As per my normal disclaimer, this is really not a self-help article. I am sooo not in a position to be giving real life advice. I’m just hopeful that my barely coherent ramblings might resonate with some.
As a naturally shy person, dating for me does come with a particular set of difficulties. When you add anxiety to the mix, it becomes a hot mess.
Generally, people with anxiety will display two different types of behaviour when dating; overly dependent or extremely avoidant.
As a man (and a black man at that), society has told me to never show weakness, to avoid being vulnerable and certainly to never talk about my feelings. As such I have struggled to open up to potential love interests and have often come across as distant or avoidant.
Slow responses to messages (if I respond at all), seemingly unwilling to meet up and a very laissez faire approach to progressing the relationship. I demonstrated all of these behaviours whilst feeling the exact opposite.
The more I like someone, the more I’d withdraw. It was as if the possibility of truly liking someone, being vulnerable and opening up to them would literally cripple me with fear.
I was able to articulate how I was feeling in words. I could tell someone that I liked them and wanted to develop the relationship. But behaving like I meant that was virtually impossible.
[DISCLAIMER: I’m very aware this sounds like some fuckboy’s excuse. In no way am I absolving myself of any responsibility. I’m merely articulating my feelings and experiences]
It absolutely is true that when getting to know someone romantically, you should look at their actions rather than listen to their words. However the frustration of not being able to demonstrate to someone just how much you care is horrible.
I’m lucky that I’m relatively good with words. This meant that I was able to describe the internal conflict I was having. But in all honesty, there’s only one or two times I even had to describe how I was feeling. In all other cases, there wasn’t the desire on either side to hear my “excuses” and so the relationship just fizzled out.
On the occasion where it did matter, and I did miss out on a special connection because of my own issues, it was because of my insistence on dealing with my issues alone. Believing I had to first “fix” myself to be a worthy partner, all I was doing was further isolating the other person to the point where they felt their efforts were not worth it any longer.
I’ve come to learn the only healthy way to deal with mental health issues when getting to know someone or when in a relationship is to just be upfront about what you’re feeling. The fear of being a burden, especially as a man, is a very real one. And you even must accept that your issues may be too big of a cross to bear, but if you want any chance of maintaining a decent relationship it’s a step you must take.