Update, April 25, 2018: Well, it didn’t take me until I’m 30 after all… Check out 20 Reasons to Date Again, a piece I wrote almost exactly a year to the date that I wrote this piece below.
I turn 27 this year. I have been dating on and off for about 5 years. These led me to many many pointless encounters, as well as three 1-2 month long “interactions” that abruptly ended with me being dumped. Yes, each time. Rejection hurts. If you experience chronic rejection like me, however, something different starts to happen. You start to feel apart from society. You start to feel – and really believe – that rejection is not just the defining feature of your dating history, but of your existence. Through internalising these messages, you start to reject yourself. So, I’m taking a break. A long one. Here are 20 reasons why I’m not dating until I’m in a better place,in maybe 3 years, but maybe much longer. Maybe some of these things resonate with you too.
- Thinking about liking someone upsets me. Not a little. A lot. I’m talking instant tears, anxiety, loss of voice. I cannot imagine liking someone without feeling shame, self-loathing, instead of a gentle and curious vulnerability which is what I imagine could be a healthy approach. Right now, the thought of me falling for someone tightens up my throat. Liking someone, for me, is intimately tied to being rejected; it’s not a healthy association, but dating more people will not fix this association, it’s only likely to reinforce it, because dating is a process that requires some emotional risk. I am not ready to take emotional risks right now.
- Dating takes away my time from other activities that are important to me like meditation, gym, cooking, writing, studying – which is where my focus needs to be right now.
- Dating takes away energy from my sense of personal growth, figuring myself out and what I want from life, especially regarding my career, future plans. My life has to have meaning regardless of if I have a partner or not.
- I have, unhelpfully, internalised societal messages about dating, particularly with respect to the value of long term relationships, which I have never had. Not one. And not for lack of trying. At this point, I cannot envision dating without extreme anxiety and feelings of self-loathing about this fact. So, it’s time to re-evaluate. It’s time to step back and learn to not feel incredibly insecure when asked “oh, how long did that last?” because I know my answer (1-2 months) doesn’t sound like it merits anything. Despite only having had short term “interactions”, I have experienced pain, loss, and the type of love that I know others have also experienced in a short period of time which eventually led to socially recognised longer term relationships. But until I feel at peace with the trashfire that is my dating history, and not self-hating about it, I don’t want to add more kindling by dating more.
- I’ve learned that I don’t know what I want in a partner yet; I have ideas about what I admire, but these usually amount to qualities I feel like incorporating into my own life, and less about sharing my life with someone.
- I am experiencing dating fatigue: like many millenials on dating apps, we are lonely in a crowd – an endless stream of pointless dates that lead nowhere is a waste of time, energy, and often money.
- Rejection debilitates me – don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of being rejected or being dumped, having been through it many times. But it absolutely is the worst still for me, and until I can take rejection less personally, I’m not ready to date.
- Often when I’ve dated and met people I really liked, I’ve been excited about seeing how I fit into their life…but I haven’t paid attention to how they fit into mine, maybe because I am still building mine. This means I need to focus entirely on building my life right now – a life I can be proud of and happy with.
- Due to a history of dating toxic, abusive, or ambivalent people, I don’t have a very good idea of what it means to be treated well – but I’m learning that we set our own boundaries for what being treated well looks like. Taking a solid length of time to treat myself well will let me naturally look for that kind of treatment from other people.
- While being loved by someone is a validating feeling, seeking to be loved for validation will never work. Until I break this habit, there is no point in dating, because I will always see “being loved” as a question of worth – as in “Am I good enough to be loved?” until I break this belief, there is no reason to date.
- When someone I like, likes me back, even a little bit, I am terrified that there are expectations they have of me that I will not be able to live up to, and that they will eventually see through me and leave. This is an obviously unhealthy mindset to bring to dating.
- Good people I’ve met who are ambivalent about dating me have treated me (and my vulnerability) with respect and kindness. I have mistaken this respect for genuine connection, liking, and interest, rather than understanding that this is just what dating should be: Good, kind people connecting and seeing if there’s a good fit in addition to chemistry.
- I am working on my listening skills – while I enjoy sharing, I don’t listen very well and this is an important skill for connecting with people in general.
- I am learning what I actually bring to relationships/dating experiences, and what I can offer – I will have a clearer understanding of this once I spend more time with myself.
- I have used dating as an escape from my own life, eager to be assimilated into someone else’s. But dating should be about the possible integration of two complete lives, two whole people. Until I know what my complete life looks like, with just me, dating will always be a means for an escape.
- I have historically dated emotionally avoidant people, probably likely due to my own insecurities, with some version of this logic: if someone generally reluctant to date, dated me, then that would clearly mean I was special. When I eventually date again, I’d want to ensure that I politely reject dates from people who are emotionally unavailable. I want to be able to spot emotionally unavailable people faster, and recognise that they will be bad for me, and that I will not be the exception to their rule.
- After each short-term 1-2 month interaction ended, I was left with 2 primary feelings: 1) that I did not know the person very well, 2) that I did not like myself during the time I was seeing them. Both of these need a lot of unpacking.
- I want to value what I learned from short term interactions and incorporate those lessons into my life, before taking them out into the world of dating.
- When I reflect on all my encounters with dating, each one feels like a mistake. Some are mistakes I regret deeply, others are mistakes I can live with and which I can learn from and which I don’t regret. But they were all mistakes and harmful to my overall emotional state, and sense of well being. Until and unless I can re-envision dating as a more neutral process, a process of selecting and weeding out and authentically connecting, I will continue to make the same mistakes.
- Dating is just not that important to me right now: why should it be the defining feature of my life? Rejection so far may define my dating experiences…but it doesn’t have to define who I am or what I offer to the world.
A final thought: most people in the world are people I would not have trusted in high school to do a group project with, so… why am I out here trusting basically strangers to do right by me? For myself, I will never consider a 1-3 month “interaction” a relationship, though they were significant in teaching me things about myself. But at the end of the day, they are people I don’t know, and that I didn’t let myself get to know in an honest and genuine way. Eventually if I date again, it’ll be up to me to make sure I bring authenticity to the table – and to bring those standards of little-me from years ago who knew that most – almost all – people? just won’t cut it for completing that group project at the level I know I am capable of…and that’s what dating is, in summary: finding someone you actually want on your team for a high school group project. Or something.