While scrolling through Facebook recently, one update grabbed my attention among the funny videos and melodramatic status updates. A good friend announced he proposed to his girlfriend and would get married in the fall. Immediately I thought, “WTF?!” Of course I felt happy for him and wished him martial bliss, but I couldn’t suppress my jealousy. I consider myself a decently attractive, ambitious, smart and funny young woman (with the resume to prove it!), yet I’ve lived the single life for two years. Am I doing something wrong?
My first serious S.O. and I dated for about two years. The last year, I started my sophomore year of college while he took an “indefinite leave of absence.” As our lives split, our differences peeked through the cracks. Beginning to resent each other, we took a few breaks but our feelings and genuine love kept bringing us back together. Attempting to make our relationship work felt like forcing two incompatible puzzle pieces together, but neither of us could admit this to ourselves or to each other.
After Halloween, I never heard from him again. The first few days I wasn’t concerned because disconnect became natural in our relationship. But days kept passing with my calls and texts unanswered, and I realized this wasn’t just one of our “breaks.” I questioned the reality of our late nights with each other, weekend adventures, family gatherings, our plans for moving in together and marriage. Erasing our past proved difficult; it felt like breaking up with a past life. But now I also had time to focus on my goals instead of making future plans with someone else in mind.
Some months later I met Rick*. He walked into the Home Depot I worked in, and I happened to look down the hardware aisle while he browsed through some nails. My heart stopped, butterflies filled my stomach, I felt heat rush to my cheeks as we made eye contact, then we smiled at each other, softly and subtly, like a cliché in a rom-com. I hurried away, expecting to never see him again, but 15 minutes later he asked my coworker for my number.
The butterflies never left my stomach in our eight months together. I felt completely smitten, excited for our next adventure—the beach, the observatory, art galleries in downtown L.A., the O.C. Fair. We spent some days in his crummy room, talking and joking. No matter what we did, being with him felt peaceful. We didn’t need a timeline or a label, but then we met each other’s close friends and a few family members. I began rethinking our no label rule.
I casually dated other people while seeing him, but none of them compared to him. I asked him for a real relationship, but he said relationships ruin everything. Disappointed, I went along with it. After some counseling from a close friend, I decided to end it—with a text. I knew I couldn’t say no to his face, but I felt tired of letting him string me along and putting myself last.
Although proud that I finally stood up for myself, I also felt awful, ruined, distressed, miserable and every other negative adjective found in the dictionary. Though we didn’t officially date, this break up felt worse than the last. I spent a week in bed, and eventually my girlfriends dragged me out of the house. The remedy: dancing, alcohol, boys, boys and more boys. It all felt like an attempt to piece together my broken heart with Band-Aids when it really needed a cast.
Then the time came for me to transfer to the University of Florida. Once I got to Florida, I felt alone, longing for a connection with anyone. I needed someone to talk to, to make me feel like I hadn’t made a horrible decision moving 3,000 miles away. After struggling to meet people on campus, I became Tinder addict.
There were too many matches, conversations, new numbers and dates to count, but they all shared one thing in common: They led to nowhere. More recently I met a surprisingly great guy and things looked up, but as soon as we started spending more time together I began panicking.
What’s wrong with me? Isn’t this what I wanted? Am I ready to seriously date? I started to examine my life, and I discovered that I may not be ready to open myself up to another individual. I just moved to a new state where I lack friends, and I keep myself busy with work, classes and writing. I barely indulge in time with myself, so how could I manage to develop a relationship with another individual?
Now dates usually feel like a hassle. I shouldn’t sacrifice my personal time for the sake of dating. Reflecting on my past two relationships, I sacrificed my own desires just so I could fit in someone else’s life. A relationship shouldn’t destroy my sense of self, but instead make positive contributions to my life. It also works the other way around, and quite frankly I don’t have the time or energy to invest in someone else’s life. Once I straighten out my path I’ll consider intertwining it with the right man.
As badly we may want a relationship, sometimes the timing isn’t right. Perhaps you juggle many responsibilities, or you’re not emotionally ready—and that’s completely okay. At this age we can choose to focus completely on our education and career paths or fall in love and get married. So when you date, ask yourself what you’re prepared for and be honest with yourself and the person you date. Let your honesty save you and others from heartbreak.
*Name withheld to protect privacy.