FEBRUARY 1, 2021
Valentine’s Day is coming. For me, it feels different this year. Maybe the day seems a bit unfamiliar for everyone this time around due to the pandemic. Dating in general has changed. As if it wasn’t complicated enough already, there are now myriad additional new nuances to navigate. We’re dealing with both regulations and expectations that didn’t exist as recently as last year. The chances of meeting someone new by happenstance face-to-face are drastically lower. When strangers encounter one another, they’re less likely to interact. No one lingers. People are always trying to go about their business as quickly as possible, and then get back home. The atmosphere of public spaces in general just feels less friendly.
Of course, online dating was already pretty common in The Great Before-Times. Between matchmaking sites, video calling, and online gaming, socially distant dating is definitely possible. But not everyone connects to others in the same ways. Limiting the options limits the possibilities too – at least in my experience.
Walking Paths Without a Partnership
I’ve stopped spending any time perusing profiles of possible matches. After a while, it felt like such a headache for me. There were a few times I believed there might be potential, but the connection turned out to be something other than what I wanted. People always seem to want to impress a new connection with a shiny façade rather than present their genuine truth. It can take a frustratingly long time to determine if a person is actually someone you want in your innermost circle.
Eventually the whole experience was more annoying than it was enjoyable. I didn’t want to deal with it anymore, so I stopped.
When social distancing brought still greater difficulties to the dating world, it was a good reminder that sometimes the obstacles blocking the metaphorical path ahead aren’t there to pose a challenge to us, but rather to redirect us to the path that is best for us. When I stopped my search, it felt like laying down a burden. I truthfully hadn’t realized how much of my energy it was taking, or how much of my mental space it occupied.
This year brings the first Valentine’s Day where I’ve been single and not had to endure some kind of wistful ache for an “other half” to spend my days with.
That feels like growth. I hope it is.
Not Dating. Still Celebrating.
In past years when I’ve been single as Valentine’s Day has approached, I thoroughly rejected the whole idea of the holiday. I would become misanthropic, and resentful of those who were in loving relationships. I’d take whatever opportunity that I could to complain that it was a “Hallmark Holiday” – it was just a consumerist ploy to get people to buy more superficial gifts out of obligation.
That’s not what it needs to be, though.
While I have formed a strong distaste for the process of finding a romantic partner, I do believe in love. Even though I got it wrong before, that hasn’t changed. I also believe there are many other kinds of love that we can indulge in that are equally satisfying. Maybe they can even be more satisfying at times.
As I said, I removed myself from the dating scene when it started to feel like too much effort – effort I wanted to spend elsewhere. The time and energy I was spending browsing matches and exchanging messages was feeling wasted, and not only because it didn’t lead to a relationship. It felt like a distraction from my pet projects and the goals I’ve set for myself. Eventually I came to the realization that I wanted to give those much higher priority, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t behaving in a manner aligned with the life I was striving toward.
I do love the life that I’m building for myself, and that’s worthy of acknowledgement.
Unattached, But Not Alone
I’m not lacking for social contact, either. My friends and I are very good about checking in on each other regularly. Although we’re all trapped in separate houses and unable to congregate the way we used to, we still manage to make our deep conversations happen.
Some of my friends communicate very well through text and actually follow conversations better that way, so I become privy to an even greater insight on the workings of their minds. A few of my friends like to sit down for an hour and video chat. Others will play video games with the microphone on. One of my friends and I will screen share one of our favorite shows and watch it together that way.
I keep finding that strengthening these existing connections feels so much more rewarding than forging a new one. I do enjoy falling into the intense philosophical discussions that often arise during the “getting-to-know-you” phase of meeting someone new. On the other hand, the discussion feels like a loss when you stop speaking to that person. You can no longer refer back to the conversation and build off of it. Being able to have those kinds of conversations with friends who stick around is more satisfying. You can build together and the conversations get even better.
That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Building your future? That’s what I’m doing. I’m putting in place all the pieces I have control over, creating the best version of me and my environment. If there’s a partner somewhere ahead on my life’s path, waiting to be a part of that future I’m nurturing, then they will be there, and I will find them when I get there. There’s no reason for me to go out of my way, exploring off of my path to find them.
I’d never get where I want to go if I did.