Dear Captain Awkward,
Dear Desperately Seeking Serotonin:
Congratulations: Your asshole filter is working! A younger, less savvy you might have put up with that guy’s gross advances and wondered what was wrong with you the next morning. Current You can see that the problem is with him. You leveled up.
My advice for you is going to be an amalgamation of other stuff we’ve said on the site. It’s mostly about working on yourself so that you’ll be in a good headspace when you do meet people who could be friends or dates.
1. Get a journal or use something like 750words.com. Do a lot of writing about friendship, relationships, family. When people have been good to you, what kinds of things did they do? How did it make you feel? When friendships haven’t worked out, what went wrong? How did you know it was going wrong? Did the wrongnesses have something in common? What did you do right and wrong in handling things? Write a few pages every day, and spend some time wrapping your head around what you want and value in relationships. Maybe incorporate some counseling into your life so that you’re not carrying old struggles so hard into new interactions.
2. Go forth and meet more people. Take a class in something fun and social. Use Meetup.com to find people who like a hobby you like (or one you might like to try). Volunteer with something like OneBrick. Pick a cafe near you and become a regular there. Whatever it is, make it something that you enjoy doing and that brings happiness to your life. Once you find something you enjoy, keep going back. It takes time and repeated contact to make a real connection with someone else.
Don’t make it goal-oriented: “Will you be my SHINY NEW FRIEND?” is too much pressure. Make the goal to get out of the house and throw yourself into something fun. Make the goal to talk to at least one person you didn’t know before. Commander Logic really knocks those early social interactions with potential new friends out of the park in this post. And all the advice on social interactions lives here, in the links and the many, many comments.
3. Decide not to date for a while. Give it a concerete end date, say, six months from now you will consider dating again but for now you’re focused on other stuff. And if friends/friendly acquaintances ask you out, be very direct with them as soon as possible. “I’m sorry, I’m not interested in you that way.” NOT “I’m taking a break from dating right now,” which sets the Nice Guys up to assume that the second you will be dating again you’ll be dating them. Be blunt, it will feel good, and if they get their anger all over you it’s confirmation that you don’t want them involved in your life.
4. Practice assertiveness and setting boundaries in small, low-stakes ways. “No, but thanks.” “Could you turn the music down, please?” “I won’t be able to make that a priority right now.” “Thanks for having me, I’m going to head out.” “Can you get this one? I paid last time.” “Can you text me if you’re going to be running late? It makes me anxious to wait for you and worry that we’re going to miss the start of the movie.” Sticking up for yourself is habit-forming and you will carry it into new friendships and relationships, which should cut down on your future asshole quotient. Also, watch how people react when you set small boundaries. Good people will behave with grace and show reciprocity. Unsafe people will whine and pressure you and try to talk you out of your boundaries.
5. Be really nice to yourself and to the people who are already in your life. Eat good food. Send a card to your grandma.Reconnect with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. Wash your face. Get enough sleep. Kick ass at school or your job or whatever you have going on. Read really good books. Spend your time as much as possible on things you enjoy and that make you feel good.
There’s no one cure for feeling lonely. It takes time and luck and effort. So put some effort into figuring out your own wants and desires, and into meeting people in pursuit of things that make you happy. Something good will shake loose before you know it.