My dating life has been practically nonexistent since May 2007. I made the decision to be single for a year so I could get my priorities in order, focus on getting into grad school, and discover who I really am. Also, I wanted to figure out why I was making such huge errors in judgment when it came to men. I decided to get back into dating once I started grad school, but it has not gone well. I went on a few real dates, I asked out a guy last year who said no, and the last guy who asked me out apparently had a girlfriend already. Dating in grad school is hard. For some of us, it is almost impossible. Not that it isn’t always hard work, but there is an added dimension of “dating fail” for us grad students.
First dates are sometimes awkward. I value my education, but don’t want to come across as snobby. It is awkward for someone who hasn’t completed a higher degree because he doesn’t know what to say to someone who is more educated. It doesn’t matter that I have a life outside of academics. All they see is a bubble with “PhD” floating above my head. And all I see is someone who I’ve dated a million times or someone who is apathetic about setting goals for his future. Maybe he wants a girl who is ready to settle down and have kids, someone who will be a remarkable homemaker and mother. Maybe I want to find a guy who is not turned off by my brain. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with either of us. It is not that we want the wrong things in a partner. We are just not right for each other.
Where I (don’t) meet guys
Dating within your program is usually frowned upon. It is difficult to date within a program because it is a professional environment so the rules of dating a coworker apply here. In addition, we spend so much time together in class, in our labs, or in study groups that we become more like a family. It is hard to think of even the cutest guys in the group as dating material.
I spend most of my time at home, at work, on campus (in class, in meetings, in my labs) or commuting. That does not leave much time to go out and meet other singles. I am also over that phase of my life where I want to spend every evening dressing up to go clubbing and partying. I enjoy a glass of wine, but don’t want to get smashed every night. If I have free time, I would rather spend that time with my close friends or decompressing somehow.
Saving the best for last
Some of my best friends are married couples. It is inspiring to see people I love who are married and have good relationships. (You know who you are!) For awhile I felt a little self-conscious hanging out with married couples as a third wheel, but now I savor every moment. I not only get to hang out with amazing friends, but I am exposed to models of what a healthy, happy relationship should be.
Most of my friends are married or are in a long term relationship. Of all my high school friends, I can count on one hand how many of us are still truly single. My college friends who are single? Again… one hand. What’s more… many people my age have already been married, divorced and have kids. I stumbled upon this article in Jezebel about the detriment of settling for a guy too soon:
It is true that many people stay in the same place their entire lives and end up marrying their high school sweetheart or someone they meet in college. A lot of women go to college with the intention of getting their M.r.s. In my case, I have moved roughly every 5 years since I was born. I almost settled down with my high school sweetheart after an on again off again relationship. Sure, we could have gotten married, but we would not have stayed married. It doesn’t mean we didn’t love each other, but we were too young to make decisions about our futures. I look back now and know with absolute certainty I am better being single. I have only recently discovered who I am (and still learning, by the way), what I am made of, what I need in life. How could I have known what kind of man is right for me until now?
The good news
There are amazing men out there. I have met them. Sure, they are already married because a woman found them and snatched them up immediately!!! But I will meet more intelligent, handsome, mature, kind men in my future. And they will be single. And they will ask me on a date. And it will go splendidly.
So, if I’ve been single this long, why do I want a man?
Ultimately, I want a companion. Someone with whom I can share the good times and the bad times. I want to come home after a long day to see a man with whom I am head over heels in love. I don’t need a man to “take care of me.” I need a man to hold my hand, kiss me, and tell me everything is going to be OK when I feel overwhelmed. I need a man to make me laugh out loud. I’ve found that some of the most successful people in grad school are those with a secure family life at home. Having someone home to do the dishes, take care of finances, and run errands even for a few days of the week can be a grad student’s saving grace. It is nearly impossible to balance everything, so having that support system in place is crucial.
Life is so much better when we can share it with someone. It doesn’t matter how successful I am in the future if I am traveling the world alone. My life is complete. I am content. I love my life and where it is going. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to share my life with another human being.
So, what is your experience being single in grad school? Or your experience being married?