his post is part of a series about my own personal dating experiences before I met and married Marc. I may be a newlywed now, but just a few years ago I never thought I would be anything but single, and I hated it. When I was struggling I didn’t feel like there was anyone who could truly understand. I was single, I didn’t want to be single, but I also wanted to be happy in my present life. My hope with this series is to give people who feel the way I felt hope, no matter where their lives might take them.
There are two major reasons a single person decides to become one half of a couple: he or she finds a person with whom they want to be in a relationship, or he or she just doesn’t want to be single anymore.
Before meeting Marc, I was constantly on the lookout for my person. It consumed me. I would join a girlfriend for lunch and spend most of time looking around the restaurant for any cute guys who just might be single. I’d scan the subway car during my commute, checking for wedding rings and trying to gauge heights.
I wanted to be in a relationship so badly. It wasn’t that I disliked my single life, but I believed a life as a couple would be so much better. Honestly, it was exhausting to yearn for something so intensely.
I mentioned it in my Love Lessons Introduction, but before Marc came along I had never been in a real relationship. There were certainly a handful of guys whom I thought would make it happen and who then devastated me when they bailed a few dates later. But there were no actual boyfriends.
And none of that was my choice. Each one of these guys, whom at one time I believed could be The One, broke things off with me. It was never the other way around. And when I look back on those experiences now one thing is alarmingly clear.
I got so damn lucky.
Most of these guys were not good for me. A few of them aren’t even good people. I was completely blinded in the moment, but there’s nothing like time to give you some perspective.
I wanted to be in a couple so badly that I took whatever scrap of attention some man was willing to give and spun it into a relationship in my head. When they eventually broke it off I was mourning that made-up relationship and not the actual guy. At the time, however, I had no idea.
But there were clear signs. Like all the things I wouldn’t tell my friends about the way I was treated by one guy because deep down I knew it wasn’t right. The guy who refused to hold my hand in public, didn’t stand up for me when his bratty female friends ignored me at a dinner, corrected my grammar in emails, and suggested I make regular waxing appointments somehow became my Prince Charming. I only told my friends about the sweet things he did, which became fewer and fewer as we got to know each other.
When he told me point blank, “Right now I’m happier in my life than I’ve ever been, but it has nothing to do with you”, our courtship was obviously over, and the truth started coming out. My friends told me he’s an asshole and I was so much better on my own. And yet I still sobbed over him for months.
Then there was the guy who lived in a different city but convinced me he cared about me so much that I actually started looking for jobs in that city. I even had a phone interview and was already looking at apartments when he then lied about coming to New York for a visit. He had told me his flight was supposed to leave in the evening and when I had heard nothing that day and finally texted him around 6:00 that night to check in he told me he wasn’t going to be able to make it.
About a week later he broke up with me by literally never speaking to me again. He stopped returning texts and phone calls. He was a ghost. It was like we’d never even met. I was erased.
And that’s just two of the assholes I dated! Yet, at one point, I would have run away with either of these men because I wanted to be in a relationship that much. And looking back, it scares the hell out of me.
If these guys hadn’t been complete jerks and broken up with me I could have ended up with one of them. Because based on how desperate I was for a boyfriend I’m not sure I would have ever stood up for myself. The result could have been a very unhappy and unhealthy life.
This is what I wish I could have told myself back then: your respect and attention is something a potential partner has to earn. It’s the reason you date before getting married. Instead of constantly worrying about whether or not I was everything he wanted me to be, I should have been asking myself if this man was really worthy of my love and energy.
It sounds so obvious, right? So, how did I not get it? I’ll tell you why. Because at the time, the thought of being alone was far too overwhelming. I used to think that each new guy I met could be the last to show any interest. So, if I couldn’t make that work then maybe I had lost my chance at relationship happiness.
And I would settle.
I thought my biggest challenge was finding a mate. But my biggest challenge was really accepting my single life. If I could finally be happy alone then I would have the frame of reference to decide if a man could make my life better.
Here’s the thing, if a man doesn’t believe you are more important than any little argument or issue that may come up, you are better off alone. Being part of a couple while constantly worrying if he’s still into you is so much worse than being single yet understanding your own self-worth.
Think about it, why do we really crave a relationship in the first place? It’s not because we always want a date on Saturday night, or a partner to smile with in the perfect social media post, or someone to take us on that dream vacation. It’s all nice, but you can do all of that on your own with close friends and family, or even by yourself.
We really want a relationship because it means we’ve found someone who loves us unconditionally. This partner supports us while at the same time challenging us, tells us we matter and deserve to take our place in the world, always has our back, and never ever puts anyone or anything above us and our relationship.
It took years for me to realize this.
But I finally started to understand about three and a half years ago. I still have no idea why, but it was starting to happen. I began to realize my happiness is controlled by me, not someone else. He could definitely make me happier, but he couldn’t add more to something that didn’t exist.
Because of this realization I considered not seeing Marc right before our third date. It wasn’t because of anything he had done or anything that had happened. Instead I was finally in a good place with myself, and the thought of getting attached to another guy who would just break my heart and possibly set me back was scary.
I was going back and forth in my head the entire way to the bar where we were meeting for drinks. Even as I arrived I still had no idea what I really wanted to do. Then I walked in the door and saw Marc. He was carefully organizing a seat at the bar, so it would be perfect for me, and that’s when I knew.
I didn’t want to stop seeing this man.
The rest, as they say, is history. Over the next few weeks and months Marc earned the honor of being my person, just like I earned the honor of being his.
For the first time in my dating life I didn’t try to settle. And I ended up with more than I ever imagined possible.
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