“Hey Man” is a personal advice column about guys, by guys. Need help? Email HeyMan@vice.com.
Hey man, I had a real one toxic relationship and dating has been hard for me to navigate as every situation really gets to me. How can I change this?
Let’s get right into this one. Being part of a relationship that has bad vibes, whether it’s a little explosive or one that’s toxic or outright abusive, isn’t nice. It’s harmful, it’s stressful, and we shouldn’t wish that on our enemies. But they are not strange experiences. Fortunately, many people overcome them and things end well. This period will probably pass, but there are things we can do that will stabilize the rocky waters more quickly and help us navigate them better.
First, though, the word “toxic”: let’s get into it. For better or worse, social media and the way we talk about things today means that we end up using convenient keywords and phrases to represent vast expanses of emotions, feelings, and dynamics.
If by “toxic” you mean: you were both as bad as each other and shouldn’t have been together, then that’s fine, great, generally fine and happens often. But given that she was somewhat damaged by all of this, if it was getting closer to the abuse, be it emotional, verbal, or physical, that’s obviously much heavier. is it worth it talking to friends for moral support and, if necessary, contact professional counselors or domestic abuse helplines such as safelineto make sure you’re okay before you go out.
A very serious point, back to your general concern. After a bad relationship ends, and even after we’ve worked on ourselves to figure out what went wrong, it’s completely natural to be on edge when dating again.
“We get a little jaded after being hurt (it’s a protective habit, watching for warning signs and being a little more vigilant), but you want to address it before you get jaded or cynical,” says Stefan Walters, credentialed therapist by BACP. .
Simon Coombs, BACP Accredited Therapist and Founder of Working minds, echoes Walters’ advice to turn off your own negative thoughts and feelings around dating. “It makes men just say they’re happier being a single person,” she says. “It can lead men to end up being afraid to go out to the point where they’re lonely, and in some cases they mask their loneliness with anger.”
The fact that you’re writing to say you need a hand means you’re probably not going off that path, but it’s a reminder to keep the faith. If we shut down because we feel shit, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, being happily single without bitterness or bad thoughts is also very cool and good, but not if you secretly want to be in a relationship and feel more and more resentful.
These days, dating has changed dramatically to the extent that many of us have yet to make sense of the new world in which we live. “I have men come to me who have great anxiety and stress because they don’t really understand the rules of engagement anymore,” says Coombs.
Take the hyper-initial stages where you wonder how many hours after you match you should ask about a date, or those early stages where you want to escalate things but don’t want to scare someone off, for example. There are no rules for either, but I think: get to know them a little, but don’t leave it too long for the former (you’re both on apps for a reason) and ask nicely. As for the latter, I think I’ll at least go a few more weeks and ask them how they think it’s going in person, not over text.
If you’ve been out of a relationship for a while, the idea that things are radically different is enough to ruin the confidence with which you use a dating app or swipe into someone’s direct messages. Approach people in person all, but it never happens now, although if you have a genuine reason to say something interesting and thoughtful, and you’re in the right place to do it, there’s really no harm in asking.
In his experience, says Coombes, men are “increasingly afraid to go out to the point where they decide it’s easier not to, even though they want to, and despite the perception that men just escape these things, they really don’t.”
In these cases, we need to assess what exactly the problem is: are you falling in love with someone new who is basically the same as your ex, the person who was definitely not right for you? Or are you just afraid that this is turning into something that feels emotional and relationship-like, and actually, hey, that means commitment and that you have to trust them, and you’re starting to want to tell them in depth things you don’t tell people, and the last time you trusted and confided in someone, did they screw up?
“Having the courage to be open about it, both with yourself and with them, is key,” says Walters. If you’re spiraling, talk to a partner first for a sense check, then talk to that person. While having to consider all of this can affect your confidence, no one is perfect and there is no exact science. From the convos I’ve had, the bar is pretty low if you’re a cis het guy in the market for a cis het woman. Be kind, do it, and you might get farther than you think.
One thing to keep in mind: Are you considering what you need when approaching these situations with people? “Paying attention early on to what makes you happy is critical,” says Coombs, adding that “it will keep us from over-committing when navigating relationships, but it will also give us a sense of security in general.” . If we are in tune with ourselves, we are more likely to be in tune with other people. We need to be as happy as we can within ourselves, or at least aware of our own problems, before we try to be with others.
The reason we ignore this is that “we all want connection,” says Walters. “We are wired for connection. We are social beings, not designed to live in isolation. So obviously, no matter how secure we are within ourselves, we want validation, love, and reassurance from others. It’s easy for us to look for these things prematurely; it allows the insecurities of the past to creep in.”
In short, when the atmosphere is good, you will feel relaxed and safe. There will be an energetic and warm spark, yes, but also a feeling that allows you to relax and be yourself without any sense of having to perform. Be patient and open-minded and it will come in time; it’s a beautiful thing that we all deserve. The cruelest thing is that you often have to test the waters to find the person you can do it with. It’s like you’re in a temperamental shower, one where you shouldn’t focus on how you’ve burned, but on improving your temperature.
Learning to leave the past behind you is key When we feel more comfortable, we are better able to be present, stress-free and optimistic when talking to new people. That’s the formula for getting things right: being happy like a tall, lovable Hugh Grant in a Richard Curtis movie.
Of course, sometimes we will have to deal with not having the same intentions as the person we like: these things are fine, normal, natural. There are seven billion people, and finding the handful with whom we will have relationships of any kind in our lifetime will not be easy. But to find them, we have to make sure we feel good enough to take them in and get the ball rolling, and if it stops, you just get it back in play.
The world considers this a bleak concept. But really, isn’t that what life is all about? Make stuff, learn more, have some stories for the boys, move on. What I’m saying is that we all have to learn to be happily single and enjoy the journey a little more. The rest will fall into place from there, even if there are a few bad patches along the way.
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