I just realized that out of all the single people I know not one of them enjoys dating. In fact, get a group of single people together, and it won’t take long for the conversation to circle around to just how miserable dating can be. However much we all hate it, and we do, it’s still hard to give it up. Which begs the question: Why? Why would we all do something we claim to hate?
If the simplest answer is the correct one, then it may come down to limited options — or at least limited awareness of options. Most people seem to find themselves on dating apps simply because they aren’t sure how else to meet people if they’re interested in a relationship. Even people who avoid dating apps often aren’t sure how to be single unless they’re actively seeking out partners.
It may not seem like a good reason, but most of the things we do come down to the same thing. We live as we’re taught, don’t we? Our days are made up of plenty of familiar patterns, and we don’t always ask why we do things a certain way. If we stopped to think about it, we might question a lot of our patterns — not just the ones involving relationships. For instance, why do so many of us watch television at the end of the day rather than taking a walk or spending time in meditation? It’s likely because it’s what we saw our families or friends doing growing up.
For single people, dating is simply what is done until we find ourselves paired up and settled down. We haven’t seen a lot of examples of people living their lives differently. If we don’t have examples of people being happily single, we may see our relationship status as something that needs to be rectified rather than accepted as valid in its own right.
The Desire For A Relationship
The truth is that many single people would like to be coupled. Sometimes, loneliness is a factor, but often, it’s simply a desire for companionship, intimacy, sex, romance, and connection. We want to share our lives with someone who matters to us. This desire isn’t exclusive to singles, and yet, singles are usually the only ones shamed for feeling this way.
If we want a relationship, we automatically think we have to keep dating until we find one. What usually happens is we get burned out or jaded from too many negative experiences, or we hop from relationship to relationship without healing in between. Dating apps are flooded with people from both categories, which can lead to more negative experiences. But we’re afraid that if we stop trying, we’re actually giving up and destined to be alone forever.
It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Sometimes, it feels that way. Of course, we’re meant to feel that way. It’s easier to sell us on dating apps and any number of self-improvement products if we feel like we need them to meet our need for love and belonging.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that some people date for entertainment value. They’re bored, and they don’t know how to be alone. They never truly learned the value of solitude. Instead, they seek out partners to entertain them.
It doesn’t take long on dating apps to find the people who are dating out of boredom. These are the people who have little to no interests outside of sex and dating. When they don’t have anything to do, they’re constantly messaging and seeking outside validation.
Of course, the truth is a little more complex. A lot of people who date out of boredom are also doing so because they’re in denial about their issues or are just trying to distract themselves instead of working on them. Dating out of boredom is a sign that we need healing more than we need a date. If we need more excitement in our lives, a hobby is a good place to start. A person isn’t meant to be used just because we haven’t figured out how to meet our own needs.
You Only Live Once
Another reason we hate dating but keep doing it is that many of us are actually having an existential crisis. The idea of “you only live once” and “carpe diem” can create a sense of urgency, which can be exacerbated by the idea that we’re meant to have checked off certain life experiences by certain ages. We ought to carpe diem ourselves straight into therapy, but instead, we’re seizing the opportunity to keep swiping left and right on the off chance our soulmate is doing the exact same thing.
I’ve found myself thinking this way at times. When I got divorced in my early 30s, I assumed that dating would be easy. I assumed that it wouldn’t take me long to find my soulmate, settle down, and remarry. I wasn’t prepared for the current dating landscape.
I also began to realize that my standards had drastically changed during my marriage. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than what I deserved, so dating wasn’t quite as easy as I had anticipated. My self-worth became uncompromising, and the idea that we only live once actually made me see just how important it is to make careful choices during this lifetime. If we only live once, I didn’t want to waste my one life with anyone who would add only stress to my life and little else.
Fear Of Missing Out
There’s another reason why people who hate dating keep doing it that we shouldn’t overlook. Just as YOLO keeps us swiping, FOMO can have the same effect. The fear of missing out is real. We’re constantly being spoon-fed the idea that the only way to meet anyone now is to go online to date. We’re treated to one example after another of couples who found each other on Tinder or Bumble or Hinge or whatever new dating app is popular at the time. We’re afraid we’ll quit too soon, and our perfect person goes on to meet, mate, and marry someone else.
It took me a while to develop a different sort of fear of missing out. I began to miss out on the life I could be living when I was dating and hating it. At the end of my last relationship, I was presented with hours of free time I had once devoted to the relationship. Let’s be honest: I was happy giving up that time for someone I loved. I didn’t even see it as giving anything up. Instead, I was enjoying his company.
But after it ended, I wasn’t enjoying dating or dating apps. It wasn’t fun and exciting — just stressful and depressing. I thought about all the better ways I could be spending my time. Then, I asked myself why I wasn’t doing that instead.
I stopped being afraid of missing out on my one true love and began to be afraid that I would miss out on my one true life. I was wasting valuable time doing something I didn’t even like, and I was tired of it. While a former partner accused me of being anti-men and anti-dating, it’s simply not true. I love being in a healthy, happy relationship. I enjoy being partnered. What I don’t enjoy is the idea that I should be constantly seeking partnerships rather than living my life and trusting that I could still meet and fall in love with someone along the way.
One of the main reasons we keep dating even though we hate it is because of hope. Hope really does spring eternal. Some people aren’t dating out of fear of missing out or the idea that we only live once. They’re dating with the hope that there’s someone out there who could love them in the way they need. These eternal optimists are sure that if they just persevere, they will find their happily ever after love story.
Hope is a powerful factor that can keep people who hate dating engaged in it long after the joy and excitement have faded. It’s the persistent belief that dating is a numbers game, and we have to keep showing up and playing even when we’d rather do anything else. It feels beautiful at times — and foolish at times, too. But it keeps people engaged in dating who would have otherwise given up.
When I find myself trying to date, it’s often due to a variety of these factors. Sometimes, I’ll sit back and consider why I have that impulse and see if there’s another way to satisfy it. One that doesn’t involve the demeaning process of swiping left and right on other human beings.
In the end, I’ve decided to trust the Universe. I’m living my life instead of chasing the idea of a twin flame or soul mate. As much as I want to love and be loved, I also want peace. I want to wake up every day focused on living a good life. I’m not trying to fill an empty space because I’m not leaving empty spaces in my life.
I hope someday there will be someone to share my life with — someone who can love me for who I am and who I can love in return. I haven’t given up hope just because I’m not interested in constantly trying to date. I just realized that the rest of my life needs my attention. I’m not running from anything. I’m not bored. I’m healing and healthy. I’m trusting the timing of the Universe — even when I think it could stand to hurry up.
Originally published on Medium