Make It Stop: “I Want Companionship And Sex, But Not Emotional Attachment”

I’ve been single for over a year after leaving a toxic eight-year relationship with my son’s father. Though I enjoy casual sex, I’m not looking for a serious relationship. Sometimes I feel torn between wanting companionship and not wanting the emotional attachment that comes with being in a relationship. Is that realistic for someone like me?

Leaving a relationship is a process and the steps can’t be rushed. It sounds like you’re still one of the murkier, earlyish stages where you have one foot in getting used to your independence, and one foot in healing from a tough situation. You’re like a fawn learning how to walk, a little unsure of its footing on the grass. You’re re-discovering how to love and trust again, so it’s understandable that you’re only able to take baby steps.

And it’s understandable why you’re nervous. Your priorities have shifted since the last time you were available to date. You have a child this time around. It’s not as simple as it used to be when the biggest question was if you liked the same toppings on your pizza, or whatever metrics you used to evaluate dates. No, now you’re dating as an adult. It’s rough terrain without a map.

My hunch is you wrote me because you’re looking for one thing: permission. As it turns out, I’m happy to hand it to you. I hereby give you permission for the following things:

  • To date casually for as long as you want.
  • To take as much time as necessary to fully heal from your last relationship.
  • To put raising your child first, before any suitors.
  • To do some serious soul-searching, so that when you are ready to enter a committed, monogamous relationship, you’ll be able to offer your partner the best, most loving, trusting, centered version of yourself.

But, here’s the catch—you can only enjoy this permission as long as you’re upfront about your intentions with any men you date. You must explain before one peck is planted on one pucker that you’re not looking for anything serious. It might seem strange at first, even presumptuous, but it’s the kindest thing to do. In fact, that’s part of the appeal of dating websites. You can say right in your profile that you’re only looking for casual companionship. Most of the heavy lifting is done for you as soon as you check that box.

As for how realistic this is, I would say that it’s absolutely realistic and it happens all the time. I promise you aren’t the only single parent getting out of a relationship looking for some companionship. Sign up for any dating site and you can see how common it is. I know it’s been a while since you dated and not only are you dusting off your OKCupid profile, but now you’re dating as a parent and in a different age group. Most people your age (I’m assuming over 25) have active lives with diverse interests. You might meet someone who is thrilled with a more casual arrangement. Maybe he has children of his own and totally understands your needs because he shares them. You won’t know until you look.

The good news is that online dating has lost most of its stigma since the last time you were on the market. Even if you don’t feel ready to engage in online dating, it might help to see the profiles of other women in your age range with children. It could be comforting to see these women articulate similar needs as you. Then you won’t feel so isolated.

If anything, I’m excited for you. It takes a lot of courage to leave a crummy situation. Although your last relationship wasn’t a good fit, you’re stronger and wiser for it. But your journey isn’t over. It’s just beginning. And learning how to navigate your single life and articulate your emotional needs to the men you date is a step in the happy, right direction.

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.