aarp, the girlfriend, dating, single
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Why I'm Taking A Break From Dating

Y’all, I’m tired.

I’m 40 years old and have never been married, never been engaged, and have never really even come close to either. Unless you count when my ill-conceived ex of 10 years (on-again/off-again years, mostly off) shut down a jewelry store a la “Sweet Home Alabama” in Manhattan to show me engagement rings … and then conveniently forgot to propose. (I don’t count that. I don’t even acknowledge that, because it makes steam shoot from my ears when I think of the sensitivity chip a man must be missing to basically hand a woman a big beautifully wrapped box holding everything she’s ever dreamed of only to have her open it and discover it’s empty. This is an analogy, of course. He didn’t actually hand me a box because he didn’t actually buy me a ring. The whole fiasco was just another flashy but meaningless gesture designed to make me think the relationship was more serious than it was.)

Having just come off another disappointing month-long dating experience, I find myself feeling much like Charlotte from that episode of "Sex & the City" when she famously proclaims: “I’ve been dating since I was 15! I’m exhausted! Where is he?!?”

Where is he??? He’s not at church, I’ve discovered. He’s not at the bar. He’s not online. He’s not the responsible, gainfully employed 48 year old I had a brief crush on or the irresponsible 29 year old with major Peter Pan syndrome I just spent a month trying to help get his life back on track. (I’m a fixer … what can I say?) He’s not any of my exes, who I’ve spent exhaustive amounts of time and research recycling several times just to make sure. So where IS he?!? I haven’t the foggiest idea.

I’ve found, over the past couple of years, as I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with dating in general, I’ve really lowered my standards for the people I’m welcoming into my life. Instead of encountering a guy who seems interesting and who I have an attraction to and a vibe with and taking a beat to size him up and determine if he’s a good fit for my life … or even slowly easing into the relationship to make sure it’s the right one for me … I’ve been guilty of jumping in with both feet with whoever I make a connection with. It’s like “Oh, okay. You’re cute. You’re single. We seem to click. Let’s just skip right over ‘dating’ to ‘boyfriend and girlfriend,’ go from 0 to 60 in two seconds, and start spending every waking moment together until both of us have given up everything else in our lives except each other!”

And then I wonder why it never works out.

Well, no more, my friends. This unhealthy cycle of getting into a serious relationship with whoever happens to be standing in front of me and paying me attention stops right now. It’s fruitless, endlessly frustrating, and has brought me nothing over the past two years except for multiple broken hearts … sometimes over the same guy multiple times! Just because I want to be married and have a family doesn’t mean I can or should try and turn every guy who happens to show me a little interest into a serious love interest.

I spent last weekend at the beach with my girlfriends … a spontaneous trip that came on the heels of my most recent breakup and gave me a much-needed timeout from regular everyday life and the chance to think about my many dating crashes and burns over the past couple of years. And at some point during the weekend, I decided it was time to step off the relationship rollercoaster and take a break. A hiatus of sorts. A sabbatical from settling … which is what I’ve been doing lately. Settling for whoever happened to show up in my life instead of taking the time to evaluate if they were actually a good fit for me. I marked this monumental decision with a message-in-a-bottle … the gist of which was me releasing my love life and my desire to be married someday into the hands of my Higher Power, and releasing control. Something I don’t tend to be great at. It was a true “Jesus, take the wheel” moment … and as I tossed the bottle into the ocean, I tossed my hands up in the air and surrendered my path, my process, my romantic destiny … completely. I simply can’t keep clinging and controlling and trying to force and manipulate inappropriate and ill-fitting romantic prospects into the man of my dreams. It’s time to pause, relax, breathe, and let go. It’s time to get back in touch with ME and what I really want out of love. It’s time to reevaluate and refine and raise my standards.

It’s time to just be me, Mandy, without anyone else. It’s time to stand alone. It’s time to trust that God and the Universe have my back and the people who are meant for me will show up in my life without any help from me. And the ones who are not meant for me will go. And that’s okay. Because if I had to force it or settle for it … it wasn’t meant for me in the first place.

I want to encourage you to take your own pause if you’ve been feeling frustrated with your dating life as of late. It can be a few days or a few weeks or a few months. It’s entirely up to you. Breaks and breathers from dating to tend to you and your healing and your growth and your restoration are healthy and necessary. Not just everyone deserves a seat at your table … and sometimes we need seasons of eating alone to remind us of that.

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aarp, the girlfriend, dating, single
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