When my last relationship ended, I gave up on ever finding true love. Relationships seemed to be out of the question for me so why bother to date? I believed there was an emotional demon lurking deep inside that simply couldn’t be exorcised.
I recall telling myself that it was my duty to abstain from future relationships. I was convinced it was the only way to avoid doing emotional harm to another.
That decision offered a sense of relief, calm, and acceptance. No more would I be plagued by an inability to successfully navigate a relationship.
And since there were to be no relationships, there wouldn’t be any dating. Yes, I was ready to give up on true love, companionship, sex, and true partnership.
Figuring Out Why My Relationships Failed
Nevertheless, I wanted to figure out why my romantic relationships, despite good beginnings, always came to an end. With that purpose in mind, I began seeing a therapist.
It’s a bit ironic that my acceptance of a forever-single life turned out to be the key to my first attempt at online dating. Even better, the process led me to find my true love, Daisy.
I’m not going to walk you through every step of therapy. That’s very much an individual journey. But there are some lessons I learned that can help you determine when you’re ready for online dating and true love.
5 Signs You’re Not Ready to Date Again
Here are several good indicators that you’re not ready to date again.
- You’re confused or anxious about relationships in general, or relationships you’ve had.
- You have a track record of bad relationships.
- You have an addiction problem.
- You believe that there aren’t any good women out there, that it’s them, not you.
- You just broke up with someone or separated from your spouse.
I know a few guys who continue to date even though they can check off more than one item on that list. Is it wrong to date in these circumstances?
Well, it depends on your motives. If you’re dating with the intent of forming a long-term relationship, it’s a bad idea. You’re probably going to end up in another dead-end partnership. While doing so, you’ll do emotional harm to another and yourself. That’s wrong.
If you’re dating for companionship, fun, and a social life, maybe it’s ok. Be sure to keep it casual. Be open and clear with your dating partners about your intentions.
But if you’re serious about finding a great, loving, long-term relationship, avoid dating and relationships until you resolve your issues. If you’re not in a relationship, DO NOT start one and then try to figure it out.
How Do I Know if I’m Ready for a New Relationship?
Since this is kind of a personal article, I’ll share the two things that worked for me.
First, I devoted time to getting to know myself better, to gaining an understanding about why I had an inability to form a true partnership with a woman.
I’d been in recovery for many years, so I had some pretty good experience with introspection. I’d learned to thoroughly examine my motives in addition to my actions. Yet I suspected I had subconscious motivations that were at the root of my frustration.
It was important for me to do this alone, without the distractions of dating or the simmering emotions of a troubled relationship.
- I committed to one or more weekly sessions with my therapist.
- I was clear about my goal—to figure out why I continued to get into relationships that soured.
- I read the books that were suggested.
- I got more active in AA and started attending other support meetings for co-dependents and “adult child” issues.
- I did the homework my therapist gave me.
To my surprise, we succeeded. Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was the most satisfying personal development work I’d ever done.
Secondly, I took time to figure out what I wanted in an ideal partner. But before I could honestly answer this question, I had to finish the work in step one above. Why?
The reason I ended up in faulty relationships was that I was attracted to, and attracted, the wrong kind of partner.
It was all rooted in classic family-of-origin issues. Growing up in a violent, alcoholic home, I never had a model for good relationships and healthy emotions.
I was attracted to people who would ensure that we’d re-create the damaged relationship of my parents so that I could try to repair it. This was true of all my relationships.
To figure out my real ideal partner, it was important that I clearly understand those things that attracted me to the “wrong” types.
For example, they all exuded a sense of danger, mystery, or excitement. You could never say they were boring. Eventually they all wanted an element of control in the partnership or friendship.
Sometimes it was in the overt form of a highly critical personality (just like my alcoholic dad.) At times it could even be called bullying.
Other times it was in the more sinister form of martyrdom or victimhood, as with a hypochondriac who manipulates through feelings of sympathy (also like my father.)
At the beginning of therapy, I assumed that the relationship harm I’d experienced was a one-way street emanating from that emotional demon in me. It wasn’t. My people-picker was broken. I was selecting people for relationships who had issues of their own. Our incompatibility practically guaranteed emotional failure.
Only when I was able to recognize these obvious red flags about relationships, could I truly figure out what I was searching for in a true love partnership.
Should I Try Online Dating?
By now, I was happy enough on my own even though I still had a desire for a partner. It seems counter-intuitive, but this is the best way to start dating—alone and happy.
Otherwise, you’ll date for the wrong reasons. You’ll look for your partner to fill some need. And as I learned through therapy, it’s the subconscious motivations that’ll get you.
Solitude as a practice for spiritual and emotional growth is an ancient practice.
The Aborigines have a rite of passage called walkabout. Teen boys are sent to live in the wilderness for up to six months as a way to make the spiritual transition to manhood. Jesus spent forty days in the desert contemplating his life and work. Buddha spent time alone in forests before his enlightenment. Solitude and introspection can be powerful.
In the end, all love and partnerships involve some risk. After my own personal “walkabout,” I decided to give online dating a cautious try. I had a newfound self-awareness to back me up, a profile of my ideal partner, and a therapist to turn to in case of severe doubt!
The timing was perfect, as was the choice to use online dating services. I quickly met Daisy, who happened to be living on the same street as I did. I’d have never met her without venturing online. We haven’t looked back since. It was a journey worth taking.
I’ll leave you with this thought from Thomas Merton.
Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. When that inner voice is not heard, when man cannot attain to the spiritual peace that comes from being perfectly at one with his true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting. For he cannot go on happily for long unless he is in contact with the springs of spiritual life which are hidden in the depths of his own soul.
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