I have a tendency to be very hard on myself, hyper critical and unforgiving, particularly when it comes to failed relationships. I don’t cut myself one bit of slack and will generally take full responsibility for the demise of my attempts at together forever or a possible happily ever after. In some cases the blame and self-pity have lasted longer than the relationship itself, lots of wasted time and emotion. Yeeeshh!
The shorthand version of my relationship history is unremarkable . . . married my high school sweetheart, divorced, a one night stand, a few boyfriends, then a boyfriend I married, divorced again, a couple of live-in boyfriends and then someone I really, truly wanted to be the one. He was a repeat. I didn’t learn my lesson the first time. So there you have it, thirty-seven years of lovin’ in a nutshell. Doesn’t look like much in shorthand form, but together, for better or worse, these men have shaped how I feel about love and myself.
I make a lot of jokes about my relationships. I’m sure it’s my way of hiding the pain and sometimes embarrassment of my mistakes. Most of my relationships were doomed from the start, some ending quickly and others needing years to marinate to their full potential for heartache. When I am visited by ghosts of relationships past naturally I experience mixed emotions, flashes of happiness overshadowed by feelings of failure. I sometimes cringe. As I travel the road of self-improvement I hope to cringe less, eventually stop cringing all together, and then to smile, forgive myself and move forward, allowing mostly happy memories to emerge. So where do I begin?
Choosing not to date seemed like a good place to start. Over the last five months I’ve had plenty of time to contemplate this choice and I wonder. . . Is it really a choice if I have absolutely no desire to date? My former self would have quickly moved on to a new relationship without a moment of self-reflection, attaching myself to the first guy to show interest. I reflect A LOT these days and consider embracing a life without a partner. Could I choose to be single forever?
In my 20s, 30s and even 40s, I figured single status was temporary. There was always time, and something better would come along. But single at 54 is different. There are fewer choices, chances, opportunities, and certainly less time. I have been single many, many times, and would say given my varied experience, I am nearing mastery of singlehood. Dining alone in restaurants, going to the movies, and traveling solo . . . it’s easy and I enjoy it. But it’s not my first choice. For me, life is more fun experienced with someone I love. It just is.
If I know I am happier coupled-up then why am I considering a life as a single person? Well, that is the million dollar question. I think the answer might be fear. Yep, fear. Looking for love this time around would require trusting the Universe, believing there is someone out there who will appreciate me “as-is”, kind, warm, thoughtful, funny, smart, and reasonably attractive. More importantly, I have to believe that I am worth loving. I have moments of being a true believer, but unfortunately more moments of feeling like damaged goods. It’s brutal out there and I’ve been rejected by the best of them, and even the worst of them. I hate admitting that my ego and self-image have suffered. It turns out I’m not quite as strong as I think I am, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. For now, I’m not ready to take a chance.
So, I will stick to my plan of no dating. I treat myself to nice experiences, spend my time with people who lift my spirits, and I continue to write and write and write. All of these things improve my psyche and help alone moments feel less lonely.
Maybe the reason I contemplate a life alone is because there is a strong possibility that will be my life. Maybe I’ve used up all my chances at love. Maybe I’ll discover that my connections to many are much more important and more fulfilling than a connection to just one. Where I am right now is not a bad place to be . . . loved by family and friends, happy and healthy. It’s a good life for sure.
Still, to share this life with someone who gets me and wants a life with me despite the baggage. . . that would be the icing on the cake. But first, I have to believe . . . and then I have to be willing to take a chance.
Happy New Year!