All theory, no action got very, very old
August 3, 2017 10:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm finally ready to start taking risks and being vulnerable and actually meeting available men. I'm extremely burned out of online dating, however. What are some things I can do to make online dating feel different and exciting, or new strategies/mindsets/sources of encouragement I can access, with the goal of rocking some "hell yes, I'm doing this, this is going to happen" energy? (Snowflakes inside.)

Almost two years ago I started really thinking about who I wanted to be dating. I had just come out as a trans woman, and I was finding myself more and more drawn to guys and open to that connection. In the time since, however, I have only gone on dates with women. Lots and lots of first dates, and a few second and third dates. In all that time, I made a few friends and had moments where I felt "wow, this person is lovely," but I didn't once feel compelled to try to kiss anyone, let alone work towards a romantic relationship or anything.

Meanwhile, I have experienced a really exciting and wonderful spectrum of new emotions around guys. Almost all of these men I've met through work or classes and unfortunately are partnered off, so there's no chance of acting on any of the feelings. But it's like suddenly discovering this reactive potential in me. For a long time attraction felt like a noble gas -- something that exists but doesn't really spark, nothing quite happens. But over the course of a long string of situations now, I've found myself in the presence of a kind, confident, smart, goofy fella, and feeling that sparking energy compelling me towards intimacy, connection, sex, etc. My therapist has been great about affirming these feelings while also emphasizing that so far, these feelings have only been happening in situations that feel safe because they can't go anywhere. (Also I promise I am not a homewrecker and have taken pains not to blur the lines in these interactions! But obviously the whole dynamic is not working.)

I've been in this holding pattern for so long, and the last month or so I finally got completely and utterly sick of it. I'm recovering from a major surgery, and feeling confident and energized about myself and my gender and life, and I feel like I want to do something different. After yet another flirtatious but going-nowhere moment, I decided that, if I spent two years going on first dates with women, I can spend two years -- or at least, like, the next six months -- really putting myself out there with men. I know that I can't guarantee I'll find a kind-hearted, solid, supportive partner in that time (or at all) but I at least want to take a more pragmatic approach and choose concrete actions and ways to spend my time that work towards this goal and that I feel good about.

So far, I've come up with a few different ideas:

- Putting myself out there more socially in general. In particular, I'm trying to say yes to more party invites (I went to my first party in, woof, also two years!? last week) and working on building up a few new friendships. I'd like to try out new kinds of groups/meetups and community events (and living in a college town there's certainly a lot of options). I also don't want to go way overboard and try to do a bunch of things, get overextended or have things not work out, and feel badly and withdraw again.

- Relatedly, I realized I've been depressed for a while after surgery. I got on Wellbutrin, and it's already helping. This was way overdue.

- Deleted and then created a new OKCupid profile. I'm definitely open to any and all suggestions about my profile, again with this goal of trying to go from this safe in-my-head speculative mode to actually sitting down with available guys and getting to know them. Should my writing be briefer, and my messages more focused on meeting up? I've had some promising exchanges in the first week of the restart, but I'm still waiting to see if this will pan out. I'm also trying to initiate and be much pickier. In general, I'm not sure if okcupid is the best strategy for me personally as it plays into my overthinking self-reflective tendencies, but maybe I can use the platform more wisely.

I'm open to any and all suggestions for new strategies for dating, and also in general developing a more positive relationship with dating. Most of the women in my life either exclusively date women/nonbinary folks, or met their partner years and years ago, and so I don't have much IRL support for like, the particulars of trying to meet dudes as a 28 year old woman. It's intimidating, but I can imagine some version of this all working out well, and I just want to find the ways to push myself to get out there while also taking care of myself and being kind and patient along the way.

Thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Hi, I'm popping in to say, congratulations on everything you've worked through to get here! It sounds like you're doing amazing, and I'm really happy for you, it sounds like there's lots of exciting times ahead for you.

Here's my tip on being a woman who is dating in your late 20s/30s. Society will subtly (and sometimes not at all subtly) tell you that your TIME IS RUNNING OUT and that you'd better start to think about settling. But throughout my years of dating, I never, repeat never regretted setting my boundaries and declaring who I was and what I wanted out of a relationship (whatever that was). I often regretted it if I didn't. So what I'm saying is, if you can, spend some time before you start dating proper, building your self esteem and self worth, to the point where you don't feel like you need to or want to change who you are and what you want in order to date someone. I wish to god someone had sat me down and told me that in my early twenties!

Also, if you're burned out with online dating then take a sabbatical from it and just do IRL stuff for a while. If nothing else, when you go back to it, on your first date you can tell them about the party you went to last week/the funny person you talked to when you went to a dance class/other cool stories you will collect from IRL encounters.

Good luck, and have fun!
posted by greenish at 3:38 AM on August 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm just popping in to say how great I think you sound based on this post and on your lovely OKCupid profile. You are such a good writer and you come across as so warm and kind with incredible energy and an adventurous spirit.

I spent years online dating before I met my husband almost ten years ago on match. So you'd think based on that I'd have lots of insights and advice to offer but I really don't have much. I found it all quite difficult until one day it was just easy and that was that. I do think it's best to meet up fairly quickly to find out whether you have chemistry and also it can be so awkward if your emails and messages get really deep and then you find out the person you're having coffee with on a first date still feels like a stranger. I also think it's a numbers game so try not to get hung up on making things work with an almost possibly ok person if you're really not feeling a spark. Finally be very mindful of your personal safety and don't give out too much information about where you live, etc before really get to know the person, meet in public places, etc. But you probably know all that already. Mostly I just want to wish you the best of luck and I hope it all goes well for you.
posted by hazyjane at 7:56 AM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also want to applaud you on where you are, it's a hell of journey.

As person who has moderate experience with gender presentation or non-binary presentation I can say from the folks around me in my circles everyone had stories of "I used to only like X now I like Y? who am I anymore?!" like literally everyone. I certainly have had that experience. It can be jarring AF.

I'd say one thing to put on your radar, which you're probably aware of, is avoid people who fetishize you. It can feel liberating or validating at first, being wanted, but typically really suffocating and alienating quickly after that, as they need you to be narrow when you're a board complex human.

OK cupid feedback: Your pic is cute as button. You're forward about your identity. I think that's a best of both worlds presentation. No ambiguity but it isn't the core of your profile either. That should help filter out many of those you'd want to filter out.

My recommendation for finding a partner who is all the things you want is have no tolerance for people who aren't that. Too many people spend too much time with sorta ok, barely ok folks. Make no room and time for them and you'll find the right folks faster.

Good luck.
posted by French Fry at 8:01 AM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thank you so much for your suggestions (and affirmations)! It's only been a few days, but I've already found the advice on setting good boundaries and not compromising on what I'm looking for to be INCREDIBLY helpful.

I think because figuring out orientation stuff in the abstract has been so difficult, I've been kind of assuming I have to put myself in not-especially-desirable situations and learn from them. It really helps to remember that I can still aspire for what I really, deeply want and trust myself along the way, even if the specifics are changing around a bit. <3
posted by elephantsvanish at 9:03 PM on August 7, 2017

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