Dater X: When The Single Slog Sets In

I’m just going to come out and say it: I can’t stomach being single anymore.

With the exception of a few men who’ve come and gone, lasting only a few weeks here and a few months there, I’ve been dating unsuccessfully for about four years now. There have been periods of time where I’ve sworn off men completely, refusing to date or so much as look at my OKCupid notifications. I’ve also engaged in the opposite behavior, juggling multiple dudes at a time, hoping one of them would turn out to be worth continuing to date. I’ve gone through bouts of depression, seeking therapy to help me move on from past relationships (Thanks, Patrick Bateman!). But the hardest part of it all has been remaining confident in the knowledge that, despite the evidence to the contrary, I have a ton of love to offer someone and should never settle for anything less than a wonderful guy.

Through my greatest moments of doubt, there’s been one constant that has kept me from completely giving up my search: my unwavering desire to love again. I want the sparks. I want the excitement. When I’m in love, I have an extra boost; to love harder, give harder and work harder. I get out of bed and put a little extra effort into my appearance, because I know that aside from making me feel good, someone else will appreciate the little details— my new ruby lipstick, the way I did my hair. Love has the ability to push me through a repetitive workday, eager to go home and spend time with someone who I can’t get enough of, and vice versa. And when we can’t see each other, the thought of the next time we will gives me something to look forward to when I’m dealing with stressful family drama. When I’m in love, I don’t feel like my day-to-day life is just a waiting game…it gives me purpose. I keep trying to recreate this sense of purpose on my own, embrace my single life and let it fuel me! But I’m finding it impossible right now. It feels like I’m in an endless, sprawling, single slog.

When I was 7-years-old, I saw “The Secret Garden.” For those of you who haven’t seen it, the film is about a bitter girl named Mary who loses her parents in an earthquake, and is sent to another country to live with her uncle, whose wife died in an accident. Upon snooping around her uncle’s estate, Mary discovers a secret garden, which appears to be overgrown and dead. But she sees the beauty in the garden, and knows in her heart that the plants and blooms are simply asleep. Mary keeps sneaking back to her special place, tending to the garden every time she visits. With each visit, the flowers—and Mary— are more alive.

During the depths of my single slog, I feel like Mary, tending to a dead garden, yet trying desperately to have faith that someday it will bloom. But when?

I know that I don’t need a relationship to define me, but if I’m being honest, there’s a part of me that feels empty when I’m not in love; when I don’t have someone to share myself with. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it’s the truth. I have so much affection and love left untapped, that I feel like a part of me is sitting stagnant, just wasting away.

My mom has always told me that I’m “cursed with a heart that loves too much,” and she’s right. I ache to give love. I fill the void by sending friends greeting cards “just because,” and by mailing flowers to my sister if she’s having a crappy week. On bad days, I donate money to charities close to my heart, or give a few extra dollars to the homeless man on my way to work. I want to make people smile, I want them to feel loved. Even though it makes me feel better momentarily, it’s not enough to sustain me anymore. With every date that doesn’t go as planned and every guy who turns out to be a douche, I lose a little bit more faith. But I continue on, elbow deep in the single slog, with nothing left for me to do but tend to my dry garden (just realizing this may be a euphemism for my vagina) until someone sees the magic.

[Photo from Shutterstock]