Being single these days is for the birds! I want to look back with a sigh of wistfulness and nostalgia and say that it was better as a teenager or at least in college, when everything was easier. But then I remember that dating has never been easy. Sure, I didn’t have to navigate text conversations then or figure out emojis, but I did spend a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring and analyzing every word, breath, and pause in those awkward phone conversations.
Being single with kids post-divorce is even more complicated. Not only do I have to navigate the world of single parenting, but I also get to throw in the roller coaster of emotions that comes with dating and relationships. As an INFJ personality type, it is even more difficult to break through my introverted tendencies to connect with other people in real life (IRL), but luckily for me and millions like me, IRL interactions aren’t even necessary to get started.
Welcome to the world of online dating where dick pics are a thing, and you’re sure to get one 8 out of 10 times you give out your phone number, email address, or Snapchat ID. There we are: single pringles just looking to meet someone nice and have a pleasant chat, and here comes the nude picture or the request for one. It can be discouraging and daunting. How are we supposed to meet someone with relationship potential when it seems that so much of the dating world is just out looking for a hookup?
This is where single pringles learn to mix and mingle. While I think online dating is a great way to get started to hone our skills in interacting with and getting to know others, I think we need to figure out how to take our dating attempts offline. This is where I advocate a bit of a non-traditional approach to dating: Stop dating.
If this seems counter-intuitive, hang on. Dating is great. Dating is fun. Dating is also terrible and exhausting. If we want to have a better opportunity of actually meeting our soul mate or even Mr. (or Mrs.) Right Now, we need to take breaks between dating experiences. So often we pop out of one relationship and come up for air looking for the next one to grab onto, as if doing so will somehow save us. We forget how to be alone. We even forget who we are because we’re so busy figuring out who we are in this relationship or that one that we forget we need to cultivate relationships with ourselves.
So be alone. We can take ourselves out to dinner or enjoy an outing for one. We don’t have to wallow in loneliness. Instead, we can figure out what interests us and what we like to do. We can learn a new language or take a class that’s always fascinated us. We can read more books or listen to new music. We can visit places we’ve never been and try new experiences. We can be alone just to experience what it’s like and to figure out who we are when we’re not the significant other of someone else.
This is where mixing and mingling can come in to play. We’ve spent all this time being alone and investing in ourselves as people. That’s fantastic. Now, if we decide that we’re ready to dip a toe back into the dating pool, we have something to talk about, interests that we’re passionate about discussing. We’ve become more interesting by virtue of having taken an interest in ourselves and our lives. Now we can take those interests and go out into the world with them.
How does that work? We go out and take that class, and maybe we meet someone we’re interested in on our way to class or while we’re sitting there learning. But let’s think of the bigger picture. We go out and sign up for a new experience, and we meet someone we’re not interested in, but we like them as a friend. Maybe they have a single friend or someone else that could be right for us. We broaden our contacts simply by being active, engaged, and being open to getting to know new people. We’re interesting because we’re involved in our own lives, we’re interested in other people, and we begin to build a larger social network that’s entirely offline as a result. Imagine that: a social network we didn’t necessarily build through Facebook or Instagram!
Of course, we shouldn’t be approaching this as a way to secure a significant other. If we go after this like a scavenger hunt, we’re less likely to truly cultivate that relationship with ourselves. Or we might make the mistake of using people to meet their friends rather than getting to know people because we’re making human connections and true friendships along the way. In short, it’s not about seeking out the love of our lives through some sort of formula. It’s about learning how to live our lives in a way that might allow us more opportunities for finding love one day- while we still enjoy the day we’re living.
Dating is tough, and we often come back from our experiences feeling less than elated. But we’re tough. Resilient. Built to bounce back from our disappointments. When we begin to pursue fulfilling lives as ardently as we’ve chased love affairs, we might just find that the love we’re looking for finds us instead.