Ambivalent

We don’t always know what we want.

Sometimes, you need a break from the world of dating. It’s a world that asks so much of you. It requires energy, patience, and vulnerability. There’s also frustration in abundance. There are bad dates, awkward conversations, the list goes on. At a certain point, after a few weird dates that I’m not entirely sure were dates, I realized what I was doing wasn’t working. I wanted to date, but I also wanted to maintain my independence, and rather than picking one or the other, I was splitting the difference. This uncertainty didn’t go away, and as a result, I was consistently going on dates with people who didn’t know what they wanted, as if I was looking in a mirror.

People seemed to notice my ambivalence. They could tell that I was a bit of a mixed bag, and I knew that if I wasn’t putting my best self into the world, that it just wasn’t worth the trouble. It was time to get out, and to take some much-needed time off.

Then three years passed.

Okay, it’s been over three, but you get the point. It’s been a while, and while certain aspects of dating can be lovely, I’m not sure I miss it all that much. Companionship would be nice, but I won’t view my life as a failure if I don’t find it. For me, the goal has always been to find peace. Peace has always taken priority because I knew I’d never be fully invested in anything else until I found it. I was never going to function properly if I couldn’t quiet the noise inside my head, and the more I think about it, the more I realize how true it is. I’ve spent a lot of time away, but it hasn’t been wasted.

Learning about yourself is challenging because there are so many ways to go about it. You can read books, seek out a teacher, talk to different people, find a religion that suits you, get yourself a great therapist, the options are endless. Self discovery is something you can do alone, or you can do it in the context of a relationship. I don’t believe that either path is right or wrong, but rather, it depends on who you are.

Some believe that relationships can teach you about yourself and who you’re supposed to be, and about what you want out of life. With each relationship, you get closer and closer to the truth, to finding that person who’s your better half. Hopefully, you’re able to learn something from each and every dating experience, so that when you do meet the right person, you’ve already made all the mistakes you’re going to make. Of course, that’s never how it plays out, but hopefully the mistakes are kept to a minimum, and by the time you’ve found the ideal relationship, you’re know who you are. You know what you’ve been searching for, and you’ve finally found it.

Given my preamble, you’ve probably guessed that I do not subscribe to the first approach. I’ve found moments of enjoyment in each relationship I’ve been in. There have been long stretches of time where I was happy, where I felt that maybe this was it, that this was the relationship, but that feeling never lasted. I realized that even though I was being open and honest, that I never felt like I was truly being myself. I was never being untruthful or disingenuous, but I didn’t feel fully understood for who I was, for who I am.

I didn’t want to figure out who I was in the context of a relationship, only to have the relationship end, and I’d be starting from scratch. There’s also been a sense of guilt, of not wanting to saddle anyone with my problems. In a relationship, I could hold it together for a time, but I’d fall apart when it became clear I wasn’t addressing my bigger issues. I could last for months, but I always came back to the same emotional dead-end, knowing that there was more work to be done, more searching and soul-searching, and I’d be drained by the end of the relationship. It’s not anyone else’s fault, these problems are all my own.

You can go into a relationship with baggage, and so many of us do. The most important thing to remember is that while the other person can help you to get over some of it, they can’t be your crutch or your therapist. That’s not anyone’s job, aside from being the job of an actual therapist. People have their own issues, and to expect someone to save you is putting too much on them.

Different approaches work for different people, but if I had to guess, a mixture of approaches is ideal, to have your life apart from the relationship, while also having your life in the relationship, but I don’t know if that’s realistic. There’s a reason I’m still single.

I’d like to keep learning about myself, and to keep the relationship going, but nothing is ever that easy or that clean. It’s a challenge all the way, and maybe dating is an all or nothing proposition, or else the other person ends up feeling slighted. Maybe I’m still not ready for anything more serious than a relationship with myself. Maybe I just haven’t met the right person, but maybe more work needs to happen before anyone else can come into my life. There’s no rush. You should never settle for anyone that’s not the right fit.

I’ll come back to dating when the time is right and I’m ready. I know that there’s a danger in staying single for too long. At a certain point, you get used to being on your own, and the thought of letting someone else in gets more and more difficult to fathom.

At some point, I assume I’ll be in a relationship again, and hopefully I’ll be better prepared. Every person and every relationship is a case-by-case basis. You can’t walk in with certain expectations, like, “I just want something fun,” or, “I don’t want anything serious.” Don’t limit yourself. You have no idea where this thing is going to go, whether it ends a month from now or lasts the rest of your life. Be open to the possibilities of finding a person you never saw coming, someone you love with every fiber of your being. I have no firsthand experience, but I’ve more than a few friends who can testify to the power of love.

Stay open, but also know that you don’t have to date. If you’re just not feeling it, then take a break, or just stay away. I’ve tried to date without being fully invested, and the results or lack thereof speak for themselves. Get to a place where you feel ready, and get back out there. You’ll know when the time is right. Thanks for reading.

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