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Some thoughts on dating, self-esteem, and optimism

I've been having some really bad luck in the dating department lately, including two pretty hurtful rejections over the past four months. This is not going to be particularly well thought out, but I just want to write my thoughts down and try to put into words how I am feeling. So here goes.

I broke up with a long-term partner three years ago and since then, I haven't really had a real relationship, although I've dated a lot. My ex was abusive and it fucked me up and I've been working through that shit. The first man I was involved with after I broke up with my ex was an alcoholic bastard who treated me cruelly - we had been friends for close to a decade and had been involved on and off during that time. We picked back up when I was single again and it ended badly. This happened while my ex was still harassing and stalking me. It was a dark time. I was wrecked. Since then, the longest I've been with someone was about five months, but that was a casual relationship. I've dated quite a lot, but it just never, ever works out. Mostly, we never get past the first or second date and it's usually me who isn't feeling it. But the few men who have broken through and made a really positive impression on me - people I felt a real, genuine connection with - have ultimately rejected me.


These days, the rest of my life is pretty much under control. Generally, I'm in good health. I've made some huge strides in healing from my ex's abuse. I moved to a new city two years ago and I love it here. By most accounts, I've been thriving. I'm just baffled and frustrated and mired in self-doubt when it comes to relationships. Dating is really fucking with my self-esteem. I feel like I'm not "unwell" mentally right now, but I am hurting. If that makes sense. I want someone to talk to about this stuff, but I question whether I need actual therapy because my problems seem so...mundane? Like I'm just going to be told that I'm fine, because I'm not a totally non-functional mess? Like they aren't "real" problems?

I don't want to hear platitudes about how I'm awesome and I just need to keep trucking. I can't give up on myself, but I don't see things changing. I am scared that there is just something...wrong with me, but I don't know what it is and I can't figure it out. The thing is, I like myself. I genuinely do. I think I have value and I deserve respect. I know my own mind and I'm not afraid to be myself. The abuse that I went through has only helped me grown stronger and know my boundaries better. So it's confusing and hurtful to keep getting rejected by the people I feel a strong attraction to.

People who know me very well, who have seen me at my worst and my best, who are brutally honest and unafraid to mince words to spare feelings, have told me that they see literally nothing wrong with me or the way I conduct myself. So I feel impotent, and scared that nothing will ever change. I genuinely enjoy meeting people and sharing stories and forging new relationships, but I am growing fatigued with the constant cycle of disappointment and hurt. I can't change who I am and I can't figure out how to do things differently. And I have no idea how to maintain optimism in the face of this. I badly don't want to lose my capacity to be open and hopeful. It's one of the things I value most about myself. How does one hold on to hope when it just seems like nothing ever works out?

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