Dear 100 Hour Board,
I'm feeling frustrated and less-than-hopeful about dating right now. Over the past 5 years since getting home from my mission I've put plenty of effort into it, with varying degrees of optimism, with very little success. In that time I officially dated exactly one person (the only person I've ever dated, actually) which lasted a few weeks and ended depressingly for both of us. I know that this kind of thing just happens sooner for some people than others, but what's particularly frustrating is that I feel like I haven't even made any progress. I'm in exactly the same place I was when I got home from my mission. Sure, I've grown personally and I'm not the same person I was before, but I feel zero percent closer to any sort of romantic relationship, and all of my efforts have done absolutely nothing. I'm obviously not perfect, but I'm respectful, I take care of myself, I listen and empathize, and I've always been someone that most people want to be friends with... but usually just friends. Sometimes I wonder if maybe not trying hard enough, or maybe I'm being too picky. But then I remind myself that I really have been trying, and "settling" for someone I'm not interested is not fair to me or them. And I have met people that I've gotten to know, become good friends with, and really loved, and I worked so hard to be my best for them hoping that maybe it was mutual... which it never was. Which makes it that much more difficult to try dating people that I'm not nearly as interested in, knowing what it feels like to actually be interested, and also knowing that statistically, despite my best efforts, they probably won't be interested in me anyway. I know that's really pessimistic, and 26 is still young, so I shouldn't be complaining. It's just hard when I don't see my situation changing any time soon. It didn't work out during the years when I was constantly meeting new people every single semester and being social and putting myself out there, so the chances of anything changing seem depressingly low now that I'm graduated, not meeting new people, and rarely even seeing the people I do know because of covid. At best, my efforts have done nothing; at worst, I get my hopes up and get rejected. And I'm tired of being told to "enjoy being single while you can"... because I'm trying to do that, but I'd still rather be in a relationship.
I'm not really looking for advice on dating, the board has given me plenty of dating advice before and I'm grateful for all of it. I guess right now my question is, do you have any advice for not dating? For those times when you've tried and nothing has worked out and you're not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and just feeling lonely? Right now I'm just feeling lonely.
Thank you, you're all wonderful :)
I'm 25 and have been in two total relationships in my life, neither of which were ideal or particularly happy. So keeping that in mind, it's possible my advice is coming from a place of cynicism.
Honestly, I've been a lot happier since I stopped thinking about marriage as one of my primary goals. Sure, I've disappointed my mother, who once told me that finding a good husband was the most important thing I could do in college. But all the romantic angst that used to weigh me down is largely gone.
So my best advice for not dating is to simply go with the flow. Enjoy not feeling the pressure to evaluate everyone you meet as a potential spouse. Enjoy not feeling like you have to go on dates with people you aren't interested in to feel like you're making progress. If you meet someone you like, by all means ask them out, but overall just stop viewing dating as a necessity or a chore.
Spend time with friends. Get a pet, if you can afford it. Flirt with a bunch of people on dating apps, for fun and practice. Discover and develop new hobbies. Determine personal goals and pursue them relentlessly. Look for other sources of happiness and growth in life, and gradually that sense of loneliness and romantic disappointment will fade.
It won't ever go away entirely. I still have moments where I'm struck by how much I would like to see what a happy, loving, functional relationship is like, and wonder why that feels so unlikely. But honestly, accepting that it'll happen if or when it happens has brought me much more peace of mind than agonizing over what I'm doing wrong or why I'm not attracting a better caliber of man (a married former coworker of mine who is in his 40s recently told me hintingly that he's in an open marriage. Another married former coworker of mine recently texted me "Hey babe!!" among other inappropriate things).
Make progress in other ways, and your satisfaction with life will increase. Accept that love and marriage may come, but discover means to relish life outside of that pursuit. Actually, stop viewing it as a pursuit. Let things happen organically and enjoy the life you have.
I've never been in a relationship, and for most of my life, I was very okay with that. Unfortunately, loneliness has recently caught up to me a little bit. A number of events earlier this year forced me to imagine, really for the first time, what it might be like to be in a relationship. I got used to the idea and decided I liked it. Then, in March, I had a series of very rude awakenings that basically had me certain that a relationship wasn't in the cards for me, at least not for a long time. I felt like something was fundamentally wrong with me, and I was lonely, and that was a Very New, Not Fun Feeling. So, I did what I always do for Very New, Not Fun Feelings: I talked about it, a lot. More specifically: I complained about it with a friend. I went to my best friend and asked if I could just vent about this thing, specifically. He listened to everything I had to say, validated my feelings, provided some perspective, and also shared his own struggles with loneliness. It was comforting, and if you have someone who can commiserate with you, I would highly recommend it. It's simple, and maybe obvious, but it was one of the best things I did for my mental health around that time. Also, I built emotional closeness with that friend, which itself helped me curb the feeling of loneliness. Complain with a friend. It's my favorite pastime.
The other thing I have done to help, which may or may not be completely useless to you, is to just sort of expect that I won't be in a relationship anytime soon. Not in a depressing way, just in a matter-of-fact way. That frees me up to prioritize myself and my friendships and not think so often about romantic relationships. Then, if something does come along, it's a nice surprise. This is a nice mindset to be in, but it may or may not be possible and/or helpful for you. You know yourself best.
Anyway, I don't have the greatest advice for this situation, because it's something that I'm definitely still working out for myself. But if nothing else here is useful to you, I hope I can at least add another voice of encouragement and understanding to what you're already hearing from my fellow writers. Loneliness sucks, and I'm sorry you're going through it. It will be okay. You're worthwhile. You've got this.
I'm sorry you're going through relationship troubles. A few years ago I went through a break up that left me pretty devastated. What really helped me heal is this cool app called 1 Second Every Day.
You record 1-2 short 1 second videos every and it compiles them. After a few months you get a really cool video. It encouraged me to live in the moment, appreciate the cool things in my life, and look for fun activities. There were times when I would go out on fun adventures literally just to have something to film. It really helped me take my mind off of dating. It was a great way to heal and I highly recommend it. The app is a few dollars but it's totally worth it.
Hope this helps!
Oh man, I feel you. I'm 23 and have also only ever been in one relationship. That relationship just kind of happened, and I didn't stop it because I figured that I might develop romantic feelings for the guy, but then I never did. Honestly, every single time I've been romantically interested in a guy, it's never been reciprocated in even the smallest degree. There was even one good friend whom I would say I genuinely loved. And you're right--it is very lonely and frustrating to know what it feels like to love someone else but never know what it feels like to have them love you back.
I think it's in part because of this loneliness that I've decided to get a kitten (this kitten is too young for me to take home right now, so I don't have it yet, but I will in a month!!). This way when I'm craving cuddles I'll be able to get them because I'll no longer be the only non-plant living being in my apartment.
Everyone is probably getting sick of hearing me talk about this, but yoga is another thing that seriously helps me stave off loneliness and all sorts of other negative emotions. I think one of the reasons why I find so much solace in yoga is it gives me clear goals to work towards, creating opportunities for accomplishment and progress. Sure I might not dating anyone, but I can hold a headstand for over 8 minutes and get into some crazy looking poses! Another reason I love yoga is because doing it makes me feel strong, confident and beautiful. It gives me a sense of empowerment to gain mastery over my body. Yoga isn't the answer for everyone, but find something that you can throw yourself into that brings joy into your life.
Another central component to your question that I relate to quite a bit is the lack of progress. In the Church, we have a very clearly defined path of covenant progression. After receiving endowments, the next step is eternal marriage. So when years have passed since our last "covenant step" and we seem no closer to taking the next one, it can feel like we're stalling. Another theme that's prevalent in both Church culture and many forms of media is that a romantic partner makes you complete, implying single people are incomplete. Basically, there are a lot of varied sources that either directly or indirectly state single people don't have as much potential as romantically involved people. This simply isn't true.
I know what kind of woman I want to eventually be. And while I would like to have a partner supporting and standing by my side, the lack of such a partner will not prevent me from becoming who I want, and pursuing happiness and fulfillment.
With a few minor chronological edits, I could have written your question myself. I don't have fantastic advice to offer nor any silver bullets, but for what it's worth, I'm right there with you. In a year and a half, I've been on maybe three dates, none of which were especially interesting. I tend to make new friends only very slowly and with great difficulty, which means my romantic life moves at a speed roughly comparable to a dying snail. In my time home from my own mission, I've found myself genuinely interested in only two people, neither of whom I had any chances to ask out before the opportunity passed. And so on. I've used Mutual, but I spend more time rolling my eyes at the same generic profiles gushing over dogs, random "adventures," and The Office than I do interacting with anyone. When I do strike up conversation, I don't have the confidence to present myself as someone a girl ought to be interested in because, on some deeper level, I don't think I'm all that interesting, and my hobbies are boring or unappealing.
If it's not obvious, I'm not optimistic. But I press on. I've picked up a few ideas which help me, and maybe they'll help you, too.
I almost hate to say this because it's so cliché, but the reality is that you only need to succeed with one person. The post-mission years can be especially difficult because it's so easy to be surrounded by so many people getting married that you feel you're in a drought by comparison. At last count, I think nearly half of my mission companions are married, and my mission itself produced more couples than I care to count. But it's not my job to keep up with the rest of the RMs from my mission, or the extroverts from my singles wards. My only responsibility is to do what God wants me to do, and marriage will happen when it happens. Not everyone is supposed to be engaged within a month or a year or a week of getting home. And you don't necessarily need to be actively dating and looking for a relationship to find yourself in one. It's nice to feel like you're moving in that direction, but a relationship can just as easily happen much faster than that. My first (and thus far, only) relationship came about as an outgrowth of a childhood friendship which caught me completely by surprise. From my perspective, it came totally out of nowhere. I wasn't exactly the picture of sociability in high school, and I can assure you I most certainly wasn't looking to date. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time--and honestly, fortunate timing is a lot more important to things "working out" than I think a lot of people want to give credit for.
That being said, I know how frustrating that can feel, and it's coming back to frustrate me now. I've spent most of my summer with the sounds of my keyboard punctuated by the sounds of my roommate murmuring sweet nothings to his girlfriend on the couch behind me, and on bad days, there are few things I resent more. But there's not much point in stewing about timing that is out of my control. I could stumble into the girl of my dreams in three days on a chance excursion to the Creamery for ice cream, or in a month while sorting out moving to my new apartment in the fall, or in five or ten or fifteen years from now, far removed from my BYU and Board tenure. Ultimately, I don't know when it will happen. But rather than wasting my time and energy on practicing mental failure and imagining myself alone at 32, I try to focus on things that motivate me. I think about the kinds of qualities I'd like to see in a new relationship and how to cultivate them. I figure out which issues or personal flaws were problems for me in my past relationship and try to come up with proactive ways to address them. I think about wanting to be a better and more responsible, friendly, and genuine person so that I'm more prepared to open up to other people. I find it motivating to redirect my sometimes pathetic pining for companionship into a positive determination to try and live as though a chance meeting with The One is just around the corner. I feel happier that way, and sooner or later I figure it has to pay off.
I won't say you should enjoy being single, because like you, I don't like that phrase, and like you, I'd really rather not be single. So don't think about being single. Just enjoy being where and who you are. If you're not happy with where you are, start changing that. Take up hobbies you enjoy. Throw yourself into something new and challenging that you can take pride in. Learn something you've never tried before. If you're not happy with who you are, figure out why and start making whatever changes you need to. Self-development is the world's lamest "single life" cliché, but it's a cliché because it works. In my immediate circumstances, I am no optimist. I struggle with meeting people, I struggle more with befriending people, and dating is just the icing on the nightmarish cake of anxiety. On top of that, I find the vast majority of Mutual profiles irredeemably and exasperatingly boring. (I don't know about you, but maybe I am too picky.) But I trust that God is aware of my circumstances, that He is aware of my righteous desires and the soul-crushing loneliness I sometimes experience, and that sooner or later I'll have found the Holly to my Michael, as it were.
I imagine you've already heard most of this before, but I really can't recommend taking this to God enough. The natural longing for emotional, spiritual, and romantic intimacy with another person can be totally overpowering, and if anyone is able to provide peace when you feel overwhelmingly lonely and without hope, He is.
I hope you're able to find some peace of mind in your circumstances. It's not always easy being single, but in time, this too shall pass.
Thanks for asking this question, because honestly it's been very uplifting to read everyone's answers. It helps to know that cool, talented, beautiful people like my fellow board writers are struggling with similar things. It's not that I want them to struggle too. I just think maybe one of the most painful things about being single when you don't want to be is the feeling that something might be wrong with you, or that you're missing something.
I still get that feeling. Even when I'm having a great year achieving my goals, improving myself, focusing on what I can control--there comes a feeling like there's something I'm supposed to do differently, or something that needs to be different about me before romance will happen for me.
The most peace I have felt about this has been when I know that I don't have to do anything. I don't need to put myself out there more. I don't need to be more wise/charitable/humble. I don't need to be prettier, more responsible, more stable etc. There is no lesson God is waiting for me to learn before He gives me blessings.
The most inspired I have felt in this has been when I really know that my life is right now. It's happening right this minute and I'm the only one who can live it. I am primarily responsible for my happiness and having a partner won't change that.
God is not waiting to love me until I'm something different. Love is not something that finds you when you're different. It finds you right where you are and that's kind of the point. You're already everything you need to be and you have everything you need.
That doesn't solve the loneliness. I know that. Loneliness is a real force of life and there's nothing we can do to control it. Even when I'm "unbothered. moisturized. happy. in my lane. focused. flourishing." loneliness can still find me.
I sit with it, talk to it, try to understand it. But I try not to let it turn into fear or hopelessness about the future. The only way I've been successful at that in any measure is actively fostering the belief that "the best is yet to come." It has taken a long time but I really believe, most of the time, that there are good gifts ahead and long periods of real happiness on the docket.