My brief liaisons with Leigh and then Daniel this year, have left me wanting. Wanting direction. I feel empty, undesirous and unmotivated to find any sort of relationship. Single seems so easy. So uncomplicated. It’s a comforting default and it looks more inviting the more I think about it and the longer I am in it.
It’s no surprise that I have never heard from Daniel since I messaged him with my thoughts and ending our sporadic ‘relationship’. I have tried to find the enthusiasm to maintain conversations with matches on Tinder, but I wonder what the point is in such a fake environment.
This year has been an odd one. I have been left considering what it is I want from someone, and what it is that I want to feel. At least my time with Daniel sparked these conversations. I don’t think I want married men any more. But I don’t want to feel constricted by a relationship that has too many expectations or demands a future I cannot promise. I need someone who has the same feelings as me, has become set in their ways, but can slot someone in – sometimes.
I feel like I have lost touch with myself. This year I never found that spark that got my passions ignited. I reason that it’s just because I haven’t met that someone who inspires me. But maybe that isn’t the case. Not since my brief online match with Aidan way back in early February, which stirred all sorts of emotions in me, have I felt more unenthusiastic. He stirred that yearning in me and when it stopped, it really stopped. Neither Leigh nor Daniel sparked it again. Everything just felt so ‘ordinary’ and I wasn’t bothered when either of them backed off.
Maybe it was because Aidan was the first glimpse of something after a long year of lockdowns and celibacy. Maybe the first one is always the one that gets you going. Or maybe it’s because I have been down this road so many times, I know the outcome.
I’ve pushed myself back onto Tinder since I ended my correspondence with Daniel, but I am disappointed by the selection of ‘oldies’ in my age group, and my social skills seem to have fallen down a cavernous hole, as have theirs. I can’t find the bravery to start a conversation, and am even more disappointed at how difficult it is to find a man who can string an interesting sentence together. Maybe I just need another break, but I don’t feel like I ever really got started this year. It’s like something inside me has died.
Last October, I decided I wanted to get back into dating land. This October, I found myself resolving to dump it again. I fear another long bout of self-imposed celibacy has begun. This time I have a lot to think about. Maybe this is another step in my reset?
Esther Perel’s book ‘The State of Affairs’ has been a huge help. I continue to grapple with my nemesis – trust – and my curiosity as to what a relationship could look like for me in the future, one that doesn’t involve married men and requires me to consider trusting another human being on those levels. I am also still unsure what I have to offer someone who is single and available. I’m not sure. Like I say, I have become set in my ways.
Perel’s last chapter ‘After The Storm – The Legacy Of An Affair’, especially, has stayed with me. How do you mitigate a relationship when trust is an issue and when you don’t need everything that normally forms the basis of a monogamous relationship? You cannot lock someone up, forbid them contact with the opposite sex, or scrutinise their accounts for signs of illicit behaviour. Not only does that behaviour drive people away, even the intentionally monogamous can find desire elsewhere without looking.
Perel talks about having a plan and protection for if things change, and having honest conversations with your partner around expectation, behaviour and limitations, from the outset, so that the relationship starts as it means to go on. What counts as infidelity and what does not. What is expected of the other person and what you need within the relationship.
The best I can hope for is someone who is willing to have those conversations and really mean it. It is the saviour of any relationship. Too often, I see couples struggle because of a lack of communication above all else. It is a bad pattern I have got into myself in the past, and I know how it eats away at the foundations of any union. To me, shutting down is the ultimate failure. What are you hiding when you don’t want to talk?
Unlike before, I have laid the foundations to protect myself in other ways, so I am not afraid of relationships ending. In the past, I was always living with partners, and it was hard to walk away from a bad relationship without upending my entire life. The extra trauma of picking up every fragment of my life was enough to stop me leaving. Now, I am independent, I have my own place to live, I have my own life. My business, my finances, the roof over my head, do not rely on someone else. Someone leaving does not destroy the basis of my reason for being here. And that’s the big difference for me this time around. I couldn’t give up those things for any relationship now, and that needs to be a part of any conversation I have with a prospective partner. I am not willing to give up the fundamentals of my life.
This foundation of stability, which came back in 2016, has allowed me to be more experimental with my relationships over the past six years, and is why my unions have been frequent and short-lived. I haven’t had to consider the bigger picture and have been braver about exploring and making mistakes. I don’t think I need any of that now, but I also don’t feel like forcing myself to confront my singledom.