I’m 26, soon to be 27, and I have never dated. This fact used to elicit great shame; at times, it still does. Looking back, however, I don’t believe I’ve ever been “ready.” Somebody in an online group recently posed a question that awakened me as to why:
“How do you know you want to be with someone, that you’re willing to have them invade your space and time?”
I’d never quite thought of romance this way. Something about the question’s phrasing really resonated. Especially that $50 verb: invade.
In 26 years, I’ve never dated for a plethora of reasons. But I now realize the primary reason is not my sexuality. At this juncture in my life, the notion of being in a romantic relationship — man or woman — simply seems so very awful.
Like an unceasing invasion upon my very existence.
I’ve often wondered if I’d grown up “straight” or “normal” or however you’d label me, would I have dated by now? By 26?
Would I have liked some girl so unbearably to step toward her with quaking knees, ask her out, take her to dinner, walk barefoot along a sloshing coastline, cuddle on an oversized couch, fall asleep on her shoulder, shop for rings, buy the ring, bend to one knee, kiss her, hold her, suffer quaking knees all over again as she ambles down a petal-lined aisle toward me, and we say “I do” to each other forever?
Sexuality aside, would I be married by now?
Something inside me screams no.
Sure, I get the sense that I may have “liked” a girl here and there, and maybe I’d have even dated one or two. But when I consider the person deep within my overarching personality, I’m not at all convinced I’d have already traded in a life of managing my own messy concerns for also attending another’s.
To be labeled someone’s “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or “husband” or “wife” and to put his or her needs before your own, to share in both their triumphs and tragedies, for better or worse, in sickness and in health — my soul feels squelched. To date someone and marry and sacrifice and be expected to do this sort of thing forever sounds woefully unappetizing.
The mere thought of a romantic relationship makes me feel invaded upon.
Am I horrible? Am I selfish? Am I really closer to 30 than 20, having never dated, and yet I still do not desire a romantic relationship?
Do I still need to grow up in my 20s? Will it take my 30s and 40s as well? Am I immature? Am I pathetic?
What’s wrong with me?
I feel like people on both sides of “the aisle” (you know the one) would tell me to just start dating already, whether I feel “ready” or not. Get out there, experiment. I’ll never know if I don’t “try,” right?
Okay. So. Here’s the thing:
I’ve been gradually climbing out of solitude over the last five years. I moved across the country, started living with friends, worked at two super relational summer camps, found a church, joined my first small group, and finally started discovering the luscious waters of life beyond the desert of my isolation.
And here’s the other thing:
Relationships are hard. They are so hard. In recent years I have gained some treasured friends, and I have lost them. Gosh, have I lost them. For 26 years, little else has stressed my soul more than the pursuit of friendship — male friendship, especially. At 26, I still feel so far from “accomplishing” that upper intimate echelon of friendship.
Dating someone, then, seems like cranking the wheel of an already ridiculous relational carousel and foolishly expecting to stick to the madly spun wheel. Good heavens, I don’t need any added turmoil in my life; I already have enough upturned cranks as it is.
When I picture my life 10, 20, 30 years out, I do admittedly like the notion of someday finding that “special someone.” To form a family and a home.
But what about all the solo adventures I still have planned? What about my introverted need for solitude? What about this arduous friendship-journey I still very much find myself limping through?
I want to want a romance someday. But I don’t want it today. I couldn’t handle it. Not yet.
How do I overcome my self-centeredness? To willingly sacrifice my independence and adventures and freedom and life for another? To stare another soul in the eyes and swear, declare: yes, I will commit my entire life to you and move across oceans with you and mourn with you and share my precious adventures with you and never seek out another in place of you, myself included?
How do I possibly get there?
I’ve never dated, and I’m unsure how exactly my “first time” might work: whether I’ll “be ready” or “feel things” or even what sorts of things, exactly.
I’ve never dated, and I’m unsure whether it will happen “naturally” or “unnaturally” or whether God just intends for my 80-year story to ride solo.
I’ve never dated, and I don’t know a lot.
But this I know.
What once was so relationally unfathomable has severed an endless Sahara of isolation. Unforeseen streams have flowed, and I now have incredible friends today that I did not have a decade ago. I have thirsted, I have yearned, I have learned, and I have grown.
I’m open. Open to more relational miracles and waterfalls that stress and astound me with every passing page.
I know I’m not alone here. Have you ever dated? Have you never dated? In a nutshell, what’s your dating/married story? How do you make your romantic relationship work? How do you ditch the selfishness and grow the relationship? Let’s share some stories.