Over the last few years of singledom, I have learnt a few things about dating. And the lesson that stands out most clearly is this:
There is no group of people less qualified and more willing to give advice on dating than those who have been partnered up for 20+ years.
There. I said it.
Dating is very different to being in a long term relationship – which is of course a skill and an art in which they have considerable expertise.
Having said that though, I am no slouch when it comes to long term relationships. I might be single now, but I was with someone for 21 years. At one point I was even winning the sibling rivalry contest in my family for who could be married the longest. I still am actually, although I very much hope I am overtaken.
It’s been surprising to me how many people – particularly women – tell me that if something happened to their marriage, they wouldn’t ever bother partnering up again. They believe that my life is full of forbidden pleasures, fun and a level of self determination that they envy. I can almost see the grimaces on the faces of my single friends from here.
Well, the grass is always greener eh? Conversely though, the majority of single people I meet – male and female – would very much like to find that special someone. Personally, I would hope that in any future partnership I would have pleasures, fun and self determination anyway.
This yearning for someone was driven home a couple of weeks ago when I attended a Marianne Williamson workshop. I was surprised by how many audience member questions related to issues around finding the right partner for life. And it was no small workshop – a full house at a large auditorium. People just really want to be with someone – after all, no (wo)man is an island.
But married and partnered people give out such conflicting information and advice – largely because they are not single, have not been single for many, many years and have no idea how dating and being single has changed in the interim*.
Sometimes they tell you that you should not do anything – that someone will come along when you are least expecting it. Ok. Perhaps. But on the other hand they also tell you that you need to get out there and meet people.
But not in bars.
And not on the internet because there are only weirdos there**
Right. So perhaps I will bump into someone at the supermarket, or at work (in an organisation which overwhelmingly employs women. Yay for that, but not a good place to find a man – even if finding a man at work was something that I would ever, EVER do). I must get out there looking for someone, but trying not to look for them. Or something.
What most married/partnered people imagine is that one of your nice friends – and for that you could substitute ‘married/partnered’ friends, as they tend to view your other single friends with a little bit of suspicion – I mean what sort of things do single people get up to together for goodness sake?! – will introduce you to someone. But married/partnered people tend to know other married and partnered people. They know you – who is single. And often that is it.
Additionally you apparently shouldn’t want to find someone – because that could be needy and desperate. At the same time though, you should be clear about what you want – even perhaps make a list (seriously?!). And you shouldn’t compromise, whilst also being careful not to overestimate your worth in the dating market. As one friend said to me – ‘stop going for the attractive men. Just find someone kind’. Hmmm.
Well – ideally I’d like to find someone I was both attracted to and who is kind. And loads of other stuff, but I’m reluctant to make a list. I’m very conscious when dating that there is really no point in continuing if you know that you are never going to want to see that man naked. A lovely single friend sent me a text recently which said ‘is it wrong to date someone I know I’m never going to sleep with?’. My reply – ‘you know the answer to this question…’.
One thing I know is that being in the wrong relationship is way more painful than not being in one at all. It’s why I’m a bit picky. By the same token, being in the right relationship would win hands down over being alone.
For myself, I appreciate all the advice – which is well meant and full of love. But at the same time, I’m just doing my own thing, and I know it’s difficult to accept but I know more about it than they do. I’m mixing it up with the odd foray into internet dating, along with not dating at all, and going out and about with my usual business and leaving it all up to fate.
If no one comes along, that’s fine. I can do this life on my own and it can be wonderful and joyful and exciting. But maybe I’ll meet the perfect man for me and it will be all those things and more. Maybe I already have. You never know…
*To give you an indication, dear Reader, of the extent to which dating changed between 1990 – which was the last time I had been single – and 2011, let me tell you a story…I ventured onto RSVP for the first time and chatted with a lovely man for several days. He was a journalist, interesting, my age and seemed very normal. I eventually felt confident enough to give him my mobile number. And by return he sent me a photograph of his erect penis. Now to be fair, this has never happened again, and I’ve given my number to plenty of people since. But I’m pretty sure this would not have happened in 1990. Partially because smart phones were still just things in sci fi movies. But you know what I’m saying…
**My dad, on discovering that I was using an internet dating site, said incredulously – ‘What sort of weirdos are looking for someone on the internet?! Erm, this sort of weirdo Dad. This sort.