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Ask A Therapist – Why is Dating So Hard?

Today’s modern dating scene seems to be messier and more confusing than ever. For many people, it doesn’t feel possible to find love the way that previous generations found it. And if you’re lucky enough to find a potential partner, it feels so challenging to move from dating to a long-term serious relationship. It can be frustrating to hear conflicting dating advice from previous generations, or even from friends who seem to be somehow more fortunate. In this blog, our therapists will answer some common general dating questions.

Why is dating so challenging in the first place?

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Building intimate relationships can be difficult because doing so requires vulnerability. When you are first getting to know someone, it can be tough to judge whether or not you can trust them. If you do take the risk of being vulnerable, you open yourself up to potential hurt and disappointment. But once burned, twice shy. The next time you find yourself wanting to be vulnerable, you might feel anxious or afraid. The more hurt you experience, the harder it can be to want to keep putting yourself out there. Unfortunately, that is just part of the process. That goes for being in a relationship too! Conflict, or ruptures, are normal and inevitable parts of dating and building a relationship.

Why is dating so tough right now?

There has been a drastic shift in dating culture over the past twenty years. While there are likely different causes, it seems like online dating is a major factor. With major changes in how people meet, interact, and communicate, it’s no wonder that new dating behaviors have developed too. One behavior that has caused pain for many is ‘ghosting,’ or disappearing without a trace of communication. Poor, or nonexistent, communication is not new to people. But it does seem to be more prevalent than ever, with so much of one’s dating communicating happening over text. 

Another behavioral trend is the hesitance or even refusal to commit to a labeled relationship. This can lead to people feeling like they have been ‘benched’ or ‘added to the roster’ while their date is searching for a ‘better option.’ But their date may offer enough ‘love bombs’ or ‘breadcrumbs’ to keep them hoping for more. Or this can lead to a ‘situationship,’ in which there seems to be feelings but no clearly defined expectations or boundaries. (We’ll talk more about situationships in a later section.) It seems impossible to be in the dating scene without encountering at least one of these challenging behaviors.

Why do dating apps feel impossible?

Dating apps mean that you will come across more people than you would otherwise in your daily life. But the seemingly endless options can actually be a double-edged sword. When you have too many choices, it can be hard to determine who to dedicate your time to, and whether or not there might be a ‘better option.’ This ‘shopping around’ for the best fit, based on pictures and a brief profile, can actually take away from genuine connections that may develop with time and space. Plus, the connections on apps can be (and feel) quite shallow. You and this other person probably don’t know each other or each other’s network. This almost anonymity can lead to less accountability and responsibility to others, leading to a higher likelihood of poor communication.

Dating apps are also sort of designed to be impossible. At the end of the day, these apps are businesses, and they make money by keeping you on the app. Their algorithms and subscriptions that are advertised as helping you are not actually meant to be helping you. The more time you spend on these apps, the better for them. But the worse for you. All the time investment can lead to burnout, especially when matches never make it to an in-person date. Even if they do make it to a date, a mismatch of intentions and goals can lead to frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness.

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Can I date with an insecure attachment style, whether it’s anxious or avoidant?

The short answer is yes, you can! Your attachment style is developed in childhood through the relationship between yourself and your caregiver. While it serves as the foundation from which you approach other relationships, it is not a permanent trait. It is something that you can change through reflection, persistence, and healthy experiences. Whether you  choose to do so in therapy, you can start by identifying your attachment style and examining your beliefs about relationships. Notice your thought and behavioral patterns, and try to challenge yourself to act in different ways. Learn to manage your own difficult emotions and increase your tolerance for discomfort, so that you don’t always feel the need to seek reassurance (anxious) or distance (avoidant). Do your best to communicate your wants and needs openly, and don’t be afraid to set boundaries. And perhaps most importantly, seek out secure relationships with other people in your life. The more you can feel secure in yourself and your loved ones, the more you can feel secure in dating.

Why does my situationship breakup hurt more than my last actual breakup?

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As mentioned, situationships refer to romantic relationships that aren’t official, but are still… some sort of relationship. They tend not to be clearly defined, fully committed, or labeled in any way. If you find yourself asking “What is this? What are we doing?” – you might be in a situationship. Often, any feelings that may arise are dismissed, as the relationship was ambiguous. But the ambiguity is precisely the point that can lead to anxiety, disappointment, and pain. The lack of clarity in the relationship usually means lack of clarity in the ending. And the lack of labeling usually means less recognition of the relationship as ‘legitimate.’

When you are grieving the end of a situationship, you aren’t grieving just the connection between yourself and the other person. You’re also grieving the possibility of what it could’ve been (i.e., a committed relationship). So if you’re finding yourself feeling more pain about your situationship than you expected, that’s okay. There’s no need to shame yourself for it. It’s not inherently a bad thing to have been in a situationship. You can still have enjoyed the connection, and learned something about yourself or your dating preferences. Perhaps you’re okay with such connections, or perhaps you want to be more intentional with your next date. Either way, it’s okay to let yourself feel the heartbreak from any relationship ending.

Dating has always been a confusing and complicated process, but online dating seems to have made it messier than ever. For more specific do’s and don’ts in dating, please stay tuned for our next blog with more therapists’ answers!

Seek Individual Therapy at Yellow Chair Collective in Los Angeles or New York

If you are seeking therapy specifically tailored to your needs, consider reaching out to the culturally sensitive therapists at Yellow Chair Collective. We understand that different parts of our identities can show up in different parts of our lives, and that it can make navigating relationships difficult. We also understand that there may be unique cultural and contextual factors that may influence your experiences.

At our Los Angeles, CA, and New York City, NY-based therapy practice, we have many skilled, trauma-informed therapists who can provide an empowering therapeutic experience. For your added convenience and simplicity, we offer online therapy for anyone in the state of California or New York. We know that navigating modern dating can be challenging, and we want to support you on your journey. Follow the steps below to begin.

Other Services at Yellow Chair Collective

There are many options for treatment using online therapy in California and New York, it just depends on what you’re needing. And while we certainly service Asian American folks, we also work with individuals from other cultures, too. So, whether you’re needing support in overcoming anxiety, burnout, trauma, or PTSD, we can help. Likewise, we serve teens and couples in need of support, too. So when you start online therapy with us, you can bring your whole self, including past struggles, cultural impacts, and more.