Dating While Anxious: Water Skiing, Cat Fights, and Ghost Boxing

the lighter grey outline of 2 human figures on a darker gray background, they look kind of like ghost people
Image by mer_m / CC BY

Have you ever considered, beloved other, how invisible we are to each other? We look at each other without seeing. We listen to each other and hear only a voice inside our self. The words of others are mistakes of our hearing, shipwrecks of our understanding. How confidently we believe OUR meanings of other people’s words.

Fernando Pessoa

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Anxiety shapes my life. Over the years, I’ve learned quite well to cope.

True, some days I feel like a water skier who won’t stand on their feet but won’t let go of the damn rope already. So it isn’t always pretty. But I’m high functioning. I drag myself through life.

And I find it impossible to really be close to someone who doesn’t get how anxiety works. Because one of the worst things when you’re struggling is to be judged. Either actively: “That’s weird, snap out of it.” Or passively, through the stunned silence. The slack-jawed stare.

Which means I tend to date people who also have anxiety. Or depression. Something going on that tests their resolve in a way that makes them more sympathetic to what I’m going through.

Psychological research has shown that when speaking of interpersonal attraction that the rule of similarity is king. We like those most who share much in common with us. Or to put it another way, the proverb “birds of a feather flock together” is far more valid than “opposites attract.” Opposites may attract ATTENTION, and people can become physically addicted to the adrenaline rush that can accompany constant conflict, but when it comes to true compatibility, you’re best off being with someone who is like you. Not identical, but differences should be complementary rather than adversarial in order to help balance the pairing.

So it’s no wonder that I find I connect best with folks haunted by their own ghosts. Their own issues.

The trouble with this, of course, is that personal ghosts are a lot of like cats. Sometimes you get a pair of spirits that get along swimmingly. Your issues line up in a way that works. But other times? It’s a turf war. Cat fights in the middle of the night.

What makes you so easily able to relate to one another can just as easily drive you apart. Especially if your anxiety sets theirs off.

I’ve walked into conversations where without any notice whatsoever I’m suddenly playing the part of their abusive ex-girlfriend, and they’re in the role of my mother.

It’s at moments like these when I want to step out of the scene. Walk off to the side. Watch our ghosts box. Forget about you, forget about me. And put my money on whichever fighter seems strongest.

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