Some of my friends were super-thrilled to hear I gave up online dating. They never thought it was for me. Maybe they thought I met too many of the wrong guys, or maybe they thought dating like it was my job made it more stressful than it should be. I suppose both are true, though to be fair, both of those things have more to do with me than with online dating itself.
Still, the whole online dating thing was not a waste. I met some nice men, and made some forever friends.
Even better, I learned a lot.
All those bad dates, failed relationships, and hurt feelings have taught me what doesn't work. They taught me what I don't want, what I can't handle, and what isn't important.
I think that's how it works in relationships. It can be tough to learn what you do want, because it is forever changing. But if you figure out what won't ever work, you can - by default - learn what really matters.
Most of all, by learning how a bad relationship feels, you'll get better at identifying how it feels to be in a good relationship.
I needed all those bad dates to teach me what I was doing wrong. How rushing and controlling and worrying were hurting me way more than they were ever helping. There is a difference between knowing what you want, and assuming everyone else is wrong for not wanting the same. There is also a difference between settling and compromise.
I also needed to learn how I feel when I am in a good relationship. It seems the best way for me to get the lesson was to experience some relationship failure. One thing is certain - I know how I don't want to feel.
Finding a strong, healthy, happy relationship has been a struggle for me. Maybe more than most. But I was coming from a place where I really had no idea what one looks like, or how one feels.
I may not be quite there yet, but I know I am close. I've come a long way - all thanks to a whole lot of bad dates.