The first time a friend tried to set me up with a man I froze. It was a text suggesting I meet her very nice brother-in-law’s brother. I was so freaked out it took me a week to reply. And the answer was no. It wasn’t him, it was me.
It had only been a few months since I’d moved out of home with my two young boys and meeting another man was the last thing on my mind. Not even for dinner. I was touched my friend had thought of me. But even though I was technically single, I wasn’t on the market.
In the months – indeed couple of years – since then, there have been others. Offers, that is. Invitations to meet someone’s recently divorced single dad friend or colleague – the well intentioned assumption that mutual singledom is criteria enough for assured compatibility. The assumption that I must surely be seeking someone, anyone, seeing as I was alone. I’m sure some of these men were perfectly fine, and they might even make great partners for the right girl, but she wasn’t me.
It’s not that I was sworn off men. I wasn’t jaded or suspicious despite still suffering the fallout from the demise of my own partnership. I wasn’t permanently scarred or on guard. I still had faith in good men and lasting love and functional unions. But I needed time to heal. I was grieving. Not my ex. I’d given up on the relationship long before. But I was thick in a debilitating state of lament for what might have been, mourning the family unit that I had come to accept my kids will never know. Not in the format I’d had in mind, anyway. And who wants to be in the way of that.
Had I gone on a date I would have cried at the table, regaling my temporary companion with a sorrowful tale and he wouldn’t have got a word in. It wouldn’t have lasted beyond the entree.
Instead of going out, I went within. I knew I would be no good to anyone else – or myself for that matter – until I processed my recent upheaval, the unravelling of my life as I knew it. To tag team with someone else – however suitable he might be – would have only distracted me from what needed to be done. It’s not that I stayed home sobbing every night. Although there was a bit of that. But I bunkered down with my boys, monitoring their adjustment to this path they didn’t choose. Just as vitally, I bunkered down with myself, grateful for the latitude that being the only grownup in the house afforded me.
A friend – who’d ended an unhappy marriage a few years before – lead the way. She gifted all her furniture to her ex so she could deck our her house the way she liked. A blank canvas, just like her new life. She downloaded customised playlists and cranked them with abandon.
“It was a time of great freedom and personal growth”, she says. “There was something lovely about being on my own again, doing what I wanted and bonding with my kids. It took two years to distill it all. To work out my part in the relationship so I didn’t attract it again. I thought if I never meet anyone else that’s absolutely fine.” Although she did happen to meet the love of her life.
I too am revelling in my new found solitude. I bought dusty pink sheets and sleep in the middle of the bed. I eat dinner with the kids and read books at night. I meditate when I feel like it and do yoga on the living room floor. I’m doing me, as they say.
I’ve seen enough therapists to know that unless we heal the underlying failings of our past relationships, we’ll keep inviting the same ones in. Rinse and repeat, as one friend puts it.
As Drew Barrymore recently Instagrammed, contemplating ‘not being able to successfully date’ for four years, “I have fought my way to a deeper happiness on my own”.
It’s the only route to authentically love or be loved by another.
At least there’s no rush. The last time I dated – a good decade ago – the stakes were higher, driven subconsciously by a biological time limit for procreation. Now I don’t seek a father for my children. That job’s taken. I’m good for financial stability and companionship too.
It’ll have to be someone pretty special to cut through. That I am up for.
This article was first published in Sunday Life Magazine and on dailylife.com.au and is published here with permission.