I spent the better part of a week explaining how I felt about this situation to various friends. For the most part, everyone came back with similar responses: I was asking too much, being too picky, and trying to push things too far, too fast.
I began racking my brain to come up with a way to explain how I feel. I wanted to compare my feelings to something else that people might understand. Comparisons are tough for me, but just flat-out stating my feelings wasn't working. Finally, I came up with a way to (hopefully) describe how I feel, using an activity at which I'm much more successful than dating:
Which, if you think about it, makes sense. Dating and shopping are very similar. Both involve searching for the perfect [insert desired result here]. Both can be done spontaneously, or with a fair amount of planning. Both can yield a tremendous amount of happiness and pleasure, or stress and frustration - and usually to extremes either way. Both require a fair amount of psyching up, but are ultimately necessary.
All of that, plus shopping and dating are my two main hobbies.
First of all - when I shop, it's either because I have to (think groceries) or because I want to (think shoes).
When I have to go shopping, I try to get in and get out as quickly as possible. I don't really put in a lot of effort, and either end up buying the same things over and over because I don't want to take the time to think of something new, or I try something new without thinking it through, and end up dissatisfied.
When I want to go shopping, I'm usually enthusiastic and full of energy. I almost always have fun. Even if I don't find exactly what I'm searching for, I enjoy the process. I try not to get too specific an idea in my head about what I want, so as not to steer myself away from something good. I go with a general idea about what would work best, what it is I really need, and what is going to make me happy.
Sometimes, I see something on the shelf or the rack and know, immediately, that I need to take the item home. It is exactly what I want, and there is no doubt in my mind. Other times, I find something I might like - and I'll pick it up and walk around the store, mulling over the purchase while I look for something I might like better.
I've found things I love both ways. I've also ended up with items in my closet that go unworn for months (even a year) because I bought without careful consideration. I don't necessarily regret the purchase - but I tell myself I will be more careful next time.
For years, I approached dating with the idea that it was something I had to do. Finding a boyfriend was like shopping for groceries: Something I needed, that wouldn't just show up on my doorstep, so I had to go out and look. But I wasn't enjoying the process, so I wanted to go in and get out as quickly as possible. This resulted in repeating the same behaviors, and eventually, the same mistakes.
I finally learned that the have-to attitude doesn't work when dating. It's kind of like grocery shopping when you're hungry - you buy a whole bunch of stuff you don't really need, that you'll only regret later. It was time for a break.
When I came back, I had a much more positive, want-to attitude toward dating. I was a little more choosy - but not to the point of overlooking anyone who seemed to have potential. This meant that I ended up picking up a bunch of options that weren't really right for me, while I wandered around, looking for something better.
This was an improvement, but still not exactly what I wanted.
The last few months, and guys, have been a struggle for me. I have cried more than I should, doubted myself way too much, and driven myself into a depression that I am now fighting to escape. However, it has been worth the trouble, because I've learned something.
I'm tired of having to shop. I'm also tired of picking up a bunch of maybes while I search for the right choice. I want to find the one about which I have no doubt. I want the one that, from the moment I lay eyes on him, I know he's the one.
Not only that...I want to find someone who feels the same about me. No doubts. No worries. No what ifs. Just - she's the one.
I know I'll occasionally slip back into wandering mode. Let's face it - dating is also like shopping in that I sometimes do it just because I'm bored. But I plan to stop holding on to options. I am switching to window shopping mode - I'm not even going to pick up anything I don't absolutely love at first-sight.
I realize that means I might put back something that would do just fine - but that's OK with me. I'm not looking for just fine - I'm looking for the one.
I know what you're thinking. "Doesn't she realize she's asking too much? Or being too picky? Setting expectations too high?" No one can plan that moment when you find exactly what you want. It just happens. If you're not open to anything, you might miss out.
The answer is - yes, I know. I know I'm being picky, and probably a little unfair and unreasonable. I know that setting this high an expectation means I may never find anyone who meets it.
I understand it all.
For the first time - ever - it's OK with me.