Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Approach new guy as a friend first, not potential life mate
Boston: After a nasty psoriatic flare-up, I'm left with terrible scarring in some pretty intimate areas. Twice now, this has inhibited my ability to get intimate with guys I'm dating — not because I'm particularly self-conscious about it, but because it freaks/grosses them out. And that IS destroying my confidence.
Short of joining one of those dating sites for people with skin conditions, how do I feel out a new partner to see whether he'll go running when he finds out?
Carolyn: I'm sorry, that's a tough break. In almost all cases where there's an appearance-related setback to the normal course of dating, the best way to find someone who won't go running is to be friends first.
That's not something you can just decide to do today, obviously — it's only a little bit of choice and a lot of fate. But you can orient your thinking differently, and stop thinking of finding a mate in terms of meeting, dating, falling, happily-ever-aftering. That process is a lot less linear (and a lot less effective, in my humble opinion) than people make it out to be anyway.
Instead, you think in terms of living your life and making friends and meeting people through the course of your favorite activities. The people who get to know you as a person before regarding you as a romantic prospect are the ones who are going to see any scarring as secondary, if not completely irrelevant. Way more romantic than prince meets princess.
Self-improvement is fine idea, but don't obsess about flaws
D.C.: I just met someone special and look forward to getting to know him. I'm nervous that I'm going to mess things up. I'm not very good at "dating." I divulge too much too soon, I'm overanalytical, confused about intimacy, etc. I know my issues won't be resolved overnight, but I'm afraid this one will be scared off while I'm working at it.
Carolyn: Maybe it's not something he'd put into a personal ad, but a good guy for you will be someone who loves that you are "not very good at 'dating,' " "divulge too much too soon," are "over-analytical, confused about intimacy, etc."
And he won't be "this one"; he will be, just, Bob. "This one" screams "latest attempt of many."
Look around at all the couples you know — there are people who are grumpy, or neurotic, or bossy, or a little too smart for their own good, or a little too dense, and people who are sloppy, or just-so, and sports fans and opera fans and overeaters, and, well, somebody loves them. It's not your job to keep yourself perfect. It's your job just to be you.
Anonymous: Re: D.C. I do think she is right to work on these things. We all have the ability to try to channel ourselves differently and work on our less attractive aspects. Not to do so is just plain smug.
Carolyn: Smug only if she thinks she's too good to improve upon. I agree she's right to work on these things — as long as it's an effort to like herself better, not just to get men to like her better. A slim but significant distinction.