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Wanting a relationship is not the same as being desperate

It was the same discussion that we’d had several times before. I sat down with my friend as her two kids jumped up and down, excited that I had come to visit. While I played with the kids I told her honestly that I hoped someday I could find what she had, a husband that loved her and a beautiful family. Instead of understanding, she told me that I’d find that someday and why didn’t I just be happy to be single. She wished she could be single again, she said. She got married when she was 25, and met her husband several years before that, and remembered her freewheeling single days fondly. Of course, she was a single girl in her 20s, I reminded her. She couldn’t know how I felt because it was a different thing to be dating in your 30s and beyond. When I told her this she rolled her eyes, and said, “You don’t need a man to be happy.”

I have always been an extremely busy and independent woman and was constantly involved in a multitude of activities? so why didn’t I meet the right guy then?

Well I did meet lots of guys over the years. And I did meet them in all the usual places: at work, at church, through friends, and yes, in bars. I dated often enough and had several serious relationships over the years. But for whatever reason none of the people I dated were “the one,” or to put it in a less romantic tone, none of them were simply right for me. Sure, the majority of them were nice, sweet, good people ? I think of many of them fondly and hope they found someone great that they could build a life with.

But as the years went on it was obvious that I wasn’t going to meet my dream man using the methods all my friends used to meet theirs. In fact, while my friends had sympathy that I hadn’t found the right guy yet, I doubted that many of them could actually relate to what it’s like to be a single in your 30s. Many of my friends met their significant others during college or in the years shortly after. They met tons of people during that time when all of us met lots of people ? when we’d just always be in a big group and meeting someone new was common, frequent, and no big deal.

But when you get a bit older, suddenly meeting someone is a bigger deal. For the most part you don’t just hang out in groups like you did before and if you do the majority of people in the group are usually already hooked up with someone else. Even if you’re not looking for marriage right away, dating isn’t as casual in your 30s as it as in your 20s.

When you are in your 20s and you date a guy for a few years to “see where things go” it’s no big deal when you break up because there’s usually another guy right around the corner. But when you’re in your 30s, you’re more discriminating. Besides that, there seems to be more misconceptions and baggage that we take with each new year of our life and into each new relationship. And when you start hitting your 30s, both men and women look at dating as a very different thing. There’s a societal joke that men are trying to hold off finding the right person for as long as they can and women are speeding up every day to find them. Of course, I don’t believe in that, I think both men and woman want to find someone to share their life with ? but you need to not only find the right person but find them at the right time in your life. I was never a girl that was in a rush to get married, and never thought I’d meet someone and marry them within a year. But when you find the right person, sometimes your preconceived notions go out the window.

If you, too, feel you’re in a position where some of your friends don’t seem to quite understand your situation, take heart. One or two of mine didn’t either. Oh sure, they were as supportive as they could be, but when someone meets their husband when they’re 22 how understanding can they really be when you’re 30-something and you’re telling them you’d like a relationship? I was ready to meet someone and settle down at the time most of my friends had been married for years. While I agreed with the particular friend that told me I didn’t need a man to be happy I found it ironic that she’d say that having never been without a relationship.

I didn’t get married until I was 37, and I spent my single years very happy. I’ve always made the most of my life and my circumstances. But if you also have a friend that poo poo’s your desire for a relationship; take it with a grain of salt. One friend of mine got married, had kids, and then suddenly decided it’d be great to be single again. Those types of people are not going to understand the situation you are in, they’ve never lived their life with the possibility of ending it completely alone. Their idea of being alone harks back to their single years when they were in their 20s and didn’t have a date for a few weeks. Even then they probably had a big group of pals to hang with and were never, really, truly alone. They aren’t going to get it. So cut your friends some slack.

And if you’re a hard working single adult you know something else. Your employer probably isn’t going to understand it, either. I’ve worked for a multitude of organizations over the years and the one commonality they had was an inability to understand the single life. There is a perception that all us singles are carefree and can therefore work more hours than our married counterparts. We don’t have kids, so then we don’t have real responsibilities. Right? If there is choice between you working late and your married coworker who has to pick the kids up from daycare, who is going to get the short end?

While the married folks of this world may think that’s only right, I disagree. Again, I think this misconception comes from our coworker’s single years. They remember the girl’s nights or hanging out with the guys for drinks after work, so they’ve convinced themselves that’s what we are doing after work too. If they could live your life for a single day, they’d know what it’s like to work longer than someone else because you are single and don’t have to be home at a certain time, and then to come home alone and have it be too late to even enjoy a nice dinner by yourself.

People seem to misjudge the singles in their 30s and beyond. Many of us have serious obligations; some of us care for parents or grandparents simply because our married siblings don’t have time because they’ve started a new life. This can make you feel very lonely and misunderstood.

While my friends on the whole were sympathetic to my situation, I doubt they completely understood it. Your friends and your employer may not understand your current situation and wants for your life, but I do. I was right where you are. I get it and that’s why I wrote this book.

It is during these times when singles can suddenly feel as if they have to reveal more about their single life than they’d wanted. When our employer asks us to work late or take that overnight trip because our married coworker has their kids to take care of (or to translate, has a life and you don’t) we are made to feel that much more as a misfit of society.

I began to realize that to take charge of my single life, whether I eventually met the right person or not, meant that I would need to defend my free time as stringently as the marrieds I worked with. As a single person I took care of a serious family situation at one point ? moving home with my mom and helping to take care of my grandparents. I raced home to make dinners and spent my off hours with family business. Yet when I told my employer I had to leave at my normal time because I had obligations, he looked at me like I was whining. Suzie had kids to pick up, he’d say, or Joe had his family to go home to. Even with having family obligations of my own my employer viewed me as someone that could sacrifice my life for the good of the company. It was an unwritten rule that when you are married you have something bigger than your job to get home to. Employers seem to understand this. What they don’t understand is when you’re single and you say you’ve got to go simply because you want to live your life.

I say the first step in successful Internet dating is to reclaim your personal life. If your friends give you less than a sympathetic ear because you haven’t met someone or your employer expects you to give your job a bit more than your married coworker just because, stand up for your personal life and be stringent about it. Tell your employer no when he asks you to work late and be set upon it.

When I started Internet dating I worked at least 60 hours a week for an employer who thought my free time was the same as company time. In addition to putting in long hours at work I went to school full-time, but each time there was a big project due and “someone” had to put in the extra time, it came down to me. Even if my boss did spend a few hours extra in the office, he’d view it as time away from the tension at home, not as time away from his life. Inevitably, I spent more time in the office than anyone else. This was both my employer’s fault and my own. Since I was single for so long I also bought into the myth that my time was less important.

This is a point that singles and married people will no doubt argue for decades. As someone that was single for years and is now married, I can tell you first hand that my life as a singleton was just as important as my life now. This is an inequity that singletons need to help their employers change.

The fact remains that if you’re single you don’t need to explain where you’re going when you say you can’t work late or can’t take that overnight trip. If you’re employer balks, find a new one. Eventually they will get it.

In my very early days of Internet dating I approached it as a side job. It was something I did if I “had time.” But the fact remained that with a job that took up 60 or so hours a week, and school that took up another 20, I didn’t have the time. The first couple dates I had were always put on notice, I set up a date with someone only with the understanding that I might have to cancel at the last minute. This made me sound self-absorbed and flighty ? except I didn’t realize it right away.

It wasn’t until one date that I finally got it, and changed my tactics from then on. I had gone on quite a few Internet dates, and yet didn’t quite have what I would call a “system” down yet. I did it sporadically and when I felt I had time. Looking back, I’m certain that my distractedness carried over onto some of the dates.

I had been corresponding with one guy for quite a few weeks, but we couldn’t seem to find a time to meet. That is, I couldn’t seem to find time to squeeze this guy into my busy schedule. We would set up times to meet, and then inevitably I would have to cancel at the last minute. I had great excuses each time ? I had a work project that had just come in and my boss now expected me to give up my weekend to finish it, then because of the project I needed the rest of my free time to work on a paper for school, etc. This guy would simply laugh each time, saying, “You are just one busy girl, aren’t ya?”

Finally, I agreed to meet him for a quick cup of coffee. I told him ahead of time that I was super busy that day and might even have to cancel at the last minute. He merely said, “So what else is new?”

At the coffee shop I hurried in, greeted him quickly, and then ran to order my drink. I sat down breathless and exhausted, and finally said, “Hi, nice to meet you.” This guy was amused at my behavior. He told me point blank that the only reason he’d stuck around for the last few weeks is because he just had to meet this girl that was so busy and important. When our conversation turned to him, I found out he ran his own company, took frequent business trips, and had a pair of teenage daughters to take care of. He was more than successful, and busy, in his own right. Despite having an equal number of obligations as me, he was determined to meet someone special and was willing to spend the time to do it.

I came away from our meeting with a new sense of purpose. I finally saw that my work life was wreaking havoc on my ability to just plain have a life. And more than that, I realized if I didn’t make the necessary changes now I would probably be in the same position ten or twenty years from now ? with a great career but not much else.

Now I’m not saying that you should abandon your career or other interests in pursuit of dating and meeting someone special. I’m saying that if you’ve spent a lot of years wondering why you haven’t met someone yet; take a look at your life. Picture someone great walking through the door today and determine if you’ve got the room to have him or her in your life. If you don’t, change the way you are handing things. Maybe you don’t need to spend so much time at work and be such a perfectionist with cleaning your house, for example.

First of all, don’t let anyone in your life make you feel bad for wanting to be happy. Sure, there are people in this world that jump into relationships too quickly. I know of equal numbers of men and women that can’t seem to be happy unless they are “with someone.” To these people I say, spend some time alone. Lots of it. Figure out what you want, what you like, and then (and only then) start to date someone.

What I’m talking about is the rest of us. The people who are not willing to jump into or hang on to a relationship that isn’t quite right for us. We don’t want to meet someone because we can’t be alone; we want a relationship because sharing our lives with someone would be a great complement to the rest of the world we have built for ourselves. We want someone special, not just someone for right now.

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Cherie Burbach

Cherie Burbach

Cherie Burbach is the author of two books of poetry, The Difference Now, and A New Dish, as well as At the Coffee Shop, a humorous look at the world of Internet dating. She is currently working on her first novel and resides in Wisconsin with her husband.

Comments (6)

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    Max

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    Being desperate is never a good place to start! LOL

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Heidi

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    Yes sir! 🙂

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Areana

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    You’re right when you say that “when you get a bit older, suddenly meeting someone is a bigger deal” 🙂

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Oli

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    Thanks for posting 😉

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Isabel

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    Thanks for writing this. Can you also write about interracial dating?

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Gina

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    Thanks for all the dating tips

    Reply

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