I was talking to a friend I hadn’t spoken to in awhile, telling them how my last “relationship” ended. I hesitate to call it a relationship, because even though we’d had the “what are we?” talk, we were official for barely a month. If a man says he wants to be your boyfriend, but he’s lying, is he really your boyfriend?
After 4 months of dating, it ended with him ghosting me. There was no big fight. Everything seemed fine, until abruptly it all stopped one weekend when he said he would show up and he didn’t. I wasn’t surprised that it ended, only that it ended so soon, and that he hadn’t even had the decency to say goodbye. I meant so little to him that I wasn’t worth a brief conversation. It was infuriating.
I mentioned to my friend that he had probably been cheating on me and found someone else, instigating the breakup. I have no proof of this, except that he hadn’t deleted any dating apps from his phone. After we had agreed to be exclusive, he had his phone out in front of me and I commented, “You still have Tinder.” It wasn’t an accusation, just a fact. I thought his reaction would be something along the lines of “Oh, yeah, I just haven’t gotten around to deleting that yet. Let me do that now.”
Instead, he gave me a dark look and said, “Yeah, whatever.” Like it was none of my business.
I said nothing.
My friend seemed shocked. “If my girlfriend said that to me, I’d walk out!”
I don’t think it was until that conversation that I realized how strange it was that I hadn’t reacted. I’ve always had very strong feelings about infidelity. No one had ever cheated on me before, but my dad’s been divorced twice (guess why). It’s a terrible thing to watch from the outside, seeing the careless hurt thrown around. I used to think about how I would react if I found someone cheating on me. The idea of not caring hadn’t occurred to me.
A part of me thinks I should have said something, asked him about it. We probably would have ended right then, but at least it would have ended with a conversation that way.
What bothers me more than his disrespect is that I was in a relationship I didn’t care about. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this guy, but it became evident after a couple months that we weren’t a good long term fit. At this point, I’d been single a year. I’d been on 25 first dates, give or take. I had thought I’d replace my ex in a matter of weeks but soon discovered that I was dreadfully mistaken. I was exhausted. I was sick of the sea of men without personalities, who weren’t good fits for me. I had experienced more rejection in that year than I had ever in my life. I wanted a break. I wanted validation. I’ll admit there were a lot of reasons that I was in that relationship, that had nothing to do with him.
So when I realized that he was probably cheating on me, I didn’t really care. I knew that we were going nowhere. I didn’t need him to really be a boyfriend, I needed him to be a placeholder. I needed him to just be good enough so that I could occasionally delude myself that this was fun. I didn’t want to go on any more first dates, but I also didn’t want to be alone. I could have explicitly opened up the relationship, I guess, but the label didn’t matter. It wouldn’t have kept us together any longer.
Now, in the aftermath, with the perspective of a few months, I wonder how it got that far. I wonder when “is this better than nothing?” replaced “do I want to see if he’s the one?” as the primary question I ask when things start to go somewhere. I subconsciously gave up on finding someone who was actually right for me- because a girl who thinks she has something better waiting around the corner doesn’t bother with guys who act like he did. It’s not that I don’t think I’m worthy of better, it’s just that I don’t think I can find it in my current dating pool.
The last thing I want to be when it comes to dating is apathetic. App-based dating has quickly drained so much value out of our interactions with other people. Everyone seems replaceable to everyone. I don’t want to see people that way, and I hate feeling like I have to prove my worth to someone else. Worth is not something you should have to earn through being pretty or being interesting, it’s just something you should have through being human.
I didn’t realize how much Tinder and Bumble have affected me until now, but clearly it’s not in a healthy way. I’ve heard people talk of how much they hate these apps, but feeling like they can’t get away because that’s where their dating pool is. Everyone is there, no one is going to talk to you in a bar or in a coffee shop. It’s an impossible loop.
At some point, it’s going to become unsustainable. At some point, this loop will have to break and something new will come. I just hope it comes in time to save other people from the same apathy I find in myself.