Almost exactly one year ago today, my fiance and I ended our five-and-a-half year relationship. Ironically enough, I now find myself once again at square one.
I got back into the dating scene after taking some time to be alone and figure out who I was. A handful of dates here and there ultimately led me to a guy I saw for a few months. Then I got the dreaded message: “I don’t want to lead you on. I really like you and I want to keep you in my life, but on a friend basis.”
Ugh, that hurts. Why does dating have to be the worst?!
Even though dating may seem to be no fun at all, moments like these are perfect for some reflection. Hopefully, by relating why I'm fed up, you can achieve some nuggets of clarity or wisdom!
1. Dating is emotionally taxing, overwhelming and expensive.
Trying to craft the perfect message, playing it cool on a first date, managing a handful of people you’re talking to without getting anyone confused — it takes a lot of effort.
And then you have the whole first-date-gone-bad scenario where you’re awkwardly trying to make conversation with the guy who still lives with his parents and wears rings on nearly every finger, and inside you’re seriously contemplating, “How unreasonable would it be to run out of this bar when he excuses himself to the restroom?!”
Let's not forget that you're paying to have these maybe-good, maybe-bad experiences. Going out for drinks or dinner a few times a week can really start to add up. And then there’s the gas to shuttle yourself to every corner of the city to meet these people. Tally up all those emotional and financial expenses, and it’s no wonder people end up alone with a couple of cats.
2. Social media makes communication difficult and overthinking easy.
I stopped myself halfway through a conversation recently because I couldn’t handle the words coming out of my mouth: “So then he sent me a Snapchat, but I think it was probably a mass snap, so I guess I’m not really sure that counts as conversation. Either way though, I suppose you wouldn’t send a snap to someone you weren’t interested in — WAIT, am I really contemplating all this?! This isn’t something I should be wasting my brain power on!”
With online, in-app and text conversations at an all-time high, I’d guess that miscommunication is also trending upward. Body language, tone of voice and overall mannerisms give context to what a person is saying. But when you strip it all out and are left with text on a screen, how can you possibly tell the difference between sincerity and being led on?
Plus, apparently the cool thing to do these days is to be the less-interested party. God forbid you let someone know how interested you truly are, for fear they'll think you’re needy or don’t have a life of your own. How on earth can you possibly send a clear message when you’re busy acting like you don’t care?
3. If you're not careful, you may lose yourself in the process.
When I met this guy, I was smitten. How could a guy as amazing as he was be interested in someone like me? Somehow, spending time with him helped me increase my confidence while also exacerbating how insecure I really was.
He was sweet, complimentary and made me feel attractive. Sexy, even. And I can assure you that wasn’t a word I'd used to describe myself in a very long time. But I simultaneously started to nitpick my flaws. “I really should get my teeth whitened.” “I wonder how much it costs to tan.” “I wish I could just buy a whole new wardrobe so I can look good with him when we go out.” So there I was, spending money on things I probably didn’t need because I wanted to be the kind of person I thought he wanted to be with. And how well did that work out for me?
4. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable takes work. And it can be painful.
My last relationship was a terrible mix of manipulation and deceit, so it’s no wonder being vulnerable again has been particularly difficult. Still, I don’t believe being vulnerable is ever an easy thing to do!
I distinctly remember the night I told him about my failed engagement. I felt that he deserved to know a little bit about my history, so I mentioned it over dinner one night and he couldn’t have reacted in a more positive or reasonable way. But what did I do when I got home? Laid on my floor and cried. I felt so self-conscious about my history. Did I need to be? Of course not. But I felt exposed and flawed in front of a person I wanted to impress.
In this case, I think practice makes perfect. The more I open up (and not necessarily about my engagement), the easier it will become. Building up walls may make you feel protected, but it just drives you farther from the people around you.
5. You may start holding yourself to unreasonable standards.
Earlier in this post I mentioned our strange need to act like we don’t care as much as the other person. After I learned that he was no longer interested in seeing me as anything other than a friend, I desperately want to believe that I didn’t care. That it didn’t faze me. That I could dust myself off and move on like nothing had happened. That I cared even less than he did.
But not only is that an unreasonable thing to want, a few other repercussions occur: I don’t give myself the time I need to process it, and I devalue what this dating experience means. I liked this guy. I put myself out there. I somehow managed to find the courage to be vulnerable. And even though the end result wasn’t the one I wanted, I have to admit that it’s a big step in the right direction. I learned a little more about myself and starting taking down some emotional walls I had built up after the end of my engagement.
So what’s next for me? Even though dating sucks sometimes and I don’t see myself swiping on Tindr in the very near future, I know I’ll once again build up the courage to put myself out there. Until then, though, I’m looking forward to enjoying a little bit of “me time” and reminding myself how to be alone, but not lonely.