I must confess: it’s a shitty time to be a single female. That is, if you are actually looking for some sort of serious relationship.
To those who have been in long-term relationships for a while and only have a vague idea of what I’m talking about, here’s an explanation of the pattern. This is only a template: there are several possible variations on this theme, but the general idea is the following.
Boy meets girl. They hit it off. They have a few dates, during which time they have good, interesting, thoughtful discussions on many topics, which generates mutual arousal. They have sex. They meet again, have sex again. The girl expresses interest for more if she feels like there is a good connection, or expresses her interest in keeping it casual if she’s not that interested. Then a couple of days or weeks later, the boy phases out. The end.
Note that no matter the girl’s intentions, the boy phases out. Consistently. It’s as if there was a new law of physics we haven’t been told about.
Me and a few of my thirty-something girlfriends have been single for a while now, ranging from a few months to a few years, most of us with a sizable quantity of disappointing (or, at best, entertaining) short-term sprouts of relationships in that period of time. To be fair, this has suited me quite well: I confess I have not been looking for anything more meaningful until recently (and the only difference now is that I have stopped looking altogether). Nevertheless, just like my girlfriends, I thought I’d keep an open mind and if anything deeper developed with someone, I would go with the flow.
Here comes another confession: I absolutely, utterly do not understand men, i.e. why they are showing anti-interest in building anything substantial with a partner. There seems to be unprecedented mutual confusion regarding expectations, behaviour, approach and general philosophy when it comes to relationships nowadays.
Before you form that typical “maybe it’s me” thought in your mind, I will say it right away: no, I refuse to question myself or my friends’ attitudes. It’s not us, very simply because we’ve tried it all: casual, authentic, simple, complex, detached, attached, clearly stating we’re looking for something serious, clearly stating we’re not, not stating anything at all, all with the same result. Boy phases out.
We have also tried different demographics. Different social contexts. Different emotional backgrounds. Different places in the world. Different seasons. Guys who were looking to fall in love, guys who weren’t, even guys still in relationships (oops!).
We’ve also tried various meeting methods: Tinder, Happn, online dating sites, live encounters in organised trips, at bars, on the dance floor, recycled friends from our pasts, recycled exes, matches from good-willed friends.
Boy always, consistently, magically loses interest.
We have been told to stop looking. To try harder. That we’re being too difficult. But if I revealed our numbers (yes, women keep track too), you would understand that we’ve kept more than an open mind… And we will not apologize for having basic standards, for Pete’s sake. Better alone than in bad company.
So, where are the awesome men at? Have they evaporated? How are men experiencing this new world order?
We have come up with a couple of running theories. One is that the illusion of choice created by online and app dating creates a non-committed mind-set (shocker!). That means that even guys who think they’re looking for a serious relationship have a very hard time trying one out unless there are powerful, instant feelings, because they always have other options in the back of their minds (or directly on their phones). And we do too, by the way. We do too.
Another theory is that because of our age, guys can feel our throbbing ovaries, even when there is no mention of baby-making. Fair enough: but what about the guys who also said they would want to have kids some day? Surely the entire male population has not given up on perpetuating the human race? And how about my friends who said they’re not even interested in maternity?
I have also been told that I’m guilty of acting exactly like the men I’m trying to analyse in this article. But I have been in serious relationships before, and pretty awesome ones at that. It does create expectations, but it also tells me that they are possible, because I have experienced such relationships. I can think of two exes who were nothing less than absolutely wonderful to me until the end and that I loved dearly, from whom I learned what respect, beauty and caring in a relationship can feel like. (For those wondering: one I ruined, the other was ruined by the guy).
So yes, I have been in casual mode for most of the past few years, guilty as charged, but I have also met a couple of guys I would have been happy to try something out with. Yes, I did tell them. They all phased out regardless. And to be honest, they would probably have been big messes or dramas, but at least something more consistent and more meaningful would have happened. And I know that my fellow single girlfriends have gone through similar disappointments.
Finally, I have my personal theory, which is that the issue with us specifically is that we’re thriving, happy, independent women. I didn’t want to think that we’re that intimidating, both because it would be sad to think so few men can handle us and also because it sounds terribly arrogant, but maybe there’s some unconscious truth to it. We don’t need to be with someone: we’re looking for added value to our lives (laughs, trust, commitment, respect, love, care). I refuse to believe that that’s asking for too much.
To be fair, I confess: in my personal case, it is true that there’s very little room for a partner in my life right now, even if I have had crushes and miss the affection and attention. I have plans, I have a full life, I travel, I’m both in Brussels and Montreal, and yes, I am building my life projects around the absence of a partner. That can’t be helpful in appearing available. But my other girlfriends have made some mental and physical space. They’re ready to move in or out, they’re holding off on some ideas or opportunities, just in case someone comes along. So what is happening? Where are the guys willing to take the time to build something beautiful? And by the way, that even includes the guys I know who are in relationships but still unwilling to commit.
My last confession will be that we are all handling this strange new reality in different ways, with varying degrees of frustration, sadness or indifference, coping through various strategies and projects. In a way, many people who are in relationships also have to deal with similar frustrations: this is not exclusive to single people. The only difference is that we’re faced with missing the hugs and kisses that normally come with a partner, even in difficult relationships. I still consider myself a pretty happy and lucky lady: I’m surrounded by fabulous friends and a loving family, I have a fantastic job and an amazing life overall. And if that’s an issue, then single I will remain.
I wish I could get the male perspective on this issue: happy to post a guest article right here, actually. Confessions of a single male? Write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. And single or not, I wish a beautiful, fulfilling life to everyone, regardless of gender or relationship status. Peace & love.