Single by choice
So, ‘Single By Choice’ may not be the most accurate sub-title I’ve ever wrote, given that it hasn’t been entirely my choice. But we’ll go with it.
It’s exactly 4 years since I started dating, and nearly 3 years since I started writing. When I first started my blog, dating was a big theme. The whole dating world was such a new and intriguing one to me. And of course, it was ripe for writing about.
It was never my intention to write a blow-by-blow account (minds out of the gutter people, that’s not what I meant). And, over the years that my blog has been alive, I’ve written explicitly about it less and less, although my experiences have informed the content of posts on other themes.
I never wanted to write about dating in too personal a way. When you put yourself out there by writing in the way that I have, it’s important to keep a piece back for you and those that share your life, in real life. Also, I share aspects of my life and that’s my choice, but it’s never been my intention, or my place, to share aspects of someone else’s. So, I’ve written very little about dating in the last couple of years.
There’s another reason for this: there’s little else to say beyond what I said at the start.
Dating, four years on…
Today on social media I re-shared the post in which I describe my introduction to the world of online dating (you can read it here: warning, contains sex people). The fact is, 4 years on, not much has changed. I’m still single. I’d still like to meet the person that I will share the rest of my life with. But what has changed is that, after years of the bollocks of online dating, I’ve had enough of it.
I have absolutely zero desire to ever go on an online dating app ever again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some fun experiences from dating sites.
I’ve dated a swinger, dated a singer, and I’ve had more first dates than hot dinners.
But here’s the thing, I never wanted to date lots of people. I have always wanted to meet someone special and never have to return to a dating site ever again.
It hasn’t worked out that way. I can’t even hazard a guess as to how many first dates I’ve had. When I do meet someone new, and she asks how many dates I’ve been on, I’ll be almost embarrassed. Will I come across as some kind of player man whore? (That notion would be removed after all of about 5 minutes in my company). Or will they wonder what the hell must be wrong with me, to have had that many dates and not had anything last longer than a couple of months?
I’ve wondered it myself.
Riding the dating rollercoaster
I would always return to dating sites knowing that I prefer my life to be shared with somebody. Not anybody, but somebody special. Maybe that’s part of the issue – I’m not going to settle for any less than something that feels amazing and absolutely right for me. I haven’t waded through so much shit to settle for less than that.
Despite the frequent disappointments I would return, telling myself that unless I was ‘out there’ I was never going to meet anybody. Telling myself that there are good people on there. People that are looking for something genuine, like I am. But it was always the same pattern: first dates that don’t lead to second dates, or clicking with someone, only for it to last a month, at best. Intense, then fizzle. Or worse, they just disappear.
This isn’t just my experience, it’s the experience of so many others. And when you date and compare stories, it can make you very, very cynical about dating, and about people. You hear of so many people doing so many shitty things to other people, it makes you wonder how people ever get into successful, loving relationships anymore.
I’m through with it
I’ve had enough of it. I do think there are plenty of good, genuine people out there, and I wouldn’t describe anybody I’ve dated as a bad person. On the contrary, once the dust has settled I’ve made some lasting friendships that I value. But I wonder whether there’s something about the whole online dating process and culture that is just soul-sapping.
People become so disposable. I mean, you can’t help who you fancy and who you click with, but everybody can have the decency to not string somebody along or just ignore them. Or apparently not. Maybe this isn’t just dating culture, but an extension of modern culture full stop. Where people are disposable, merely a collection of surface level attributes. An instant culture, where you know that if a relationship ends you can be on a date with somebody else the next day.
And so you get dating sites filled with people that are on there not to meet you, but to get over (or under) someone else. People who will happily use and discard you, without even giving you the option to decide for yourself whether you want to merely be a warm body for a night or two.
Well, fuck that, it’s not a culture that I subscribe to.
More and more I just don’t think I’m cut out for all the online dating bollocks. I can’t be doing with the rollercoaster nature of it, of hope and excitement followed, swiftly and inevitably, by disappointment. Then stepping back onto the treadmill…
Managing down your expectations
I would always just tell myself to have no expectation, to take things as they come, but even that became too difficult. You get to a point where you just expect that nothing is going to go anywhere. There’s no fun in that, so what’s the point? When something becomes an ordeal to be endured, when it ought to be fun, then it’s time to spend your time doing something else.
I don’t want to get to the point where my online dating profile becomes just another one of the many ‘rant profiles’ – a profile that tells you all the shit they’ve experienced that they definitely DON’T WANT so if that’s you then SWIPE LEFT! There’s nothing attractive about that. I don’t want to scroll through another series of profile photos so heavily filtered that you can’t even tell what somebody looks like.
And I don’t want to go on a date with somebody with fucking bunny rabbit ears.
I’m done with it. I’m on my own and I’m happy. No, I haven’t chosen to be single, but I’ve chosen to stop looking. Because it hasn’t worked. And, in the spirit of ‘if you do what you always do, you’ll get what you’ve always got’, I’m at the point of thinking that looking for it is never going to work for me.
And that’s fine.
Better things to do
There was a time when I felt I needed to be in a relationship. I would dread the empty weekends without my children, and would try to fill them by getting out and about.
I have so much that I want to do and achieve, and so little free time to do it. I want to write a novel (I’ve started!). I want to create more speaking opportunities for myself. I would like to create an audio version of my book. I want to publish a book of my poetry. I am writing a self-development workshop, and I’m currently working on developing my website. When I have all of that to do, I’m not prepared to spend any more time having empty online conversations that will only take me down another road to nowhere.
I would prefer to share my life with someone, but if that’s going to happen then she will just have to cross my path while I am living my life for me.
I haven’t given up on sharing my life with somebody. But I’ve given up on looking for her.
Matthew’s debut book, Something Changed, Stumbling Through Divorce, Dating & Depression, is available now. Click here for info
Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads