Help me get back up again after rejection
February 28, 2015 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Hello everyone. I am back to my favorite advice site for help on this relationship rut I am in; specifically the lack of ever having one.

The past few years have been nothing but pain in this area for me and I'm at a breaking point. I'm a 30 year old female who likes other females but nothing is working. Here is a rundown of the highlights of my misadventures:

(Fictitious names for my own amusement)

Martha - this was right when I came out so I was dealing with a lot of stuff. I fell for her hard and watched her hook up with someone else right in front of me before I said anything. Swore I would never again not tell someone I liked them.

The Mortal Enemy - got pretty close and got some flirtatious vibes from her - and even others were hoping we would get together. Asked her out and got denied.

The Singer - made out with her at a bar, got her number, got turned down when I asked her out for a drink not long after.

Brown Eyes - met through friends and had a drunken hook up. She then snubbed me the next day and acted weird.

Hat Girl - met her through friends and asked her out for drinks. Got the runaround.

Blue Eyes - met through friends and she was very flirty with me and she even kissed me at a New Years party. Asked her out, rejected.

The Mortal Enemy (again) - after trying like hell to get over her and maintain the friendship, she decides to get physical with me one night, then decides I'm still just not her thing. (Ended that friendship, hence the name)

The Traveler - very flirty with me, even has me come cuddle in bed with her one night so I think for sure she's attracted to me. Then she doesn't follow through with me no matter how hard I try.

The Set Up - set up by a friend, got the green light from her and the friend even said she seemed interested in me in return. Asked her out - things seemed a little lukewarm but my friend assured me that she is very conservative and a slow mover. I felt a spark with her and I wanted to try it out. Not more than a week later Mortal Enemy (who I try to avoid at all costs yet keeps appearing in my life causing pain) has asked her to a large group weekend getaway and I have to watch them get together right in front of me. Cue Meltdown. Even when it seemed someone liked me back it ended in tears.

The Crush - the Meltdown happened literally two days before I went on a weeklong vacation with several friends - one of whom is a woman that I developed Feelings for a while ago because we had such a great chemistry and connection - someone who isn't perfect but a damn good match (if two separate mutual friends telling you unsolicited that you'd be a good match is proof). This person is in a comically bad relationship, and they actually broke up towards the end of the trip giving me a little bit of hope but it appears they are talking again. The whole vacation just soured for me (for what it's worth we booked this months ago before I realized the situation I was going to be in) and due to the timing after the Meltdown I was emotionally shot. I know this isn't quite rejection, but it's just salt in the wound. (FWIW I have been trying to date others to distract from The Crush but nothing has panned out. Feelings sometimes can't be controlled and I suppose I may have to end this friendship now).

I've had a handful of okcupid/tinder dates in there that went nowhere due to lack of chemistry. I find online dating extremely frustrating and it seems to make me feel worse about my situation because now when people don't respond it really hurts (I used to be able to shake off Internet non-responses so easily, but it's harder and harder now due to the constant rejections I'm dealing with).

To be fair, I've had one girl show genuine interest in me, but as hard as I tried I couldn't feel any attraction to her. It actually upset me a lot because there went a chance - and if I could have flipped a switch and be attracted to her I would have. She ended up dating Blue Eyes.

I'm having a very hard time because it can be months before I meet someone I like - there's just not a huge dating pool. I'm not being picky - I don't even need a "perfect" relationship, it just has to be someone that I click with and want to spend time with. You know, attraction.

My heart, self esteem, and self confidence have been decimated and I'm becoming neurotic and depressed. I now constantly think there's something seriously wrong with me because nobody will give me a chance. I can't even get someone to go on more than one or two dates with me, if they even go out with me at all. And I have no history to fall back on for reassurance that it can happen.

I'm actually a pretty popular and social person and I have my pick of friends and many social circles - but nobody wants to date me. I'm an active and well respected person in a particular social hobby that actually has a lot of gay women. I'm fit and athletic. And I can't get a break. I feel so, so rejected in that most primal human need for affection. I'm about to turn 31 soon and I have yet to have a reciprocal relationship in any form aside from a boy I briefly dated in college (which doesn't count so much because at that time I was just in denial and trying to be straight. We were basically just friends.). I'm becoming increasingly lonely because I just want someone to be my number one and be theirs in return. I am blessed with good friends are they're great's just not enough sometimes.

I actually seem to get a decent amount of attention from men and I try to use this to remind myself that I'm not hideous or undesirable. However in the end it doesn't mean much to me - I'm gay. And being snubbed by the gender I'm attracted to after the long road of coming out is rather painful and demoralizing.

I don't know what to do with myself or how to break out of this. It's going on 3.5 years since I came out and it's been one long string of rejections. The latest couple of incidents have pushed me to what I feel is my breaking point. I feel like my life is a nightmare I can't wake up from, or someone's idea of a sick joke. I feel silly writing this question but it's the only thing I can think to do right now to figure out a way to not freak out.

How can I pick myself back up when I'm so incredibly demoralized? How can I maintain hope in the face of this horrible string of bad luck? How can I figure out what I'm doing wrong? FWIW I actually have asked trusted close friends what I'm doing wrong and I wish I had a nickel for how many times people tell me I'm a catch. And I do not say that to brag, but to clarify the situation I'm in.

The only thing I can think is that sometimes I have a hard time flirting. However, I try to compensate by just being forward and asking people out. But it's getting even harder to flirt and show I like someone because I have only gotten negative results. Instead of getting better with experience I'm getting worse. It's like a vicious cycle. How can I break this?

Oh yeah, I've also been in therapy for most of this time. I like my therapist and feel we connect, but we are hitting a skid because I feel like she doesn't know what to say about my situation anymore - I appear to be doing everything right but fate seems to hate me. She sympathizes and tells me I'm having horrible luck and tries to encourage me to try things (I do everything I can) but I feel like she's repeating herself now because every time I go in its the same situation. I can't even think what else she could possibly tell me at this point however. Should I try another therapist?

I guess I'm looking for advice on this from people who may have been here before and dealt with this, or know someone who has.
posted by christiehawk to Human Relations (10 answers total)
Stop looking. Stop competing with other women. It's depressing you. Take care of yourself and develop new interests. Give yourself a chance to make friends without seeking lovers so desperately. Good luck!
posted by Carol Anne at 2:51 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you should separate your friends from your dating possibilities. Too much drama when you date in your friend circles.

You need to drop every friend circle that has Mortal Enemy in it. I don't care that you will be letting this person "win" - you need some distance from this person's toxic energy. She's feeding off of your misery. This only hurts you. Get involved in other things and people that make you happy.

Can you move cities?

You need a bigger swimming pool, overall, and the chance to meet new people. If where you live the community is teen tiny, broaden your horizons. Leave the drama behind. Onward.
posted by jbenben at 2:53 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Possible theories:

1. It sounds like most of these friends are from a single friend group. Friend groups can develop weird dynamics that self-perpetuate, e.g. you might become known as "the person with weird drama with Mortal Enemy" and that makes others shy away.

2. It puts a lot of pressure on the other person to know that their rejection will hurt you so much. If you're this upset by being rejected for a first date, how much guilt would they feel if they dated you for a couple weeks and then decided to end things? Would you hate them forever?

I have a couple friends who take rejection extremely seriously, and any rejection will make them stay up nights wondering what's wrong. This makes people want to reject them earlier-on while it's still "safe", rather than risk the possibility of having to reject them once the stakes are even higher.
posted by vienna at 2:59 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

From what I'm reading, you sound like you're auditioning for a girlfriend -- someone to fill a role you have in mind.

And I worry because it sounds like you've been auditioning so many women! Women talk a lot amongst themselves, especially in these circles (oh man, ask how I know!), and if you have a reputation for chasing women because you don't want to be alone, they will resist you every time. Even if they really like you.

Another vote to expand your horizons. Date outside your friend pool. Allow yourself to build warm, nourishing connections with people you don't want to date. Give yourself some time.
posted by mochapickle at 3:02 PM on February 28, 2015

It does sound like you need to totally separate your social circle and your dates. If you get serious with somebody you can introduce her into your social circle, but do not date a friend or a friend of a friend or anybody who knows your friends. Keep looking online, and be prepared to connect with somebody in another county.

It also sounds like you may be attracted to a certain flighty, game-playing type. Look for commonalities in the women you've been attracted to, and if you see a bad pattern talk to your shrink about trying to break that cycle.

But I also wonder if you may be spinning some things to make yourself the victim. I am not saying you're a jerk, and for all I know you really have been kicked around unfairly. But I read the part about the woman whom you say slept with you only to then decide again that she wasn't into you. That makes her sound like a big game-player creep... but I wonder if she would say that she just wanted to be friends but you kept pushing to make it romantic so she tried again and it still didn't work. Again, I don't know you guys and it could well be that your take on the situation was 100% accurate. But, was it really? Take a look at your love life and ask yourself if you're sometimes the jerk. If you are the jerk, you gotta know that so you can stop it.

Finally, 31 is so much younger than you think. Seriously, you could live another 60 years or more. A LOT of people are still kind of overgrown kids at 31, so relax if you haven't found your soulmate yet. Try to enjoy being young and free. When you're 45 with a wife, three cats and a mortgage, you may find yourself wistfully looking back on first dates and clumsy hookups with cute young girls. Part of me wouldn't mind having your troubles, frankly. (That's not to belittle what you're going through! It's just to say that the grass on your side of the fence is a little greener than you realize.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:29 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Since you asked for advice from "people who have been here before"...

I went to a small liberal arts college in more or less the middle of cow pastures. Your descriptions remind me a lot of the dating scene I really wanted to be a part of there. Everybody knew everybody. I knew two girls who had been close friends and basically hated each other after one made a move on the boy the other one had been flirting with. I slept with someone I was in a group house with (RED LIGHT RED LIGHT BAD IDEA BAD IDEA) who really hated talking and so ended it by making out with someone else in front of me. And since it was such a small place, there was always this pressure of still seeing all of these people at parties and still acting like friends, even if it was awkward for one or both parties. I did not actually "date" the entire time. I wanted to, desperately. There are a lot of amazing, talented lovely people in that pool. But with the sea of emotions and personal history, it was way too hard to get past the dramaz and into something more steady.

I am now in a very happy LTR. Things that changed: I got out. I buckled down and got really invested in my work and my friends. I did lots of OKC dates that really didn't do anything for me (and one or two that did really well - law of averages!) just to remind myself that there were still people outside my circle. Then I moved to a bigger city. Even though that was college and you're in your 30s, a lot of the people I know who stayed in the area and in the same group are still fighting the same back and forth battles. Stay above it. Take care of yourself and enjoy flirting without the baggage of having to wonder "IS THIS THE ONE" about every person you want to kiss (which is terrifying to anyone, btw. A lot of people do the makeouts first and then become "The One" later.) And yes, please, keep trying online dating or new activity groups or something outside this one group of people. It's better for your sanity, not just your relationship status.
posted by theweasel at 6:00 PM on February 28, 2015

Best answer: Hey, I just want to stop in here and tell you that this all really sucks and you’re not crazy. I know of what you speak and sadly some of this just comes with the territory of being a lady-loving-lady. Even if you are in a major city, lesbian dating dynamics and challenges are different for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the pool is so much smaller and segmented (butch, femme, etc.).

What you describe is so common that some lesbian comics recently made this video about it:

Know that what you are feeling is so totally, 100% understandable. Of course you want attraction, affection and mutuality! And of course what you’re experiencing can be demoralizing, confusing and frustrating! And you also are in good company.

As far as what to do, maybe it would help to shift your focus from getting the girl to rebuilding your confidence and sense of faith (which are understandably shaken)?

  • The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane is targeted toward business folk, but many of the concepts and exercises can be applied to dating, too.
  • Go for little wins (e.g. flirt with the barista with no intention of it going anywhere).
  • Mix up your routine so that you’re flowing in different waters—magic often happens to me when I change things up and put myself in new places.
  • Acupuncture can be really helpful at restoring a sense of calm and optimism. You’ll likely need to do it weekly for a few months to really shift things, but community style acupuncture is affordable and can be really effective for this kind of thing.
Wishing you all the best!
posted by magnislibris at 3:19 AM on March 1, 2015

Whenever you feel sense of panic around meeting someone, stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what you want. It probably won't help the first couple of times, but I've found over time that it can be an important counterweight to the fear of being alone.
posted by Kappus at 9:01 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

My first thought is: You sound really cool, and I wish I could be your friend. I'm a straight female your age who has often thought, "It would be so much easier if I were a lesbian!" You've disabused me of that notion, so thanks. :) As you say, if guys are attracted to you, and you have friends, and you're athletic, you must be a-ok in terms of both looks and personality. That means you come out ahead of a lot of people! I'm going to second at least one other commentator and suggest that perhaps you're going after the wrong people. Or maybe try just letting people come to you for a bit? Why do you need to always be in the asking-out role? Try just being your awesome self and see who bites.
posted by Guinevere at 6:13 PM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

it sounds like you're letting off "want relationship NAOW!!" vibes which is quite off-putting. Try to take a deep breath and slow waaaay down. as someone who rushed into a relationship without getting to know someone better that crashed and burned spectacularly, my advice is for you to get to know some women first. and THEN decide if you want to make out, date, get more romantically involved. i second a lot of the other suggestions that maybe you need a wider dating pool than what you're boxing yourself in.

it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there just to get rejected repeatedly. i think letting people come to you is a good suggestion and also to flirt a bit just for the sake of enjoying flirting without heavy stakes of it leading somewhere. it seems that when you most want to be with someone, that it signals to people around you that you will take anyone who will fit the role or give you attention, and that's not a good look. enjoy the single life and have fun. who knows, maybe that lucky lady is just around the corner? just remember not to scare her off by rushing into things too fast.
posted by lunastellasol at 8:22 PM on March 1, 2015

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