My life is a work in progress. I am constantly learning from my mistakes, even when I think I’ve finally gotten it right. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned from dating is how important it is to have a life of your own, outside of any potential relationship.
When I lived in NH I had family and friends. It was easy for me to find things to do and I actually appreciated the rare moments when I had a few free minutes. To be honest this is one of the main reasons I was able to stay married as long as I did. After moving to FL everything changed. I tried to make friends and meet people but that took a back seat to the other things going on in my life (specifically my divorce).
So when I entered my first relationship I had no other commitments, nothing to keep me from focusing all my time and attention on this person. When he had things he wanted to do I waited patiently for him to be free. I failed to make plans of my own in case he became available. Eventually when this relationship ended I continued this pattern with other people I met. Until one day I finally got it.
See, I felt like I had to keep time available in order to have a relationship. Being a single mother, a good deal of my free time is spent with my kids. Any time I wasn’t with them I kept open for finding or building a relationship. At the time this seemed logical. If being in a relationship was important to me then it made sense that I had to make time to work on that.
Except that made me dependent on a relationship to make me feel complete when I wasn’t with my kids. This also made me come across as needy. Plus when I met someone I was interested in I didn’t have anything to talk about outside of work and my kids which did not make me seem appealing. I made myself too available, too accommodating. It sounds cliché but men like the chase – and I did not require chasing since I would bend over backward for anyone willing to spend time with me.
I knew I had to change. I knew I needed to get a life. Admitting you have a problem is the first step but how do you fix it?
I had been part of groups on meetup.com for a while but had never made the effort to attend the events. I was part of a couple of parents groups, a walking group and an “adventure” group so I had the opportunity to meet people and do things, but going to events where I didn’t know anyone pushed me out of my comfort zone so I made excuses not to go. I decided that I would start responding yes to any event I was even a little interested in. If I changed my mind or couldn’t go I could always change my response to no later, but simply responding yes suddenly had me getting out more.
And when all else failed I started going out alone. Yes, I said it. Alone. Many people are shocked, or at least surprised, when I tell them I go out alone. For many the idea of going out alone would never cross their mind. I was the same way, but I met someone who changed that for me (I’ll go into this in a different post). So I found a local bar that I was comfortable in alone. There was live music that was often very good and to my surprise I started meeting people. About half the time I went in I would end up having a conversation with someone, or several people. I probably would have met more but some nights I left after only a short time, especially in the beginning. If you can master this it is very liberating.
Gradually the time I spent without my kids was filled up with fun and exciting things. When I had my kids I got us all out among other people. I started meeting people and making friends, some with kids, some without. I still had time or could make time to date, but I was no longer focused on finding someone to be with. I had many, many people to be with.
Now my life is full and complete. I love every aspect of it whether my kids are with me or not. I still haven’t found that person I want to share it with but eventually I will, and until then I am happy, happier than I ever thought I could be.