By Grace Cooper
ONE HUNDRED and fifty first and last dates—that was my dating “strategy”of the last decade, slowed only by a few years of remote and virtual dating during the Covid quarantine.
I’m not proud of that number of fizzled, failed and outright potential relationship flops, but then again I am not apologizing for why I refused to bond to any one man before I was ready.
There were a few who made my toes curl with excitement whenever I recalled passionate kisses. Others were hard lessons learned. Eventually though, I changed—kicked my codependency habit—because of dating.
Let’s be honest. Change is hard, but if you buy into the science of evolution, change is necessary for survival of any species. And when I finally found the courage to leap out of my long dysfunctional marriage, I promised myself that survival was the goal. No longer would I blame my husband for imprisoning me against my will. The cage door was always open. I simply needed to have the courage to fly.
Dating taught me that I do not need a man in order to survive or thrive. Dating taught me about my own likes, dislikes and values. Dating taught me to draw and unapologetically enforce boundaries around what I hold sacred. Dating taught me about limerence vs. like vs. love. Dating taught me to be patient and steadfast—trust grows only with consistency over time. Dating taught me that hormones are still potent chemical messengers capable of rendering even the most sensible, stoic woman a blithering idiot in a single session of parking-lot passion.
A sweet, former, first-and-last-date writer friend wrote to me recently about his confusion in the wake of what he termed a five-week, “nuclear- fueled” passionate romance that melted down suddenly when she inexplicably dumped him. I listened to him ruminate with my usual impatience, then offered this advice:
Don’t try to get inside her head looking for answers; get inside your own. What did you learn? Decide what real love looks like to you, and if that’s truly your end goal, what will you do differently next time? Breakups are messy, often inconvenient and downright painful, but they also offer the potential for new beginnings. And new beginnings are opportunities for personal growth so here’s to breakups, first and last dates and romancing the self—at least until the real deal comes along.
Stay tuned…what does true love resemble?
Recommended listening: “Hearts Content” by Brandi Carlile
—Grace Cooper (a nom de plume) left her long marriage a decade ago, and with it went all sense of her identity—but not for long. Now 67, she has begun chronicling her tales of looking for love in all the wrong places, and unexpectedly finding herself.