Friday, April 22, 2011


Dating and the Fear Factor


Fear is our biggest stumbling block from having the life we truly want. It always has been and continues to be so. Think back to when your children were young or even when you were a child. Can you remember how fearless you were? Do you remember when you stopped being fearless? Do you remember what you wanted to be? I wanted to be Superman. I jumped out of the window of my second floor bedroom and flew straight down to the ground. I made a few other attempts at flying and did not even get a scratch for my efforts. I stopped trying to fly not because I actually got hurt, but because of fear that I might get hurt, which my mother reinforced. Fear we might get hurt holds us back more than actually getting hurt.


When I was little, I fell off horses about 50% of the time when I attempted to ride. Most of our horses were green broke and didn’t want to be rode. Bucked off might be a more appropriate description. My father made me get back on the horse every time immediately. I couldn’t stop and lick my wounds. I climbed back onto the horse each time. To this day, I am not fearful of riding a horse. There are millions of people who have never ridden a horse or fallen off one and yet they are fearful of the experience. So much so that they will not even get near a horse. Their fear is imaginary, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real. Often we rehearse our fear making it stronger. Who wants to do what they fear?


Almost thirty-four weeks ago, I decided to date intelligently and blog about it. Was I fearful about it? It was incredibly fearful (about both the dating and blogging) and turns out I had a good reason too. Since I am twice divorced, and have a handful of failed relationships to boot, I have experience to justify my fear. First, dating intelligently sounds like an oxymoron. The decision to use my academic background to research dating seemed odd at best, but I did learn--a great deal. Sometimes, I wish I could have learned it sooner.


My first shock came when married female “friends” attacked me for going public about dating. They ridiculed me behind my back and to my face, often doubting that I had even gone out on the dates. They emailed each other about each blog, knowing that I was on the same email loop. I had plenty of fears starting out, but this was never one. I figured my conservative mother would go ballistic whenever she got a whiff that I was putting such personal things online for the public to read. It just wouldn’t be seemly…whatever that means.


Every time I took a chance and met someone new, I was petrified that this total stranger would find me lacking somehow. (This is the place where most women find themselves. This is the reason they don’t date because the fear of being labeled unacceptable.) Through dating, I discovered facets of myself I didn’t know existed. Suddenly I saw myself through others’ eyes and found out I was both fascinating and mysterious. The same anxiety about being unattractive or boring was in almost every man I ever went out with, except for the few who knew they were perfect. I just didn’t have the good sense to appreciate their perfection. LOL


Dating is hard, especially the first date. You have two individuals who often are so anxious their words don’t even make sense when they try to hold a normal conversation. Sometimes saying the very thing they’d been warned against saying. Confessing they’re bad with women or haven’t been out in years. The worst first date conversational tidbit a man dropped on me was that his ex-wife left him for another woman. I’m not even sure why he told me that; perhaps he figured it would come up sometime and wanted to get it out of the way. Maybe he feared I would find out later and stop seeing him. I never saw him again so I have to wonder if it wasn’t a legitimate fear. Most of our fears aren’t legitimate.


A book I started reading recently called Life Unlocked by Srinivasan S. Pillay, MD, explains about how most of our motivations are from fear. We often think we act intelligently, but usually we act out of fear. We rationalize our fears to make them sound like the right thing to do. A few of us have failed marriages to our names and can now see we married because we were afraid of being alone. Simply put we acted out of fear, not because of some grand passion. Once trapped in a bad marriage, many do not leave because of the same fear of being alone.


Dr. Pillay explains in his book that often we fear change and being wildly successful because we wouldn’t know how to act. It would upset the world we know. We hear stories all the time to confirm our belief that being fortunate or lucky is not a good thing. People who win lotteries are often broke in less than two years because they attempt to live like millionaires on crack. Sometimes we are simply accustomed to our fear and a not so wonderful life. We never hear about people who wisely managed their winnings. No one is interested in those types of stories because they don’t confirm our fears.


I remember two things my grandmother told me about working with fear. Imagine the worst thing that could happen and develop a plan to deal with it. The worst thing never happened after I developed a plan to deal with it. The second thing she told me was do the thing you fear. As the youngest child of the youngest child, I was seldom alone and babied as the last grandchild. The thing I feared the most was being on my own. I approached that fear at the grand age of twenty-four, when I inadvertently traveled Europe alone. My companion and I disagreed and suddenly I was alone with five more weeks to fill. Each day, I would decide which country I was going to, where I would stay, where I would eat. In doing this I had many adventures, some downright scary, but I survived. I faced my fears and came back home a stronger person.


Facing your fears is the way to go. Know them. Is there a reason for them? Defuse them as if they were a bomb. Make a plan for handling them. Finally conquer them. Remember you miss 100% of the shots you never take. I have no fears about dating now. I’ve gone out enough to know how to make a date feel good and enjoy the date. Now, I’m ready to take on relationship fears I think…that’s a completely different subset of fears.



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