h2>Dating : How I was fake-single for six years
I hope you’ve never lost your grip on your values and purpose. That you forgot what joy and tenderness feel like because you’re caught up going through the motions of distracting and numbing yourself. But maybe we all have periods when we can’t harmonize our egos in the interconnected, seemingly pointless dance we find ourselves in?
This is a little story about the time I bowed out.
It’s a story about my retreat after my first heartbreak. A story about how in attempting to be single — alone and independent — I ended up being no one really at all.
After a late-night Snapchat inspired hook-up that turned into an “I can’t do this anymore” soliloquy, I knew things had ended between me and my on-and-off ex-boyfriend. Again. Limp and depleted on my bed, I stared out at the icy blue December sky and told myself: “I’m never going to let myself get hurt like this ever again”.
My ensuing self-declared man-eating phase was real, and so too was my naiveté regarding what I thought I’d gain from it. Let me explain.
Here’s what I thought: when the right guy came along (you know, the one who would never dream of hurting me the way my ex did), I’d:
- just know; and
- would be able to handle it this time because I’ll have had the confidence boost of having guys be more into me than I was into them.
All I had to do was carry that newfound confidence into my next relationship, with the right guy, and I’d be just fine. Seems reasonable, right?
With this mentality informing my dating life, I ended up in a bunch of “situationships”. I always had an out because I wasn’t actually in any of them. I was in control because I had nothing to control. In other words, I was fake-single.
For six years, I experienced two-sides of the same coin: all too available to me men and unavailable men. In the wonderful range of 21–50-year-olds, the following is a sample of what I brought into my life:
- A fake-boyfriend who would bring me cookies and a thermometer when I was sick, but whose place I refused to sleep over at;
- Heaps of casual dates with guys I entertained because I loved the attention;
- Flings that ended abruptly when I realized I’d rather be smoking weed and playing on dating apps than making-out with them;
- Spiritual one-night stands inspired by beer, common music tastes, and a good sense of humour;
- Repeat offenders that were never guys to go for in the first place;
- A long-distance “friend” who “doesn’t want anything serious rn”;
- Flirty, Instagram exchanges 23-year-old office bros;
- A secret affair (at least in your world, but in mine you were legendary) with a married older man; and
- Forgettable dates with guys I met in real life.
Despite identifying some admirable traits I wanted in a prospective partner, we all know that love can’t be measured based on how one “scores” on a defined set of characteristics . I continued to believe I was “still single” because I hadn’t met the right guy yet. This mentality reinforced and perpetuated something corrosive in my subconscious: I was incomplete, waiting for the right guy to come along.
So what changed?
I started listening to what I actually wanted, instead of what I was afraid of feeling.
All the time I spent thinking that I was learning how to not let a guy hurt me again, I was actually just buying time in a self-destructive “comfort” zone where either chemistry or circumstance was the problem. Not my lack of self-worth or boundaries.
All I had created for myself were boundless walls of insecurity — I wasn’t single, I was undefined and penetrable.
I was no one really at all.
So here’s the point I’m trying to make: amassing experiences thinking they will eventually lead you in the right direction is a myth.
I used to this way and maybe I will again one day. Maybe it’s how you currently think? But for now, hear me out.
Being open to all kinds of experiences is a big gamble. They won’t eventually culminate in what you want unless you’re clear on what you’re yearning for from a deeper place inside.
When I realized how hard it was for me to reciprocate any semblance of what I wanted, actually no, how impossible it was, I realized how stunted I was. It occurred to me that the only way I could assure that I would never get hurt like that again would be when I knew what I would and would not tolerate. What I wanted and didn’t want. In other words, I’d have boundaries.
The deprivation of experiences is a necessary byproduct of established boundaries. There are things we can refuse to experience, assuming we have control in the matter. And guess what, when it comes to who you may or may not be dating (or fake-dating) most of the time you have control.
So was I wrong spending my time the way I did these past six years? I don’t think I can say that because personal development isn’t a race — it’s not something we can win or lose.
What I can say is that I was off course for a while. I can also say that being off course didn’t feel good, at least not the spiritually-whole goodness I believe in as offered by Epictetus:
“Goodness exists independently of our conception of it. The good is out there and it always has been out there, even before we began to exist”.
Maybe this belief in a good that is beyond our conception and existence is some idealistic Stoic shit, but think about it, where else might you find it?
Because I don’t think it’s in you or in me.
It seems to me that goodness is somewhere beyond us.
We can find it single or together, the key thing is that we recognize and listen to what will and will not get us closer to it.
: Robert, Nozick. (1974). Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.
: Lebell, Sharon. (1994). The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness — Epictetus. New York: Harper Collins.