Breaking the Pattern and Ending the Dating Act

Simon Blish

Recently there’s been a lot of time for reflection. The end of a year always brings with it a sense of conclusion and this one was no different. I spent last year preaching about my dating bravado but also exposing the fact that I create imagined pseudo relationships. Something had to happen, something had to change – it would just make such a good narrative if it did!

I’m not melodramatic, promise.

One way to change my love life drastically would be to embrace celibacy and join a Buddhist monastery. But I have such a complicated relationship with the colour orange it would probably invoke anxiety rather than inner peace (despite it apparently being the new black). Instead something really interesting happened; I broke my dating pattern.

I’ve mentioned before how dating can be an act, a rehearsed practice I’m really good at. But what became increasingly apparent was that my problem arises in the transition between dating and relationships. I could never seem to make that happen, and it was never as easy as promised by romantic comedies.

I used to think that quick decisions made you good at dating, in fact, last year I was adamant this was the case. As it turns out it’s not necessarily true. There had been numerous times I’d carried on dating someone that I should’ve just been friends with. Making quick decisions would in these instances have made it easier to stop the dating act and become friends before you get too involved.

Think about it, how likely is it that you meet a significant other that is prefect for you? Not very. How likely is it that within the social and cultural context and demographics that you habituate you will become platonic friends with people you meet that share your interests? Much more likely.

My dilemma was that the dazzling facade of micro relationships and excellent dates weren’t going anywhere, and I narrowed most of my failed attempts down to two very occurring scenarios. Well, actually, there are three scenarios if you count all the instances where I date a guy I think is perfect who never contacts me ever again. For my own sanity’s sake I haven’t reflected much on these occurrences. It’s easier to imagine they’ve died in a tragic accident.

So the first of the two situations I often find myself in is; I meet an amazing guy, we have a couple of excellent dates and then it simmers down to nothingness, as there’s no genuine spark. It often ends in confusion, and slight resentment on one part as the other has just stopped replying to texts. It can however also end in a mutual silent understanding that the brief moments you shared together were nice – just not nice enough to transform into a long-term relationship. For me however, this often leads to a fair amount of stress and neuroses.

The second common situation I’ve been finding myself in is; we’d go on a few dates and we have such a great time that the dating carries on despite you both knowing that you’re not right for each other – you’d be better off just being friends. This has become increasingly prominent lately, and 2013 introduced me to some guys I’ve dated who have now ended up becoming some of my closest friends. However, the transition between dating and friendship is not easy, especially if you’re as awkward and emotionally challenged as I am.

Driven by the urge to avoid these uncomfortable scenarios I went into overdrive and thought making quick decisions would make this a whole lot easier. So in an attempt to break my pattern I decided to dismiss or ‘break up’ with guys really fast. End it before we became too close – spare feelings and move on unless I could see a relationship blossoming straight away. This way we could either quickly establish a friendship smoothly or end the dating sequence without all the confusion and stress of a simmered out situation. Of course, I was an idiot.

Last summer saw a height of this behaviour, I was dismissing guys left right and centre, on an almost weekly basis – I even jokingly coined the term ‘Breakup Tuesday’. So when did I learn my inevitable lesson? Well, it was only quite recently.

This particular guy and I met in August last year and we went on two really nice dates but I didn’t see it going anywhere. I was missing that particular ‘spark’ so decided to end it before we became too involved. He was also so nice I didn’t want to let the situation simmer out into nothingness as I thought that to be quite immature, so I decided to break it off officially after the second date. It would have been really nice to be friends but I left that decision up to him. If he didn’t want to be friends then at least I didn’t carry on a dating charade despite not being interested. At the time the decision felt diplomatic and super grownup.

I left it a couple of months but we eventually got in contact again – this time just as friends. The first time we met up post-breakup we went for a few drinks on a Monday night just as seasons were turning.

Suddenly I realised I had made a huge mistake – if only my stupid convictions of human relationships hadn’t made me dismiss him so quickly! He was sat there in the soft lighting of a disgustingly trendy Hoxton bar being all dreamy and nice. I was however wise enough not to act upon any impulses that night. I had already broken up with him once so I had to make sure I really wanted this before changing my mind.

We met again a few weeks later for dinner in Covent Garden. Again, I realised I was beginning to fall for him. When we were no longer dating and going out as just friends I suddenly felt something – the spark that was missing before! For some reason, letting our relationship grow organically outside the context of dating had done the trick. But I had to be sure, I don’t want to be cruel and just reverse a breakup on a whim. And besides, can you even reverse a breakup? Why would he want me back!? I’m the crazy person who insinuates a breakup after two dates – normal people don’t do that!

So I chose the sane option and I left it until the third time we met up as friends. It was for a boozy pub lunch in South London on a Saturday afternoon, and as I left him to meet my friends for an evening out I knew my decision to reignite the romance was final. Whilst escaping Clapham on the Northern Line I wrote my reversal breakup message – which predictably turned into a small essay fuelled by the four glasses of Beaujolais I inhaled during lunch. By the time I reached Old Street station I knew I had made the right decision and I pressed the ‘send’ button.

That moment of uncertainty wasn’t as horrific as I had imagined (probably because I was hammered).  Maybe he’d accept my breakup reversal, maybe he wouldn’t. At least I know I tried, and furthermore I had diverted from my circular routine of casual glittery dates and emotional apathy. I had finally allowed myself to stop acting and get real – who knew that once you stopped the dating charade actual connections are allowed to flourish in its absence?

Oh, and he said yes.

After this incident I was swiftly off for a really long Christmas break and we didn’t see each other again until all decorations had been ritually disposed of. We met up for a date again when I returned to London, and the relief I experienced when I felt I had made the right decision was overwhelmingly ecstatic. The moment we parted that night I was eager to arrange the next date straight away as there’s one final piece missing in this puzzle – one which you may have figured out already if you’ve read between the lines.

We’ve had three romantic dates, and three ‘dates’ as friends, the whole thing spanning over six months – without any sexual intimacy. So I’m afraid that will be part of another story, one that perhaps may be too private even for me to share. For now, all I can say is that it hasn’t happened yet and our relationship is very chaste – I’m getting quite fidgety to say the least!

He may not be the one, but I have strayed from my dating pattern further than I have in a long time. I may be in for a huge disappointment but I’m no longer playing it so safe I’m ending relationships before they’ve even had a chance to begin. Perhaps I’ve found a cure for my chronic singleness? Or perhaps this is just another chapter in my ongoing narrative?

Wish me luck!

About Simon Blish

Writing, drawing, editing - Simon loves it all.

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