A Year in the Life: Week 3 - Letter to a Columnist

This week, the writing exercise from A Year in the Life was to write a letter to a columnist giving “advice” about something you’ve been through.

Since so many people seem preoccupied with finding “the one,” I wrote about how my romantic life blossomed after I’d decided to give up dating “for good.”

I’m writing to all those who are waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to come along.

I am thirty-two years old and have been married for one year to a wonderful, kind, stable, smart, affectionate man–he’s more than I ever dreamed.

In truth, my dreams about getting married faded somewhere around age 25. I was still a virgin, and in fact had never even been kissed. Sometimes I felt very anxious as I wondered whether I would ever “find someone.” But most of the time, I was too busy to be anxious. What was I doing during those years? I was keeping journals, writing novels, reading books, playing guitar, watching movies with my best friend, reading Tarot and working for an organization I was passionate about. I had strong friendships, and my life was full and satisfying. I was prescient enough to understand that this time of my life was sacred, this time with so much freedom, so much opportunity to explore. Over those years, I grew more and more into myself, and I started throwing out some ideas–like the assumption that I would one day marry, that I was straight, or that being single meant something was missing.

When I was twenty-seven, I started to date for the first time in my life. Before then, I always assumed that meeting the right person would just “happen.” But although my life was still satisfying, I was living alone at the time and came to realize how hard it was for anything to “happen” while I was always in my apartment.

I also needed to consider an idea that I’d previously rejected–namely, the idea that by dating others, you learn more about yourself and what you want from a partner or a relationship. I was convinced I already had a clear idea of who I was and what I wanted–but when I began dating, I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I used an online dating site with a matching algorithm, and I learned after several romances that didn’t survive “real life” very well that what I thought I wanted, and who I’d actually fallen for in my life, didn’t really match up. I met really wonderful people that reaffirmed my faith in dating in general, but none of them were quite right for me. My longest “relationship” during that time was three months, and I wondered whether I had “outgrown” falling in love (I was 28!) and thought that dating just “wasn’t for me.”

I decided to move back to my hometown due to financial issues and an opportunity to live in the country again. Before I moved, and as part of that decision, I spent a lot of time coming to peace with “letting go” of dating forever. I was moving to a small town where I was related to nearly everyone, and where I hadn’t really fit in while I was growing up. If I hadn’t been able to find someone in a progressive, artsy city of 85,000, where I felt I “fit in” better than anywhere I’d ever lived before, how would I meet someone in a town with a population of 1,300? So, I meditated, reflected, prayed, journaled, and came to peace with my new future–a future where I would be at the center of my life and sink into it fully–get a dog for companionship and protection, plant a garden for sustenance.

A month after I moved, I got an email from the man who would become my husband.

Thinking I’d gotten the “relationship thing” out of my system, I didn’t invest much in my correspondence with him. Plus, he had a lower “match” percentage (72%) than anyone else I’d dated from the site–and if those almost perfect matches didn’t pan out, how could this? There are three reasons that I decided to meet him anyway.

  1. He was persistent.
  2. He asked if I’d like to talk on the phone, and I hate talking on the phone … so I proposed an in-person meeting to get out of it.
  3. I figured that after meeting him, I could officially write him off and return to building the life of peaceful solitude I had envisioned.

Still, first dates stressed me out so much that, the night before ours, I vowed I wouldn’t ever do it again. And I wrote in my journal exactly what kind of person he would need to be to make getting over my relationship inertia worth it–

and he fit that description to a T.

My plan to “write him off” went horribly awry, and instead I found myself falling intensely, quickly, unexpectedly in love.

I had an inkling I would marry him after our first date, but I quickly wrote that off. But by the time we’d been dating for four months, I was certain. We were engaged on the one-year anniversary of our first date and married 16 months later.

Ivan isn’t perfect, and neither am I, and neither is our relationship. But most days, I’m still so deliriously happy that we found each other–letting go of the expectation of finding a partner makes having him in my life all the more sweet, as if I somehow got away with cheating fate. I don’t think I would have been able to be this happy if I was “looking” for him or “waiting” for him–because my mind would have been too tied up with fitting him into some idea of who I wanted as a lover and a partner to let my heart just laugh and enjoy the ride. That is the true beauty of letting go–that it finally lets your heart have its way.

Although Ivan is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, I’m glad I didn’t meet him earlier in my life. It’s because of all those years of solitude and exploration and learning that I’m able to love him now, fully, gratefully, and without resentment. My relationship with him has changed me–mostly made me softer around the edges–but I haven’t lost myself. In some ways, I’m more myself, because in addition to everything I learned about myself when I was single, now I’m learning about who I am in an intimate relationship, too. He’s allowed my exploration and unfolding to deepen and continue–not cut it off short like I always feared a relationship would.

And I’ve learned that so many of the cliches about love are true–

  • that it finds you when you stop looking for it
  • that everything really is “different” with the right person
  • that sometimes the one who’s right for you is nothing like what you expected
  • that you have to love yourself before you love others

But cliches hardly comfort when you’re lonely, frustrated, and waiting. So the three non-cliche pieces of advice I can impart are these:

  1. Let go, but don’t give up. Stay open.
  2. Don’t wait–live, enjoy, and cherish your life just the way it is.
  3. There are a thousand ways to be whole and happy–with or without a partner–and at least one of them is bound to find you.