Whilst looking back on my most recent dating failures, I decided to try and make a connection between the men I’ve dated and why it didn’t work. I soon saw a pattern in the “wants” I was trying to fulfill. Every person is different, but it is particularly interesting to take a step back and ask, “Why am I doing this?” for each person I’ve considered a partner in a romantic relationship. Each new guy had something that the last didn’t have, an attribute in his personality or a little more excitement.
Stage 1: Dating for an Escape
I mean, you’re 16. What do you really know other than that there is no other way to-
A. get the emotional support you need in such trying teenage times through love notes and Myspace photo comments
B. get a ride to ANYWHERE
I didn’t have a car until maybe a few months before I went to college. High school was a struggle. I just never knew if Dawn was going to be pro-mom that day and willingly bring me to Beta Club meetings or football games so I could cheer. It was nice to have someone to text on those late nights when I went to bed hungry or sobbing. It was nice to hear “You’re beautiful” or “I can’t wait to see you”. It was just enough to fill the void of what I never had. But soon you learn that it just isn’t enough. You realize that he actually doesn’t want to go to college and really isn’t as dreamy as you thought he was. The want to settle down and get married is still there because that’s what you think you’re supposed to do, but you really want to go to college first. So then you start to see that compatibility is more than thinking each other is cute. Ugh, so complicated.
But, I am grateful for the sweet serenity I found in being someone that he wanted because I never felt wanted at home. His family was always great and welcoming. I had photos of us in my hands that didn’t make me wonder if the smile on my face was misleading or make me question the circumstances like so many family photos I had. They were mine, under wonderful circumstances.
Stage 2: Dating for the Thrill
You know what sounds fun?
Dating a chef, dating a guy with a motorcycle, dating a guy that regularly breaks the law and stays out late, dating a frat boy, dating someone you work with, dating a physician…
You know what’s not fun?
Dating any of these people because they were all terrible.
Every single one. Why? Because no matter how many fun features a person has, it doesn’t keep them from be oh-so wrong for you. They can talk and they have skills and they bring you places. It’s all fun and games until you realize that he’s been sleeping the homely, fat intern or he says, “you don’t go to the gym enough”. Then BOOM, you’re stuck with the unwavering shame of the impulsive connection you were carving so, so deep. And then he moves the intern into his home (this has happened to me twice, by the way). There were so many cringe-worthy instances, as well as so many beautiful relationships, that were short lived. I began to see the effort I put forward to make these guys work for me, and I grew tired of trying to mold them into what I wanted them to be. But the miracle comes when you see that they ARE NOTHING compared to the person you are. And the person you are now is not, and will never be, the person you were. I changed exponentially during college when I took hold of my demons and started planning life for me. So, onward you go.
Stage 3: Dating to Complete Me
After realizing my list of failures was growing too long for comfort, and the men that I was surrounded with in my business industry wasn’t what I wanted, I downloaded the illustrious application known as Tinder.
What a joy it has been; such an interesting concept. It really is like stop-and-go traffic at a bar. One look at his clothing, the manner at which he approached you, and who he surrounds himself with, and then you decide, “eh, okay” or “absolutely not, please step down”. Dating is tough this way. One look at a guy can create these false narratives in your head more quickly than you can explain- “He looks like he’s mean to his mom”, “I bet he tells you what to wear on dates”, or “20 bucks says this dude has definitely suffocated a Tinder date and dumped her in the Wolf River”. How do you really know?
I eventually just ended up settling for a few things. He needed to dress appropriately and have an actual career that you could select from that little pull down option (nothing pisses me off more than someone’s job being something completely idiotic like “Krusty Krab” or “Your Mom”) and a guy looking to settle down. I just wanted to find a guy that had some things figured out that I wouldn’t mind possibly sharing a future with. I didn’t see anything wrong with that. It felt like the right thing to do until I saw myself being forced into someone else’s vision of “the way to do it”.
This last one was a doozy, but I learned a lot about myself. I met a someone through a mutual friend. The first time I met him I wasn’t impressed – very boring and forgettable. But I eventually saw him again one drunken Mardi Gras night after some witty text exchanges. Then, after a couple of months of just happiness and laughs, I got hit with the “Hey, I’m buying some land and plan to build a home so that I can live here forever. I want to get married and have 3 children as soon as possible. These plans are concrete and won’t change, even with career opportunities or my spouse’s preference in consideration.” My bad, because I thought he was just going to ask me to be his girlfriend. I know that I had settled when I chose to continue to see him for 4 more months, but I knew deep in my heart that forever wasn’t a one way street. It’s not an ultimatum. If I’ve learned anything from my life, it’s that plans don’t always go the way you want. You can plan it down to the nitty gritty details, but life has a funny way of knocking you on your ass and all that matters is that you get back up and accept the things you cannot change. But marriage is building something for you both. I always envisioned myself finding someone amazing and us doing life TOGETHER, not applying to some bullshit position as a housewife with a mediocre man. Someone who loves that I cry during episodes of Shameless, who understands that family time means meeting Justin and Kayla at their apartment to watch Drag Race, who doesn’t leave me questioning if I’m enough and I’m adored.
But also, can we acknowledge WHO IN THE FUCK ASKS THAT AFTER TWO MONTHS OF DATING? WHOOOOOO??? Only men I would date. Only me. I can really pick ’em.
It all came to a head when I received flowers after a big fight. From an ex-lover who, even in his distant way, knew I needed a sign. He kept in touch in little ways to make sure I was doing okay. We shared the same pain from our childhood and just can’t lose each other. So unreal for someone on the outside to see the misery I felt when the one person who needed to see it was right there. There were a ton of little things I should have seen before coming to this point – he didn’t want to meet my family, didn’t want me to meet his, didn’t want to hang out with my friends. After he dropped that “be my housewife forever” bullshit on me, it just felt like a job interview.
It still hurt, though. You put the effort forward and you dedicate the time and your heart. You go out of your way to do great things for them. You look back at the copious little signs that made you wonder.
I’m now at a point where I question my judgment. Am I just attracted to assholes? Am I placing importance on the wrong attributes? Will I miss out on the love of my life because he wears shoes I hate or doesn’t make me laugh on the first date?
It didn’t stop hurting until someone I admire immensely said to me, “You dodged a bullet”. She’s the most beautiful person. She’s probably the woman he’s looking for, not in the mediocre way but in the way that she is confident to have as many babies as possible and cooks wonderful meals. For her to see me, the value that I have, and to confidently say those words to me without a shadow of a doubt while I couldn’t quantify my worth, I felt the weight of her words fall upon my chest. And she was right. No matter what, he wasn’t it. Now not, not tomorrow, not ever.
So, what’s Stage 4? I’m not 100% on the official one but I think I want it to be “I don’t date but if you come around and add quality to my life, I’ll join you for the ride”. I do recommend finding the strength to believe those words everyday, though, no matter what stage you think you’re at.
All I know is the last one is still carefully searching for his cookie cutter wife.
But I’m cake, Bitch