How non-attachment changed my outlook on dating

In An Introduction to Non-Attachment I described the basic idea of non-attachment. As promised, here’s the (belated) follow-up.

Even after creating this blog, the idea of dating still weighed heavily on my shoulders. So much of my imagined future depended on the success of my attempts at dating. If I spent all this time and energy trying to find a long-term relationship and still failed, what would that say about me?

The possibility of trying and still failing was scarier than doing nothing, so that’s exactly what I ended up doing: nothing. I felt stuck.

stuck again

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What do I really want?

Do I want to be in a relationship? Do I want to get married? Do I want to have kids?

I thought these would be easy questions to answer, but the more I think about them, the more complicated the answers get. It’s hard to separate what I was raised to think is important and what a lot of society is telling me will make me happy from what my real desires are. It’s always been what I imagined my future to be, both in the Unification Church (UC) and afterward, but maybe I’ve been suffering from a lack of imagination.

In the UC, getting married and having kids is literally your purpose in life. Single first-generation church members are almost non-existent and childless couples are pitied. It’s even believed that Jesus and Mother Theresa didn’t achieve their full potential because they neither of them married. I know it would be a major disappointment to my parents if I never get married or have kids, possibly even harder on them than me leaving the church. What if my main motivation for dating is that I’m afraid people will judge me for being single and childless, rather than because it’s something that is actually important to me?

To add to the confusion, part of me wants to prove to my parents that it’s possible to lead a happy, fulfilling life without ever getting married or having children. I want them to see that just because someone isn’t married or isn’t a parent doesn’t necessarily mean there is a gaping emptiness in their life or that they’re secretly longing for the relationship they never had or for the children they never had. But if I’m living in a way to prove something to my parents, it would still mean I’m not in control of my own life. I’d be doing these things solely to spite my parents and not making choices that are important to me.

I’m lucky I have the chance to think about these questions. If things had gone just slightly differently in my life, I might have gotten married in the Unification Church and would be trying to force a relationship to work, even though part of me knew it wasn’t right from the beginning. Maybe I’d have kids already, hoping they’d improve an unhappy marriage, but instead I’d end up feeling increasingly trapped.

I wonder if I’m overthinking all of this. It’s not as if the first relationship I get into has to be permanent. I can date for a while, and if I find it’s not for me, I can take a break, or stop altogether. I just want to be sure that I’m making my own choices for my future, not because I’m afraid of disappointing my parents or afraid of being a spinster. I want it to be my decision to make, for better or for worse.

A Facebook Conversation

This is the almost verbatim Facebook conversation between my mom (Mrs. G.) and a friend of mine (Lily*) after my friend posted that she was in a relationship.

For some reason, this conversation really upset me, and I’m not the type of person who gets worked up easily about these types of things. It was more than just embarrassment. Sure, it’s embarrassing for your mother to publicly seek a boyfriend for you, but it was more than that.

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What’s a nice girl like you doing single?

“It’s a pity someone hasn’t snatched you up already.”

“When are you going to settle down and find a boyfriend?”

Though generally well-intended, these seemingly innocent comments can be annoying and even hurtful, especially when you’re already hard on yourself about being single. It makes me want to respond with something like “It’s a pity a pretty woman like you thinks that moron you call a boyfriend is something worth envying”.

How do you deal with these comments tactfully? It depends on the situation.

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