In honor of mental health awareness month and in the spirit of oversharing, which I have the tendency to do, I have invited my therapist/sex therapist, Lamarr Lewis, to discuss how our mental health shapes our dating experiences. To make it in this new dating era one must be mentally and spiritually equipped with the proper tools. To stay grounded you better hold tight, I mean real tight–like super grip tight, to your self-confidence and joy. Over the years therapy has helped me unpack all things, good and bad. The goal, for me, is to do the data dump on the therapist and not the unpaid (friends, family and men I am dating). Firstly, I want to do right by me and then I want to be able to show up knowing that I don’t need this other person to feel whole, complete, loved and worthy. We declutter our closets, now let’s declutter our dating lives.
I interviewed Lamarr about dating, the pandemic and maintaining one’s sanity (mental health) in the process.
Kenya: Most of your clients are men, but you do have several women clients like me. How would you describe your approach to therapy in general?
Lamarr: I believe that we as people are perfect and good as we are. My job is to affirm the perfection that is already there while raising awareness to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that go against that perfection. I am not here to fix anyone, because that implies something was wrong to begin with. What I do is come alongside others to help them heal and recover whatever they feel they have lost in their lives and clarify what they stand to gain.
Kenya: As a community (Black community) why is it important for us to access behavioral health services?
Lamarr: Because we are notoriously underserved. Due to many historical and cultural factors, we do not seek nor find behavioral health services. We need access because our wellness is not a luxury, but a necessity.
Kenya: I re-entered the dating world last summer, after a 3 year break. It’s been exactly a year. I have shared with you many dating stories and how hidden underneath the surface men are struggling. Most resistant to therapy. It’s as if they are carrying this invisible backpack filled with their traumas, pain, resentment and anger and with each conversation, date after date, they unpack all those emotions without even realizing it. We’ve all been there but I feel a heaviness in people that I didn’t feel before my 3 year hideous. Is it me or do others feel this shift in the dating world?
Lamarr: There is certainly a shift happening. I find that due to the rise of social media, these echo chambers of negativity are manifesting in our community. And they are growing louder and louder. People are perpetuating misinformation and due to confirmation bias, others are believing it. In my opinion, it is creating a large divide between men and women as it comes to dating.
Kenya: Do you think the pandemic has had a negative or positive impact on courtship/dating process?
Lamarr: I think it has had both positive and negative impacts. On one hand, it has shown people what they really want to get out of life and by extension, their relationships. It’s forced people online to date and further diminished the need for face to face interactions. I’d also say that any existential crisis i.e. the pandemic, will have a negative impact on people as a whole and on dating specifically.
Kenya: How can people mentally and spiritually equip themselves with the tools needed to maintain a healthy mind and spirit while dating in this new climate?
Lamarr: “Know thyself” I believe spending time to really learn yourself is the best thing you can do to maintain a healthy mind and spirit. Understanding your likes and dislikes, past traumas, boundaries, etc. will only help as you interact with other people. This also will help raise your awareness of what you want and what you don’t want in a potential mate. Continuing to develop yourself will not only help you make better dating choices but you will also bring your whole self into the relationship.
Kenya: You expressed to me that I currently have dating fatigue, I am burnout. Pooped. Yes, me the one who takes pride in my skilled flirting and first date successes could easily go into another hiatus. I have always been the one who enjoyed dating, at least I used to, but the creativity and thoughtfulness is fading to black. I have gone on some REALLY fun and beautiful dates, I want to bring that back into the dating experience. What advice do you have for people to keep the newness and the dating process fresh and creative in this era of dating apps (aka virtual speed dating)?
Lamarr: This is a great question. Similar to my previous answer, knowing yourself. It’s the same as in a long-term relationship. Knowing what you want to get out of the dating experience, can inspire you to look at the process with fresh eyes. Many times, we go into dating with the end goal in mind i.e. marriage or a long term relationship. But there are so many steps to take before you get there. What do you know about yourself? What do you want to learn about them? What experiences can we have where I can learn more about them and myself? How will these interactions deepen our potential relationship? Asking the RIGHT QUESTIONS will help to keep things new and fresh as you go through the dating process.
Kenya: When is a good time to ask the “right questions?”
Lamarr: As far as when to ask? I’d say the best times to ask is as soon as you see there is potential to be more than casual. Not a first date, that may be too intimidating. But when things go beyond surface interactions for sure. Probably before you get physically intimate.
Thank you Lamarr! Lamarr is my second Black male therapist, having a male perspective can be helpful at times. Regardless of race and/or gender, finding a good therapist can be just as hard as finding a life partner. You may meet with a few therapist before you find one that really works. So, don’t give up if it’s taking a while to find the right “fit.” If you are having a hard time click here for a list of therapy resources on my site.
This hopeless romantic, no matter how long the hiatus I will always show up for love. More importantly, I have learned to show up for me and to take dating, like the AA 12 Step Program, one date (day) at a time. No future faking, just seeing where this dinner, coffee, conversation, old fashioned (cocktail) or dance will lead me. Whether dating or not, take care of your mental health. In the words of my homie Kenny, “don’t let your overweight luggage make you miss your flight.” Lighten that load, fam!