With the holiday season approaching, I wanted to write about a topic that has been on my heart the past few weeks. I warn you that this is a subject that many people don't like to talk about. It's one that I particularly don't like to talk about. I'm going to make myself very vulnerable here and possibly say things that I've never said out loud. Also, it is entirely possible that some of my loyal readers may not like some of what I say here. That's fine but I make no apologies for how I feel. You shouldn't have to apologize for your feelings anyway. All that being said, let's discuss the subject of dating and relationships.
Why do I bring this up? Because it is something that has been a part of my life almost from the beginning. I just turned 29 years old last month. Perhaps that is why this has been weighing so heavily on my heart. I've entered the last year of my 20s and I cannot even tell you how hard it is to continually hear from friends that they've started dating someone or they've gotten engaged or they're having a baby while I continue to strike out in the dating world. As I watch more and more of my friends partner up and settle down, I'm left feeling very alone and unloved. I want to emphasize here that I am very happy for my friends and I share in their joy and excitement over those kinds of things but I also can't help but feel a slight stab in my heart that I continue to feel like a failure in that aspect of my life.
Yes, I am aware of all that positive stuff that is spouted about how you have to love yourself first and how you are supposed to feel like a complete person by yourself and blah blah blah. Here's the thing. I say that stuff to myself all the time. I do feel like a complete person. I do love myself (most of the time) but I'm not gonna lie, being single can still really suck. I know I like to put on a cynical, tough exterior here and say that I'm not a relationship type of person or that I don't need anyone else in my life because I don't have time for it or whatever but the truth of the matter is: deep down, I really want to share my life with someone else. It's a very human desire and how could I not want that? I'm also very aware of the idea that we shouldn't compare our lives to other peoples because that means we will never be satisfied because our lives will never be as good as someone else's. I hear that but let's be honest, that's not actually how we are wired. You can tell yourself every single day that you are perfectly happy with your life and how it is but the minute your best friend meets the love of her life and gets married, don't even try and tell me that a part of you won't be depressed because you still haven't met anyone worthy. The truth of the matter is, yes, my life is pretty great. I live in a beautiful part of the country surrounded by supportive friends. I'm in great health. I have an internship that I love and am thriving at. Yes, I have it better than a lot of people. I get that. Yet, does that mean that I can't be at least a tiny bit sad that I haven't found anybody to share my joys and sorrows with? Does acknowledging that my life is pretty great also mean that I can't acknowledge that that aspect of my life isn't so great?
It's not for lack of trying, I can assure you of that. I've been in two relationships so far and they both ended very abruptly and very suddenly. The most recent one happened over the summer with someone who I really thought had potential to be a great permanent partner for me. They checked off all of the boxes on my checklist (and believe me, I am extremely picky so almost no one checks all the boxes). Sadly, it didn't last. I didn't take it well. I think I'm still not entirely over them and it is conceivable that I won't be for quite a while. I really hate the dating world and the games you have to play in it and the subtle hints you have to decode. I was so looking forward to being done with all of it. To be honest, I really don't want to deal with it all over again. My Asperger's means I have a difficult time picking up on social cues or subtle hints which seems to be what dating is all about. I don't like having to watch what I say or being afraid that I'm going to scare them off or hearing after two dates that they "just like me as a friend." Here's the thing: I'm not looking for any more friends. I have plenty of friends. I could literally not make another friend for the rest of my life and I would still have too many friends. At this point in my life, I'm searching for something more than that. I'm craving something deeper. Someone I can be intimate with in ways that I can't be with friends. Someone who I can be with forever and even potentially raise children with. Yes, I just said that out loud. I do have a desire to have children. That might shock some of you as I like to make jokes about how I hate children or don't think they are the right thing for me but the truth of the matter is, I would love to be a dad. I think I could be a pretty good one so the idea that that door might never be available to me is one that I really struggle to be okay with. My other deep, dark secret? I have a fear of dying alone. I have a fear that there will be no one at the hospital to say goodbye to me when I go. In my ideal scenario, I'd be surrounded by my partner and our kids and maybe a few really close friends as I take my last breaths on this earth. I worry that that ideal might not become reality.
I don't think my coupled friends realize sometimes how unintentionally hurtful some of their rather innocuous comments can be. When they gush about their boyfriends or husbands on Facebook. When they post a picture of their huge engagement ring. When they post about their pregnancy or post pictures of the baby. While I know they mean well, these types of things are unintentionally hurtful to me because I know that that might never be my situation. My Facebook status might consistently stay at single (it has so far). I may never know the joy of being a parent. I may never propose or be proposed to. So, every time I see stuff like this on my newsfeed, I seriously want to gag or cry or just go lay down in the fetal position. Why can't people post more pictures of their cats? I love seeing pictures of cats. Why don't we brag about our goldfish more? I'd much rather see a picture of your cat than your baby. It would hurt less!
I think another reason why this weighs so heavily on my heart is because I'm going into a profession where single people are heavily frowned upon (even if that's never stated directly). Churches feel much more comfortable hiring pastors that are married and/or have kids. That's the narrative they want to present to other churches. That's the narrative they want to use to recruit more families. I've heard stories of churches who outright have rejected candidates because they were single. Since it is entirely possible that I will still be single by the time I finish school and am ready to seek a call, this really worries me. Is my inability to stay in a relationship longer than a month going to affect my ability to find a job? What am I supposed to do about that? The #1 reason why many single adults stop going to church? Because it is the one aspect of their lives where they feel most acutely aware of their singleness. At work, at school, even in their families, they may not feel it but at church they are keenly aware of it. Thus, they stay away from church. What are churches doing to address this fact?
I think we need to be more aware of the language we use and the words we say to singles. Someday, my prince will come. Maybe he will. What if he doesn't? What if my "knight in shining armor" doesn't exist? Is that okay? Does that make me less of a person? Am I okay with accepting this fact? What if I am meant to stay single? I've certainly been on more than enough bad dates to never want to dip my toe into those waters ever again! I guess I'm just getting to the point where I'm starting to wonder if that special someone is even out there. I can't help but feel slightly inadequate that I still haven't met anybody. I have accepted that I may never meet anyone. Maybe that's how it is meant to be. Not everyone is meant to get married or partner up. Here's the thing about that. Yes, perhaps some of us aren't meant to be with someone but do I have to be one of those someones? Why can't I be with somebody? Yes, I fully believe that I am a complete person even by myself. That doesn't mean that I can't still have the desire to have that special connection with a special person. I think what I've realized is that I'm not a dating person. I'm a relationship person. I want the relationship but not all the drama and games that go with dating. I just want that one special person that I can come home to after a long day of work and cuddle with on the couch and watch a movie. Or someone that I can vacation with or someone that I can bring home with me for the holidays and have them meet my family and feel like I have somebody special that loves me in spite of (or because of) my flaws. Sometimes, I just feel so aware of how much I desperately want that and don't have it. And, it hurts. It deeply, deeply hurts. Maybe it shouldn't but it does. Every. Single. Time.