About two weeks ago, I went out on what could be described as a “singles mixer.” A friend of mine invited me and a bunch of her friends to go bowling on a Friday night. We were asked to invite other single friends as well. For me, the whole experience was awkward. I barely knew what to say when a guy asked me out. “Umm… I’ll think about it.” I replied.
Was it too soon? Was it the wrong setting? Was it the fact that I wasn’t drinking and everyone else was slightly buzzed? Whatever it was, it wasn’t Ellie’s shining “open-for-business” moment. Still, I don’t regret going. It was a good learning experience and I’m proud that I stretched myself – despite my discomfort.
The truth is I don’t know how to be single. I began dating my ex-husband shortly after I turned 18. Then two days before I turned 21, we got married. I went from childhood to matrimony without skipping a beat. I loved being coupled and I especially loved being married. But now I’m an almost-28-year-old divorced woman trying to navigate loneliness, big life decisions, and what seems like a mountain of insecurities. Although I’m also finding joy in the journey.
Here are few personal observations I’ve made in this – up until recently – reluctant single adventure:
- If it doesn’t sound fun, I probably won’t do it. Unfortunately, this rule cannot be applied to everything, but I try to employ it in the way I spend my time with men. If I’m not excited about hanging out with someone, I’m probably not going to do it. These opportunities are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- I’m not looking for new guy friends. If (a) I’m not already your friend and (b) you’re a man and (c) I’m not interested in you as a romantic partner, I probably won’t be investing time with you alone. Sorry. I barely have time for my existing friends.
- I may or may not be guilty of looking around from time to time. After my ex-husband’s infidelity, I had my doubts that I would ever be interested in anyone again. This is not the case. There’s an attractive guy who works at my gym and sometimes I even say hi to him. This leads me to my next point…
- I’m not good at flirting. It’s true. I have no idea what to say or how to say it. I’m terrified of coming across as desperate or stupid. When a random, attractive guy merely looks at me, I find myself quickly dodging his glance out of embarrassment even if I’m unsure whether he’s checking me out or not. Whether flirting is a natural talent or a learned skill, I don’t have it. I’m not sure if I should work towards acquiring this talent or leave it alone. Probably the latter.
- My value doesn’t come from people. My value is not dependent on the thoughts or actions of another person. My value comes from the God who created me. Currently, I’m building security on who I am as a child of God. That way I’m not aimlessly searching for validation or worth in someone or something. I have received my worth and identity from the eyes of Jesus – the one who Reclaimed me. This is probably the biggest reason I am not actively searching for a partner right now. Caveat: I don’t have this concept down quite yet.
- Also… My value doesn’t come from myself. My value is not dependent on my own thoughts or actions. I’ve thought some pretty nasty things about myself in the depths of depression. If my value was determined by my behavior or being individually secure, that’d be a disaster because I can be a mess.
- I need to be chosen. I know that I can choose someone, but will the right man choose me in return? This may be my biggest fear.
- I’m lonely… sometimes. Being single when you love being in a couple is painful. This feeling has subsided significantly throughout the last couple of months but it’s still there at times.
- I want to be alone… sometimes. There are times that I love my independence. Not having to explain to someone where I’m going, what I’m doing, or how I’m spending my money. I can truly be free. It’s surprisingly enjoyable… when it’s not flat out depressing.
- I have no idea what “my type” is. I know one thing: I don’t like the a&$holes.
- Being the third-wheel is hard but I don’t want to be forgotten. When you’re surrounded by people who are in happy relationships, either married or dating, it’s hard not to feel envious. But I also don’t want this to stop me from spending time with my friends who are in relationships. Please invite me to hang out with you and your significant other! I can push through the third-wheel-awkwardness to have fun.
- I want someone to find me attractive. Duh! But, seriously. I hope that one day, someone will only look at me and know that I’m the only person for them. I’ve never had that. Sappy? Well, that’s where we are right now.
- Casual dating doesn’t sound fun. (See number 1).
- I can’t and won’t hide the fact that I’m divorced. I usually disclose it within the first 5 minutes of meeting anyone. It’s my story, and I can’t help but share it. I don’t want to scare anyone away, but I also don’t want to hide this huge part of my life. (Read my promise not to slandering my ex-husband)
- Depression and anxiety are real. I struggle with both. (Read about my protocol for avoiding downward spirals.)
- I sometimes feel like I’m just not *blank* enough to find someone. Not good enough, smart enough, athletic enough, driven enough, strong enough, worthy enough… the list goes on.
- I love my greyhound, and I talk about her a lot. This has nothing to do with being single, just wanted a reason to bring her up.
- I have no idea when “ready” is. How am I supposed to know when I’m “ready” for something with someone? What does “ready” even mean after a terrible break-up or divorce? Does anyone know? If you do, please share.
- I might be jealous. The stakes are high when it comes to protecting myself from future hurt. Trust will be built slowly and friendships with the opposite gender will be scrutinized. I know I will likely have to guard against an unhealthy level of jealousy and fear of deception.
- This is not a Want Ad. If anything, this blog should indicate my caution, not that I’m shouting for a boyfriend.
- Cynicism is a struggle. I’ve been burned. Bad. Sometimes I have serious doubts that love will work for me.
- I’m not going to let fear keep me from anything good. I may be afraid of committing to someone who isn’t my type (see number 10), getting my heart broken again, or being alone forever, but fear is an illusion. I have grown in wisdom, discernment and life experience since I last dated. I’m determined to NOT allow fear to dictate the steps I take toward or away from a potential relationship. (Read more about Reclaiming and fear)
I know if/when there will be someone on the horizon, these will be things I’ll be pondering. I don’t know how to be single but I’m trying to figure it out. I don’t want to be alone forever, but in this season of independence, I am building strength and self-security. I am finding joy in this period of life because I know it’s the perfect position on the trajectory towards healing.