I want to preface this post by acknowledging that I wrote this a few months ago when I was feeling really lost and anxious when it came to love and relationships. I was putting a lot pressure on myself to make “progress” in my dating life. I felt like to make “progress” I needed to get into a relationship, or at least get closer to one. But I couldn’t control who I was meeting, and how we felt about each other. Ultimately, I decided to take a little break from dating. During that time I started to realize how much progress I actually had made. In dating the “wrong” people, I learned what I don’t want out of a partner, and, consequently, what I do want. I also learned that I don’t need to sit around waiting for a partner to bring romance into my life.
I decided to share this post now, because while I’m feeling much less angsty about my dating life, a lot of the sentiment still rings true. I have good days and bad days, which usually correspond with good dates and bad dates. Love and relationships is also something back in the forefront of my mind, with Valentines day right around the corner. In the spirit of not sitting and waiting for a partner, I decided to be my own Valentine this year. I bought myself flowers, and chocolate and bought myself gifts. It feels good and empowering to be able to do these things for myself, and it makes me a little less impatient.
I don’t know if there’s anything more profoundly frustrating than being single in your mid-late 20’s.
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. Sure, there are plenty more objectively aggravating aspects of life, but being single and dating in your 20’s has to be up there. Especially as someone who considers herself a strong, independent woman…and a bit of a hopeless romantic.
There’s a part of me that’s content with my life. Actually, I am content with my life. I have a great apartment in a fantastic city that I’ve only begun to explore. I have friends nearby that I’m lucky enough to see regularly, and other friends farther away that give me an excuse to travel. I’m healthy and running regularly, and I’m fueling my body right. I have somehow begun to find little joy in each and every day. I have a good life, and I am happy.
But still, I’m single.
I have been enjoying going on dates every now and again. Dating hasn’t been high on my priority list, but it’s been fun, and a great way to explore different parts of the city and to try new and different things. I’ve gotten to a point where going on dates is pleasant and not painful. So that’s good, right?
Still, I go through periods where I feel hopeless, like I’ll never meet quite the right person. I think maybe I should be less focused on having fun and more dialed in on finding “Mr. Right.”
I know no of that is true, and that the right person will come into my life at the right time. I also worry that if I do meet someone I like, I’ll lose my sense of self, and I feel that I need more time to define myself on my own terms. Then I think that if I do take the time to work on myself and I become even more independent and self-assured that then no one will want to be with me. But, then again, why I would I want to be with anyone who felt threatened by someone who is secure in themselves. Better to be alone than to be stifled by the patriarchy, right?
Or is it?
I’m getting to a point where all of my friends are coupling up, if they haven’t already. Some of my closest friends who I leaned on as my “single friends” pre-pandemic have now found themselves in serious relationships. While I am happy for them, I can’t help but feel jealous and impatient, because it feels like it’s never going to happen for me. And not only that, but as my friends couple up around me, there’s an unspoken pressure for me to do the same.
Maybe it’s ridiculous and I’m just being dramatic (Me? Dramatic?!), but I have moments where I feel self-conscious and guilty for asking some of my coupled friends to hang out. Sometimes I just want a friend to get coffee with, or come over and watch a movie. Those things feel easy to do with my single friends, but when I look at my coupled friends, I see that they have someone to do those things with all the time, especially now that the more established couples are moving in together. Being in a relationship means having an automatic partner for all the little things in life.
For the most part, I’m content to do things on my own. I’ve reached a point in my self-love journey where I can finally appreciate my own company. I enjoy my Friday morning walks to get coffee while I listen to one of my favorite podcasts. I even find joy in a quiet Saturday night, getting takeout and watching a movie or show I’ve probably seen a thousand times before. (Watching A Cinderella Story and falling asleep on my couch is one of my favorite hobbies).
Most of the time I don’t even crave a relationship, I just don’t want to always be alone.
Ultimately, I do want to be able to share my life with someone. I want to share the joy and happiness I find in each day with a partner who does the same in return. And so, as I tip into the latter half of my twenties, I begin to lose patience and wonder if I’ll ever find my person – my partner.
I’ve seen how wonderful and full life with the right person can be, I’ve seen it happen for my best friend and her college boyfriend, now husband. I wrote a similar post over a year ago when she got engaged, and now I write again as I just attended her wedding.
I wrote a year ago that I was okay with where I was in my life, that I was happy for my friend being in love and engaged, while also being happy and content with going through life solo. And that was true, and it’s still true.
What’s changed in the past year is that I’ve begun to crave the kind of companionship my friends have. I spent over a year “working on myself.” I didn’t date, I wasn’t trying to meet anyone. I spent my time doing the things that bring me joy, like running, writing, exploring, taking pictures and videos to capture the little but very important moments of life. As a result, I have a stronger sense of self and identity, and I’m happier than ever.
So now I face the fears and frustrations of dating and seeking out a relationship in your 20s.
The scary part about that is, it means I have to feel things. It means subjecting myself to potentially getting hurt. When I meet someone I connect with, I get my hopes up that this could be something real.
The problem is, I have yet to establish a connection where those feelings are reciprocated. It’s frustrating to put yourself out there, see the potential and hope it turns into something just to have those hopes crushed over and over again. I often leave a situation wishing I never met this person or I didn’t feel the things I do.
I’ve continued to see guys I don’t feel a strong connection or attraction to because it feels safer. I guess the hope is that feelings will develop over time, but in truth, I just don’t want to risk get hurt.
Then, out of the blue, I’ll meet someone who makes me feel something special, and I rethink things. Sometimes I want to run away when I feel my heart skip a beat when he looks at me, because pursuing feelings like that means risking getting hurt.
But, at the same time, I’d give anything to feel that way every day. To be inspired by someone. To feel heard by them, understood. To have someone special to share those mundane but beautiful moments with. Someone who sees life through the same beautiful and broken lens that I do.
So I don’t give up. As frustrating and disappointing as it may be, I won’t give up. I believe in love. I believe that life can be incredibly special when shared with another person. And just because I haven’t met him yet, doesn’t mean he’s not out there.
So I have patience. I trust in the universe, and I hope that my future partner is out there being patient too.
Typically I write and share this posts with my friends, with the intention that they will relate. But this time I write because many of my friends don’t relate. Still, I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. If you’re reading this and you relate to the impatience, frustrations, and loneliness of being single in your 20’s, I want you to know that you’re not alone. And if you ever want someone to get a coffee with, I’ll be there, even if it’s just in spirit.
I think that knowing you’re not alone makes the trials and tribulations of dating in your 20’s a little less painful. Because, at the end of the day, that’s all we really want, isn’t it? Someone who understands us and who we can share and experience life with. So, for now, we’re at least in it together.
One thought on “Love & Relationships – Partners & Patience”
Thank you for being brave enough to be vulnerable and share this.
You are correct. You aren’t the only person to feel the way you do. I’ve been feeling a lot of similar feelings for the past year or so.
I’m 24 and I’ve never actually been in a relationship, and it is stressing me out. Though like you I am patient and trust that the right woman will appear in my life when it is the right time, I’m also like “come on Mark, you need to get it together and find someone.”
I was a little bit of a late bloomer in high school, but I always figured I would start dating in college. And while there were a few instances of being close to being in a relationship, for various reasons I never officially had a girlfriend while in college.
Then when I graduated college and began pursuing a career as a park ranger, I was so focused on getting a full-time ranger gig, that everything else, including my personal life, came second. Plus, I was always moving, as I’ve worked at four parks in four years.
Sure, I thought a relationship would be nice, but it I never put any effort into finding someone. I did have a crush on one of my fellow members when I was serving with AmeriCorps. But while we are still good friends, it never developed into anything as she was serving at a park a full seven hours away from the one I was serving at.
In May of 2020 I got a full-time park ranger position with the Maryland Park Service, and I was somewhat randomly assigned to Janes Island State Park.
I had always told myself that once I got a full-time ranger position, I would get my career – personal life balance back in order and put some effort into finding a girlfriend. However, this dream position at Janes Island came with some unexpected downsides. It meant moving to a new state/area where I knew absolutely no one.
While I love the park I am currently at, the town it is in/the town I lived in for a year and a half is not for me. Amongst Crisfield’s many problems, the chief among them for me is that there are quite literally no people my age in it.
My time living alone in Crisfield was pretty lonely and miserable. Again, I love Janes Island and I’m proud of the work that I’ve accomplished thus far at the park. Yet, living in Crisfield, especially during the height the pandemic/covid winter sucked. At the end of the day, I longed for someone with whom I could share how my day went and likewise I would listen to how her day went. But there was no one and seemingly no prospects.
Now, I’ve never been someone to not do something just because I’m by myself. If I want to go on a hike, watch a movie, or go to the beach, then I’ll do so. But, as you say, I crave the companionship, that being in a relationship provides. Hiking, watching a movie, or going to the beach are always better when enjoyed with someone else.
The depressive funk of having no one to share things with was very hard for me to shake in 2021. (It’s also worth noting that most of my friends are at least four hours away and are busy with work, grad school or law school, and their own relationships. So, I’ve often found myself thinking that I don’t want to bother them by trying to hang out or catch up all the time.) Though I feel like I continued to grow and make progress on myself last year, there were often days when the loneliness dominated me. I was lonely, but at the same time I couldn’t even bring myself to text my friends or leave my apartment because of this loneliness.
I’ve always meant to try dating apps, but I’ve never actually followed through on this. I dissuaded myself from trying them when I was living in Crisfield because they are all based on geography. And as priorly mentioned, there are no young people in Crisfield or the surrounding areas.
Now, Salisbury, aka the biggest city on the Eastern Shore of Maryland , is only 40 minutes from my park and most of my co-workers live there. When my lease in Crisfield was up, I debated moving to Salisbury.
But the one benefit of living in a rural, economically depressed area like Crisfield is that my rent was cheap. The economist in me won out. I renewed my lease in Crisfield and continued to be miserable there.
That is until Crisfield and my park flooded on October 29th, 2021. While apartment was on the second floor and thankfully none of my stuff was ruined, my electrical panel was on the first floor and went underwater. After three weeks of my electric not being fixed, I got out of my lease.
So, I did end up moving to Salisbury after all and I’ve enjoyed it from the get-go. (Everything happens for a reason, right?) It feels like a world of new opportunities and possibilities. I am working to shake away the depressive funk of loneliness that has for too long dominated me. These past couple months I have been writing, reading, watching films, running, and getting better at cooking. I’ve always loved these things, yet I found them hard to do while in Crisfield.
As I find myself getting my sense of self back and doing things I love, I’m excited about all the new potential things that could be in store for my life.
Will one of these things be find the right woman for me?
I hope so.
But, hey, I’ve been patient for 24 years. A little more patience isn’t going to kill me. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on myself and trying to live life to it’s fullest.
Thanks again for having the courage to share your feelings.
– Mark Herring
P.S. You might enjoy reading Stephanie Rosenbloom’s memoir Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude. It’s in part a solo-travel memoir, but also an exploration of the stigmas of doing things by yourself different societies have had over the years.