Why Dating Just To Date Is Only Making You Feel Lonelier

by Sheena Sharma

Summer is supposed to be the season of fun and sun. But I spent my summer trying to repair myself after a bad breakup, so for me, it was the season of melancholy and dark clouds hovering overhead.

Internally, I was hurting. Visibly, I was shaken. Eventually, my friends intervened and insisted on pushing me out of my comfort zone as best they could.

“Get back out there,” they’d say, prodding me incessantly like I was the f*cking Pillsbury Doughboy.

So I took their advice, lining dates up on consecutive days of the week like victims in a firing squad. Monday was reserved for the cute guy, Tuesday for the funny guy, Wednesday for the bad boy -- you get the idea.

There’s a preconceived notion that dating is a kind of a cure-all -- not just for heartbreak, but also for loneliness. I’ve often been told it reawakens even the most broken spirit.

But that’s not what happened at all; it became more of a small Band-Aid for a gaping wound. And it didn't make it easier to connect with people; it made it infinitely harder.

Dating became solely an out-of-body experience. It rendered me a ghost. I'd walk into the bar and greet my date with hesitation and reproach, expecting it to fare worse than the date from the night before.

I realized I’d fallen prey to believing love would never happen for me, so I was simply going through the motions and expecting nothing.

The closer I gravitated toward these new men, the more disconnected I felt from not only them, but from myself. My head was telling me to meet new people, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I felt insuperably lonely.

And a string of bad dates after having had such a terrible breakup served as a palpable reminder that I still hadn't found true love.

Cynicism caught me in its grips and wouldn’t let go. It was clearer than ever that I was dating just for the sake of dating.

And there's no more isolating feeling than the realization that the thing you've been using as a distraction from your exes is nothing more than a distraction from yourself.

You like the idea of a person more than the person.

Is there anyone out there? Anyone at all? Dating for the sake of dating feels like you’ve hung yourself onto the end of a fishing rod and are playing the role of the bait, throwing yourself out into the ocean waiting for something to bite.

It doesn’t matter who falls into your trap, as long as it’s someone.

This is the most dangerous mindset of all: the notion that as long as we have a guy, we'll finally be happy, and we'll be able to swim back up to the surface and exhale because we've been holding our breath this entire time.

But no one said we're meant to hold our breath at all.

You keep relapsing into heartbreak...

…without even asking for it.

We live in a bittersweet world that sustains online connections and subsequently lacks closure. In even our most dedicated attempts to get over our exes, we can still become entrenched in their lives with the simple click of a button.

Going on just one bad date prompts a wander over to your ex’s social media pages -- and you’re back at square one, wishing you were with your lost love instead of a new man.

It becomes impossible to say goodbye to the past, so we’re all perpetually in a state of recovery, perforated, broken or torn at the seams. The feelings you try so hard to forget are triggered at any moment’s notice.

Replacing a void for the moment won’t fill the hole in your heart.

We like to treat other people as stocking stuffers: little treats meant to fill up a big, empty space.

The problem with this, though, is our idea that life doesn’t start until love does, that we need someone else to feel fulfilled. But we don't know when love will strike, if it will at all, so until then, you've got to learn to be on your own.

Time spent with someone boring is time wasted, so it’s pertinent to make sure that when you date, your intentions are good, and your heart is open.

You don’t know how to date yourself.

The phrase “love yourself first” is ubiquitous. Gurus preach it to us. Magazines spell it out for us. Romantic comedies play it out for us.

I’d often hear it, but I didn’t know how it was at all relevant to me -- until one day, when I happened to be feeling down about my luck in romance (or lack thereof) at work, and someone forced me to, yes, love myself first.

“I have no one to take me out,” I complained, commiserating in anything but silence to my coworkers. And to my surprise, they combatted my chagrin with tough love. They told me to cheer the f*ck up, throw on my hottest outfit and wander the streets of New York alone.

Go out alone. Huh. Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t it ever occur to me that I'm more than capable of doing the things I’ve always been told men are supposed to do for me?

In lieu of having a love life, I gave up on living my life. It had always been a dream of mine to live a life filled with love, and because I didn’t have one, I forgot to love myself.

It took me a long time to realize it, but when I did, it hit home: It doesn’t take two to date. You can date your exes, and you can date your best friends, but always make time to date yourself -- that is, yourself at your best and also yourself at your worst.

Remember that you’re enough. Remember that states of loneliness will come and go in waves. And remember that being with the wrong person is always worse than being with no person at all.

Date when you feel ready, not because someone else told you to do so. Because when all is said and done, dating just to date will only make you lonelier.