When Being Single is Your Default Setting

A lot of people call me independent and strong.

And I’ve become those things out of necessity– like all people in these categories.

But the tough part is when someone wants me to let them in. I’ve been single so long, my first instinct is always to slam the door. Then I feel relief in my solitude.

And that’s because in my past I have loved, and been loved, deeply. I have high expectations for a relationship now because I refuse to settle for less than I enjoyed in the past. Once someone treats you really well, you can’t accept less.

I’ve dated the past few years– but nothing has gotten serious and exclusive. There’s always a part of myself that I hold back.

I’m great at protecting myself. No one is better at being single than I am!

But truly I want what everyone wants– to let down the gate. To relax. To be cherished. To have someone I can rely on, check in with, and be accountable to as well, every day.

Being in a relationship means letting go– giving someone the power to hurt you, but trusting them not to do it. Or maybe it means accepting that the very nature of love entails disappointment, because everyone is human. But deep down, you know it would be more of a disappointment to forfeit knowing THIS person. You accept the risk.

I trust my ability to judge compatibility and character.

The magical thing about love is that it keeps drawing you deeper. The curiosity about each other doesn’t end. The more you learn, the harder you fall. They surprise you when you don’t expect it, and when you need it most but were afraid to admit it. The more they open up about insecurities and their past, the more you understand and respect them for the journey they’ve taken on. The more you feel absolutely giddy to be CHOSEN by them.

Most of all, being in a relationship means trusting YOURSELF. Trusting that you chose the right partner, that you are both available and willing to invest in a future together. And it means accepting that you have power to hurt someone else, should issues come up that aren’t able to be resolved and you break-up. It means respecting your partner’s choice to take that risk of being hurt by you, even if you’re afraid. It means accepting that you can’t control the outcome or how long it might last– but that you both want to sign up for the adventure together, nonetheless.

And I’d rather be single than with the wrong man.

I no longer believe in “timing.”

Love is a conscious, repeated choice you make together. It has nothing to do with timing, and everything to do with devotion and compromise. A person who truly loves you will accept your faults and recognize that your positive qualities more than balance them out. They will see the light in you and want to help you shine brighter. They give you a sense of security, because you know you can rely on their feelings for you, despite whatever imperfections they may carry.

Recently I briefly dated someone, but we were exclusive from the first time we talked. He messaged me via online dating and had listed himself as “strictly monogamous,” which was a huge attraction for me after dealing with other ambivalent men prior. It felt great to not have to worry about him pursuing others, so I could just get to know him without any pressure or insecurity.

But dating him taught me that commitment doesn’t equal intimacy. You can be exclusive with someone you respect, without any major conflicts: but that closeness is either there or it’s not. I need a good banter. I need someone who makes me feel like a woman, but also treats me with dignity.

There was nothing “wrong” with him, or me. It just wasn’t there.

I felt comfortable with him, sure. We held hands and both liked PDA, which was great. It felt really good to have a man so proud to be seen with me, who liked to take pictures together and who said cute little things. But the more we got to know each other, the less we had to talk about. Our phone conversations were getting more strained.

Emotional, verbal intimacy is the most important thing for me. Without that, nothing else matters or will stand the test of time. A person’s body, job and circumstances will change. But their imagination, they way they think, the way they see and GET you– those things never change.

I felt we had both genuinely tried our best.

And after almost a month, I realized that we didn’t have enough between us to sustain a relationship– especially with radically different schedules and living circa 50 miles apart. Some people would say I’m really jumping the gun to make a decision to move on so fast. But truly, it’s about mutual respect. I wasn’t going to lead him on, so I set us both free. I’ve never been one to date someone just because I’m lonely, or because they want to take me out and I want a free dinner. If I choose to commit, or want to commit to someone, it’s only because I’m attracted by HIM. It’s not because I want something from him, but because I want to give something to him: my time, my affection, my promise of fidelity. I’m attracted by energy– something about that man draws me in and makes me want to spend time with him and be in his life. Usually I find myself very attracted by his words and the way he expresses himself. When I really like a man, I want to write down what he says often– I find him infinitely “quotable.” Everything I learn about him fascinates me, even the mundane. I want to note small details in my journal about what I learn about him, and write about our dates. I save things he gives me. I write poems. I’m a total sap.

More than anything, I develop a deep admiration for him and feel he inspires me to be my best self and to continually grow.

And though I felt sad to end it, I knew it was the only choice. We had a very civil break-up. We talked about what we would miss, what we could have done better and what we enjoyed about each other. And we haven’t talked since– both of us are looking for a serious relationship and respect each other’s need to move on. I haven’t cried since or felt bad about it, and I feel ACTUAL closure for the first time. But it was interesting that I got to know more about him and how he felt about me in that break-up conversation than I had the entire time we dated. What is it about having the pressure of a relationship relieved that frees us to be more honest about our feelings?

But ultimately, I feel good about it. I got to know someone, and we ended it peacefully and without a power struggle. That was a milestone for me– there was no egos clashing. He respected my feelings and agreed that it wasn’t happening for us. We don’t feel the need to hang on and be friends. It was nice to not feel insecure about my decision– to be supported in it.

I realized that although I do want a relationship, I’m not in a rush about it.

And who knows what’s next? But I feel good about my journey.

I’m going somewhere good.

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2 comments on “When Being Single is Your Default Setting

  1. Jenny says:

    I think it’s awesome that you know what you are looking for and are not going to settle for less. πŸ™‚ There is no time limit on when love can come into your life and it is at it’s best when it can develop at it’s own pace. I’ve been in three actual relationships and dated around in between. Number one was a disaster, number two was me trying to settle (it was like wearing my shoes on the wrong feet), and three was just right. But I’m lucky, I guess, when it comes to love.

    I would give you the whole “someone is out there” condolence but I hated that when I was single. Just be your awesome self and be happy. That’s the most important thing. πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks for your comments, as always. You are such a faithful commenter!! I always enjoy hearing about other people’s relationship journeys– thanks for sharing yours. Good thing you didn’t settle because then you found Adam!! I’m glad you’ve been lucky and the way you smiled at each other at your wedding made it clear you made the right choice. I’ve had two serious relationships that had to end because of conflicts– differing values and one was long-distance. I’ve dated a lot but had two other relationships that were more like friendships that evolved over time, though they were never official. I learned a lot from those because we gave each other a lot of space and it was always a choice, never an obligation. I’m trying to enjoy the journey! I fear that I’m intimidating people by talking about this publicly, but I gotta be me! It feels good to process what I’m learning about myself on the journey.

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