Suffering is optional

When our dating activities don’t go as we’d like, it is easy to get into a funk. We can drive ourselves crazy wondering what is wrong with us that we can’t seem to attract anyone at all, or the men we do attract are disinterested in a relationship, have other afflictions, or we aren’t drawn to them.

It is easy to be a suffering single.

Within days of my ex leaving I talked to a dear, wise friend for solace. I was wailing and complaining about what a louse he was to treat me this way. I wanted retribution for the pain he’d caused me by his decision. I wanted him to suffer as much as I was.

My friend said, “I can understand you would want him to feel the same pain you do, but he doesn’t and won’t. And for you, remember suffering is optional.”

“How can suffering be optional?” I wanted to scream. “I can’t control this feeling of a knife thrust into my gut.”

No, I can’t control that feeling. But I can control how I interpret situations. And whether I choose to wallow or for how long.

I remember I told myself I was going to just feel the feeling, just be with it and not make it right or wrong. I was not going to try to change it unless I wanted to. I also gave myself to the end of the year to mourn the loss of my marriage, which would give me a full 7.5 months to suffer however I chose.

As the end of the year approached, I noticed my suffering was nearly gone. I was looking forward to the new year to move on. I wasn’t subjugating the sadness — I allowed it to surface when it did. But I didn’t feel I was suffering in the sorrow.

We all have dating setbacks. We can choose if we suffer through them or not. It’s okay if you do, but be clear that it is your choice. Sadness can bring gifts of release and insight. Suffering is really unnecessary. But if you want to do it, go right ahead!

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22 responses to “Suffering is optional”

  1. ER Avatar

    Great post DG.

    When you say “or the men we do attract are disinterested in a relationship..” do you mean that they weren’t really interested in a relationship, or that they weren’t interested in a relationship with you?


  2. Elena Avatar

    Thanks for posting this, especially in the same week as the new year’s resolutions and being brave pieces. The three blog entries all fit together perfectly.

    The mind is such a powerful instrument and it makes me sad and frustrated when I see how easily people, especially loved ones, con themselves into believing that they need to suffer. Many people subscribe to the philosophy that when terrible things happen they have to suffer and suffer indefinitely. That mentality is based on and thrives on fear. I totally reject that way of thinking and thank you for posting this entry to remind us of the importance of not wallowing in sorrow. Suffering is a choice and I choose not to suffer. Ever.

  3. traci Avatar

    What you are describing, DG, is grief . . . Grieving is both normal and healthy, but there is a point when it ends and you move forward.

  4. Dating Goddess Avatar


    Actually, I see them as different. I, too, believe experiencing grief is normal and healthy. However, suffering is staying stuck in a self-imposed interpretation of an event. For example, I could grieve the loss of my marriage and think of good times we had and the love we shared. I suffer when I make my ex wrong about how he treated me and was so selfish in making a decision that affected me the rest of my life, without involving me in the decision. The more I allow myself to hang out in the indignation, the more I suffer.

  5. Mitsy Avatar

    Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s quite easy to SAY you aren’t going to suffer or feel bad about a relationship failure, but it’s quite another to actually do it. I’m more of a realist than that. I know that I’m going to feel very bad anytime I feel like a guy I’m interested in has blown me off. My contact with the cop guy has pretty much stopped. Except for a couple exchanged e-mails yesterday, which told me of his hectic schedule, I have not had anymore phone calls from him. It’s, once again, obvious that once the guy has figured out that I’m interested, he backpeddles or changes his mind. It’s an ego thing and once he knows he could have me as his girlfriend, he no longer wants me.

    This has happened to me time and time again. I was finally starting to heal from my last relationship which ended in May and thought I had met a guy who might stick with me. I’m 46 and have had the worst luck trying to find a stable relationship in the last 7 years. I’m told I’m decent looking and have a good personality. I have no kids or ex-husbands to worry about. I “should” be a pretty good catch to a lot of men. This latest guy wanted a woman who did not drink, did not smoke, had no kids and had never been married. I fit his wants to a T, but I feel like he’s rejected me anyway. We had such a great first date and some wonderful conversations, but the longer we talked on the phone, the less he seemed interested. I have to wonder why a guy like him would even put a profile online if he didn’t seriously want someone. The fact that he found someone who fit his narrow list of criteria is what bugs me. I’ve checked and there are few, if any, women in their 40’s who have not been married at least once and most have kids.

    I’m back on my anti-depressants and I am angry, confused, and bewildered about it all.

  6. Dating Goddess Avatar


    Time to reframe. You area a great catch. And perhaps that’s exactly what scared him off. He might not really be ready for a relationship, and saw how great you are, and ran. Is it really rejection if you weren’t really in a relationship? The first part of dating is deciding if there is a good match or not. For whatever reason, he wasn’t ready for you. You deserve someone who is not only ready for you, but is excited about the prospect of being with you.

    Be grateful that it didn’t go any farther before Mr. ColdFeet bailed. His loss! Now you are free to attract someone who will treat you right.

    Also, I think it’s time you looked at why you attract men who aren’t available. You aren’t going to like this, but I’d guess there is something in you that is not available either. I know you feel you are, but since you keep getting these same kind of guys, what could be drawing them to you? In my experience, I draw to me those who have something to teach me. Sometimes it’s a wonderful lesson, sometimes it’s a look at something that needs to be healed.

  7. Mitsy Avatar

    I understand what you’re saying, but most of these men initiate interest in me FIRST. I don’t actively seek “unavailable” men. In fact, I have always thought that I did pretty well in seeking guys who had some similar values as me. Exception to this would be Jeff (who was only separated and not completely divorced). I learned my lesson with that one for sure. I really “thought” this last guy and I were a good match, but I think you brought up a good point. He wasn’t READY for someone who actually fit all he wanted in his profile. I’m no longer sitting by the phone and I’m trying to move on from this. Who knows, he may call at some point, but I don’t want to sit around hoping he gets his act together.

  8. Dating Goddess Avatar


    Even though they are contacting you first, you are attracting them to you in some way. You are putting out some energy that is drawing them to you. And you’ll keep drawing guys like this until you figure out what needs to be healed to attract someone who is stable and ready for YOU.

  9. Mitsy Avatar

    How can I attract anyone from an online site? They get no vibe from me other than what’s in my profile, which is about as honest as I can be.

    I have worked with psychics and even a pagan witch friend to try to draw someone good and worthy towards me. Don’t laugh, but I thought some love spells might actually help my dismal love life. So far, it has not changed much. I have gotten some good advice from some of the psychics I’ve talked to. However no psychic (even a reputable one) can know everything about a person or their situation. They can only advise you and act as a counselor. But yes, I continue to believe that something must be wrong with me if all I can find are men who SAY they want a relationship but in reality do not want one.

    I would feel differently if we had not hit it off so well and there was no spark. Trust me, I know that there was. I’m just tired of the same song and dance with these men. They let life problems get in the way of their relationships and they don’t have the maturity to deal with people (or their problems) in an adult manner. So, they do nothing. Typical male behavior. I should not be surprised, but I still am with this last guy. I deserve better, but in the end, I can’t handle it when the guy doesn’t follow through with things. I think some of these men should put at the end of their profiles….”just kidding”.

  10. ER Avatar

    Mitsy, I feel your pain, but I think you are choosing to take the negative view of your current situation. From what I’m hearing I think most of these men did the right thing by not pursuing something that they knew wasn’t going to work.

    You say that you what upsets you the most is that you know that there was a spark between you. Maybe the sparks were just a figment of your imagination, as I think that if there had really been sparks for both of you, then the guy(s) wouldn’t have stopped seeing you.

    Maybe what has happened is that you felt that these guys were all ticking your ‘ must have’ or ‘would like’ boxes. By the time you got to meet the guy you had already convinced yourself that the guy was well suited to you. The meeting was simply a formality to taking things to the next step.
    During the meeting your mind was in ‘acceptance’ mode, and anything the guy said or did was just going to serve as reinforcement of your feelings. So obviously you felt sparks during the meeting. You must have had a flood of dopamine going around your brain.

    So then having pushed your emotions to such a high level, you must have been totally bewildered when the guy calls it off or disappears.

    Again Mitsy count yourself lucky. How do you think you’d feel if the guys had all slept with you and then had called it off?


  11. Michele Avatar


    Well I hope this makes you feel better………I have been on-line for 3 years (shudder), have a great career, two great kids, incredible family and friends, also considered very attractive and fun. Met a guy 3 months ago who I thought was into me, although did pull back at 2 months when he wasn’t sure about dating a women with children. I really felt connected until he broke it off one week before X-mas and on the phone no less. Yes it hurt, but truthfully, I think he is a “runner” and as my wise friend told me, next time he e-mails you (he already has) just reply “Run Forest Run”. I still miss him, but who wants a guy who isn’t into you? Hang in there!!!!!!!!

  12. Mitsy Avatar

    TO ER,

    Sorry pal, but you’re definitely ALL WET as far as your advice goes. No, I was not convinced there were any sparks until we actually met, and I’m not immature enough to not recognize what was reciprocal on this last guy’s part. I didn’t spend hours on the phone knowing that we’d hit it off in person. I’m not naive enough to believe that that is always what happens. Do you think I fell off the turnip truck yesterday? I’ve been doing the online dating thing long enough to know better. This last guy continued his interest until a few days ago, until his medical issues and court issues seemed to be his main focus. I am hoping that he comes back around, but in the meantime, I won’t sit home waiting for him to call.


    I appreciate your words. I think there are a number of guys who think when they post a profile that they want a long-term relationship, but then when they meet someone who might actually live up to their expectations, they get cold feet. Doesn’t matter how attracted they are to you in the beginning. Maybe that is what my last guy’s problem was. But, with his narrow list of criteria, he will have a hard time finding someone who meets all the requirements. So, I hope he does contact me, and maybe I can just say “thanks, but not thanks”. For now though, I’m still feeling really badly about this one. Sigh….

  13. Gatti Avatar

    “…but who wants a guy who isn’t into you?”

    Oh, yes, Michelle! Been there, done that, wanna see the scars?? I spent months a few years ago trying to convince someone who didn’t want me that they really did. What a waste of time! What a learning curve!

    Having had my little recent experience of someone breaking off a (very short) contact and feeling lied to and annoyed about it, I will be very careful about such things as this dating lark goes on. And no, I don’t think it was about quick sex. ER. So…for whatever reason…he wasn’t into me and I don’t need him.

    The other side of this coin is the guy who falls for you too fast and there you are feeling pressured and baffled what to do. That happened to me once. After a couple of dates he would go all panicky if we didn’t have minute to minute contact (phone calls, emails, text messages) and wanted me to move in with him at that point. Another date and it was over. Needy, needy, needy and I don’t need that!

    And let me tell you about the gal I’ve been corresponding with on the dating site I use. Her profile was on the log-in page and I had a look at it and wrote her to tell her I liked something she wrote (about guys lying about their ages). She wrote back that she was just dumped after two months by a guy who had decided he wanted a young, leggy blonde. She’s a 37 year-old, attractive brunette. It took him two months to figure that out??? I looked at his profile and he didn’t say a peep about young blondes. Maybe your guy, Mitsy, just decided that non-smoking, non-drinking, non-child-having, non-married just wasn’t enough and there’s something else he wants that you aren’t.

  14. Jamey Avatar

    Hi Misty,

    I read through all the replies, and just an observation from a complete stranger, it sounds like you are someone who forms themselves to fit other peoples needs and desires. Just sounds like, nothing more, I could be completely wrong. Plus, just *believing* (even just an inkling!) that there is something “wrong with you” puts out a serious negative vibe! Guys sense that like the plague, define it as neediness, and run. And rightly so.

    Maybe, you don’t need “your other half”. Maybe, you are a whole person in an of yourself, first, loving yourself first, and you are not half a person walking around craving a relationship in order to feel good about yourself and your abilities. I admit, I laugh when I see people “searching for their other half.” Do they not see their wonderful whole selves right in front of them in the mirror?

    And yes, sometimes life problems do take a forefront and need to be taken care of while trusting your potential partner can take care of themselves. I know I would not ask my potential dating partner or possible mate to put me above major life problems. Sorry, but medical issues really factor with me, and no one will ever be a substitute for my health, I know I am going to wake up with me 100% for the rest of my life, so I have to take care of that, first. I have to take care of me first in order to be a good partner. It’s my responsibility, Do you see where I am coming from with that?

    Court issues….well…in that event, would you prefer that they put you ahead of those?

    It sounds to me (once again, total stranger here) like when you are first starting out with these guys, you are in deep infatuation, and maybe there isn’t all that “connection” you are thinking there is. Most guys that age (40’s and up…argh, my age) are pretty reserved.
    Well, maybe you do meet all their criteria on a website. But, a website isn’t real life, and people are a lot more fickle these days when it comes to not just being compatible on paper, but compatible in real life, too. It just happens that way, and sometimes for the better.
    Good luck.

  15. Aggressively Single Avatar
    Aggressively Single

    Yet another comment to and about Mitsy – it’s all in the attitude, girlfriend. I’ve had completely different dating experiences than you, and I’m sure I’m no more fabulous than you are. But, I do have a great attitude. I really like dating! Every man I’ve met has been really great in some way. I could see myself as friends with any of them, and maybe really get to know a few.

    I had the extreme good fortune to really hit it off with the first guy I met when I started dating again. We had a great time together for 9 weeks. When I broke it off with him because he wasn’t attentive enough, I didn’t bemoan that there are no good available men, I said, “that was fun, I learned a lot, and I’d like to do it again only a little differently”. I again was very fortunate to immediately meet someone else who was even better for me. If you expect good things to come from meeting new people, you will find they nearly always do! Contrast this with your attitude “This (negative stuff) has happened to me time and time again. …….I’m 46 and and have had the worst luck trying to find a stable relationship in the last 7 years.” No wonder things aren’t working out – deep inside you don’t expect them to. Can you adjust your attitude for 2007 – just go into this for fun, perhaps to meet nice new men friends? Drop the negative thinking that seems to be holding you back? Maybe back off from dating and the pressure that puts on you and work on really bonding with friends for a little while? And a note, I’m in a very small town and so many girlfriends warned me how hard it is to meet nice men. Balderdash! There are tons of them out there! If this new guy disappoints, I won’t hesitate to cut my losses, learn from it, and meet another new terrific guy who I’m sure will be better still. Here’s to a great 2007, all you intrepid daters!

  16. Mitsy Avatar

    “If you expect good things to come from meeting new people, you will find they nearly always do!”

    I can’t possibly respond to all of the posts, but I will add that the above line IS what I have expected. I keep thinking, this next one will be a keeper. I keep meeting new guys and trying not to have high expectations. When the GUY is the one acting interesting, pursuing, calling, etc., is it not normal to believe the guy wants to date you? It’s the reality that they talk out of both sides of their mouths WAY too often. We can sugar coat it and pretend that we’re just meeting and making new friends. Trust me, I have plenty of friends, both male & female. If I were merely wanting friends, I would seek other options other than a dating site to meet people.

    And what I’m talking about is not simply “fitting someone’s criteria on paper or on a website”, I’m talking about a chemistry and spark between 2 people that is NOT merely wishful thinking. I’m not so ignorant that I can’t see what’s there at the time. The men, it seems, maybe are not ready for a relationship. So, if that is the case, then don’t have a profile online. If you have health issues, legal issues, then frickin’ take care of them before you try to get involved with someone else. Don’t make your new potential love interest suffer because you can’t juggle everything. At the very least, you need to tell the other person that you need to take care of these things before getting further involved. That is only fair really.

    I think there needs to be a list put on and for dating guidelines. In order to put a profile online, you need to adhere to the following:

    1. If you are only separated or been out of a long-term relationship, you need to wait until you are divorced or been out of a long-term relationship for several months before jumping back into the dating pool. Separated men are NOT eligible for dating purposes. Get the divorce!

    2. If you have extreme legal issues going on, (suing someone, have a nasty custody battle or trying to make your million off the court system) do not start dating someone until you have these matters under control or done with.

    3. If you have a substance abuse problem, forget dating sites to find someone. Get clean, get sober and then think about finding a woman.

    4. If you have extreme financial issues that would create a hardship to date someone, think long and hard before putting a profile online. McDonald’s is fine once in a while, and most women don’t expect caviar & steak, but don’t be a cheapskate and think you can have a normal dating life.

    5. If you have a job that keeps you “on call”, be realistic about the time you have to date someone. If you cannot squeeze someone into your life, then make adjustments or be content to be single. If you don’t make some effort, the woman is not going to feel like a priority.

    6. If you have real interest in someone (spark, common interests, and no serious other problems ‘see above’), and THEY have interest back, then pursue the relationship and consider that you need to make a dating commitment in order to have a relationship with someone. You have to make some effort and that includes phone calls and scheduled date times. If you decide that you cannot make a dating commitment, then be honest with the person and tell them why you cannot. Doesn’t have to always be the truth, but it needs to be a legitimate reason for not continuing (or make it sound that way). No one needs to be led on.

    7. Last and not least, if you are into “serial dating”, you show that you don’t value people as a whole. You always think there will be someone better around the corner. Think again. You might be passing up someone really great just because you weren’t willing to take the time to get to know them. Unless there is zero physical attraction on the first meet, then stop and think before you cross someone off your list.

    If every man (and woman) followed the above list, I guarantee you that there would be a lot fewer broken hearts and unrealistic expectations about dating. Otherwise, it wastes everyone’s time.

  17. Elena Avatar

    A friend forwarded this to me today and I thought I would mention it here because it may be of interest to some. It’s an article about tying up loose ends in your emotional life. It isn’t focused on dating but many of the points the writer makes are highly relevant.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “When loose ends are lurking in the back of your mind, they take your focus off doing what it takes to succeed. Loose ends bring you back to a place where you don’t want or need to go.

    Loose ends must be tied up so they cannot run free to steal your confidence and concentration. Tying up loose ends allows you to totally focus on doing what you need to do to get where you want to go.”

  18. Dating Goddess Avatar

    I think tying up loose ends is important. Over the holidays I sent the Golf Addict a nice letter for closure. One friend asked if I’d heard back from him. When I said no, she said he was a jerk. I said I hadn’t expected anything back, nor was that why I wrote to him. If he was self-absorbed when we went out, why would I think he’d suddenly turn around. No, I wrote him so I would feel good about my part of the ending.

  19. Mitsy Avatar

    I looked at the site Elena was talking about. For most of us, there are always going to be people in our past that we don’t want to run into and it isn’t always about money or things that need to be hashed out. There are people I don’t want to run into, but it is because I figured out that they were not trustworthy or they somehow took advantage of me or took our friendship for granted. If I ran into them, I might or might not speak to them. I don’t look at that as a stumbling block for other things unless a person had a lot of people in that category for avoidance.

    I interpret “loose ends” as financial obligations like the scenario of owing someone money. In that case, it’s quite easy to make things right by doing the proper thing and repaying the person. For an “ex”, it might be more complicated than that. Add kids to the mix, and it becomes even more complicated.

    I’m amazed at how many guys have profiles online but have a lot of loose ends that need to be taken care of in the way of financial issues or “ex” issues. I’m now pretty paranoid about a guy who might have custody of a child. In fact, I would actually avoid a guy who had custody of an underage child after the last relationship I had blew up due, to a large degree, a child custody fight.

    In fact, I have to wonder how many men (or women) have the time or stamina for dating if they have underage kids at home. I can almost guarantee you problems for the person who ends up dating the person. I have friends and relatives with some pretty bad stories of such scenarios. It is one that I would avoid like the plague. By the time you are in your mid-40’s, the kids should be OUT of the house or nearly out of the house.

    A guy with no kids would be ideal for me, but finding one who doesn’t have a lot of other baggage is hard to find.

  20. Gatti Avatar

    When I started dating a couple of months ago I was gobsmacked at the number of men in their mid to late 50s with toddlers attached, at least part time. After a few experiences I’ve decided that having small children is not an immediate no go zone, but I will weigh the situation carefully. I feel that in such a situation the childless “incomer” (i.e. me) would always be at a disadvantage and the last person whose needs will be met. So preference is being given to men with no children or older teenage children at least.

    I never raised any kids of my own, somehow at the age of 53 I don’t want to raise someone elses!

  21. Mitsy Avatar

    “I never raised any kids of my own, somehow at the age of 53 I don’t want to raise someone elses!”

    Same here. I dealt with that issue a long time ago. And although I do work with college age students at a university, sometimes even THEY get on my last nerve. I’m not a typical “kid person” I guess. It took me a few years to be able to admit that I don’t really enjoy being around ALL children. At 46, I actually enjoy “adult talk” and adult socializing in general.

    As a side note here, I remember how irritated I would get years ago when a friend of mine (same age as me) had 2 young daughters she constantly brought with her during our supposed “girl talk” lunches. She was forever distracted and I always felt like I was fighting to keep her attention due to her kids. I eventually quit trying to make lunch or dinner dates with her until her kids were old enough that they didn’t want to hang out with Mom all the time. That was my clue then that I would not likely be a good candidate for a guy who had an underage child at home or had to always get a sitter for his dates. I just didn’t see it being a very easy situation.

    I’m sure it’s very hard to be a parent. I’m told it’s the toughest job there is. But, many people seem to forget how hard it is for a single person, who has not raised young children, to date a man or woman who has kids still at home. I’ve had some friends who are divorced tell me that they are not interested in dating until their kids are raised. While that seems like a huge sacrifice to make for your kids, I can understand the thought process. It just gets too complicated when you have those child-rearing obligations.

  22. Aggressively Single Avatar
    Aggressively Single

    Geez Mitsy, then it’s EZ. Do what you suggest – don’t date those with kids under 18. Save yourself all this theory and headaches and disappointment. I’m 48, never had or wanted kids, and I simply stay clear of guys with kids at home. What’s so hard about that? If you’re as analytical and somewhat negative with your dates as you are here, it’s going to be very hard for you to have a great relationship unless with someone who is attracted to this. Best of Luck!