• Louise

Quirks & Foibles

Updated: Dec 4, 2021

”What does that even mean?” Says the young woman sitting in front of me, disappointed that yet another ghosting has taken place. I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to say. I’m her therapist and yet here we both are at a dead end. Over the course of her therapy this woman has confronted huge losses, life changes beyond her control, a pandemic and the resulting symptoms that a life history such as hers would bring. Feeling more like the person she is meant to be, brave, sassy, a little bit controversial and with her own personal style, she went for it. “I’m going on a date. Okay I met him online but what the hell. That’s what people do now.”

The resounding agreement about dating these days went round the room in a group therapy session full of resigned apathy, as if the app would have to do. It’s like alcohol; What else is there? I’ve looked at the apps and even tried a few, yet I‘m still at a loss. It all seems terribly loaded with expectations and the falseness that online profiles are. A friend of mine said it’s like being in a bar and someone catches your eye. Eventually you pass each other and exchange a few words. What then? On dating sites, eye catching over the internet is all there is. It quickly dies after a few messages, unless you meet pretty soon. You go on a first date but might as well line up in an identity parade and wait to either be judged or let off for good behaviour and some redeeming feature deemed permissible by your interlocutor.

Cynicism aside, there are of course thousands who have met online, and are fortunate enough to still be together and happily so. There’s a gap in the market for people of a certain age who want to find love, have been there before and are all too aware of what they don’t want. I’ve seen the profiles, they want someone who replies, turns up, looks like their picture, is kind, fun and easygoing. These people are asking for basic human decency. What kind of relationships have they been in to think these are qualities to look for? They’re human givens.

There is no room anymore for the mystery of meeting someone without the help of an app, alcohol or otherwise external stimulant or simulation. One of the loviest encounters I had was doing something I love. I was in my element just doing my thing and realised the man I’d been idly chatting with for about a year on a more or less weekly basis, was in fact, growing on me in rather a beautiful way. This thing was unfolding as the seasons changed and we talked through a spring and into the summer. As winter came there was coffee and we talked for hours.

We went through the inevitable dance that wondering if someone wants you is. We had to get to that first coffee despite our terrible attempts at chit chat and utter lack of finesse but it was well worth being rejected once because he had work and misunderstood because I was scared. He was brave enough to put up with feeling like shit in the name of love and so was I. We did get past all that and spent a long time together albeit with difficult circumstances but we did it and I’m glad. He is too. I know because when it ended, which was sad but necessary, we managed to make sense of it all and he said he would never forget me, that I showed him how to feel and there would never be another like me. I told him how much I appreciated him for never judging me or losing his patience. I really loved him. We had our ending and said our goodbyes.

If I was going to coach anybody through the dating scene I’d say throw the bloody phone away. Look around you, especially when you’re doing what you love, and see who’s there. You never know, it could blossom into something wonderful but you have to be ready to “get the shit kicked out of you for love,” as the little boy says to his dad in Love Actually. I believe it. It really happened and I’d do it again! When I think back there isn’t a single thing I’d change about it. It’s about traversing unknown territory; That period of uncertainty while you get to know each other and being able to tolerate it even though it‘s uncomfortable. I heard the well known British philosopher and founder of The School of Life, Alain de Botton, say, “Compatibility is an achievement of love, not a pre-requisite.“ This is why I don't, for the most part, think dating sites really work. Not for finding true love anyway.

Robert Green, author of The Laws of Human Nature, talks about the art of seduction. He says it has to unfold slowly. Let it be a mystery and say less than you need to but really listen. Take the person in and let them have an impact on you. In my years as a relational psychotherapist, I know what it takes to build trust with clients who have been hurt. I think it’s even more imperative, that out there, in the social scene without the boundaries of therapy, that trust has to be earned over time. To the young woman who went on that date only to be ghosted, I’d say well done and keep going. Spend as much time as you can with the next person offline and away from alcohol as you can. Practice being you with that person without the help of an app or a substance. Let them drop away as you become more and more you than you’ve ever been.

A footnote on ghosting. What the hell is that? Didn’t we all just wander away when something got boring before we had the god forsaken place that is the internet to distract ourselves? I think these apps do no more than feed our inner addict and spike our attachment wounds. Anxiety apps. That’s what they are. I’m old enough to remember first having a computer at home and playing with art software. I felt so strongly that it wasn’t satisfying me. It wasn’t real and yet I couldn’t peel myself away. I had this growing sense of guilt as I became fixated on the box of pixels in my living room. It became the thief of time, a distraction from life. I’m old school. Give me paper and pens any day. I think we’ve forgotten how to truly encounter each other and that because of tech dependency, we’re running on dodgy software and the hardware is failing.

Quirks and Foibles is the brainchild of two psychotherapists who want to help people traverse the territories of modern dating. Whatever your age, however you identify, we would love to help you fall in love. Our sessions are online and in person, one to one and in groups. No class-room or course to sign up to just your desire to commit to a personal journey of self-discovery. Make contact here to enquire.

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