Dating with social anxiety – what a massive head-fuck! Nothing is guaranteed to ramp up those cortisol levels more than putting yourself in a position where you will be automatically judged based on every single criteria that it’s possible to be examined by. Looking back, I don’t know how I ever managed to pull when I had anxiety! Beer and MDMA may have something to do with it. It certainly wasn’t my cool, calm demeanour and alpha male, take-no-shit ruggedness!
One of the biggest stigmas around mental illness is that it makes a person weak or that only weak people suffer from it. This is particularly the case for men. I know this because I’ve experienced it from men and women in different ways. Men of course, sometimes view you as “soft”. I believe the current terminology would be “delicate snowflake” or “cuck”. But I do think that this view does exist even amongst normal, decent members of society, not right-wing knuckle-heads with nothing better to do than hang around social media picking fights.
MY DATING DISASTERS
In terms of dating women, there was a short period where, after I’d begun to feel a bit more normal after stopping medication, I started to get out there again. I’d decided that if the subject was broached, I would be honest about my anxiety. I wasn’t ashamed of it. It didn’t affect me any more, certainly wasn’t a disorder. Boy, was that a mistake! The first date I went on, I mentioned that I had recently recovered from anxiety and it was as though all my masculinity had been sucked from every fibre of my being. The way my date looked at me, as though I was some poor, weak, wretch, was unsettling. It had the complete opposite effect I was hoping for.
I wanted her to think I was strong for overcoming adversity, honest and brave for opening up to her so soon. Instead, all I got was pity. It made me appear weaker not stronger.
Now I understand that it’s just one woman, one example. But I have others!
I actually clammed up after two or three dates using this tactic. In fact, I stopped bringing up past mental illness, period. But a few years later, it unexpectedly poured out of me during what I can only describe as the most glorious date I’d ever been on. We clicked instantly and I guess I allowed myself to get a little carried away. We had spoken online for a couple of weeks beforehand, very in depth conversations. So I felt comfortable confiding in her. It wasn’t something I blurted out after 10 minutes, like those earlier dates! But again, I made a huge mistake. I didn’t realise until a few days later, when she revealed that she’d been put off by what I said.
She said it made her worried about me being someone she might have to “look after”. She wanted a man to be strong and the fact I’d had anxiety, to her, made me….well, not as strong as she’d thought!
I want to add that these women were all successful, smart, articulate, professionals. They weren’t some ignorant, air-head I’d swiped right for in a drunken Tinder moment! This particular woman was a deputy head teacher at a secondary school. A self confessed left-wing liberal. So we aren’t talking someone stuck in the 1970s, with a penchant for rugby players, who still believes in fixed gender roles!
The gutting thing was, she said she fancied me up to that point. Whilst her opinion might not be the majority of women’s opinion, there is no doubt in my mind that if women such as these bright, modern, millennials had this kind of reaction to my anxiety when I didn’t even suffer from it any more, that it’s a very prevalent view.
ANXIETY = UNATTRACTIVE
But here’s the thing; I don’t blame them. At the end of the day, it’s only natural that we want to be with someone who has “got their shit together”. Could I honestly say that, in an ideal world, I would want to be with someone with anxiety? Of course not. For starters, I wouldn’t wish that on ANY ONE, let alone someone I cared about. And I’m 100% certain that priority is even greater for women looking for a male partner. You only have to check through a few women’s profiles on dating sites to see that many if not all of them want a man who is considered “strong”. The tall, dark, handsome stereotype is still very much common-place:
They want a large, dominant man who would be able to protect them if need be. Unfortunately that equates to “strong” in their eyes. As does being “solvent” and having a car and being taller than them in heels because they “live” in them.
If you think I’m going over the top, trust me, I’ve been online dating for YEARS. I’ve seen these statements more times than you would believe.
When I did have anxiety pretty badly, it was a massive turn off for most women. They didn’t know I had anxiety. I didn’t even know myself, the first 20 years of my life! But it was the lack of confidence that put them off. I didn’t understand this until I actually HAD confidence and all of a sudden, women stopped running away! As lack of confidence is pretty much a pre-requisite for an anxiety sufferer, I believe that it’s not so much the anxiety that’s the issue; it’s the lack of confidence.
I do think it’s different for men seeking women though. Whilst I wouldn’t choose to date someone seriously struggling with anxiety, if I met someone and liked them and they later revealed they had anxiety, I certainly wouldn’t ditch them. Maybe that was my mistake. Maybe revealing my past so soon did me no favours. But it was my past. I didn’t expect that to be held against me in the present. That’s why I think this runs far deeper for most women. I think the idea of mental illness and being weak is intrinsically lumped together when it comes to men and that automatically is a red flag.
My guess is that most men would not have a problem with it. In fact, that vulnerability and maybe the chance to “save” the woman could be very attractive. Whilst I don’t for one minute think these women I dated or whose profiles I read, look down upon people with mental illness, I do think it’s a case of “no problem with it – as long as I don’t have to deal with it”. Again, I have no issue with that. It’s their right to be with whoever they want to be with. But I do think it says a lot about the perception of mental illness and anxiety.
ANXIOUS DOES NOT MEAN “WEAK”
In my experience, the average woman would be wary of any man who had a brush with anxiety in his life. But here’s what women AND men need to understand; a breakdown, period of poor mental health, anxiety, whatever you want to call it does not make a person weak. In that moment, they will be low and down and unhealthy and sick. But they are not weak.
And if they have recovered from it, as I have? Then they are STRONG. Probably far stronger than anyone who has never hit rock-bottom. Because that is where you find out the true strength and character of an individual.
I can tell you that I am IMMEASURABLY stronger now than I was before my anxiety hit it’s peak. That’s because I learnt so much about the human mind and humans in general, as part of my recovery process.
I learnt a lot more about myself too. That I wasn’t some meek, shy, weak person. That in fact, I was outgoing, opinionated, outspoken. I wasn’t a “beta” male, a sheep happy to follow others. I was a leader; unafraid to stand up for others and take charge. But the thing is, strength isn’t about being an “alpha” male. It isn’t about being tall or loud or extrovert or broad-shouldered or solvent or a senior manager. Some of the loudest, brashest, biggest, most stereotypically masculine men are amongst the weakest you will meet. I have a friend in the cosmetics industry who met men like this almost every day.
They would come in for procedures, huge hulking body builders and sportsmen amongst them and they couldn’t even look him in the eye, they were so low on confidence. Desperate to change their appearance to gain the approval of others and validate their own self-worth.
True strength has nothing to do with appearance and we’d all do well to remember that. Truly strong people are those who fight hard when things don’t go to plan. They get back on their feet and press on. They realise that it’s up to them to make the changes required in their life to be a better person.
So what’s the conclusion here?
Well there’s no doubt that anxiety, past or present, isn’t considered an attractive quality in a man. I certainly don’t recommend revealing it on a date – at least, not the first one! In fact, I’d argue that it doesn’t need to be revealed at all. After all, if they like you, what does it matter? Anxiety isn’t YOU. You shouldn’t define yourself by it. At the same time, if it’s chronic anxiety, you may have no choice but to reveal it eventually. That’s a tough position to be in. But as someone who has overcome anxiety I can only say that it CAN be eradicated.
I personally, would not want to get into anything serious until I’d overcome it anyway. I’ve actually been in relationships with women when I was anxious. They never lasted very long at all and it was always because of my anxiety. I was either way too needy and paranoid or just didn’t love myself enough to be the type of person that was attractive to be in something long term with. But as long as you are working towards eradicating it, I think a reasonable woman wouldn’t have a problem. I did think those women I dated were “reasonable” though, so who the fuck knows!
All I know is that without anxiety, I consider myself a 100% better catch. The answer for men is to eradicate anxiety and build your confidence. It can be done. I’m living proof. Subscribe and grab my free ebook “How I Crushed Anxiety TWICE!!” to find out how I did it.
As usual, would love to hear your comments. Let me know what you think – would you date someone with anxiety? Would you tell anyone you dated that you have anxiety? Is it wrong to want to be with someone free from anxiety?
Please keep the emails coming too! Really appreciate you getting touch, will get back to everyone who takes the time to write.
You may have noticed I have my first ever video up on the blog. Check it out here.
And I have a guest post over on the blog “Not just Depressed – A Guide to Calmer Living”.