Wisdom from Online Dating and Waiting

Wisdom from Online Dating and Waiting

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Doctor Neha: Hi, everybody and welcome. Today is going to be a little bit of a different a video because I have asked Andrea, who’s my editor—hi, Andrea—to join me.

Andrea: Hi, Neha.

Doctor Neha: So for those of you who liked TalkRx, you can thank Andrea because she was an enormous part of helping me with that. Today, I got online with Andrea because I had my own questions that I want to ask. Andrea has so graciously agreed to do a video blog, which, by the way, she has never agreed to do in the three or four years I’ve known her.

I want to ask you a question, Andrea, and get your input because we all learn from each other in different arenas. I am embarking on the online dating world, which has just thrown me for a loop for many reasons. For a long time, I made the excuse, “I speak publicly, so I can’t be doing online dating.” But the truth is that it scares me a little bit. It’s a little nerve-wracking, and I find that I’m not acting like myself.

You know me really well; you’ve seen me through my meltdowns over the book and you know a lot about me. It feels so much more natural at our age to meet people in person for real, rather than online or through texting first. The funniest thing is that I was thinking of making my profile read: “47 and on Bumble exactly as I planned it.”

Andrea: I like it! We should use it as a subheading somewhere in your writing.

Doctor Neha: Okay. You’re going to write that one down [laughter].

I have been doing this online dating as something to learn about myself. Who am I in my forties? So this was a little experiment for me—how do I meet new people in a new town? I’m in a new place. So how do I open up myself and learn what I do well and what I don’t in this dating realm? And so you have had more relationship experience than I have—and I would very easily argue are more successful at it than I’ve ever been.

Andrea: That’s how it appears at the moment. But we’ll see…

Doctor Neha: So I wanted to ask you about dating. I was texting this guy, and I enjoyed texting him. We didn’t even talk on the phone or meet in person or any of that stuff yet, but I could tell I was starting to like him. And I need a lesson on patience! You seem to have so much patience. So I want to know, how do you do that? How does one allow for patience and let go of expectations—especially in love? I can do it many other arenas of my life, but love is the one that I’m really working on. So I wanted wisdom from you.

Andrea: Well, that’s an interesting question—that you put it in terms of patience— because you probably remember that at the time when I met my current husband, I was pretty slow. At least I thought I was pretty slow. My mindset was I’m not going to get into anything too fast. I want to take my time; I want to enjoy it. And ironically when we met and were getting to know each other, he was a lot slower than I was. So I think that’s what you’re referring to as patience. But I don’t know if it was. I mean, it was patience to a degree, but I had an interesting context for it. The previous several years had been incredibly hard and several bad things had happened relationally in my life. So as I was coming out of those situations, I was so aware of anything good that came along. I was so aware of good things happening that when they happened I really thought, Oh, I just want to enjoy this for right now and let it be whatever it’s going to be because this may be it.

So my perspective at the time was about being in the moment. Hey, this guy asked me out. He seems really enjoyable, so I’ll go on a date with him and enjoy it as just that, a date and nothing more. Part of it was some hesitation on my side, and part of it was enjoying getting to have fun and interacting with someone without strings and expectations. There was some kind of freedom in the enjoyment of those moments. So if it was a date, if it was some texting back and forth where he was being funny, I enjoyed it for what it was right then. Now I did find myself kind of getting to the point of wondering whether we were gonna actually get together.

I remember realizing that there are so many times when I feel slow in a relational setting so if he was slower, I wanted to let him have the time that he needed to not feel rushed. Because I knew how it felt to feel like I needed to rush or someone else wanted me to rush. I’d been in situations when I wasn’t ready but someone else was ready, whether work or romantic relationship or a family thing. So I felt that it would never hurt to take as much time as possible, but it could definitely hurt if I tried to rush into all of it. I don’t know what reminded me of that idea, but I felt like I had this reminder on a regular basis of you’re not going to lose anything by rushing—and you have everything to gain by taking your time.

Doctor Neha: So, Andrea, my belief system is along these lines: “Oh my God, you better not lose this. You better act now. If you don’t, something else might come along, and it might actually go a different direction that you didn’t expect. You might lose something or miss out.” As soon as there’s a moment when I have an inclination that I might actually like a person—it’s usually if they’re funny, witty or playful—it makes me uncomfortable. And in that discomfort, I start thinking, You’re not allowed to break my heart. So I better find out what’s going on here and who you are. And I better not like you too much because then I don’t want you to leave. So it’s an interesting place to be, and I want to know: Where did you drop off all those expectations and buy all that patience, like at Costco or something? I mean how did you do that?

Andrea: It’s in the back corner on the top row—and it’s very expensive! [laughter]

Doctor Neha: I need to let go of some expectations and not worry about it and be more patient. You actually have this belief system underneath that believes you’ve got nothing to lose by taking your time. And here I am thinking, I could lose this if I don’t hurry up. Somehow, I believe I am the one who is gonna make this happen or not happen, you know?

Andrea: Well, that’s interesting. Do you think that’s actually true, that you’re the one who has to make it happen or not happen?

Doctor Neha: In my life when bad things have happened to me, even when I was young, it’s true. Like I lost a boyfriend when I was young because I was afraid that he was gonna leave (as young as going off to college) and so I started hanging out with someone else to make sure that I wouldn’t be alone. I wasn’t doing anything with this other guy, but my fear had overtaken me. I’ve lost things that are good in my life…you know that my uncle died when I was 10. I was really angry with him before he left on his plane and then it crashed. And I remember thinking, I bet it was because I yelled at him. I have always personalized bad situations and made them about me and that puts a lot of pressure on me.

Andrea: That makes sense. You do something and something else happens that makes it seem like those two actions are connected. I guess that’s a good question to ask. For me, what I realized out of my previous experiences, which were traumatic relationships, was that the outcome didn’t depend on me. It couldn’t all depend on me. There was me, there was the other person, and if it was meant to be, there would be some divine providence that we would be together or not be together. So I believed certain things would happen. If I didn’t believe there was something else beyond my own choices and how I was acting and who I was being, then it would depend only on me. Yet I had had this experience previously that made it very clear that I was not in control of every single person in my life. Nope.

Doctor Neha: Even though we desperately try to be!

Andrea: Exactly. And that’s really the issue because even when I did start dating Casey and he finally got to the point where he was ready to be in a relationship with me, I realized that I had the choice, he had the choice and there was also that unknown factor of providence outside of us. So in thinking about the purpose that our lives were going to cross and whether we were going to mesh for a time or forever, I was really hanging onto that belief—which helped me realize, “Hey, if I do something silly or stupid or annoying, it’s not going to make or break this relationship. This relationship will be about everything I do and everything he does and that other spiritual factor that I really have no control over anyway.

Doctor Neha: If it was meant to be, it’ll be. And relax into that. I mean, how silly of me. I’m thinking, I’ve got to do stuff. I can’t let this go. What if I make a mistake? It’s so self-focused, you know? And I’m hearing a couple things: just how important our belief system is that shapes us. For instance, underneath your actions is that belief that taking your time can’t hurt, but rushing can. And I’m the opposite in love. Even though it’s not like I do that in everything or in my other relationships. I have a lot of self-trust in other areas.

But in this one, it’s interesting. I’ve stayed away from it for a long time. And as I embark on it, I am starting to notice parts of me that are scared and parts of me that feel awkward or unfamiliar. And why am I making it all about me? There are multiple factors that go into whether something is supposed to be a lesson I learn in this lifetime or not. And I’ve got to surrender to that. That’s the big takeaway that I’m getting.

And maybe this person is one of those stepping stones, one of the places where I learn about myself and how I show up. Or what you’re saying is if it’s right, you’ve got to let it go and it’ll circle back around when the learning has happened and the ex-girlfriends are cleared and someone seems like the right one. At the end of all these talks, you know, how we come up with takeaways and in our newsletters? What would be the takeaways here?

Andrea: I was thinking there is probably a question that may go with it. What is it that really trips you up? Or what is it that really contributes to your fear? Because then once you realize that, you can look at timing and expectations and…

Doctor Neha: Patience!

Andrea: Yeah, and trust. Are you really trusting yourself? Are you trusting that there are also other factors beyond you?

Doctor Neha: You know what that does is it takes all of the pressure off me. It’s not me who’s going to mess this up because I think that’s what relationship is about: learning and growing and doing take-two’s. Somebody’s either going to find that endearing or they’re going to have to like me enough to have a conversation—or not.

And if it’s a “not,” then I should trust that answer—“Thank you universe for saving me from a lot of pain!” Because it would probably be a lot more pain with someone who’s unavailable, not ready, not interested enough in me. I know these things. It’s just that love is a different game when you’re in it. And it’s easy to have hope of it working out in my favor. I think another belief that is underlying this for me is this belief that I need to get rid of that love is rare, that finding a connection to somebody else is rare, and if I don’t hold onto this one then another one might not come for a long time.

Andrea: Where does that belief come from?

Doctor Neha: My life! Maybe like five or seven times in my entire life have I actually felt connected to someone who felt connected to me. When I’ve gone through maybe 25 years of dating, and it’s happened five or seven times in my life when I’ve actually been drawn and attracted to somebody. It’s the story I’ve made up. But maybe I can make up a new one. What if my new story is now: “I’m older; I know who I am; I know what I want. I’ll recognize this person more easily and hopefully from here on out.” Maybe my heart’s open now, and it’ll happen much more frequently.

Andrea: Do you remember what used to tell me when we first met and started working together and I was not at all open to any relationships now?

Doctor Neha: No, tell me.

Andrea: You used to say, “You just need to open your heart. Just be open to feeling the emotions. Whatever comes up, if it’s excitement, if it’s fear or nervousness…” It freaked me out. I would rather stay in my brain, analyze people and situations and have an answer. And you were the one telling me, “Come on and open up to the heart a little bit more.” That really was the beginning for me. And it sounds like in some ways it’s the same for you.

Doctor Neha: Dating at this age is just so different. It’s rocked my world a little bit on a level that sometimes I don’t even recognize myself. So we’re going to chalk it up to learning and growing. And here’s to everything we teach and write about that we use ourselves to get through these challenges. I’m really grateful that we can have these kinds of discussions and we’re willing to be open about it. I want to say thank you for getting on Vimeo with me and doing something new for you and allowing me to ask you my questions.

Andrea: You’re welcome, and thank you for all the learning and input that I’ve gotten over the years on all the topics we’ve worked on.

Awareness Prescription for Dating

  1. Identify your underlying beliefs about being in relationship.

  2. What story have you made up about love? (A drama? A comedy? A nightmare?)

  3. Recognize that your role in a relationship is only one of several factors that determine its outcome.

  4. Identify the preconceived notions that hold you back. And then let go of them!

  5. Trust yourself, be curious and open your heart to learning and growing (no matter how long the relationship lasts).