Love+, Relationships
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No, I Don’t Date. Here’s Why

TueNight Dating Single Colwell
TueNight Dating Single Colwell

(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

“Dating anyone?”

It’s typically the third question I’m asked by people I haven’t talked to in a while. It comes up right after “how’s work?” and “where have you travelled to lately?”

Me: “No one.”

Them: “Oh, you’ll find someone.”

Me: “But I’m not looking.”

(Blank stares.)

It’s not that I’m opposed to meeting someone. I just don’t feel it’s necessary. In my 20’s I did, but now I look back and recognize that was probably due to of pressure. My parents expected me, as their oldest daughter, to be the first to get married. Since they married in their early 20’s, I sent them into a panic when I wasn’t married as I approached 29. I couldn’t even mention a man around them without having to crush their bud of hope.

“John? Who is that?”

“A coworker.”

“Is he single?”

“Yes, but he has boyfriend.”

[pullquote]I’ve often been asked, “Aren’t you afraid of being alone when you’re old?” Given the current divorce rates, aren’t you? [/pullquote]

Most of my friends were getting married then; some were having kids. I feared they’d all move away to suburbs where singles were uninvited or, worse, pitied at their annual block parties.

But eventually things changed, or at least my perspective did. I stopped seeing myself as a have-not and started appreciating what I have, which were all the things that didn’t require a plus-one. I have my own home and can do whatever I want in it. I often travel with friends, but I also enjoy traveling alone. And it turns out, I hate the suburbs.

I don’t hate dating, though, just what it’s become — online window-shopping or swiping of profiles that say nothing about a person beyond the fact that they like wearing jeans but also dressing up, going out or staying home for a quiet night. Mountains or beach? Both!

The last time I tried online dating was the last time I’d try online dating. It went something like this: We met for drinks, he ordered for me, insisting I try this awesome cocktail (it was not). Two hours later, as we were leaving, he said, “I realize this may be too soon, but I feel a real connection here. So I want to be up front with you. I’ve done time.”

Excuse me?

He had served time for drug dealing, though he never sold to kids. So there’s that. When I had read “entrepreneur” in his profile, that’s not exactly what I had in mind.

Before you assume this was some big “incident” that turned me off dating, it wasn’t. It was years ago, and since then I’ve dated, even long-term. But I’ve also come to realize that online dating is, for me, a miserable means to a questionable end. Maybe marriage will happen; maybe it won’t. But it’s not a goal. I don’t feel a need to make it happen.

To those for whom meeting “the one” is a goal, I really hope you succeed. I have friends who have spreadsheets and shortlists and actively project-manage their dating with a focused energy I reserve for sample sales. As I listen to their countless stories of terrible dates, I’m sympathetic. I’ve been there. And I’m glad I’m not there now.

Many people find that last part difficult to understand: I’m happy being single. Maybe it’s because marriage and children have been the ideals for so long, with confirmed bachelor uncles and spinster aunts whispered about like family failures. Maybe it’s because we’re too focused on the future. I’ve often been asked, “Aren’t you afraid of being alone when you’re old?” Given the divorce rates, aren’t you?

I’ve also been told I’m too pessimistic, unwilling to fill my half-empty glass. Or, last week, a friend called me “unlucky,” as if finding someone is a lottery and I’m holding a losing ticket. More apt, perhaps, is that I haven’t bought a ticket at all. You have to be in it to win it, you know.

Why does being single sound so negative? Nearly 30% of U.S. households are singles, so I’m hardly alone in being alone. I’m sure many want to get married, but there are others, like me, who do not.

I’m not pessimistic, unhappy, or lonely. I have a wide circle of friends that I see often. I travel far and frequently. I have a home that I love, and enough wine to get me through the winter. I don’t feel there’s a void that needs to be filled.

I actually feel pretty lucky.

Filed under: Love+, Relationships

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Courtney Colwell

Courtney Colwell has been crossing the editorial-marketing line for more than a decade, currently leading content strategy and development for clients like American Express and Proctor & Gamble. Previously, she led brand marketing for Inc. and Departures magazines. Outside of work, she’s either writing or enjoying her Jersey City home, nearby New York, or some other corner of the world — the further, the better. You can follow Courtney on Twitter at @courtneycolwell.

14 Comments

  1. Narelle says

    We’ll said, darl. Even in Australia, there is that pressure. My partner is so cool, I may as well be single (not needy and dependent like most of ’em). If I wasn’t with him, I don’t think I’d be with anyone. And I seem to get on better with women who have decided to be single for whatever reason. I relate so much more to them than I do to other women in relationships.

  2. You forgot to mention Ollie.

    Kidding! In all realness, this is beautiful. There is so much pressure to be coupled – where I think we have a subset of the population that’s entirely dependent on another half for fulfillment. I think it becomes an issue — an underdevelopment — when you lose the ability to find contentment within yourself. That’s where the power is, that’s where we find “enough” whether we’re single or not. Cheers to you for bringing this to light 🙂

  3. Courtney says

    Nardelle – thanks! Glad to know I’m not alone being alone in other places of the world.
    And Lindsay, thank you, too. You’re right. I’m not knocking people who have that goal. Just don’t assume I have to have the same one. And if I mentioned Ollie, the whole piece would end up being about him. He just takes over everything.

  4. Hi Courtney! I just found your site through your link on FB with Women of Midlife. This is a great post and such a reminder that we are all different and should never be stuck in a mold just to make other people feel comfortable. I am in a ‘couple” but I feel exactly like you do about my decision not to have children. Those who have made another choice just can’t understand–but I’m okay with that. There are plenty of us who know how to create a fulfilling and happy life by ourselves–or without children. ~Kathy

  5. I haven’t dated in forever.. but as 40 gets closer and people start dyeing around you. you start to realize a lonely future on the horizon..so ummm, what are you doing this weekend Courtney ? 🙂

  6. Gloria says

    I was just having this conversation with some friends and “Amen sister!”. I’m going to be 47 this year and got married because I was supposed to. I don’t regret it because I learned a lot about myself. Then I started online dating and it’s a total hit or miss…more misses. I love men, flirting, sex, intimacy, etc.. But, I finally realized that I love ME. It took me a while to get to this point, but I am single and happy! I would love to meet someone, but if I don’t, that’s okay too.

    We give into what society, family, friends, cultures expect and feel like we are inadequate if we aren’t in a relationship. So, sometimes we may settle for someone so that we can fit in and not be alone. But, if you do…are you happy? I am all for finding ” the one,” but I am more for finding yourself and loving yourself.

    So, date yourself first! Bet you’ll fall in love…with YOU.

  7. I absolutely love this post!!! Could not have explained this better myself…wish I could hand it to every person who asks me ‘whats wrong with you, you’re 30 and unmarried’.
    I actually laugh because I’m genuinely happy since I’m having so much fun with life and building my dreams that don’t involve a guy and it seems as though it’s an issue that bothers them so much that a woman in her 30’s isn’t on a mission to get married.

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  11. I feel the same, except I’ve been divorced for 10 years and I do have kids (not in the suburbs though). People ask if I want to get married again I respond “Yeah, I tried that. I’d like to do something else.”

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