A PTSD Recover’s Guide To Dating Online

Online dating is high on my vulnerability list. I haven’t dated in just over a year and the last time I did it was with a guy who was passive aggressive and scared me enough to recluse back into the hole I’d crawled out of. Now I’m venturing out into the new territory of online dating, and my my, what a minefield it is.

From a woman’s point of view we get inundated with messages, some creepy, some lovely but lots of them, often. From a guys point of view I’ve heard they get ghosted, preyed upon (hello cougars) and viscously demonised from women who’ve been hurt in the past (ouch, sorry dudes). Some of the online dating world seems to be a full on fight until the death. But some of us are ducking the bullets and waving the white flag as we search for authentic beings who are acting from their heart and not their ego.

Once out of the battle, things get even more confusing as we move into whirlwind of what seems like a dating world on speed. As one of my friends explains she’d gone from being in a relationship, to being dumped, to having a date, breaking up and then having a tentative date cancel and spring her back into the heartache of singledom all over again. And this was just one week. I don’t know what this is doing to our dopamine and cortisol levels but I can imagine that such fast paced highs and lows are unhealthy. Surely there has to be a better way to find love in these technological times? After much discussion and trying out various tactics we’ve come up with some guidelines to help create authentic dating experiences in what seems like an incredibly falsified arena.

  1. Slow things down

In the world of instant gratification that we now live in, it can be difficult to take things slow. Especially when we have that buzz of excitement when we find out someone who we like, is also interested in us. Suddenly we can race away with thoughts of our first date, and what they’re like and before we know it we’ve created a whole world based on a few pictures and some black and white text. An imaginary illusion created by our own expectations of someone who we’ve never even met before. Even when we do meet them, we can continue to race into the fantasy of what we’ve created without even knowing whether they’re on board. When we find out they’re not, our hopes crash and burn leaving us feeling dropped from heaven in a sad little mess. And over what? Someone who don’t actually know that well, but who we heavily invested in the illusion of. To escape the rollercoaster of these intense ups and downs the trick is to slow things down. This allows us to see the reality and take every message and meeting for what it is – an opportunity to get to know someone. It takes quite a while to get to know who someone really is and when it comes to dating it more important than ever to take the time to get to know a person, especially if we are looking for someone to share marriage and having children with. These big life decisions take a lot of time and energy investment so doesn’t it make sense to spend time collecting the knowledge to make an educated decision? Keep checking in with your feelings regularly to figure out if you genuinely like the person or if you genuinely like the idea of them.

You will only truly know someone if you take the time to get to know them truly.

  1. Don’t present an image of yourself, let them find out who you are

This is a tricky one because all the dating sites have an ‘about me’ section and this can leave a lot of temptation to describe who we think we are. Try to avoid presenting an image of who you think you are and instead let that person find out who you are. You know, like back in the day when we all used to meet up a few times over a long period and let each other’s personality unravel naturally. There was none of this ‘I’m this kind of person, and I do x, y and z’. Instead we just used to have conversations about stuff and hope that we had something common to chat about (given that we’d probably like the look of each other if we’d already been drawn to conversing). Stick to talking about the things you do in your life and what you like. The person on the other end will start to figure out who you are based on your attitude and your actions. If they like what they hear/see they’ll stay, if not let them go and move on to the next. If anything that’s the beauty of online dating – lots of variety right at your finger tips.

  1. Focus on the experience, not the results

Online dating is not a transaction. It’s not like we’re at a cattle market measuring up the animals against our never ending check list of what we’re looking for. As a western society we need to step away from this idea that there is this perfect result at the end of the game for us, whether that is the house, car and 2.4 children or any result in fact. Online dating, like all of life’s lessons is about enjoying the experience regardless of the result. Have a laugh with it and take it for what it is – a place to meet, converse and potentially find a person to enjoy new experiences with. If someone doesn’t message you back, try not to get upset over it. If someone messages you who you’re not into, tell them ‘thanks but I’m not interested’. Yes it’s a shame when we hope to find love instantaneously and it seems like we’re not getting anywhere fast but focus on enjoying the experience and the journey will seem shorter.

  1. Have fun and show your playful side

Imagine this, you’re in a bar and there are some sexy people who you like the look of at the opposite end of the room. Some have stern faces and seem to make snide comments at people who approach them. Some are smiling and laughing, generally having fun and looking approachable. Some are staring right at you with needy looks on their faces, longing for you to approach them. Who would you go and speak to first?

Personally I’m going to approach the smiling, laughing fun group, because they look like fun to hangout with. Well, online dating works on the same principles – people will approach you based on how approachable you seem to be. Obviously this is subjective to each person but for me this starts with a smile, because to me that shows that the person is enjoying life, because if I’m going to spend my time with someone then I want to do it with someone who would add to my life not take away from it. I also like messages from people who sound fun and approachable too because it makes me want to converse with them, rather than questions that make me feel like I’m being measured up against a check list. I think like this with my own profile too, fun pics of me doing things I enjoy and light hearted conversations that are usually full of banter. You’ll always attract what you put out, so if you’re not getting the type of responses you want, start with looking at what you’re sending.

  1. Don’t take things personally

People will always bring their own shit and most of the time they won’t be aware of it. We all have our own shit. Them, you and me too. The trick is to try and be aware of it so we don’t bring it to the dating table and to also not take it personally when it heads our way. That’s not to say that we should accept maltreatment or not call people out when they treat us bad (if you’ve read any of my other blogs you’ll know that I’m the first to call out low moral standards). What I’m saying is that it doesn’t do us justice to attach our own self worth on the opinion of others, especially someone who we barely know. We live in a culture that judges quickly based on little information and on the battlefield of online dating there are some twisty daggers at play. Negativity and resentment can build up pretty quickly if we take every little thing personally, so don’t take it on board and move on to someone who sends you the kind of messages you do want. Eventually you’ll attract the person you want with the positivity you shine out.

To really step into authentic online dating, it helps to take it out of online realm as soon as possible because you will only start to really know someone when you know how you feel about them. You know when you get that subconscious inkling of ‘it just feels right’ or ‘something is a bit off here’. This doesn’t mean violating rule number one and running into a dating scenario fast. It means gathering more information in a face to face situation so that your subconscious can pick up on things that your conscious might not, then you can be more true to yourself.

This isn’t the easiest guide to follow in the world, and as with all my blogs it requires a great deal of self awareness and mindfulness. It is achievable though and there are authentic and conscious people using online dating platforms,with this guide I hope you find them. Happy searching.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

 

When Saying No Has Consequences

The topic of consent has been popping up in my life quite recently. It’s been sparked off by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which is all over the media and even though I don’t follow mainstream media the story somehow infiltrated my life. This, in turn, ignited the #metoo social media campaign which has then sparked off a lot more conversation, around sexual abuse, consent and a certain kind of negative sexual behaviour which is so often dismissed that it’s unfortunately it’s become a normality in our culture.

Firstly – it’s about time we started talking about this because it’s been underground for far too long. In fact, it’s so underground that a lot of people can’t actually believe it’s a thing at all. It’s not their fault that they don’t believe it at first, in reality most of us go through life viewing our personal perception as the general experience of all. To someone who would never dream of sexually abusing someone else, they may therefore assume that none of his friends would either, thus deeming that the reality of this happening is relatively small. Unfortunately this perception isn’t reflective of the experience of a lot of people, and anyone who has experienced sexual abuse will know about the shame and guilt that comes with telling the story. They’ll also have probably experienced firsthand the judgement that comes when they tell people, the questions that automatically assume that the victim is at fault: “What were you wearing?” and “Were you drunk?” were two common questions that I was often asked when I first told people that a man had voilently attacked me to try and rape me. So is it a surprise that we don’t feel comfortable to offer our stories at the dinner table, let alone reporting it? Because of this, these stories aren’t shared as common knowledge, they’re kept inside and suffered in silence because most people don’t feel safe enough to even voice them with their closest friends and family. If you’re reading this and still think that it’s not an issue, then start listening to the conversations of those around you and in a non judgmental manner* start asking people for their stories, what comes back might just widen your perception.

As this story has unravelled, and in the conversations I’ve had especially, I’ve found myself explaining the concept of consent frequently and it’s seems to be something quite misunderstood. There’s some really great public campaigns creating awareness about how important consent is, one great one in the UK which explained it in a metaphor of offering someone a cup of tea and that you wouldn’t force someone to drink a cup of tea against their will if they’d already said ‘no’ – you can imagine the humour in this with a nation that is so polite with the treasured ritual of the famous ‘cuppa’. What it seems to miss out though, is the issue of consent when one person is in a position of power, which they could use against the person with less power if they don’t get what they want. Quite often in situations where sexual abuse takes places there is a power dynamic which is being abused, be it physically or like in the Harvey Weinstein case – the power of one person’s career prospects. To me, consent isn’t just about saying no. It’s about having the opportunity to say ‘no’ without consequences.

Consequences such as the other person reacting negatively like becoming dismissive, moody, even ending the relationship and all that has been built to create it so far.

Consequences like losing out on something external of the situation that a person has worked so hard to achieve, like a career, an opportunity or their reputation.

Consequences like personal safety, that if the person with less power doesn’t just give in and give the person with power what they want that things might just turn that little bit nasty.

I’m not saying that we need to have sit down discussions at length prior to having any sexual encounter because I know how these things arise and nobody what’s to spoil the mood. But what I am saying is that the vulnerable person in the sexual dynamic (the one that has the least power) has to feel safe enough to say no if they choose to and that it’s up to the person with the power to create that safe environment. The only way we can do that is by having this conversation about sex, safety and what consent actually means to us as individuals. And I don’t mean “What do you think about this Weinstein scandal” conversation starter in the office. I mean talking in depth, to those people close to us about the vulnerable details of our own experiences and what makes each of us feel comfortable and safe. Talking to those who we know would have had different sexual experiences from ourselves. If you’re a man, talk to a woman. If you’re straight, talk to someone who has had homosexual or bisexual relationships. If you’re monogamous, why not talk to someone who’s polyamorous? It’s only by widening our perception that we can learn more about the world and other’s experiences, and it’s only through sitting through the discomfort of others painful stories that we’ll start building up compassion within ourselves.

We need to start reflecting about our experiences too. Think about those times that you’ve had sex and it didn’t quite feel right – why was that? Did you not actually want it to happen? Or maybe you pushed yourself on someone and they gave in because of that? If you’re unsure can you open that conversation with that person and get some home truths aired? Don’t beat yourself up for something you weren’t aware of at the time though, because it’s not product to wallow in guilt. Just use this awareness to apologise and rectify the situation if you need to and change your behaviour going forward.

Without this kind of open awareness, reflection and compassion we’re not going to be able to create the respectful and safe world that we all deserve. So keep talking, keep challenging your own opinion and most of all listen, compassionately.

*A non-judgmental manner means to react neutrally to the answer that is given, regardless of how you feel. It means to allow space to listen, receive and for that moment sit in the awkward discomfort with the other person and feel what they are actually feeling. I write discomfort because that’s what it is at best, at worst it can be shameful, upsetting or deeply crushing. It is your obligation as the receiver to listen, without comment as someone expresses what is probably extremely difficult for them. And if you still don’t understand what that means then you obviously need to do some more reading.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Hailey Kean on Unsplash

 

Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Abuse When We ‘Should’ Have

As a Brit watching the media coverage of the US presidential debate, I’ve found myself quite shocked at the allegations and accusations. But nothing has surprised me more than the lack of compassion towards the women who have come forward to report claims of sexual abuse from Donald Trump. The most outrageous thing I’ve witnessed over and over again is the questions fired towards these women demanding why they didn’t report the abuse sooner, or why they didn’t report it to the police.

From someone who has been assaulted in a violent attempted rape, I know firsthand why victims don’t report the abuse when they should or could have and I’d like to give those who haven’t been in such a situation some insider information.

  1. When you’re emotionally charged, you don’t act rationally

It’s so simple for someone on the outside of the situation to tell someone what they should’ve done, during or following a traumatic event. However, the thing that is constantly overlooked here is that when we are emotionally charged, our brains function differently. The emotions literally take control and rational thinking goes out of the window. It’s easy for a rational thinker to think ‘how can I get justice in this situation?’ or ‘what is the appropriate method of reporting this?’ But once someone is threatened, they are no longer in a rational mindset.

They feel vulnerable, scared and most likely have some form of survivor guilt. These overwhelming emotions often lead to one main response: Get away from the situation. That means getting away physically, mentally and emotionally. It means not revisiting it, not talking about it and sometimes not even acknowledging it for years. So when these women are asked why they didn’t report the abuse in the wake of a traumatic situation it’s because that would have required the rational thinking part of the brain that they didn’t have access to.

  1. You Will Be Shamed

I remember watching the reactions of the people who I confessed to – that I had been attacked. Amongst the huge disengagement and avoidance I received, I also had the following questions:

‘What were you wearing?’

‘Were you drunk?’

‘What were you doing? ’

All these questions focused on my actions of the evening, as though I must have done something to invite such an aggravated response from a man. It was as though people thought I was walking into a lion’s den waving around a large steak to provoke him to pounce on me. The thing is that men aren’t lions, they are conscious humans who have the ability to control their behaviour based on their judgement of what they think is right or wrong. Even if women did go about waving their bodies around as provocateurs, are we responsible for the men who can’t control their animalistic advances? Personally, I think that in a conscious and civilised society men should be able to control their urges, and I think that we should expect this collectively too.

Unfortunately this isn’t the case. As the Trump campaign has demonstrated if someone comes out about this kind of mal-treatment they can expect to be publicly shamed and ridiculed. Is it any wonder that no one came out until one person had the courage to take this one? Then once one person had spoken, everyone came out of the shadows to tell their own stories. It’ been the same for all public sexual abuse stories – Bill Crosby, Jimmy Savile (UK), everyone was silent until one spoke. Then, everyone came out even though it was sometimes decades after the event.

In order to encourage change of this kind of predatory behaviour, our culture needs to approach these kinds of claims without judgement. So if someone tells you a story of abuse, stop and think about the situation before you ask questions that could infer it’s their fault. No one deserves to be abused and they shouldn’t be shamed for being a victim of it either.

  1. You’re out on your own

Most victims go internal after being abused, convincing themselves it was their fault and that they brought it on themselves. This is because we live in a culture where the acknowledgement of abuse means that difficult emotions will have to be aired. There will be shame, guilt, blame, upset and fear that are horrible to experience and as a society we avoid these emotions at all costs. However, this avoidance in-avertedly advocates this rape culture, allowing it to continue unchallenged. I don’t believe that this is done maliciously, instead, I think it’s the fear driven subconscious trying to evade difficult emotions. However, for a victim who is already experiencing their own traumatic emotions, the last thing they want to feel is avoided by others. That makes the decision to tell someone extremely difficult because by doing so they are risking community isolation. Maybe if we lived in a society where abuse victims were treated the same as victims of ill health then this might be an easier decision, but that’s not the case. Until this changes, victims of abuse may stay silent for years in fear of being outcast from their community.

  1. There are repercussions

To be any kind of whistleblower takes a tremendous amount of courage, especially when blowing it on someone who has fame, power or is a person of influence. Victims of abuse are going out there on their own to report shameful behaviour against someone who probably doesn’t want to admit wrongdoing. That means they’re probably going to deny it viscously at all costs – by attacking back at the victim. A vulnerable, shaken and abused person doesn’t want to create more drama, especially not if it means it will destroy their career, family status or personal reputation. When they’re going up against someone who has a louder voice and bigger audience than themselves they have to consider whether or not speaking out is worth it at all. This decision can be toyed around with for years until victims finally get the courage to voice the event. Sometimes it can take a trigger or their abuser gloating, or taking it a step too far. Sometimes it can take someone else to speak out first and acknowledge that they’re not the only one. Sometimes it’s when they’ve conjured up the courage to face the pain, shame, isolation and repercussions that speaking out will incur.

To change this culture we need to create a supportive environment so that reports can be aired without judgement of the victim. We need to connect with our own emotions and feel what it must have been like to be abused in that situation before we comment. We need to stop this ‘them vs us’ perspective and instead see each other compassionately as human beings.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x