I Stopped Dating for a Year and This Is What Happened: An Unexpected Answer to Loneliness
I haven’t been on a date in a year. Well, one year, 3 months, and 2 days actually.
I didn’t really set out to stop dating for a year; it just sort of happened. The last time I went on a date was in early March 2021. The date itself was really nice; I went to a nice restaurant with a nice man I had been spending time with over the previous four months.
So far, so good – right?
Not really. Going into the date, I had a hunch that this wasn’t going anywhere. When I asked him where this was all headed, he said he wanted to keep seeing me but wasn’t ready to move forward into a relationship.
After spending four months of time together, I knew the writing was on the wall. The way I look at these things, if after four months it’s not an emphatic “YES!” – it’s a no.
I decided to rip the bandage off myself. I thanked him for the time we’d spent together and wished him well. Then I drove home and changed into my ugliest jammies (you know the ones we all have and can’t get rid of). I flopped myself onto my bed and stared at the ceiling for a couple of hours, wondering what I had just done with the last four months.
After a fair amount of sad/angry pouting, my thoughts turned towards what to do next. This man was just the most recent in a line of ill-fitting suitors I’d met online over the previous year. I was exhausted by the sheer thought of going back to the online dating scene, but how does a middle-aged woman with three kids otherwise meet someone?
I asked God, “Should I get back online?”
Gently, I heard that still small voice say, “You’re doing all of this because you don’t trust me.”
Yikes. Called out by God. But He was right (of course). I had learned a lot through my dating experiences and had grown in my ability to stand up for myself and set healthy boundaries. But the truth was I wanted to get right back into the dating scene because it was the only way I could cope with my loneliness.
The Answer to Loneliness Isn’t Always What We Think It Is
Seems intuitive, right? Feel lonely = go meet someone. Problem solved, right?
Wrong. With every lackluster dating encounter, my loneliness worsened. But the way I looked at things, the loneliness of trying was at least better than the loneliness of not trying at all.
Which made what God was asking me to do seem so backward.
Dating around gave me a sense of control – like I was at least doing something about my situation. But deep down, I know I reasoned that if anything was going to get done, I was going to have to do it myself.
I can be so good at “helping God” sometimes. SMH.
Lurking beneath all this loneliness was a lot of doubt – doubt that my life could ever really be enjoyable again, doubt that God would ever do anything to bring all this loneliness to an end.
But God wanted to show me something different, and it would involve learning to trust Him instead of striving to make things happen on my own. Until He released me to date again, my “single and ready to mingle” card had been revoked.
On the one hand, I was kind of relieved. I put my thought energy towards other things: I took my kids on summer road trip, finished writing a manuscript, and made some beautiful new friends at a ladies’ Bible study hosted at my church.
But on the other hand, I was also frustrated. Weekends without my kids became unbearable, especially when all of my (married) friends were busy with their families. No one to hang out with. No one to text. No one to make plans with. And not even the possibility of a new man in sight.
Months alone like this felt like being tied down in solitary confinement. Out of options, I did the only thing I felt I could do – I complained to God.
In the year prior to all of this, I’d already unpacked a lot of my relational trauma and put an end to my unhealthy habits – what more could I possibly have to learn? I asked God, “So what’s the deal? When is this going to end?”
Around the six month mark, my agitation was at an all time high. I wasn’t sleeping well, waking early and often. One night, I awoke at 4 am. After tossing and turning for a half hour, I slid out of bed and sat on the floor. As I peered into the dark, I began to wrestle with God.
Through hot tears I pleaded, “Why won’t you answer me? What do I need to do?”
He answered gently, “Sleep.”
And just like that, the angst lifted. He had heard me. He had been listening. He hadn’t gone anywhere. And I didn’t need to do anything – other than physically, spiritually, and emotionally rest.
And that, I suddenly realized, is the essence of learning to trust Him– rest.
A Practice for Dealing with Loneliness
Do you ever get into these patterns when you only talk to God about something when you’re really mad about it? That instead of consistently talking with Him about something on a daily basis you wait until you’re about to lose it? That’s what I had been doing.
But after this whole episode, I was reminded of Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
After my 4am encounter, this passage came alive for me in a new way. God’s compassions (or in other translations “His mercies”) are new for us every day. Through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit, God has afforded us the ability to wake up each morning and not only ask for but expect that He will give us the mercy we need to get through the day.
I started a simple practice of waking up each day and simply asking for God’s mercy for the day. It started as, “God, give me your mercy to be a single mom today.” And when those moments of loneliness would strike, I would shift it to “Give me your mercy to be alone right now.” Loneliness did not go away (I mean I am still a human), but it has become more and more manageable with time.
When I was too fixated on whether or not I could date again, on finding a partner, I felt like God had been silent. But once I allowed God to move that aside, I could see Him answering my prayers everywhere. And what once felt like lonely isolation eventually became settled solitude.
I know even as I’m writing this it sounds too simplistic. But a lot of the things we need to do are really quite simple – they just aren’t easy. God’s answers to our problems aren’t often what we think they should be, and trusting His way takes heaps of humility and practice.
A New Partner Can’t Cure Loneliness
God eventually shifted my perspective on not only the answer to loneliness but exposed the sources as well. Everything changed when I learned this: a new partner can’t cure loneliness.
Why not? Because loneliness doesn’t start when we lose a significant other. Loneliness is rooted in feeling unseen when we should have been seen, which often begins in childhood.
Would you have considered yourself a lonely child? From a young age, I felt missed and misunderstood. In my adult years, this sense of insignificance led me into too many unhealthy friendships and relationships, just longing to be seen and heard.
But where I desired so much to be noticed by another, God wanted me to know that He would be everything I needed. What’s more, He wanted to me realize He had always seen me and heard me, even when others didn’t.
I simply wanted to be coupled. But God desired to make me whole.