Dating Don’ts: Thou Shalt Not Forget To Be Grateful

Daters of the Friskyverse, I have been tossing around the idea of writing about dating resolutions for the New Year. And then I thought, Nah. Last year, my resolution was to make the first move. I did. We dated for a while and then broke up. We’re still friends. Resolution accomplished. Good for me. I’m sure you’re planning to make some dating resolutions of your own, aren’t you? Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re bitter about dating right now. I wouldn’t blame you if you were. It’s fucking hard.

I decided to go in a different direction this week. I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who’ve read this column in the past year. I want you to know that it means a lot to me. It’s really difficult to write about your dating life in a public forum — especially when you’re trying to muddle through it yourself. I get so wrapped up in all of the emotions and trying to process them and getting over my insecurities enough to write about them that sometimes I forget anyone reads this column. (Or, at least, it’s easier to tell myself that no one reads so I don’t freak out every week.)

This past week, I got a couple of really moving letters from readers. Two of them went through pre-holiday breakups, just as I did. (I’m sorry ladies, it truly does suck.) But a weird thing has happened for me in the past few days: it hasn’t sucked so much.

The day after Christmas, I got caught on the road in that blizzard that hit the East Coast. I found myself on an unlit highway, on a stretch of road in rural Connecticut, on my way from Boston to New York, when the storm picked up very suddenly. Cars started to skid off the road left and right. One flew into an embankment and another did a 360 degree spin and almost hit us. I pretty much thought my life was over. My friend, who was driving, pulled, or slid rather, to the side of the highway just in time and we sat there and waited for the road to get plowed before we got back on it. The drive, which normally takes about three hours, took seven. So, I had a lot of time to think about stuff. A LOT.

And pardon me if this gets really cheesy and earnest and cliche, but my life became very clear to me. One of the many things that came into sharp focus was my last relationship. Crawling along on that icy highway at 5mph, I felt grateful for my breakup with M*. (He liked that I referred to him once as M* in one of my posts, he thought it was very Victorian.)

I started to get really deep in my existential imaginings and think of love as this wall that I am trying to scale. The wall is made up of fear and doubt and pain, and, in my reverie, I knew that my mission was to find a way to fly over it, Olympic athlete style. I imagined myself trying to catapult over this formidable wall. I envisioned myself with one of those pole vault thingies. Then, I tried to jump over it using a trampoline. I couldn’t, even in my mind. I would fly up and gravity would pull me right back down without ever getting over it. Then it occurred to me that the only way to scale it would be to have someone waiting on the other side. It became very apparent to me that I wouldn’t be able to do it alone and that the only person who could help would be someone who was just as up to the task as I was. That it was a team sport. I pictured M* on the other side of that wall. He didn’t belong there — M* wasn’t up for that task.

In the past few weeks, I felt annoyed/cheated/bitter/sad, asking the universe WHY he couldn’t do it. Thinking about it with a fresh perspective, I had a new respect for M*, for knowing he wasn’t up for the task and being honest about it and bowing out gracefully. In the past, people I’ve dated either haven’t had the insight to know that, or didn’t care about how it might affect me. M* cared about how I felt. He was totally insightful and unselfish in our breakup.

Then I pictured some of the other guys I’ve dated in the last eight years on the other side of the wall. And how much less up to the task they were than M*. Most of them were selfish and thoughtless when we got to the breakup stage. I thought about how my relationship and subsequent breakup with M* made it impossible for me to ever go back to even considering dating guys like the ones who came before him. It would never even occur to me anymore.

I have no plans to date any time soon. I’m currently knee-deep in my hiatus and loving it, but when I do, I will be more discerning because of M*.

And this brings me to my point. Not to be so cloyingly positive that you want to punch me, but remembering to be grateful for all of your dating experiences this past year good, bad, and heinous, is an important part of this whole thing. It’s so easy to forget that these experiences are preparing you to scale the wall. This is your training. And training for Olympic style wall-scaling is fucking hard. But it’s worth it. Knowing what kind of person can’t be on your team is just as important as knowing what kind of person can.

Happy New Year and happy dating or not dating in 2013.