‘I was in a committed relationship for about ten years and she pretty much out the blue exited the scene. It was hard on me if honest. I got some grief counseling, which helped me see that actually the relationship wasn’t as great as it looked and that she’d probably made a brave choice – we could both be happier elsewhere. I don’t hate her, she recently got engaged. I honestly wished her happiness. After counselling, I dropped a chunk of weight, got a new wardrobe and to use a phrase from my youth, ‘put my slut pants on’. Then I dated for a while, nothing serious enough to introduce to the family. When I was dating I noticed a lot of the complaints that ended things were common. They also matched what my major ex had said to me. Also said by women in my 20s. I made the decision that as I’m not good as a boyfriend that I’d just stop doing it. I do things I’m good at, I don’t pursue things I’m bad at. I’m good at reaching and knowing my limit of performance. I’m not going to change now. I get anxious and stressed when I spread myself too thin – I’ve got a demanding new business, an older established business and siblings / nieces / nephews as well as pets of my own. So, I’ve effectively retired. I’m an introvert by training and so being out and about isn’t a loss. I’m no great romantic, I’m a pragmatist by nature, so I quickly deal with any occasional nagging sense of romantic life. I’m not a charming and/or attractive man, so it’s very easy for me to blend into the background. It’s been 18 months and I’m pretty good with it all. I don’t feel that I’m spread too thin. I don’t feel that I’m letting myself or another down.
So….How do I convince certain people in my family group (and I’m including 25 year long friends) that I’m not, “having a crisis of confidence” or some other load of old guff and that I need to get back into dating etc.’
What a first piece of advice to give! This wasn’t the type of question I expected to get when I opened up my inbox to the wonderful people of twitter. It’s deep, and it’s complicated.
I find it very interesting that in order to give context to this question, you immediately began talking about your past relationship. This relationship clearly had a massive impact on you and your view of yourself in relationships. 18 months is not so long at all after such a long relationship, and it would be more than understandable if you were still grieving the loss of that relationship/partnership. It’s fantastic that you attended counselling, and I hope this helped you to process some of the feelings and emotions that come with the loss of a relationship.
The best way to convince your friends and family that you are happy single, is to first convince yourself. I am a massive believer in breaks from dating, breaks from the apps and time to ‘date yourself’ and whilst it sounds like you have done this to an extent, the fact you talk about your work as a priority with little mention of hobbies and things you do for fun points to you seeing these things as an obligation as opposed to actually fulfilling parts of your life. I spent years telling people I was happy single, I was, but I also wore it a little like a badge of honour. ‘I don’t need no man thing me down’ kind of thing, and whilst it sounded convincing to me, those closest to me could see right through it. I was only truly happiest when doing the things that I loved.
You situation sounds similar. You talk about yourself in relationships in a negative way, as if all issues and break downs are your fault. ‘I don’t do things that I’m bad at’. We are all bad at dating! That doesn’t mean we should stop doing it. If you truly feel like you aren’t missing that part of your life, then carry on being you, learning new things and developing your new business. Your friends and family will see you happy and content, and this will always be their main priority. The reason they are asking you about dating is because THEY believe that is the missing piece, that’s what’s creating your unhappiness in their eyes.
You need to learn to love yourself and take some risks. We all have to do things we aren’t great at, sometimes daily, sometimes less often. I’m sure you had to take some risks when setting up your new business. What’s holding you back from taking them in your personal life? Is it because you feel there’s more at stake? When you find a person that is compatible, with similar values, and who accepts you, for you then the worries will melt away.
In the short term, because I feel like I haven’t answered your question, but instead talked about the future and potential relationships. When you are around your friends and family, talk about the things that make you happy. The things that you are passionate about. They are questioning you out of nothing more than worry for you. If they see you happy and passionate, their worries will be abated. Avoid talking about past relationships, this will make them think you’re pining after a new one.
In short, be happy. But be truly happy. Accept your flaws, admit your failings and use them as learnings, but as learning to improve not to stop completely. All anyone ever wants for their friends and family is happiness and contentment, but we have to want it for ourselves first.