Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

The Challenges of Dating

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

The Challenges of Dating

Article excerpt

Dating during residency is a job unto itself--one that I didn't expect to balance alongside my long and frequently odd hours of work. To make matters worse, I happen to be in a field where the examination is almost entirely through conversation, involving probing questions, where maintaining calm and strength is important in the face of patient stories that often tear at my heart. Then, on a date (first or otherwise) I spend more time listening to another person's stories while trying hard not to interpret the information through the perspective of my profession. To orient my older readers, I primarily date using the Internet and dating applications. There, my profile names me as "Resident." This title is unassuming and unintimidating. Resident of what, potential suitors wonder, while examining carefully curated pictures of travel to exotic places and of me smiling happily with friends. I swipe right and left, matching with people, chatting digitally at first, and, if there is mutual interest, arranging to meet in person.

I get a different reaction every time I tell a date I'm a psychiatrist. It seems each man has his own expectations of what it means to date a psychiatrist. This column is a shout-out to all the physicians, and especially psychiatrists, who have been single while practicing, required to pretend our work is just like everyone else's. Because the truth is, our work is different. How can one really describe the goings-on at a psychiatric hospital to a potential partner? Or deal with fatigue that accompanies listening to emotional suffering while at work and then needing the energy to commiserate with the person across the table?

Two personal dating experiences highlight these challenges. Some time ago, I went out with a guy for just 2 weeks. It was nice, but not what I wanted, so I broke it off. His response to me: "I thought you really understood me. You seemed like you wanted to know me. Only a psychiatrist could be so cruel." I didn't think I was cruel, and I don't know how well I understood him--or why he got that impression. Perhaps I do ask more intense questions earlier on in conversation than others might? Indeed, my profession requires accessing deep truths about people's lives in a short period of time. After a day of hearing these real stories, I don't want to exchange small talk. I want to know the person I'm sharing a meal with.

The second experience prompted this column--a recent breakup with a man I really felt and thought I could be with. …

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