Working on my new podcast “The Connection”, I was able to gain access into the lives of my daters and insight into the issues that they faced. Putting this podcast together, we had a plan and an idea of where we were going, but our daters also lead us there. The biggest light bulb moment was realising that the most common struggle with dating really was how to form a connection and that everyone has their own stuff that could get in the way. This wasn’t about pick-up lines, playing games or timing the hours until you text that person back. I got to know my daters and they were all great people with lots to give but they were just not always able to show what I saw to someone else. This was not about traditional therapy and digging deep into their inner souls and past. This was about finding what was stopping them from projecting their best selves when dating.
What I also realised is although some of my daters were more interesting and colourful characters, the issues they faced very much represented the issues most people face in the real wold too. And there were a few main categories that stood out as common issues I see.
Motor Mouth: People deal with nerves in different ways. Some shut down, some act in a strange way and other motor mouth. Even though someone who talks a lot might seem confident, it’s their anxiety of things feeling awkward and maybe even silence setting in that sees their motor mouth skills go into overdrive, talking a million miles an hour without pausing to take a breath or letting the other person get a word in. Often a motor mouth can be a great first, even second date. They can hold conversations, have great banter, ask lots of questions and even give lots of information about themselves. But most of this is done out of fear and insecurities and they often do not stop and think about what they are saying or what the conversations are. The aim of the game is to just keep the conversation going. Deep connections can be a struggle as the conversations and banter are more surface level without too much thought or depth given.
What to do: If you are a motor mouth, try and find ways to slow down your mind and even your breathing. Breathing exercises can be a great way to also get your heart rate down that might be racing on dates. Reading poetry before a date and remembering your favourite poem to recite in your head can help to slow your speech down and even listening to music can help keep you calm. Try and pause before you answer questions, think about what the other person is saying or asking and even let them speak more too. Try not to fill in awkward moments of silence and use these awkward moments as a great way to encourage the other person to talk too.
The Sexual Mask: Some might think that those open and out there with their sexuality are confident daters, but it’s not always the case. This is more present with those who prefer casual encounters and casual sex. If this is the way you want to date, that’s great, but there are many dating this way out of fear of being vulnerable and even rejected for something more. Let’s face it, people like sex and like having sex often with no commitment attached. For some, it’s easier to be that sexual person and project sex. It might be for hook-ups or when dating jump into bed super quick. It might be what they want, but it also might be a way to achieve a form of connection (and of course pleasure) but also protect themselves from rejection and not having to open up. If you are setting the rules and pace that it’s casual sex, then in a way you are taking yourself off the market for anything else. It’s not even a matter of being rejected because you can’t be rejected for something you are not out there for. The question is why you are out there in the more casual sense. Is it because that’s where your life is and that’s what you want, or it’s easier to wear the sexual mask, not being rejected and not having to really open up?
What to do: First, you need to work out what your motivations for casual encounters really are. Are you just there enjoying them or are you wearing the sexual mask, protecting yourself from hurt and vulnerabilities? If you are wearing the mask as a form of protection, it might be time to work on your self-esteem but also open yourself up to new types of connections. Try dating without sex just to see how it feels? Challenge yourself as to what is the worst that can happen if you do put yourself out there more emotionally. Have a plan in place if rejection does come with a sting. For anyone dating, it’s good to have a support network and what I like to call, a break in case of emergency plan for those moments you need to pick yourself back up or just wallow for a bit in any rejection or hurt that has occurred.
The Insecure Shut Down: For many who have a fear of rejection, it’s a matter of shutting down before anyone gets close enough to be the one to cause pain first. Have you been on a few too many bad dates? Have you had your heart broken more times than you thought? For some people facing hurt and rejection sees them go out into the dating world with such a wall up it’s nearly impossible to form a connection. It can be a protective mechanism used to stop pain with the other person having to really prove and push to get any of that wall to come down. But even if the wall can be brought down just enough to get a real look at the person behind, it can quickly go back up again.
What to do: This is not about bringing the wall completely down. It’s good to have some form of protecting yourself. But with a lot of these dating barriers, the first step is acknowledging it’s there. How do you bring something down that you are not aware of? After you have that awareness, it might now be a matter of forming dates where you feel more comfortable and feel that you can open up a little more. Face to face dinner dates can feel sometimes intimidating. Try an activity where you feel more yourself or you know a lot about. It someone is able to see who you really are, they might just be able to connect with you enough to make you feel safer and keep bringing your guard down.
Take me as I am: This is one of the more difficult dating barriers to spot. There are people who straight up will say exactly who they are, what they are all about and what they want out of life love and everything in between, sometimes within moments of meeting. It seems like confidence and honesty, but it might be another protective mechanism that is a form of a wall. If you take someone for example who has what they might feel is baggage or something they feel is scandalous or even unappealing about their life, if they put it all on the table straight away then either the other person can choose to reject them for these things, in which case they would probably look like a dick and who would want to date that person anyway or choose to politely not going any further due to a possible personal clash with these things. But this is a wall of pushing rejection early on to justify it ( eg they were dick for not wanting someone because of these things) or protect from rejection later when a real connection has occurred. It’s easier to be rejected on a first date than a 5th or 6th when you might really like someone or think it’s going somewhere. This is not someone showing who they really are or what they are all about but rather taking possibly some of their more controversial or even negative qualities or aspect of their life and dumping them on the table to be judge on right away. But it doesn’t show someone they really are or what makes them tick, qualities needed to form a real connection.
What to do: Whatever qualities you think go against you or aspect of your life, take them off the table for now. Don’t have them in your dating profile or push them into the first conversation. Think of the things you have to bring to someone and what positive aspects you can give. It can help to have someone close to you write a dating profile for you, looking from the outside in or even discuss these positive qualities with you so you are aware of what someone else really does see about you. You might also need to work a little on your self-esteem and dig deeper into why you could be giving away so much so soon as a form of putting up a wall.
Running out of time to find Mr Right: I say Mr right as I do find this more commonly with heterosexual women, but it can be apparent no matter who you are and who you are dating. If you felt like you were running out of time (sometimes due to a biological clock) then the person you are on a date with might be quickly put through the filters, judged on outside factors and dismissed rather quickly if they don’t soon tick off at least ¾ of what is on your partner wish list. And if they do not make the mark, it’s time to quickly brush them off and find someone who possibly will. This is superficial dating at its best, but is no recipe to finding a real connection. How can you when you are rushing through who someone is like you are online shopping for a life partner. Are you more interested in seeing if they tick enough from your list that you are not present enough to feel any possible connections?
What to do: I know it’s not always easy, but try and slow down. At least for the first three dates, be present and just get to know someone away from any form of list. Ask yourself how they make you feel and how they treat you instead of what kind of husband and father they would be. I know that feeling of running out of time and it’s something women often can’t escape, but it’s also important to slow down enough to see if a real connection can be formed rather than swipe someone away because they don’t look like the person you thought you should be with.
Dating is not always easy, but we all face struggles and obstacles that get in the way. For some it might be about improving dating skills and techniques, but for others, it’s about exploring the barriers that stop them from experiencing what a real connection with someone is all about.
If you want to hear more about how to form connections when dating, make sure you check out my new podcast on Audible Original, The Connection…