Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,
I haven’t been in a relationship or had any hookups in the two years since my last girlfriend. At first I thought I was just recovering from the breakup, but as time went on I began feeling more disinterested in other people and more apprehensive of connecting romantically with somebody. At this point I feel neither willing nor able to initiate contact with people who I have any vaguely romantic interest in, but I’m increasingly lonely and unsure of how to express those types of feelings. The only thing bigger than my fear of being rejected at this point is my fear of what to do if my feelings are actually reciprocated.
Got any advice on trying to rebuild a love life?
Dear Solitary Sweetheart,
It’s perfectly normal to hesitate to get back out there, especially if you were extremely close with your ex or had a bad breakup. Although you might be worried about taking so much time off from dating, you did the right thing by not rushing into something before you were ready. There are plenty of reasons to feel disinterested. Maybe the right person hasn’t come along, or maybe you needed time for yourself after a serious relationship. But now it sounds like your post-breakup period has overstayed its welcome.
Take time to reflect on why you feel apprehensive to dive back into romantic relationships. Maybe you feel unwilling and unable to initiate contact because it’s been so long that you feel rusty when it comes to flirting. Or maybe it’s daunting to reenter the dating pool with the onerous task of trying to find another serious relationship. One of the perks of being in a relationship is that the hard work is behind you; dating, of course, is awkward, sometimes seemingly endless, and tiring. Approaching dating as just the means to a serious relationship, however, might be psyching you out, keeping you in a lonely rut. Bottom line: relationships are great, dating not so much, but writing off dating and trying to get to the finish line isn’t doing you any favors. Hanging out with friends and enjoying their company should be your focus, not finding a serious girlfriend. If the right person comes along, fantastic! If not, you’ve still had a good time.
I think you have a decision before you. Fear of rejection, of course, is normal, but something you can overcome. Everybody fears rejection, whether they’ve been dating around for awhile or just got back in the saddle. I can’t guarantee that you won’t be rejected, but I think that if you approach dating as finding friends rather than a tiresome task whose only purpose is a new girlfriend, you’ll be less likely to face rejection and more likely to find even more friends at Reed. Widening your pool of friends is the easiest way to find a new girlfriend, and hanging out with a friend who might be eventually be a girlfriend will probably make you more comfortable—the perfect situation for somebody who’s been out of the game for a couple years.
Fear of reciprocated feelings, on the other hand, is a whole new ball game. If you really are uncomfortable—not just nervous—at the thought of somebody liking you back, you may not be ready to dive back in. Being alone sucks, and it makes sense that you want to find somebody after two years by yourself, but fear of reciprocated feelings sounds like you might need even more “me time.” In the meantime, surround yourself with close friends, make new friends, or pick up a new hobby. It won’t be the same as a girlfriend, but being around other people will certainly help you get out of your head. Reflection is an important part of life, but dwelling over your fear of reaching out to people will only hold you back. Striking a balance is no easy feat, but once you navigate the line between getting back out there but not rushing into things, you’ll find yourself wondering why you were so worried to begin with. You have instincts that’ll guide you if a friendship starts to become something more, and you just have to trust them. Trust your gut feeling when it comes to a potential new relationship, and you’ll be on your way to a rebuilt love life. Good luck!
Miss Lonely Hearts