“I can’t stop dating. Seriously, I just can’t stop. My last long-term relationship ended almost two years ago and since then I’ve been on a perpetual hunt to find a new mate. I’ve met a handful of guys over that time that seemed okay but no one has really captured my heart in a way that I would’ve hoped for. I’m starting to become concerned about being too obsessed with finding a partner. I’m 31 years old and I spend almost all of my free time outside of work scouring online dating sites in hopes of finding Mr Right. All of this can leave me feeling depressed and overwhelmed but I just can’t seem to stop the search. How do I make sure I don’t miss out on the right guy but feel less consumed by the process?”
Often people falsely assume that the “one” can only be found in magical moments of serendipity. As a busy and hard-working guy, it would make sense that you would take advantage of the plethora of online dating tools rather than leave it all to fate. To take matters into your own hands as you have is, by no means, a misguided venture. The unfortunate news is that you seem caught in a compulsive pattern that is overwhelming you and eclipsing all of your precious free time.
Anytime we find ourselves in a trance-like state, engaging in an activity for oodles of time, and ultimately feeling shitty, it’s a sign that addictive behaviour is at work. At the heart of most addictive patterns is a desire to experience a mood shift. Drinking alcohol, buying things we don’t need or obsessively hunting for romance are all likely to produce euphoric states that momentarily shield us from the more painful stuff we’d rather not acknowledge. Your job will be to investigate what feelings you are avoiding like the plague (or, more likely, Kesha’s new single). With time, you will have to learn how to identify, listen to and soothe those feelings instead of making a dash for your MacBook.
A committed loving relationship is a truly worthy pursuit, but your sanity matters much more. Your letter reveals what sounds like a pretty big fear of singledom — which may be one of the feelings you’re running away from by frantically perusing the online man-buffet. There’s a good chance that, even before this particular dating frenzy began, there have been other ways you have sought escape in the past. With the help of a therapist or some good old self-help books, you can start to regain control of your impulses and establish a healthier relationship to the love-hunt that doesn’t hijack you or your livelihood.