I am no longer single. But my years of dating and struggling with my love life will forever be a part of me. And I truly thank the Universe every day for finally delivering me from that space of singleness. It was hard and I don’t wish the struggle on anyone. That being said, I now know that it’s survivable if you have the tools and support system to navigate the crazy single space and project yourself in a positive direction. For many years (upwards of ten), I was not moving in a forward direction, but rather in more of a cyclical, repetitive, unproductive direction. Once I finally snapped out of that spin, I still had work to do. But, it was much more positive work, and much more fruitful!
PANDEMIC DATING DISCLAIMER
I write this post on New Years Day, 2021, and I understand that dating during a global pandemic is insane! However, when I imagine myself single during this time, I realize this might be an incredibly cathartic window of opportunity to attempt to date in a really productive way, that would not even be possible during a non-pandemic existence. In the dating world, sex confuses everything just a bit. And the pressure of, and focus on sex can really take away from the heart connection you should be looking to make with someone.
If I were single during this time, I would most likely attempt to make genuine connections with people online. And if and when I came across someone who seemed kind, interesting, and open, I would suggest a socially distanced, friendly meeting. Perhaps in a park (even in the winter, I would bundle up, and make the effort to sit in the cold for 20 minutes getting to know someone), and just see how it goes. One could spend weeks or months getting to know another person without the pressure of physical contact (dating isn’t all about that!), but rather building a trusting, respectful, and kind rapport with someone. At a certain point, if I felt really ready, I would consider physical contact, and perhaps suggest getting rapid COVID tests if they were available.
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I could go on and on, but for now, let’s get into the list. I love lists. Here we go, in no particular order…
I think if I had more people tell me that dating sucks, when I was dating, I may have felt a little more relieved. And I may have perhaps given myself more of a break. Instead, I often received the message that dating was fun. “Dating should be fun, and if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.” Let me be clear that the kind of dating I’m talking about is the partner-finding dating. I suppose if you are young and you aren’t looking for a partner, yeah, I guess dating could be fun. But, when you are single and you are done being single and just want to find a mate to settle down with, DATING SUCKS. You are not alone, and it’s totally normal if sucky dating has been your experience. Don’t give up. It’s just a necessary evil.
DATING STORIES FROM HELL
I had a haircut for the first time in two years the other day. And my hair dresser was telling me a story about her single friend. Her friend, let’s call her Gigi, is 42 now and struggling in the dating world, poor thing. So, Gigi had a friend who tried to set her up with someone she knew. Gigi and this new man had spoken over the phone a few times and things were moving along nicely. Then she had a Skype date with this man for the first time. And when she signed on to “meet” him, he was in the middle of masturbating (to her face? to the idea of her? to a picture of her?…!!!).
Yeah. Dating sucks. I know this story is extreme. But I think you could pull any woman aside and ask her to tell you a horror story during her dating years, and she’d have one to match.
DON’T GIVE UP JUST BECAUSE YOU HAD A TERRIBLE DATE…OR 20…
This doesn’t mean you should stop dating. I know it’s crazy to keep going after the horrors that we all experience in the dating world. But just keep going. Get a sense of humor about it if you can. That was always hard for me. Because I wanted more than anything to find a mate, so don’t tell me not to take it seriously, right!? But some of these crazy stories are just so crazy they are laughable.
Dating is just awful, I know, but hang in there, and know that it will be worth it. You are actually not the exception. And if you keep trying, you WILL find someone. Even if you feel like you are the only pathetic person in the world who can’t find someone. I always felt that way. But being with someone, if that is what you want, is your right as a human being. So just hang in there. You deserve it!
MAINTAINING OUR POWER IN THE DATING WORLD
When I was dating, I struggled a lot with my power. There are so many messages in society that tell women, both directly and indirectly, that our power is unattractive and threatening. We may not have ever even been told this directly, but we absorb these messages all of the time, and many men (and women) in our real lives, can reinforce and validate this untruth.
Even something as subtle as a woman expressing her opinion about something in a direct or confident way, can invite a reaction of “Whoa, calm down,” or something along those lines. That seems like a subtle and harmless response, but often, I would feel an extreme amount of shame after receiving a comment like “Whoa, calm down.” I would think to myself, “Shit, I’m too emotional, I was too strong-willed there, no man will like me if I’m a bitch,” when in reality, I have a right to say whatever I think and have my thoughts respected.
But we learn really quickly that it’s just better to come across as passive and agreeable. A man can even say he loves a strong-minded, confident woman, but once he’s actually confronted with her, unless he is really confident within himself, he can project all kinds of disrespectful defenses to send a woman back into herself, ashamed and confused.
IT’S OKAY AND GOOD TO SAY NO
NO. Say no to all of it. If a man was perfectly nice, but you just didn’t like him, you can say no. Or, if a man was a dick and treated you like shit, you can (and should) say no. If a man was awesome, but you aren’t ready yet and want to move slowly, you can say no. The BEST way to find a good man is to test the NO waters with him. If and when a woman says no, the way a man responds to that no is invaluable information. A good guy will respect your no, will not push, and will care more than anything about your comfort level. A good man will actually feel horrified at the thought of possibly making you uncomfortable.
Please don’t say yes when you really want to say no. I know it’s hard. I said yes when I really wanted to say no for years and years and years, and it just doesn’t work. It won’t take you where you want to go and it won’t lead you in the direction of a good man. It’s dishonest and actually confusing to men, so take the risk and say no when you mean it, for both of your sakes.
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YOUR ONLINE ANTENNA IS MORE ACCURATE THAN YOU THINK
There’s a weird phenomenon that I discovered during my years of online dating, and it’s another invaluable device to keep in your dating tool box. Trust the feelings you get from electronically chatting with someone online. I came to realize that every single gut feeling I had about a person that I met online, pretty much played itself out accurately in real life.
The trick to online dating, and dating in general, is learning to edit, before you invest too much time in the wrong person. It takes some practice, and I did have to date for a few years (I’m a late bloomer) until I really got the hang of it. But if a guy is volatile in his chat energy, most likely he’s going to be volatile in real life. If a guy leads with sarcasm in his messages to you, that will very often give you a strong indication about the way he deals with his life and his relationships. If a guy is relaxed, respectful, and easy to chat with online, you should follow that breadcrumb and take that as a green light to proceed. The better you become at editing your options online, the more productive your dating experiences will be.
[I dated a guy for three whole months and it was a pretty awful experience, before I finally moved on. However, when I look back on that, I remember that before our first date, I had a full blown panic attack and had to reschedule the date. When I did start dating him, I had that uneasy panicked feeling for the entire three months I was with him. He turned out to be a very toxic person, and I ultimately came to realize that before I was too invested. But a part of me wonders if my gut knew even before I met him, that this was a no go. I don’t regret dating him, since I learned a lot, perhaps the hard way, but it’s just amazing to me how wise we are. Our bodies will always tell us when something isn’t quite right. And before my first date with my current love, I was unbelievably calm, which is almost unheard of for me before a date.]
LEARNING TO DATE THE RIGHT WAY IS KIND OF LIKE MAKING ART
Dating is like any art. I went to school for photography, and any photographer will tell you that they have to take hundreds of pictures and only a handful of them, if any, will be a successful photograph. Pouring over my contact sheets, looking for the best compositions to enlarge and print was my most favorite part of the photographic process. This process is fascinating, complex, and multi-faceted, and even when you see a few potential images on a contact sheet, you may find all sorts of problems once you enlarge the image and inspect it more closely. In the end, the image might work, but you just don’t know until you print it. Sometimes, you overlook something on your contact sheet and only when you’ve come up with multiple failed prints, do you realize that this gem of an image was there the entire time.
The most exciting part for a photographer is when that image is enlarged and printed full size, and the more you look at it, the more you fall in love with it. It’s pure magic, and 100% worth all the effort. That’s dating. Begin to fine tune your editing skills in the dating world, and you will be on your way (even if it still seems like you are going nowhere, just hang in there and don’t give up), you may be closer than you think.
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FINDING LOVE REQUIRES PATIENCE
I used to go in circles, going on a terrible date and then swearing off dating forever, too traumatized to consider ever dating again. Then months or weeks would pass and the loneliness would become unbearable once again. I would start the whole process over again, and as painful and wretched as it was, I was truly learning as I went, and getting better and better with each and every date. Everyone deserves someone, no matter your size, shape, or flavor of personality. I never stopped trying, because my only alternative was being alone. I never wanted to settle for that, so I just kept going, and it paid off. He arrived very late, at age 38, but he was worth it, and everyone enters your life when they are meant to.
JUST A FEW OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER IF YOU ARE REALLY STRUGGLING
>>> If you suffer from low self-esteem and feel unlovable or not good enough, consider seeing a therapist. I saw a therapist for a few years before I found a mate, and the unconditional love and support I received from my therapist, really did heal me in many ways and readied me to receive the love I deserved.
>>>> Make sure you have a good support system around you. If you have people around you who bring you down more often than lifting you up, steer clear of them and lean into those loving beings who think you are fabulous. You will attract more of the same if you surround yourself with positivity.
>>>> Let go of perfection and choose kindness over extreme hotness when looking for a mate. Make sure your date has physical attributes that you find attractive, but more importantly, make sure you feel like you can be yourself around the person, and make sure the person you are dating wants to be in a relationship as much as you do.
>>>> Put lots of energy into every area of your life outside of your dating world. Make your life as rich as you can so that you keep everything in perspective, and so you don’t put too much weight into finding that match (even if it’s the most important thing to you in the world, that’s okay, just don’t forget about all of the other important stuff in your life).
You deserve AMORE!
If you enjoyed this article, check out my other articles about LOVE AND DATING.