This conversation is a part of my world, almost every week. People who are breaking up often wander into my office, and inevitably it comes down to the conversation that no one who is freshly single really wants to investigate too thoroughly, with someone as brutally honest as yours truly. When you are in my clutches I do not filter. Ever. Any of you who have worked with me are welcome to share your stories in the comments section.
Some counsellors will ask you “and how does that make you feel”. Every class in Master’s level psychology assumes the role of a counsellor to be that of empathetic and boring mirror, paid to help you realize you already know the answer deep inside your precious heart. I don’t do that. I’m getting older and I’m sick and tired of pretending I’m normal so clients either like the process of they see someone else. This sounds like the height of arrogance but I’m wearing my counsellor hat as I write this and some of you know what I mean. I’m not filtering for my ego as I write this.
It works for some people. People do not pay me to play with my gloves on, and it was never my wheelhouse to begin with. Those who continue to let me buy them coffee are a particular bunch. I am not for everyone. That comes off as self-glorifying but I mean this, and those of you who know me know what is coming next, I mean this in a purely “Counsellor Scott” kind of way. Normal dude Scott would not usually invade your space so fully, I am even shy in some social settings. Counsellor Scott can be a dick. Counsellor Scott, when working with teens, is just plain weird.
There are times in life when it is important to have someone who isn’t afraid to pull off the bandaid of your subjective reality, someone who won’t judge you. Practitioners in my field are all about that liberal mushy crap. When people tell their psychologist, “here’s something you haven’t heard before” they really don’t know what society’s secular priests hear on a daily basis. We are paid to hear your worst nightmare.
As usual, I just went on a tangent. Back to our original conversation. Let me set this up for you.
You come to my office, and you’ve been separated for 2-5 months. You’ve met someone, and nothing has happened, but you are definitely getting ready to rumble. In every single one of these conversations people, hundreds of people, eventually get around to the question we’ve all been waiting for – Is it too early for me to date?
I’ll save you a ton of words and tell you that the end of this paragraph is going to end with the words “damn straight”. With few exceptions, it is too early. There are exceptions (to literally repeat what I just said but in a way that tells you I’m about the say the exact opposite) but that only reinforces the truth. Ending a relationship that has been your whole world for 10 or 25 years has profound emotional consequences, though those consequences differ wildly depending on if you are the leave-r or the leave-e. That’s an entire article on its own. Any of my colleagues can tell you that people are far less objective in those first months, and yes, years than they believe at the time. Damn straight.
When my life fell apart I was categorically insane. Leaving a relationship messes with your mind, and your body. Moving in with someone, or throwing your heart at Mr. Fabulous No-faults, is typically a faulty decision, and I believe I have the data to back that up. Simply put, time heals and you are almost always more deluded about yourself when you are in crisis than you want to believe. Don’t do it.
This article is not called Great Advice That All My Clients Follow. The simple truth is that in all my years doing this gig I can probably count on half a hand the people who have followed that choice little piece of advice. Chime in here clinicians, we have seen thousands of patients who have been psychologically traumatized by the death of a dream dive into the heady world of romance and infatuation because, and this is the real story, nothing temporarily heals a broken heart like someone who wants to touch you in fun places and tells you that you are one in a million. Isn’t that the best thing in life?
There are dozens of reasons I could give you, but it almost never matters. Vulnerable people are just that, vulnerable. They are prone to impulsivity, eager to fill those holes in their hearts, indescribably susceptible to unhealthy relationships and emotions in a barren wasteland that has been their lives.
Here’s another hurtful tidbit. Sick attracts sick. Do you really want to attract someone who is as vulnerable, as recently broken, as emotionally dysfunctional, as you are? Healthy people are far less likely to date a deeply troubled and needy trauma victim than you might think. Take what is likely the most important decision of your life then rip your heart apart and mess with your feelings and cognition and grief and a hundred other painful words. Now go ahead and make the most weighted decision you will ever need to make. Don’t forget to mix in a bunch of broken relationships and hurt feelings and angry relatives. Add the incredible stress and poop storm that every break-up brings, those added bonuses called lawyers and fights about money and selling your house and kissing off half your friend. Recipe for a fruit salad.
When you look at this from the outside it’s a no-brainer.
But it doesn’t really matter, you won’t listen anyway. It’s not your fault, blame your neurochemistry. Those tortured neurons that you depleted for months and years are starving for some love, and you deserve to think of your own needs for once. How many of us have spent years without real intimacy and can barely imagine being in lust again. Bring on the dopamine.
You really do deserve to think of your own needs for once, and the best way you can do that is to spend that time with yourself, sans another person upon whom to focus your substantial energy. There are lessons that I learned single which are not available to those who move from relationship to relationship. I can just hear some of you saying right now, “I’ve always been in a relationship. I can’t be alone”. Deal with it. This is the route back to emotional wholeness. Spending time alone will teach you lessons you simply cannot learn when you are emotionally attached to someone you are attracted to. This is not really my opinion, it’s common knowledge that we all agree to in theory but have difficulty employing when we are horny.
You are better than that. As Milne said, you are stronger than you know. You deserve the time it takes to remember what it was like to be autonomous. You do not need to be defined or dictated to by something outside yourself. As I have often said, as cheesy as it is, don’t date until you don’t need to. Refuse to fill that hole in your heart with the emotional succubus that is rebound love. Realize that your amygdala is firing like a cheesy western and ask someone who isn’t afraid of you to be brutally honest; and hear them out without interrupting. Don’t inflict the mess that is your life on to another hurting individual or, god forbid, a healthy person who doesn’t deserve your dysfunction. Simply put, you will be attracted to different traits when you are unhealthy than you will be when you know who you are and what you want out of life.
Take a year. There I said it. Give yourself the time you need to become a better you. This is an amazing opportunity to redefine your life, and taking on the baggage of another person is not what you really need right now. I don’t care if this person is special, do you have any idea how many times I have heard that garbage? How can you know what you want when you don’t even know who you are? And if you are into dating guys you need to know that you have a big and obvious energy right now that is going to attract the wrong kind of action. I’m sort of a guy and I can tell you, we’ll became anything you want us to be if there is a chance we can wake up in bed with you someday. Men on the make are pigs and nothing says open for business like an emotionally needy potential friend. I care about how you feel. Really. Your last partner didn’t really talk about their feelings? Well let me tell you, I could listen to you talk all night. People tell me I’m almost too sensitive, I just really want to connect with you on an emotional level. You buying this?
Enough ranting, I don’t really mean it that way. We all know what that loneliness feels like, even when you are with someone else. Who doesn’t want to ravish someone again, or be ravished? There are few things in life that compare to that wonderful time when you first fall in infatuation and call it love, and before you realize how much of a moron that person really is. Romance is intoxicating, bring it on.
You are more amazing than you know. Most of us are. We are prone to self-criticism and overly hard on ourselves, and making you feel like crap isn’t my schtick. At the end of the day you really are worth getting to know. Have some fun. Go on some dates if you must but don’t give your heart away. Make more time for friends and kids and eggnog lattes and go do something crazy. Buy a kayak or go skydiving or visit Romania, and spend your dopamine on things that will build your self confidence and heal your soul. Spend the time, you deserve it.