Q. I just turned 27 and have spent the past few years on a dating website. My quest has been unsuccessful, including a long-term relationship that ended this past spring. Since that breakup, I have had little motivation to date and have spent time picking up new hobbies, spending more time with friends, and being happy on my own. I realized that in order to dip back into the dating pool and have a successful relationship, I need to be completely confident and happy with myself, which is something I’ve been working on this year. I’ve also reached a point of “dating burnout” after years of unsuccessful relationships, so I feel the need to sit back, reflect, and recoup for a bit.
Nearly all my friends are now engaged, married, or in serious relationships. The issue is that my mom constantly reminds me of this and of how I am approaching the big 3-0, so I need to be out dating because by the time I’m in my 30s, all hope will be lost of finding someone. Her comments are constant and sometimes offensive (that I’m a bore, dress too conservatively, am too picky, have commitment issues, etc.). I point out that I need some time to be on my own and don’t want to be with someone for the sake of being with someone; I want to be in a fulfilling relationship with my “match,” which unfortunately I have yet to find. My mom thinks this is nonsense, gets angry, and stops talking to me for weeks. I also tried the “I’m not telling you if I’m dating or not” approach which just gets her even more worked up.
I know she wants me to be happy and is trying to help, but the constant pressure from her to be in a relationship really bothers me. How do I react to her when she constantly harasses me about being single? Is she right that I am wasting time and should be putting myself out there as much as possible in order to be in a relationship?
A. I’m going to focus on the love stuff (this being Love Letters and all).
There’s nothing wrong with being 27 and single. It’s great that you’re finding yourself and learning to be happy on your own.
But . . . if you’re approaching a year of no dates (that breakup was last spring?), please consider the possibility that you can do two things at once. You can enjoy your friends and single time while having a date here and there. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and sometimes it’s nice to remind yourself what it’s like to get some attention from someone new.
As for the mom stuff, all you can really do is be honest with her and hope for the best. And make sure that she isn’t part of your dating burnout. I have to wonder whether her constant prodding is one of the reasons you just want to avoid the whole thing.
You have dating burnout. And you’re working on being the best you can be. Brava. Date when you feel damn well good and ready.
You date when you feel like dating and not a second more. You might meet someone when you’re not looking, or perhaps not. There is a lot of life to live that doesn’t include dating. Get out on your own and be an independent adult. Travel (on your own) if you feel like it. Seize life. Dating is great, but it is not something you always have to do.
I wonder if your mom is projecting her own failed relationship with your father onto you. You seem to be the vessel for a lot of her angst and misery, and I can’t imagine why except for the fact that maybe she’s just miserable in her own life, and trying to live vicariously through yours. So yeah, that’s not your fault.
I wouldn’t consider a broken long-term relationship “unsuccessful.” Those are your words, not your mother’s. That relationship existed and ended for a good reason: For one or both of you, it wasn’t right. That it has ended without any further foot-dragging is a measure of success because it allowed you to learn, grow, love, and recognize what you will and won’t require in your next serious relationship.
You are doing all the right things by staying involved with friends and taking time for yourself. I agree with Meredith that going out once in a while never hurts. It’s when you are not looking that you often meet that special person because your guard is down and you are more open to a relationship. So stop worrying about your age and time running out on you. You’ll meet a terrific guy sooner rather than later and you’ll reread this letter, shake your head and smile. Best of luck.
It’s your gut that matters in these decisions. If something feels right in your heart of hearts, it’s right no matter what outsiders think. Your mother sounds worried for reasons maybe having to do with her experience (what is her relationship status?). You can have some understanding and compassion for her without it having to impact your decisions. The same with yourself. See if you can be clear that you are not dating by choice, not resistance or past hurts. A little self-reflection can be a valuable thing.
You’re doing everything right. I say this with certainty because you’re doing what makes you happy. Keep doing that and spend less time with your mother if she continues to be toxic.
I’m jealous. I wish I had been as self-aware as you at 27. Keep doing what you’re doing. Love will find you. And keep making your mom angry. The less “help” she gives you, the better.
Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Mere-dith Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.