Many women are viscerally, adamantly, even violently opposed to being single. They think that being at peace with their singleness means that they gave up, that they stopped looking for the man of their dreams, stopped seeking the relationship that their heart and soul yearn for.
I used to think that way. I thought I couldn’t find peace until I found “the one.” I’ve sought that for so long that it became as much a part of me as my heartbeat, my breath.
How could I possibly find peace in the life that’s for so long been defined by what’s missing from it?
But when I felt peace alongside my sadness after a mutual end to a recent whirlwind romance, I knew that I shouldn’t reject that peace. It came from the strength I’d been gaining throughout the past few year, but had only recognized just recently. Here’s some things I did to find that peace.
A New Perspective on Dating
Soon before that whirlwind romance, I changed my perspective on dating by radically changing the way I dated. More specifically, I made a change in the way I live. I started living what I refer to as a “life of yes,” because I started to say “no” to one specific thing: online dating.
This change of perspective was multifaceted and gradual. In some ways, I’m still in the middle of it. Possibly the biggest change was reclaiming my autonomy in my love life. Before, when I used online dating sites, I thought I was taking control over my dating life. In reality, I was actually ceding that control to the big data and the algorithmic whims of the sites. Propelled by increasing and excessive desperation, I fell into swiping mindlessly, which left me feeling more dissatisfied than I was before I started.
But more importantly, I realized that the sites weren’t the disease. They were just my drug of choice; my frantic attempt to self-medicate. In my 20s, I often fell prey to my poor understanding of my personal role in my relationships. I always thought a lot about what my dates thought about me, and never spent time analyzing what I thought of them. I handled each potential romance with proverbial kid gloves, tiptoeing through conversations and obsessing over all the ways things could go wrong, until they inevitably did.
Release Your Expectations
I gained more dating skills and self-confidence by age 30. But I still wasn’t really at peace with my singleness. I was exhausted and frustrated by it. I lived with a constant feeling of panic. I viewed my singleness as an agonized and prolonged rest stop on the journey to my perfect relationship. This is certainly not the best frame of mind to be in when looking for a life partner!
So, what changed for me? I got sick of living this way and let it all go: my timeline, my checklist, my expectations, and even my addiction to online dating. With my new mindset, I was also able to let go of the belief that trying hard enough would earn me a relationship in the same way that I earned a college degree and a career I love—through wit, grit, and sheer determination.
I burned that all to the ground, and I set out to live my single life. The peace I’ve since found permeates everything, and more importantly, it lets me simply be me.
Start Saying “Yes”
When I quit online dating I was left with a gaping hole in my social life. I filled that hole by taking risks, by embracing the astounding possibilities that lie in uncertainty. When I first met the flame in the whirlwind romance, he asked me to call him and I said “yes.” In the past, I would have tucked his number in my purse and forgotten about it until a future seasonal deep-clean of that purse unearthed it. Instead, I chose to open my life and my heart to all of the possibilities of him, of us, and we got to have a wonderful adventure together.
My decision to start dating that guy and the subsequent whirlwind romance we enjoyed was like a news flash from the powers-that-be that I’d finally done something right. For the first time, I didn’t perceive the relationship as the piece that had been missing from my life. The relationship was affirming, exciting, and perfect just for it was. For once, I didn’t waste time agonizing over where the relationship was going, or what things might look like in the future. I didn’t see that relationship as a means to an end. I saw it instead as an end in itself. Viewing it that way let me see it as the gift that it truly was, even when we had to end it.
Since that whirlwind romance ended, I keep finding peace and freedom in saying “yes.” I’ve accepted invitations to dates, to volunteer opportunities. More recently, I’ve given online dating another chance. But this time around, I’m not relying on online dating, but I’m using it to supplement the life I’m living. Yes, I’m dating again, but I’m doing it armed with the knowledge that I’m whole in myself. I don’t view dating as an attempt to fill a void any longer, but rather see it simply as a way to meet men. I’m open to potential romance, but I’m not obsessed with finding it.
I realize that I can only live my best life by fully embracing the stage I’m at. Finding peace in my singleness didn’t mean I stopped living. I started living.