The only consistency is uncertainty. Am I doing this right? What does ‘doing this right’ even mean? Am I dating the people who are good for me? Am I looking in the right places or just all of the wrong ones?
You think it will stop when you finally ‘escape’ what you’ve been conditioned to think of as the horror of single life. But it doesn’t. It continues when you progress into ‘talking.’ It continues when you progress into exclusivity. It continues when you’re in a serious, long-term, committed relationship. Feeling this way doesn’t make you weak, or insecure, or even whiny. It’s just the nature of the beast. This is dating in 2016.
We’re surrounded by a million examples of how we’re supposed to date, how we’re supposed to feel, how our relationships are supposed to progress.
We’re taught that there is such a thing as being too single, but that it is just as dangerous to be not single enough (because that, of course, apparently translates into neediness or lack of independence). We’re conditioned to think that there’s a right way to move along in a relationship. That there’s a right time to become exclusive, a right time to say “I love you.” A right time to be engaged, a right age to get married.
From start to finish, from ‘single AF’ to ‘wifed up,’ there seems to be a specific recipe to follow.
And if our experience varies from it in any way, we feel an unavoidable compulsion to wonder if we somehow did it incorrectly.
The pressure comes from the perfectly crafted dialogue and plot from every romantic comedy or television show we’ve ever seen. It comes from watching addictive shows like The Bachelorette and unintentionally comparing our relationship status and emotional progression to the storyline we’re following week by week. It comes from the sweet, paragraphs-long ‘how we met’ stories on wedding websites and the heartfelt, emotional engagement post announcements. From profile pictures with significant others to subtle (and not-so-sublte) hints on social media that someone just went through a breakup.
None of these things – these movies, these dramas, these reality shows, these online presences – are inherently wrong in any way. It’s just that, when they all combine together into your everyday life, seamlessly becoming part of your world and so much of what your mind digests without you even realizing it, they begin to affect the way you think. They make the path to love feel smaller, the road more narrow. They make the idea of love happening in millions of different ways with an infinite number of possibilities seem practically impossible.
And that’s why modern dating feels like one giant crapshoot.
It just feels like chasing, chasing, chasing. And then, after you’ve ‘caught’ love, it feels like you need to desperately grab onto it with one clenched fist, while reading the manual of how you’re supposed to do ‘all this’ in the other.
There’s no end to the stress, to the insanity, to the worry, to the comparison. It just goes on and on and on, a circle of dread that you want to be as far away from as possible.
There’s no fast solution here, no easy piece of advice to fix everything. But sometimes, at least knowing why you feel so frustrated – why you feel so trapped and stuck and lost and uncertain – and even more than that, knowing that you’re not alone, is a good start.