I was married very young, and since my divorce 12 years ago, I’ve spent the majority of that time being single. Partly because my primary focus was my daughter; I would only go on dates when she was with her father – lots of men objected that they wanted more of my attention and I refused to compromise my time with her. Also, having been in a difficult marriage, I was convinced I knew exactly what I needed in a partner. 

As often as not, the men I was interested in didn’t like me back or wanted other things than I did so these entanglements ended quickly. The three relationships I HAVE had were with people I loved passionately, but ultimately had unhealthy dynamics. My pattern for relationships was that they last either two weeks or two years. Literally nothing in between. 

After my last incredibly painful breakup I realized I needed to reset my radar. I had attracted/been attracted to people who were utterly ill-suited for me. I came awake to the sense that though I very much want to be in a loving committed relationship, it is in fact better to spend time and energy loving myself and being alone, than in or seeking a bad relationship. 

Thing is, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. Last fall, to take advantage of the superior school district where he lives, my daughter went to go live with her dad full time and I became the weekend parent. Without her to focus on as my day-to-day top priority I got bored. And lonesome. So, even though I wanted to spend time not focusing on romance, it became basically impossible to resist the temptation to start dating again. 

So, I went on dozens of terrible dates. Wasted time with people I knew were wrong for me. Tumbled into bed too soon a few times. Got hung up on guys that I shouldn’t have looked at twice, and hurt people I meant only to care about. 

It was freaking horrid. 

And then I imposed a dating hiatus. I gave myself a 6 month time frame to spend focusing on other things and refused to consider “looking for love” 

And it was freaking awesome. 

I took up running. I started eating better. I got back in the habit of going to the gym 3-4 times a week. I entered therapy. I worked on writing more regularly. I played my guitar and read. I did all the things I tend to neglect when my focus is on dating. 

Then when my 6 months was up, I dove back in and did all the same things I had done before I took my hiatus – but worse. 

It became clear to me that my search for a partner had all the trappings of an addictive/compulsive behavior pattern. I would rationally decide what approach was best and healthiest and then fail to do any of those things in the heat of the moment. I would fall back into the same unhealthy and self-destructive patterns as soon as I allowed myself the freedom to engage at all. 

So. I quit dating altogether. I don’t have an end game for this. I have made a profound lifestyle change without any expectation of giving it up. Like an addict, I look at it as a one-day-at-a-time process. I’ve structured my life around focusing on other things; I started mentoring a 3rd grader, I’m training for a triathalon, and I got a dog. All of this helps, but there are still moments where the longing for someone to share my life with all but overwhelms me. I am happy to say that with all these other soul-nourishing activities, those moments are fewer and much further between than they once were. 

All that being said, I remain open and hopeful that somewhere along the course of my much happier and fulfilling life, I will meet someone amazing with whom I can share it. Even still, I don’t intend to “date” anyone. I imagine that if I do meet someone along the way, we’ll  spend time doing things we both enjoy, get to know each other, and build intimacy that can lead to something romantic once we have the true measure of one another without the frenzied pace and enormous expectations that dating can create. 

It’s been going well so far. I’m only a few months in, but the oppressive loneliness and exhausting anxiety have eased considerably. I can’t say if it’s the right path for anyone else, but my own journey is a much happier and more peaceful one on account of it.