When it comes to dating, I used to be the type of “try everything once” kind of girl. And more often that that, the “try everything twice” kind of girl. Meaning that even when I knew something probably wasn’t a fit, I’d always give it a second, third, or fifth shot in some attempt to “really make sure” that I’d assessed the situation. Of course, in the end, this usually ended up being a lot of B.S. in an attempt to convince myself that one of these people might be the one.
For a long time, I really, really wanted a boyfriend. I was one of those girls, yeah. I loved the idea of relationships. And when in one, I would fully commit myself. When not in one, I’d experience a brief pause before falling into something again relatively quickly, even when not looking. In talking to my therapist about this once, she said, “You seem bothered by this—the fact that you like relationships.”
I said, “Well, it would seem like maybe I do have a problem … except I’m not really sure where this comes from. I’m a relatively happy and confident person. I had a happy childhood. I don’t have daddy issues; he’s always been there for me. And it’s not like I’ve ever been in an abusive relationship, the men I pick just happen to not work out. I just like to be with someone.”
She said, “Perhaps you’re just the type of person who is open to love.”
I was open to love. The problem was, I could often see the potential dealbreakers down the road. But, when you like someone, you tell yourself that you can’t judge them just yet, that you have to get to know them, that everyone deserves a chance. And especially in situations where I’ve had a lag in romantic activity, I’ve been an opportunist: Even when you’re not too jazzed on a date, you do it anyway to flex the dating muscle. An old colleague of mine called it “practice dating.”
Then something began to change. Maybe it was getting older. Maybe it was fatigue. Maybe it was letting go of ideals. But in a relatively short period of time, I went from being open to love to being suspicious of it. Instead of giving potential suitors a respectable grace period, I began judging people almost immediately. I at first felt bad about this. It certainly didn’t make me seem like a nice person. But I then began to realize that it prevented me from dealing with a lot of douchebag behavior I’d let slide before.
There was one particular guy I’d met in a bar a few months ago. He seemed like my dream guy. Physically, I was extremely attracted. I’d had that magnetic thing happen when you first see someone and they suddenly become singled out from a crowd and you can’t stop looking at him. He was kind, friendly, and an interesting architect. It was torture talking to him all night and not kissing him. But we’d exchanged numbers, and my girlish excitement commenced. Until, that is, I got a text from him that night at 2 a.m. I didn’t respond. I was not flattered. I could have responded in the morning, but I didn’t. Two nights later it was a text at 12:30 a.m. My gut had been right. This was definitely not a good sign.
Random texts happened a few more times over the course of a few weeks, and a few I responded to out of courtesy, but I never extended an invite, nor wrote anything that he could follow up on. When I finally got a proper “Would you like to get a drink?” text (OK, so texting is fairly low-level in communications standards), I sent him a response that I’d never have thought I’d send to a man to whom I was carnally attracted: “You know, you really haven’t seemed that enthused or even like you’re remotely interested in dating, so, I’m going to go with no.” Did I still think about him? Yes. Did I still dream that on this supposed drinks date that everything crappy would be forgotten? Yes. But I couldn’t let myself give that a chance.
He responded, “Fair enough.” I never heard from him again.
Which just confirms how relieved I am that I forced myself to never go down that road. Because I knew I’d end up turning right around.