Loneliness has existed since the dawn of time. I frequently receive questions from lonely individuals wanting to know how to connect, and how to find companionship, intimacy and love. Lonely men ask me, “How do I talk to women?” Lonely women ask, “How can I find a good man?” Regardless of your gender or gender identity, you may struggle to find a loving romantic partner for a variety of reasons, some of which I have outlined in my book, Intimate Connections.
Although dating can be an incredibly stressful, disappointing, and time-consuming hassle, there are tremendous rewards for those fortunate enough to connect and develop an intimate relationship. So today, we address some of those issues.
Our special guest today is Dr. Matthew May. He is a former student of mine, a good friend of David and Rhonda, a regular on the podcast, and a loving wonderful man. Today, Matt brings us a wealth of information for those interested in improving their dating lives, based both on his clinical work, as well as his own experiences overcoming social anxiety, falling in love, and being in a loving relationship.
Matt begins with an inspiring reminder of why we would go through all the trouble, stress and disappointment inherent to dating, highlighting some of the rewards that await those who are persistent, including how good it feels to be understood, accepted, loved and cherished by someone who feels the same towards us. His words are beautifully poetic and inspirational. He also provides some common-sense guidelines for individuals who are interested in dating, so they can do so safely. We then delve into more psychologically complex and personal matters.
Here are Matt’s tips on maintaining safety when you are dating someone you don’t know for the first time–for example, it might be someone you may have met on the internet. Although these tips are primarily for the protection and safety of women, they may also be helpful to men who are dating.
1. The first time you meet someone you’ve met on the internet, meet in a public place, like a restaurant or coffee shop, where you’ll be safe.
2. Use your own transportation. Don’t let someone you’ve never met pick you up, because then you’ll be vulnerable in case things don’t go well.
3. Tell someone you know where you’re going, and when you’re going to return.
4. Get to know the other person as much as possible. What does s/he do, who are his or her friends, and so forth.
5. Don’t provide any identifying information, including your date of birth, to anyone you’ve just met on the internet, as you could be vulnerability to identity theft. Sometimes the most charming people are scam artists.
6. Listen to your intuition. If you have a creepy feeling about someone you’re thinking of dating, pay attention to it. Something might be “off” about the other person.
7. Don’t drink too much, as you could become a victim of date rape, especially if the man slips a sedative chemical in your drink.
8. Give (or ask for) consent prior to any touching.
Matt emphasizes that emotional vulnerability is the price tag on intimacy, and this can be frightening because we all naturally fear rejection. Matt defines emotional intimacy as being seen as our true and vulnerable self, so we are accepted for who we really are. He talks about how most of us have a deep yearning for this kind of relationship, and yet struggle to be vulnerable and open in ways that make intimacy possible.
Rhonda, Matt and David describe the delicate balance between game playing–which can be crucial in the early stages of dating–and vulnerability, which can lead to a meaningful and lasting relationship. Some people try to skip the game-playing stage, thinking it is too superficial, and try to jump right into vulnerability the moment they meet someone they like. This often leads to rejection. People like to have fun, and you don’t always have to be “heavy” or overly “sincere.”
But too much game-playing can leave you feeling lonely as well. I describe a patient I once treated who was almost unbelievably successful in the dating arena. You might even say he was an incredibly effective womanizer. But he felt tremendously lonely and anxious on the inside. He was handsome and charismatic, and got tons of sex, but wasn’t really happy.
Matt describes another common barrier to successful dating, especially in men: entitlement and anger. He says that he, like many lonely men, used to think that “women should like me the way I am,” and “I shouldn’t have to put on airs to date.”
Years ago, I pointed out that Matt was not dressing in a very sexy way, and suggested a change might be in order. Matt insisted that he shouldn’t have to, and that women should love him just as he was!
I asked Matt to fantasize about his ideal woman. Matt described a woman who’s looking terrific–great clothes, nice hair, makeup, and so forth. Then I pointed out that most women are looking for pretty much the same thing–a man who dresses well and looks his best. I urged Matt to get a good “sex uniform” for dating–in other words, get some great, sexy clothes and look your best–it can make a tremendous difference.
Rhonda and Matt discuss the fear of being alone, which is one of the great barriers to finding love. Overcoming the fear of being alone must be done first; then dating will become far easier because you will no longer be needy.
The Neediness Problem–telling yourself that you NEED love to feel happy and fulfilled–can drive people away and lower your attractiveness. That’s because of the Burns Rule:
People NEVER want what they CAN get,
and ONLY want what they CAN’T get.
So if you’re needy, you’ll be desperate, and you’ll be what people can get. Then they won’t want you. Life works like this on many levels, and not just romance. When you think you need something, it eludes you. When you let go, and no longer “need” that thing, it tends to come to you.
When you discover that you can be completely happy when you’re alone, then you won’t “need” a loving partner any more. This will put you in a much stronger position, and people will be more attracted to you because you won’t be so needy and available.
I can show you how to overcome the fear of rejection and the fear of being alone in the first section of my book, Intimate Connections. Although it’s perhaps one of my lesser books, it can be helpful if you’re struggling in the dating arena. Many people have told me that this book helped them find someone to love and marry after years of frustration and loneliness.
So, what’s the secret of sex appeal? Some people think it’s based on looks. Other people think it’s based on power, status, or wealth. Well, if you’re gorgeous, powerful, and wealthy, you will find that dating is a lot easier because lots of people will be attracted to you. But those are not the secrets of sex appeal, and they do not guarantee a successful marriage. I have treated many people who were gorgeous and tremendously successful, but they still suffered from severe depression and intense loneliness.
Matt and Rhonda reveal the real key to sex appeal for individuals of any gender or gender identity: self-confidence. This is pretty basic: if you think you’re hot, you’re hot. And if you think you’re not, you’re not.
When you’re feeling depressed, lonely, and insecure, developing self-confidence and sex appeal might seem impossible, but we are convinced that the magic of sex appeal and happiness can happen for pretty much anyone. For those who are interested, there are lots of step by step tools to help you achieve greater self-confidence in Intimate Connections.
Matt describes how I helped him with his own social anxiety when he was a psychiatric resident, and how his love life suddenly went from rags to riches. One of the techniques that helped him the most was when I gave him a homework assignment to do “Rejection Practice.” This exercise helps you get over your fear of rejection. I asked Matt to collect 25 rejections from attractive women as fast as possible, so he could confront this fear and discover that life still goes on after rejection. You will be entertained and charmed by his delightful and surprising story.
Dating problems and social anxiety have always been my favorite topics because of my own fairly severe social anxiety when I was a young man. In addition, when I was in clinical practice in Philadelphia, 60% of my patients were single. Some of them were divorced, and unable to get into the dating game, and some of them had never found a loving partner in the first place. I just loved working with this population. it was so rewarding to help my patients find self-love first, and then the love of another special person.
In fact, that’s why I wrote Intimate Connections. I just love to show people how to overcome their shyness and “singleness” and get partnered up!
Rhonda, Matt and David
You can reach Dr. Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at email@example.com. She will soon be opening her new Feeling Great Therapy Center in Walnut Creek.
Matthew May MD practices in Menlo Park, California. He is on the adjunct faculty in the department of psychiatry at Stanford and practices in Menlo Park, California. Although most psychiatrists rely primarily on medications, Matt tells me that the majority of his depressed and anxious patients recover rapidly without medications as a result of his proficiency with TEAM-CBT. He is also a superb teacher and has a weekly online supervision group for mental health professionals interested in learning and refining TEAM therapy skills. You can contact him via his website.
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This is the cover of my new book, Feeling Great. It will be released in September of 2020, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon! If you pre-order it, this will help greatly in the ratings the day actually released.