Dater X: 10 Things I Did Right As A Single Woman

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Last night, while watching “The Bachelor: The Women Tell All,” I found myself getting more than a little choked up watching Ashley Spivey’s one-on-one interview with Chris Harrison. Her hands folded delicately in her lap, she talked about how Brad Womack‘s rejection feels like a pattern she’s been stuck in for years. On that first night, Brad had given her the first impression rose. For maybe two weeks, he adored her. And then, he sent her home. “I’m in disbelief right now,” Ashley said in the backseat of the limo. “They always say the exact same thing, ‘You’re going to make such a great wife, just not for me.’” Elvis crooned “Are You Lonesome Tonight” in the background.

I looked across my living room at a bouquet of flowers that The Young One bought me for no particular reason, and noted that my dog was curled up on a t-shirt he left here over the weekend. The Young One and I are approaching the two-month mark and things remain so awesome between us. But man, oh man, do I remember feeling the way Ashley does.

I … got beyond frustrated in those moments when no potential suitors were in view. Deciding to think of my green zebra hunt as more of a safari was a big revelation.

I remember trying over and over with guys I thought had potential, who seemed so into me for a while, only for them to break up with me, often for an intangible or just plain silly reason. When Chris Harrison asked Ashley, “Why do you think you have this pattern?” I wanted to shout to her the same thing I wish I could make myself believe six months ago: It’s not you! What your disappointing dating ventures all have in common is they just weren’t “it.”

Do many of us have issues that are holding us back from great relationships? Sure. If that resonates with you, I urge you to work on it. But I also believe that many people who are single and don’t want to be are flying solo simply because they haven’t met a person they mesh with yet.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of amazing single women—Ashley, not to mention several good friends—self-flaggelate themselves for not being with someone. And it’s made me think: did I do something different that made things work with The Young One?

I’ll be honest—for the most part, I think I got lucky. I happened to meet someone incredible who I’m compatible with on a shocking number of levels. But there are a few things I feel I did do “right” as a single woman. Here they are:

  1. I admitted that I wanted a real, insanely loving, long-term relationship. Sometime last year, I think when The Architect said he didn’t want to keep dating after a month, I found myself in tears with a friend on the phone. “God, I’m not saying I want to marry him,” I told her. “I just want to date for a few months and have a great time. Is that too much to ask?” At the time, I felt so certain that’s what I wanted and so frustrated that guys weren’t working with me on achieving what would be a great situation for both of us—someone to hang out with and have sex with regularly, without any big commitment. But that wasn’t actually what I wanted. It was hard to ‘fess up to myself that dating casually just wasn’t going to be enough for me, and that if I felt I could date someone casually, then my feelings weren’t strong enough to warrant continuing. I’m proud of myself for saying out loud, “I want serious, mind-shaking love.”
  2. I got out of the house. I went to every party I was invited to, especially the ones where I couldn’t guess exactly who was on the guest list. I went to museums, parks, book readings, concerts, meet-ups, etc. I joined assorted groups and clubs. An even bigger deal—I got over my fear of going to things alone. I don’t think it was a coincidence that I met The Young One when we’d both ventured to see a band on our own. When you don’t have a compatriot with you, you are forced to talk to new people.
  3. I built a great support network. I actively looked for people I could talk to about my complicated feelings about being single. I got a therapist. I sought out the friends and family members I thought could be sympathetic and give me good perspective, and made sure to be available to them when they were struggling. And I started writing this column, where I could be honest and get feedback from you guys that I am not crazy. At least, not completely.
  4. I started treating sex like a bigger deal. Some people can do casual sex. I cannot—and realizing that was huge.
  5. I stopped taking things personally. I started looking at dating as a complicated matching game and not as, “He doesn’t want to be with me. WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!?!?” I’m now realizing that there’s a pretty simple reason why it was usually the guy who pulled the plug on my fledgling relationships—for whatever reason (because they feel less societal pressure to be in a relationship? because they aren’t as caught up in emotional nuances?) guys are just better at perceiving “not a match.”
  6. I took breaks when I needed it. When not-so-great experiences piled up and made me question myself, I took a few months off from dating. I truly believe it’s something you can only do when you feel in a good place.
  7. I let go of guys I wasn’t that into. When I was younger, I’d sink six months, even a year plus, into a relationship that was good but not amazing. But I told myself I wasn’t going to do that anymore. As a woman who wants a relationship, I think it’s easy to feel a tug on your fishing line and think you have to reel that sucker in. But I threw back some fish in the past few years. If I was dating someone and felt on the fence, I moved on. I only wish I had set the bar even higher and said that if I wasn’t gaga over someone, let ‘em go.
  8. I let go of the guys who just weren’t that into me. While writing this column, I encountered lots of guys I liked who broke things off, either with an email, a talk, or a fade out—The Architect, Crazy Guy, The Juggler, Tall Guy, Scruffy Beard. But I listened to their words or, uhhhh, lack of them and let it soak in that they weren’t feeling the kind of feelings you need to build a relationship. With some of these guys, I was tempted to see if they’d be into a booty call situation. With others, it was hard to resist responding when they inevitably got back in touch months later. But I kept the cord cut (with the exception of the time I tried to kiss Talll Guy, ugh) and that was the right move.
  9. I stopped holding my desire for a relationship so tightly. You guys saw me struggle with this. I think for a while, I let myself get so focused on wanting to be with someone that I clung to “not it” and got beyond frustrated in those moments when no potential suitors were in view. Deciding to think of my green zebra hunt as more of a safari was a big revelation.
  10. I tried my best to be patient. Every once in a while, I think, Why couldn’t I have met The Young One six months or a year ago? It certainly would have saved me a lot of heartbreak, confusion, and self-questioning. But you know what? He wouldn’t have been ready to meet me then. If we’d started talking at a concert a year ago, he would have still been living with his now ex-girlfriend. Even if I’d met him six months ago, he would still be mourning the loss of that relationship and things probably would have gone like they did with some of the guys above. I met The Young One at the exact right time—when he’d had his rebound rumspringa, felt healed, and was ready for a new relationship. Even if I had been ready for one for a while.

Last week, in the comments, reader DaisyFuentes said that she thinks The Young One and I will be broken up by August. Many of you jumped on her for the negativity. While I very much hope that isn’t the case, I recognize that that is entirely possible. That’s part of jumping in—knowing that it could or could not work out. All I know is that I’ve already learned so much in these two months about what love looks like. I’d forgotten so much after being without it for such a long time. And that is an incredible thing.

As you might have guessed, I’m signing off here. I’ll continue to pop in with relationship thoughts on occasion—just not on a weekly basis—and will let you know how things are going with The Young One. In the meantime, I will be looking to pass the baton to someone new who is finding their way through the dating trenches.

Until then,

Dater X

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