I may as well admit this from the start. In addition to being an introvert who absolutely adores her alone time, I’m also quite the hopeless romantic. This combination of attributes sets my head and heart up for some intense emotional gymnastics, especially in today’s dating world.
I’ve been single for a while now. In part because it took me some time to move on from my last relationship and in part because I feel so at odds with the dating scene. I guess I fall firmly in that I just haven’t met the right person boat.
I do believe our experiences unfold as they are meant to, and people enter our lives when the timing is right. But sometimes I wish there was a jumpstart button I could use to contact the universe.
As I feel progressively more open to exploring the possibility of a relationship again, I’m struggling to put myself out there. Here are three struggles I’ve encountered as a single, sort-of-looking introvert in this modern age of dating.
(Note: not everyone uses “introvert” the same way. Here’s how we define introversion.)
Struggles of a Single Introvert
1. I don’t want to join Tinder. Like, at all.
Let me preface by saying I am not necessarily opposed to online dating. For many, it’s a convenient and fun way to seek out connections of all kinds. Admittedly, there are Tinder success stories for introverts and extroverts alike, but the whole swiping craze leaves me cynically amused at best and disheartened at worst.
As a huge proponent of organic experiences — and more of a dreamer than a pragmatist — part of me is holding out for that clichéd romantic moment when a random conversation struck up in a cafe or while waiting in line to buy bus tickets in a foreign country leads to a budding romance. Or maybe someone sees me sitting alone somewhere, as I’m often doing, feels compelled to talk to me, and we just never stop. This is probably my wistful side getting carried away, but I have to give that part of myself space to dream.
My struggle isn’t so much that I need the grand romantic story — I’d be happy with an ordinary tale and an authentic partnership built over time. It’s more that society seems to have given up on the whole idea. It’s like everyone’s heaved a collective sigh and decided that this is just how we meet people now.
I know online dating is supposed to be fun and not something that needs to be taken so seriously. But, as it’s become so normalized, with the lure of unlimited options just a swipe away, it’s hard to imagine finding what I’m looking for.
Not to mention, the idea of filtering potential partners based on a photo and a few curated messages, followed by meeting a string of strangers for dates, sounds unfulfilling and more than a little terrifying for this introvert (!).
2. I’m not really into casual.
I’m an all-or-nothing person. I either like someone and want to spend a lot of time with them right off the bat, or I don’t feel a connection at all and that’s that. There’s not a whole lot of gray area. It’s an intuitive sensation, one way or the other, and it often activates my introvert fight-or-flight mode.
When I feel comfortable with someone, I sort of wake up, and a sense of curiosity and interest overtakes me. On the other hand, if I don’t feel comfortable, the whole thing seems flat and I get uneasy fairly quickly. At this point, I experience an urge to retreat.
I’ve never done well with dating just for fun, because I tend to be too focused on meaning. The idea of casually dating a lot of people at once until one sticks is just not me. I find it rare enough for timing and circumstance to align, as well as a mutual interest to develop. Once it does, I’m sold.
There’s a lot of talk about not appearing too eager and keeping your options open. We are told not to take things too seriously until someone comes along that makes us want to get serious. Lots of supposed rules and ways to play. But, I’m not really interested in playing in that sense.
If I’m in at all, I’m in all the way.
3. I’m really good at being alone.
As much as I crave connection and intimacy, I’m typically most comfortable when I’m by myself. This has its advantages and disadvantages, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. But it does leave me feeling incredibly vulnerable when an intriguing person enters the scene.
When someone strikes my fancy (or I strike theirs), it’s almost like I don’t know how to handle the influx of sudden incoming — and outgoing — attention. I immediately get caught up in what it means and start imagining every possible scenario of what could come from our connection if it develops further, or how I’ll be affected if it doesn’t.
This can lead me to do one of two things. I either push through the noise in my head and show my interest, or I get overwhelmed, start over-analyzing, and retreat into my introvert cocoon because it’s easier. Sometimes I do both, which I know can be confusing and unfair to the other person involved.
Looking back, it’s fair to say I’ve missed out on relationships with people who might have been good for me, because I shut them out before things could get started. It’s something I’m working on, but it’s an aspect of my personality that’s tough to overcome.
As an introvert, I often need a gentle nudge — or push — to leave the coziness of my self-sustaining world. Much of my experience is filtered through my own tinted reflection, not spoken aloud or shared. But I want to share, to listen, and to learn.
Dating can be a dance of give and take, and there’s no way around it: You have to get out of your comfort zone. Knowing what you want is one thing, but opening yourself up to it presents a whole different challenge.
Moving forward, I’ll try to do my part, scary as it may be.
Psst. Hey Universe, whatcha got?
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Read this: 9 Secrets About Dating an Introvert
Image credit: @Leo via Twenty20