After several attempts at making our relationship work, my ex and I finally decided to part ways. The breakup was not amicable; had we called it quits a couple of months prior, things probably wouldn't have become so hostile. However, we were obsessed with each other. Or rather, we were obsessed with the idea of each other. Deep down, we both knew that we were incompatible.
By the end of our involvement, it had become purely about sex. In contrast to the somewhat conventional sex that had become the norm for the greater part of our time together, the physical aspect of our relationship took a 180-degree turn and became more unbridled in the last few months. I enjoyed every second of it. The only problem was that when we weren't having sex, we were constantly at loggerheads. Our relationship had become infested with jealousy and insecurity, and that culminated in a nasty breakup.
The realization that I was alone hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, I had all this time on my hands and no one to spend it with. For several years, I'd had an arrangement with one of my guy friends — we'd be "friends with benefits" when we were both single. At that point in time, though, he was in a relationship. So there I was, fearful of being alone and craving intimacy (and more mind-blowing sex). I'd tried online dating in the past, but it hadn't yielded much — the guys I met were either pervs, or sweethearts who wanted too much too soon — so I was keen to try something new.
And this was how I decided to try Tinder. It was an impulsive decision, and it was a great distraction. Within an hour of joining, I already had a few matches and some interesting conversations going. I loved the interest and attention that I was getting from some very attractive men. It actually didn't bother me that their primary goal was probably to get laid. As far as I was concerned, getting laid wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.
The first guy I met with face-to-face was Harry*. On the day of our date, I happened to be having a very bad day. He could tell that something was wrong, and he played all his cards right: saying the right things as if on cue, being silent and listening at all the right times, and laughing at exactly the right moments. When he invited me back to his place, I accepted. The sex was average at best, and I left feeling empty and unfulfilled.
Then there was Greg*. He had the look of a troubled rock star — handsome but anguished. Perhaps should have sent me running, but I was curious about him. The date started off well, and after a few drinks, we were getting along famously. We went back to his place, where we continued to drink and get to know each other better. He disclosed that he was separated from his wife and that they had a four-year old son — facts he had neglected to mention prior to our meeting. By then, though, I was so inebriated that none of it mattered. All I wanted was the attention that he was giving me. Needless to say, we had sex. This time, I enjoyed it, probably because I was so drunk.
I continued to communicate with (and meet some of) my Tinder matches. It was proving very easy to meet guys — attractive ones. Every time I felt lonely or in need of some TLC, all I needed to do was hit up one of my many Tinder matches. At any given moment, at least one of them was free.
I realized that I had developed a liking for foreigners, who were in town either for business or vacation purposes. The fact that they would be going back to their home countries ensured that none of these interactions became emotionally taxing. I got what I needed, when I needed it, whether it was company and conversation over dinner and drinks, or some sexual relief when the opportunity presented itself. I was getting everything that I wanted out of a relationship, but not from one person.
After approximately three months on Tinder, I had developed a comfortable friends-with-benefits arrangement with one of my matches, Tim*. The plus was that Tim was really intelligent; we could have engaging conversations and interesting debates for hours on end. We began seeing more and more of each other, to the point where I was staying over at his place regularly and meeting his friends. However, it was very clear to both of us that were not a couple: we spoke freely and openly to each other about our other partners (both past and current).
Most of the time, it was fun. Other times, I'd need a few drinks before it became fun. And other times, it wasn't fun at all. The fact is that I was trying to fill a void that just seemed to be growing. Sometimes, when I was all alone with my thoughts, I'd berate myself for what I was doing. In fact, I actually didn't know what I was doing. Most days, I felt emotionally lost and empty. I felt like I was living from one lay to the next, in a poor attempt to piece together my broken heart.
One day, one of my close friends asked me an important question: why was I trying to deal with my pain by getting myself into situations that wouldn't have a positive impact on my life? The excuse I had fed myself until that point was that I was a human being with needs (i.e. sexual needs), and that it was a normal thing to seek to fulfill them. The only problem was that the approach I was taking to satisfy these needs, while providing me with short-term comfort, was the very thing that was creating long-term anguish in my life. The more guys I hooked up with, the more worthless I felt. And the more worthless I felt, the more reassurance and affirmation I needed — which I sought out from men. And so it had become an endless, destructive cycle.
While I knew that I needed to make changes, I was aware that it wouldn't happen overnight. I also knew that I wouldn't meet the kind of man that I'd want to build a life with using the approach I'd been using. In fact, I wouldn't meet anyone worthwhile with the mindset I had. The brief dalliances I'd been through had certainly been fun, but (at best) they had only provided me with several short-term "solutions" to a long-term problem. After each cute guy, the loneliness remained. After each romantic date and deep conversation, I was still on my own.
One of my worst fears in life has always been, and still is, loneliness. I realized that, in my attempts to avoid it at all costs, I was actually living my worst fear every day. I desperately needed some meaning and purpose in my life. I am now trying new and different things in my search for purpose. Healthier things: reading more books, spending more time with my close friends and family, going for walks, the list goes on. I still feel lonely very often, but I can feel the emotional growth and development taking place within me.
I've also met someone who seems amazing. But now I'm doing exactly the opposite of what I was doing. I'm taking it slow. Deliberately so. It's a journey of self-discovery, and if I don't respect, know and love myself, how can I expect those things from anyone else?