This post represents the accumulation of a series of events that I've been reflecting on for some time. After dating intensely during my first year of grad school, taking a break for several months during my second year and finding a more balanced, if frustrating, experience through this year, I have realized three things:
1) I really dislike dating, especially formal/shidduch dating. I'll lump online dating here as well. I dislike the system(s), the imposed structures, the unnatural feeling and pressure I experience. I also dislike constantly feeling judged for little things and big things alike. Could be that's all in my head; perhaps I'm just an anxious person. However, throughout the past three years in particular I have felt and increasing frustration with my dating experience. On this point I'd like to add one thing: I am relationship-focused, and thoroughly enjoy being in a relationship. Most of my quibbles have to do with the initial process of contact and the "date procedure," with all of the hoops and qualifying questions people ask/check to make sure I "fit well enough" into what they want. I mean seriously, fitting into a box or a list is not something I like to do on a first date, I find it both uncomfortable and a tad insulting. I happen to believe we should take our dating partner holistically as a person, search for connection (and add values in here if you'd like, though I believe it takes longer to really understand a person's values), find a bit of romance. I don't want a box or list, I want a person.
2) I really don't have time for it. This one requires some explanation, because if it were strictly a matter of time management, then there would be no problem. One of the things I have discovered is that with 70+ hour weeks, even when I carve out a block of time to (a) make plans, (b) get ready, (c) travel, (d) spend time and be present with the person, and (e) head back home, I find myself exhausted and stressed before the date (I'm getting exhausted even writing out the list!). Having to go on a weeknight date straight after my night classes (which end at 7pm on my early evenings) with my schoolbag in tow doesn't help either. There is always so much to be doing, so many responsibilities, and so
many concerns looming that even when I'm on a date I feel them nagging
at the edge of my consciousness. I'll admit that carving out time for some yoga,
herbal tea, and relaxation beforehand to allow myself a chance to slow
down might help, but it's not always practical and often I'm already sacrificing personal/school/work/research time just to be on the date. I will admit that viewing this time as a sacrifice rather than an investment -or as a chance to unwind, make jokes, and enjoy myself -probably also doesn't help.
3) I have been acting out rather than being honest with myself (and those women). Now I don't mean crying, throwing tantrums, or being rude. As I have reflected on the above points, I have come to realize that the way I present myself is a far more "under pressure" and non-ideal version of myself. I'm not ashamed of it, but I also don't think it's the most attractive side of me to be putting out on display. I can chalk it up to my long hours and the responsibilities of graduate school. I can also blame it on the system and my experience of the looming question "will I marry this person?" that silently invades dates and underlies many a question and conversation topic. But I'd rather be honest and acknowledge that I have not been on top of my game when it comes to dating.
Part of me has hoped that the person I'm on a date with can see through, or will give me more than one, two, or three chances to really get to know me -which is perhaps why I do this myself -but that may not be a realistic expectation. Perhaps I hope to find someone who is more like me and is patient and tolerant enough to invest in a relationship rather than making a quick choice within several hours of contact. In fact, those expectations and hopes likely fuel my frustration and growing resentment.
But wait, then what should I do? How should I address this?
Well, I'm certainly not going to start blurting out my recent reflections prior to -or on -a first date. I have thus far found one work-around: meeting the person and developing a connection more organically rather than (a) point-blank asking women out within a short time of meeting them or (b) being set up via shadchan/friend. I acknowledge this particular method likely puts me in a significantly different dating pool, and I've been wondering if perhaps I'm simply more comfortable swimming in that pool. Other options include (1) taking a break until life lets up a bit (2) gritting my teeth and continuing to trudge along, (3) taking school/work/research less seriously to free up some of that stress, (4) changing my expectations/hopes, (5) loosening up and allowing the more relaxed, playful, fun part of me to show in other areas of my life -including formal/shidduch/online dating. That last one has the merit of all around increasing my happiness, though it may be a tad over-reaching just yet.
The first step is being aware. The second is making myself accountable, which I'm doing here. Where I go from here... I'll have to update y'all as I make progress.