Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I am a 29-year-old woman. I am very passionate about all that I do in life. That includes "first dates." I'm aware that it is not always a good thing to show too much to a man, or come on too strong too fast, because it may turn him off.
I don't know what to do anymore. I've been dating for a long time now. I've gotten hurt, and once had a broken engagement close to my wedding. I am scared to open up too much. I don't think that it's me showing too much emotion, rather me being too strong and aggressive to start. I think it's partly a defense mechanism to protect myself from getting hurt.
Meanwhile, I am turning off and rarely getting past a first date. What can I do to end this cycle and find myself that great man out there?
It seems that all of the negative experiences you've been through have led to your being in a real dating rut -- too unsure of yourself, not knowing anymore how to act on a date, and even sabotaging your dates so that you won't get hurt again.
The good thing is that you have started to realize what is happening and are beginning to understand the unproductive pattern you've been falling into. If you're willing to put in the effort, we believe you can definitely get out of your rut and turn your dating experiences into positive ones that will lead to a good and healthy marriage.
Our first suggestion is that you get a notebook and pen, and spend some quiet, private time writing down your thoughts about your dating experiences over the past few years. When did you start changing from being very open and perhaps coming on too strong, to being too quiet and subdued? When you went on dates, what were the expectations you had before you went out with someone new? What went on that led or didn't lead to a second date? What did you do or say that may have discouraged your dating partner from asking you out a second time? What would you have wanted to do or say differently?
Think about what occurred, how you felt, what you said. Write everything down and wait a few days to look over what you wrote.
When you read over what you have written in a stream of consciousness, see if you can identify any patterns in feelings, words and behavior. You might be able to see what feelings triggered certain actions, or that you unwittingly keep reacting to certain stimuli in the same unproductive way. When you start to understand what you have been doing and why, you can start to focus on solutions.
Another suggestion is to do some reading to help you understand what you've been going through, and how to change your dating style to something more positive. We suggest the books, "Emotional Unavailability," by Bryn C. Collins, and well as "Keeping The Love You Find," by Harville Hendricks. Shaya Ostrov's "The Inner Circle" suggests a 7-step method to help you open up to a dating partner and build a strong emotional connection over time. If you find a method that sounds comfortable, try to adapt it to your own dating style.
Our last piece of advice is equally valuable. We think that you, like many singles we know who have been hurt a lot in the past (and even singles who haven't), would benefit from the support and encouragement of a dating mentor. We have trained mentors in several U.S. cities and in Israel, and if you live near one of those cities we can recommend someone to you. Or, you can find a happily married friend, rabbi, neighbor, or relative (but not a parent, who will be too close to be very helpful) to be your sounding board and hand-holder, and can dispense practical advice. We have found that dating mentors are excellent resources, especially for someone who has gotten into a rut.
We hope this has been helpful, and wish you the best of success,
Rosie & Sherry