How to Start Dating When You’re Not Sure You Want To

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“Me? I’m taking some time off from dating to focus on personal growth.”

I’ve used this line a lot in my journey through single-dom. Meanwhile burying myself underneath my bed sheets and getting up occasionally to refill my tea and tortilla chips as I devoured the book “How to Love Yourself (and Sometimes Other People)”. I’d inhale at the end of a chapter and let it all slowly roll out, feeling inspired to go all in on loving me.

Then I’d get up and not have to consider a single other person in my life or feel triggered by anyone’s irritating ways of chewing their food.

It sounds highly evolved and spiritual — loving myself, by myself — and it does have its place at times.

Just as dreaming about travel makes you feel adventurous, it can be a lot of theory, until you’re nursing bug bites in a tent where you haven’t been able to sleep for more than 3 hours in 4 days.

I daydreamed about how generous and understanding and confident I’d be in my next relationship. There I was nodding lovingly at my partner and explaining my point of view so well that he was completely convinced of how lucky he was to have found such a woman.

The only problem was, I woke up from the dream when I realized I was shaking from anxiety about the idea of asking my housemate if she could wait until I was done to use the stove in the morning.

I had more of a challenge ahead of me than I realized in order to fully integrate the idea of loving this wonder of a woman.

In fact the only way to know that I could love myself any better than the last relationship I’d been losing myself in, was to actually get out there, start dating and practice! That’s right, practice asking for what I wanted and practice talking about myself with confidence and appreciating someone else’s point of view though it differed from mine.

So back into the dating pool I went, polished online profile and all. Accepting invites to singles events, parties, smiling at men, giving conversations more of a chance than my normal abbreviated chit chat.

Things were rolling smoothly, entertaining several first dates, and politely declining the ones that didn’t fit, until I went out with the guy I caught feelings for on date two.

It was the way he talked about us in the future and then he pulled back for days until, just as I convinced myself to drop my feelings, he’d pop up on my screen. It was an all too familiar feeling from all my ex’s before. Reeling me in with attention, and pulling away as if he’d lost any interest. Those were the crumbs I always fell for.

But this was the opportunity to love myself by choosing something different. Part of me wanted to see him again even while I felt completely pretzeled up with anxiety. Still that small voice kept speaking through my gut — “Save yourself months, years of agony. You’re worthy of a peaceful, healthy relationship.”

Mustering up all available emotional fortitude, I told him we weren’t a match. I cried the next day from the end of this one week romance.

Sometimes in life we can’t eat the whole bag of Doritos in one sitting and instead we must parent ourselves to do the hard thing we know we need to do. The thing that will take our rubber to the road and strengthen us in the way no book reading can.

We must throw off the covers sometimes, put on a flattering outfit, repeat self-love mantras and meet the damn guy at the coffee shop. It might be amazing how all that book learning has converted into relational muscles after this practice. So when your soul twinkles while meeting another shiny, matching soul — unbeknownst to you exactly how — it will feel like you were prepared for this.

Heartfelt words about love.

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