Life, at the best of times, isn’t always easy. Even those who have a loving partner, are surrounded by friends and family, have a stable job they are good at and have no health or money concerns still find times when things just get on top of them. Life puts pressure on us all constantly, ebbing and flowing in ways far less predictable or consistent than the tides of the sea.
In those perfect-times it is easier – though rarely easy – to navigate these waters, but when times are tougher it can be overwhelming to the point of debilitating. When you feel alone, fighting against the world and, even more challengingly, against yourself too. When you need light at the end of the tunnel, but every time you see it, it turns out to be a train which hits you square in the face and leaves you even more battered and bruised than before.
This isn’t about specific or defined mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder or ongoing and serious depression. Google “dating and mental health” and you will come across pages of articles on the challenges of dating someone, or as someone, with serious mental health issues. This isn’t that.
This is about the grind. The relentless, monotonous grind of dating. It wears you down. Makes you believe it’ll never happen. Makes you believe it must be you. Makes you believe the universe is against you. Makes you believe that if it was going to happen it would already have happened by now.
And it drains the life out of you.
It’s all too easy to get lost swiping, swiping, swiping. Asking yourself if you are being too picky, whether you should just lower your standards and settle. To look at endless smiling faces and wonder what it is about them that means they are choosing to swipe left on you. To lower your expectations of every match so that you know how it’s going to pan out before you even meet them, so that even common courtesy makes them stand out as a cut above the rest.
It doesn’t stop when you meet them, either. Before they even walk into the bar/restaurant/random activity you just know that there’s something about them that you won’t like, or that won’t feel right. It’ll be pleasant, perhaps, but you’ll end up unfulfilled and copy and pasting that “had a great night, didn’t feel the spark, good luck dating!” message to send to them on WhatsApp.
And it’ll drain you a little more. Until you feel empty.
You’ll find yourself staring at a tv of an evening, not watching what’s on or listening to a word being said. You’re wrapped up in a blanket, eating Frazzles and drinking whiskey and accepting that this is it. This is life. Every single interaction with dating, from the million swipes through to the handful of dates has turned out the same way and has chipped away at your self-esteem, your sense of self-worth and your self-confidence to the point where you’re ready to give up.
There is no easy answer at this point. No one, single thing that works for us all as we are all different and deal with mental health differently. As has been said a million times, mental health is similar to physical health in that it’s not binary, something you either have or don’t have. It takes work and constant effort to maintain, and sometimes it’s stronger than others.
Dating, especially when it’s been a while since success has been experienced or when you throw your heart and soul into things only for them to be crushed, is the mental equivalent of constant exercise. Going to the gym daily is doable, but being in the gym working out all day every day and night, without break, is more than most of us can manage (Mark Wahlberg excepted). We need breaks and recovery periods to allow us to repair our muscles and build up our stamina.
The difference, of course, is that mental health isn’t something easily monitored and addressed with some bleep tests and measurements. All too often you don’t realise that you are struggling until you are several feet under the waves and caught in a riptide that is dragging you further from the light and the surface. You can feel it, you can fight it, but you know you can’t beat it and giving up and accepting your fate seems the easier option.
It’s at these moments that you need to step back and go into self-protection mode. To stop and refocus, to breathe, to simply exist and skip a beat, before you do yourself serious mental damage.
It’s okay to be tired of dating. It’s okay to have moments where you believe it’ll never happen. It’s okay to get angry, and frustrated, and bored, and pissed off with every idiotic, air-headed, shallow, short-sighted, infuriating, boring, risk-averse person who has swiped left on you BEFORE THEY’VE EVEN GIVEN YOU A CHANCE.
Just know that you are good enough. Know that you are, in your own way, every bit as awesome as everyone else, probably even more so. Know that people do love you, even if you haven’t found the person to be utterly in love with you yet. Know that, if it can happen for all those fuckwits that somehow have found someone without deserving happiness in any way, it can happen to you too. It just hasn’t happened yet.
Remember the “yet”.
Yet is the most important word in dating resilience. Yet is filled with hope. Yet turns every bad thought into potential for something better. Yet is your friend.
Take a break. Eat the ice cream. Watch the box set. Cry. Get the anger at the unfairness of the universe out of your system. Then remember “yet”.
You’ve got this. You’ve made it this far. Bravery is simply perseverance for a moment more. You are braver than you know.
You’ve got this.
Go get them.