Have part-time confidence, want full-time confidence.
November 3, 2012 7:06 AM   Subscribe

I would like help in turning situational confidence into all-the-time confidence, particularly as it pertains to romance and dating.

I'm a 36-year-old divorced straight male. I have had a few satisfying long-term relationships, and am eager to start seriously dating women again, but I can't get out of my own way.

I am intelligent, caring, ethical, and very, VERY funny (you'll just have to take my word on this). I'm not an ogre, but I don't really consider myself very good-looking. Not that I am the type of guy to try to pick up girls in bars, but I think it's safe to say that I would not be successful at such an endeavor if I tried.

I've been in some way physically intimate with 9 women in my life, and 6 of them I met online. The 3 from real life were the base, short-term, regrettable ones. Online, on the other hand, the women I've met all had long (at least a few months) lead-up times of emails, picture-exchanging, phone calls, and so on to the point where we were so emotionally invested in each other that it has never seemed likely that our first physical visit would be a failure, and -yay!- it never has been.

This is the mechanism for dating I'm most comfortable with. However, I am very tired of/done with relationships that start with a few visits and end with me moving to another state. I want to have LOCAL success now, and I live in a well-populated area. But the one OKC date I have managed in about a month on the site (I know that's not very long), the date told me afterwards she was not interested in pursuing something with me.

Now then: at work and at other non-romantically charged settings, I am often extremely popular. With no opportunity of romance, no stakes involved, I can completely relax, "be myself," and it usually pays big dividends in how people respond to me. It's very gratifying and helps me pump up my chest and feel good.

I try, so hard, to bring this relaxed confidence to the romantic realm of my life. I tell myself all these mantras about how kickass I am. And while I do manage to be fairly witty and engaging during these times, I think my lack of confidence shows through and it is a turn-off. Before that OKC date I mentioned, I was so nervous my legs were shaking. This exchange-emails-for-a-week-and-then-meet is not how I'm used to doing it. I have a hard time NOT CARING if it doesn't work out. I feel like I tell myself the right things, but some other part of me isn't buying it. Accordingly (and unfortunately), any romantic opportunity with promise, as narrow and fleeting as that promise may be, leaves me all limerent and thinking about that person way too much.

I feel as though if the work-me could be the all-the-time me, I wouldn't have to wait long to be in a sastisfying romantic relationship, nor would I care if I DID have to wait long. But no matter what I tell myself, I am struggling and failing to be the change I want to see. If anyone can relate to this and has overcome it, I'd love to hear about it (or even if you haven't but think you have helpful advice, by all means).

P.S. I am very pro-therapy but living paycheck-to-paycheck, and I don't want to drain the time and expense of free resources when there are people with much more grave problems than mine. If it matters, I am on Citalopram and it helps a ton.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm never nervous before first dates because I always think to myself "worst case scenario, this will make a funny dating disaster story to tell my friends".

In terms of why you're more "successful" in social situations, well, people can be friends with a mazillion people all at once but in most cases only have a relationship with one at a time. Doesn't mean you're "doing it wrong" if only a small percentage of people end up selecting you as their partner.
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet at 7:18 AM on November 3, 2012

are you sure that confidence is the limiting factor?
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:53 AM on November 3, 2012

but I think it's safe to say that I would not be successful at such an endeavor if I tried.

I disagree. Why exactly not?

A suggestion: there is a book called Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns, a psychatrist from Stanford. His books are the most prescribed books by mental health professionals. His Feeling Good is a great book--but Intimate Connections is the real gem. He tells you what to do and how to do it. I recommend buying it, reading it and doing all of the exercises for six months.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:34 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds like maybe you feel like it is all on you to make the dates work. You have to be charming! and confident! and witty! just like you are at work when you're not trying to get laid!

And if you fail at this routine, then it is your fault when the lady is not interested.

Getting nervous before a date has less to do with your investment in the opportunity and more to do with your autonomic nervous system getting all fight or flight about a new situation. So first: cut yourself some slack.

Second: Stop thinking of the dates as one sided auditions. You both need to be checking each other out, which means that you should be giving the date opportunities to be charming and witty and confident too. You don't have to dazzle, and in fact you should avoid trying to do this. Instead, focus on creating/facilitating a conversation where you are both contributing equally.

Third: I'd recommend looking at OKC as a means to make new friends vs a dating engine. Keep things low stakes and try to gather some new lady friends instead of just focusing on romance specifically. You said yourself you are better with that scenario, it would be good practice, and ultimately it may give you a much wider circle of friends from which to find truly compatible matches.

Good luck!
posted by skrozidile at 10:12 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I do want to take your word for it that you're REALLY REALLY funny because I sometimes describe myself the same way BUT...maybe you're not as funny as you think? Because while I think I'm hilarious, I would wager that not everyone agrees, and probably definitely not everyone of the opposite sex agrees. Ignore this if it doesn't describe you at all, but I have known men who would describe themselves as being very funny, and I found them to be overbearing/annoying/not funny. Maybe ease up on the humor until you get to know someone better? As a woman myself, I sometimes feel like funny guys are "on" all the time and may not be relationship material. Or that I may end up being the butt of a joke, which is scary and not at all fun or enjoyable.

And if none of that could be it, maybe you have a female friend who you could ask for some advice? I have a few single guy friends and I could pretty easily tell them what to modify, if they wanted to increase their date-ability!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 11:55 AM on November 3, 2012

The way to win at dates (IMHO) is to not make a big deal out of them, act like you have another one lined up next Friday with a different person. Just focus on listening to the person and getting to know them rather than impressing them. A "bad" date doesn't mean you FAILED, it just means that there wasn't a connection. It's not your responsibility to entertain people, you're just two adults seeing if you could get along in a specific social situation, and after that, decide if you can get along in other social situations. If you don't get along, then whatever, you move on to the next adult. Think of it as networking more than dating and I think it could help ease the pressure.
posted by Hawk V at 1:18 AM on November 4, 2012

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