What can affect relationships?

Our experiences affect how we think and act

All the experiences we have help us to learn to manage our lives and to recognise and avoid danger. If something upsetting happens to us several times, we often develop set ways or ‘patterns’ of thinking and acting, to defend us from it happening again.

For example, you go on a date and someone is unkind to you about how you look. Later you go on another date and at the end the person declines a second date. You decide this is because of how you look (because that’s what happened in the past). You then decide that you have had two bad experiences and you don’t want to go on any more dates.

Your feelings on the second date are an assumption based on what happened on your first date (the person being unkind). There can be many reasons someone declines a second date – personal circumstances or not feeling a connection. I am sure if you went on 10 dates you wouldn’t want to see all of the people again, but that is what dating is – trying it out, and getting to know if that person is the right fit for you.

I was so nervous about dating, just the thought of having to turn up and the first thing they would see would be my face – and the fact that I did in fact look different. I have been on quite a few dates now, and some have been ok, some have been dreadful – one was because I just did not find the other person interesting at all and they talked about their money all the time. I declined a second date. On another date, I just didn’t feel that we had enough in common, and despite him asking for another date I declined. I have also had people decline a second date with me, reasons being that we didn’t have enough in common. Despite all my fears no one has been unkind to me on a date, and I suspect those who would be are in the minority. People are on the whole generally good, and polite. I still don’t really like the thought of dating but when I’m there I generally feel ok, if not sometimes a little bored!

Kerry

What happens when two people meet?

It gets more complicated. When two people meet, both have past experiences and, therefore, think and act in certain ways as a result. All this will affect their interaction with each other. Consider the situation below:

Ben is at a friend’s party. He notices a woman he finds attractive on the other side of the room. His automatic thought is, “She’s too attractive to notice me. Why bother, she’ll never be interested. ” While he was busy thinking about this, Ben fails to notice that Alina has looked over at him and smiled. Instead, he turns away from her, avoiding any eye contact.
Seeing Ben turn away, Alina thinks that Ben is not interested in her. She turns back to the conversation she was having. Ben looks again and notices her turn away. He sees this as a confirmation of his original thought that she would not be interested in him.

Think about how you might feel when you meet someone you find attractive for the first time. What do you think of first?

  • Do you automatically assume they are not attracted to you?
  • Do you worry about rejection? Do you think they are looking at your condition?
  • Do you feel self-conscious?
  • Are you nervous or defensive?

If you are feeling worried, self-conscious, nervous or defensive you are likely to behave differently than if you felt confident. For example you might avoid eye contact with people, move out of their way, struggle to speak to them, or walk away if they approach you. If someone did these things to you – what would you think? It’s likely that you would think they were unapproachable and not interested. This would then make you less likely to approach them.

What might be happening for the other person?

Think about the other person – what might they be feeling? Many people feel uncertain about how to behave when they meet someone with a visible difference for the first time. Perhaps they’ve never met someone with a visible difference before. They may be surprised or shocked, and yet, natural curiosity can mean they want to look at you. They might be worried about embarrassing you and themselves. Whatever the reason, their behaviour is often awkward and clumsy. Some people may even avoid you because they just don’t know what to do.

The other person’s behaviour could lead you to think that they are either not interested in you or, worse still, repelled by your appearance. You might think they are staring at you in an unfriendly way, rather than a curious or interested way, making you feel defensive or upset. Whilst all this is understandable, try to step out of yourself and consider what might be going on. What are your assumptions and feelings? What might be going on for the other person? This might help you to overcome the initial awkwardness and encourage you to be brave and try to start a conversation with the person – starting with a smile is always a good opener.

You might also like to look at the self help on Managing Worries about Dating

Managing worries about dating

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Let’s talk about sex

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