Lessons From a Year of Ignoring Love

Photo by  Trym Nilsen  on  Unsplash

Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

In 2018 I went out on one date with someone I didn’t know already. There wasn’t a second date. I went on several platonic walks with one woman. I briefly dated one of my exes again which is the only reason this isn’t a story about my year of celibacy. Even though it basically was.

What I really did for all of 2018 was ignore love. And in doing so, it changed my outlook on the future. I made it look like I was trying at points in 2018, but I wasn’t. I flip-flopped on Internet dating and its meaning in my life, but eventually I quit. Because my heart wasn’t in it.

It was an interesting thing ignoring love for an entire year. Looking back, I realize just how much time I spent worrying about love in my life. I think that’s why I wrote about it so often. And even though I deleted many of those stories in my purge, the theme was clear. I wasn’t interested in love.

Even when I was “trying” to date again, my head wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to be tethered. I didn’t want to be relied on. I didn’t want anyone to take away from my focus on my children. I’ve done all that before and I didn’t want it this past year. And for that, I’m not sorry.

It’s weird when you break down why you don’t want to be in a relationship and people judge you for it. That by saying you don’t want to take care of another adult in a relationship, it makes you a selfish human. But wouldn’t it be more selfish to keep going into relationships knowing you don’t have it in you?

I ignored love in 2018, so what? Well, it helped me learn more about all the things I have done wrong in my life in pursuit of it. And that’s why my outlook on love has changed. For the better.

Lesson #1 — When you aren’t hyper-focused on your love life, you get a lot done.

It should go without saying, but if you are a hamster on the Internet dating wheel, do you realize how much time you waste swiping every month? A-f*cking-lot! I’ve been there. Hop into bed at 10:42 p.m. Wait, how is it 12:18 a.m. and how the hell I have said “hell, no” since 10:42 p.m.?

Without factoring in when I would find my next girlfriend, my mind was free to explore other things undistracted. And it wasn’t constantly being sidetracked by a new match who seduced me with, “Hey.” At some point I stopped even considering it. Love. Dating. All of it. I just stopped. And it made my life so much easier.

I listened to hundreds of podcast episodes and countless audiobooks during the time I would have been aimlessly swiping on fake profiles and the promise of a soulmate. For me, it was time better spent in 2018.

Lesson #2 — When you are intentionally celibate, you stop thinking about sex the way you used to.

Sex is a sultry siren, always luring you into bad decisions to visit the mirrored ceiling of your dreams. Very few people spend their time swiping in search of intellectual stimulation and witty banter. And even if they do, it’s just an appetizer. Sex is the entree. It always is.

But when I became intentionally celibate, I stopped thinking about sex in the same way. I started to think about, for me, all the things that could come with a sexual encounter and none of it sounded good to me. And frankly, the work of building a new relationship to get to that point seemed like too much work.

I started to look at sex as a complement to a good relationship and not this universal tonic that I needed to feel more like a man. I looked back at how I treated sex in relationships and other quasi-encounters and I realized that it was rarely connected to love for me. It made me think about what was more important in my future, sex or love. And in 2018, it was neither.

Lesson #3 — When you don’t go on any dates, you realize anything is more interesting than a bad date.

Most people who succeed at Internet dating play a numbers game, meaning they kiss a lot of frogs. Or sit across from a lot of them. But once I stopped trying to go on dates, I found anything and everything more interesting than the potential of a bad date.

Yes, that is the very definition of not putting myself out there, but that is exactly what I wanted. And exactly what I needed. Did I watch a lot of shows in 2018, many within the span of a couple days? Yes. Did it make me feel like my time could have been better spent sitting across from a stranger who humblebragged their profile at an OkCupid-friendly neighborhood bar? No.

Love, or the search for it, can be a colossal time and energy suck. It can make us lose focus on all the good things that exist right in front of us. Sure, you hiked in 2018, but how many times did you check for new matches while you did? One is too many. And I was just as complicit when I was dating. But from passing on dating altogether I found out more about myself by what I chose to do with that clear mind each day.

Lesson #4 — When it all comes down to it, love is a choice.

And I chose no. Even for the brief moments in 2018 when I ineffectively “tried,” I wasn’t really there. I didn’t even want the beautiful parts of love. They didn’t sound good to me. I didn’t want someone around all the time. I didn’t want the companionship. I didn’t want the cute couple things.

And just because that’s how I felt in 2018, and still today, doesn’t mean love is lost on me. It means I am listening to myself. It means I stopped the obsessive cycle with relationships and love. My life was full without it even if you think that’s not possible.

I want to choose to engage in love again, but only when I am ready and only when it shows up. I don’t want to try so hard to find love because I don’t think it works that way. At least not for me. Because I know love is a choice and not a requirement for me, I don’t have the same urge to date. And I expect it to stay that way.

Lesson #5 — When you look around you see a lot of unhappy couples.

Just go out to dinner sometime and look around to see how many couples are sitting at a table together, both on their phones. If that’s modern love, I am happy to pass.

Being in a relationship takes work and compromise, but when you are a single observer in the real world you get to see just how many couples don’t do the work and don’t know how to compromise. Have you ever watched a couple argue over a gift? Or what appetizer to get? Talk about first world problems.

In 2018 I stopped looking for the hottest woman in line at Starbucks and started looking around at what couples looked like. The happy couples looked amazing and it made me feel an overwhelming sense of glee for them. But it didn’t make me want that. Not now.

The more I looked, the more sour faces I saw. Two people who hated each other, even temporarily. Two people yelling at each other in a parked car. Two people ignoring each other in front of their children. Note to parents who hate each other — your kids know. They always know.

When you look around you see a lot of unhappy couples and it makes you wonder, why are they doing it? Why are they still together? I’ve been there many times and I never want to be there again.

My Outlook on the Future (of Love)

I want serendipity. I want karma. I want unexpected. I want surprise.

I don’t want to swipe. I don’t want to search. I don’t want to pine. I don’t want to obsess.

Love will come when it’s supposed to. I really believe this now because I finally took the time to say no. I stopped myself from perpetuating the never ending cycle of moving from relationship to relationship with random dates and interludes in between.

My outlook on the future of love is bright. It may not be 2019. As I’ve said before, it may be after both of my kids are off in college in 2021. But it’s out there. In the future. Because I finally know it doesn’t have to be now.