opportunity. Think “out of the box.” Approach a lack of dates as affording you precious time to develop yourself in other ways. Brainstorm new ways that are comfortable for you to network and meet new people such as going out with friends for Shabbos meals or volunteering in a local chesed organization. When you date someone who is not for you, use it as an opportunity to strengthen your ability to appreciate and find something positive about every person. Adjusting your mindset can lead you to discover a diamond in the rough, a person who you may not have otherwise appreciated at first glance but is a wonderful match for you.
You may find that controlling your mindset is easier said than done. Think of it as a step-by-step process, and value every time you choose a positive response as a step in the right direction. It can also be helpful to speak with a professional about the thoughts and feelings you are struggling with and about your specific experiences. A professional can help you look at your circumstances from a fresh perspective and help you discover new ideas and ways to approach your challenges. Ultimately, exercising your control over your response to your experiences can lead you to a renewed sense of hope and many more positive results.
Wishing you much success,