General Social Awkwardness And Trouble With Dating Don't Always Go Together
The stereotypical image of a socially awkward person is someone who's shy and bumbling in their day to day conversations with classmates, colleagues, and strangers, and has an even harder time in their romantic life. They may be so nervous and inarticulate around potential partners that they've never been in a relationship or had any sexual experience.
If someone struggles in everyday conversations it's easy to understand how they could find dating even more difficult. Most of us feel the stakes are higher when we're speaking with someone we're attracted to vs. chatting to a co-worker. Dating also involves sometimes tricky subskills like flirty banter or reading body language for signs of interest.
However, social awkwardness and difficulties with dating aren't always linked. For one, there are plenty of people who feel confident and capable in most social situations, but have a harder time in their love life:
- They may get really anxious around people they're attracted to, but be comfortable around everyone else.
- They may feel fine about their general conversation ability, but lack those dating-specific subskills like flirting, showing their interest in an appropriate way, or knowing the right time to go for that first kiss.
- They may have hang ups and insecurities about their attractiveness to romantic partners, even if they realize they have lots to offer to friends and acquaintances.
That's pretty common, and again, most of us can wrap our heads around it. But what about people who are jittery and clumsy in regular conversations, but reasonably successful on the dating scene? That makes less intuitive sense. If someone can be charming and confident enough to have a love life, why couldn't they do a seemingly easier task like making small talk at their part-time job?
Here are some reasons:
- They're comfortable in one-on-one situations, like being on a date, but have a hard time with group interactions.
- Dates are fairly structured and predictable. They can handle them, but are out of their element in loose, unstructured settings like parties where they're expected to circulate around and mingle.
- They feel confident about what they have to offer in romantic relationships, but not social ones. For example, they know they're great at making conversation with people they're emotionally intimate with, but believe they're boring and stilted in light, casual interactions. Or they may be good looking, and realize partners obviously appreciate that, but know their looks matter less when it comes to making and keeping friends.
- If they date people of the opposite gender - They may have childhood emotional scars from their gender only. For example, a woman was bullied as a kid by the other girls, and has a hard time trusting and relating to women as an adult, but she has no issues interacting with men. Even growing up they always treated her well. So she can easily put her best foot forward on dates with guys, but feels guarded and tongue-tied around her female co-workers.
- Their style, interests, and values are less-mainstream. They can find people in their niche to date, but when they're out in the wider world they've been misunderstood or mistreated one time too many. They're wary and inhibited around the regular people they come across.
- They weren't always at ease with dating, but they simply had more motivation to get better at it. They really wanted a partner or sex life, and are more indifferent about having a ton of friends or getting the hang of chatting in a big group. They've put time into overcoming their dating-relevant fears and skills gaps. Maybe they'll get around to improving their more general social skills later on.
- They actually do feel socially awkward around dating, but they're in a position where other people will pursue them, so they end up in relationships. In regular social settings they feel like they're on their own. No one's going to take all the initiative to approach and befriend them, like in their love life.
- They seem like they're good at dating because they're in a happy long-term relationship, but if you ask them they'll tell you they just got lucky and stumbled onto the right partner back in the day. They're sure if they were ever single again they'd flounder on the dating scene.
If you know someone who does well for themselves romantically, but don't get why they're awkward otherwise, hopefully this article explained why. Or if you're feeling down on yourself because you have no problems finding people to date, but have a hard time in everyday conversations, maybe this piece helped clarify some things, and made you feel a bit better.