How Dating is Like Buying Jeans

How Dating after Being Single is like Buying Jeans after Going to the Gym

  1. You’re not the person you were last time you went shopping…for a relationship or for a new pair of jeans. You’ve taken some major steps to improve yourself – and these steps had to be taken by you alone.
  2. You may not know exactly what you’re looking for. You’ve changed, and sometimes that means letting go of what you thought you wanted in order to focus on what’s really important to you.
  3. You’ll most likely need to try some on for size before making a decision. Sure, one pair of jeans may make your backside look fabulous, but the waist isn’t cut quite right. Another pair may seem perfect on the rack, but a terrible match once you’re alone in the fitting room. Still more and more pairs may hang next to you as you try them on, one by one, knowing that none of them are quite “it.”
  4. Even if you have an idea what you’re looking for when you get to the store, you probably won’t find it the first time you look. You’ll find indigo wash jeans with a flare – but the wrong rise. There will be black skinnies but the ankles are too loose. Your dream jeans seem just out of reach – these would be perfect “except…”
  5. You may get to the point you feel you’ll be wearing yoga pants forever. They hug you in all the right places and you know exactly how they fit. But are they really work-appropriate? Are they truly durable? Can you actually dress them up?
  6. You now know what patience feels like, and you have enough of it to wait for the perfect pair of jeans, rather than grabbing the first pair you see.
  7. You’re dedicated – to improving yourself as a person, to reaching your goals, to getting what you need, and to following through with your choices.
  8. You’ll be doing a lot of self-reflection – both in the mirror and by thinking about what you truly want.
  9. You know better than to settle for what looks good on paper. If you’re just not feeling it in person, they’ll go back on the rack – no matter what your friends say, your family thinks, or online algorithms have to say.
  10. When you find the right match, you’ll know when you put them on – there won’t be any second-guessing or wishing some detail was different. They’ll fit you, as you are now, and you’ll feel great in them.

This post is a little more personal than adventurous – but dating is also an adventure, and a place I’ve been, so here we go!

Dating after a long period of being single is a lot like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans after spending some serious time in the gym. In both instances you’ve spent months – maybe years – improving yourself, learning from your experiences, and hopefully making positive choices. You’ve made a change from the person you were before, and though the changes may be subtle, you can’t ignore them.

The choice to take care of this one physical body you have is a positive one, but the benefits only come with hard work. One of my favorite quotes is from Physique57 creator Tanya Becker: “You can’t think yourself to a better body.” It takes some time to see results, and you may see them sooner than others – carrying groceries in the house is easier, or you’re not winded running to visit a colleague upstairs. Eventually, your clothes start to fit better…and then they don’t fit at all when your body shape visibly changes. Then it’s time to find a new pair of jeans that fits and flatters this new body you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

If you’ve had a serious relationship or two (or a handful) and have taken some time to be single afterward, you’re working on the mental and emotional side of that one physical body you have. You’re letting yourself feel and thus heal the pain from losing relationships that meant so much to you. You may feel a swell of emotions at first that will fade into the past as your emotional and mental strength emerge. Much like going to the gym, flexing your emotional muscles makes you healthier and changes you in subtle ways you alone may see at first. It might start small: being able to sit at a bar by yourself and not feel horribly self-conscious for being alone in public. Or it might be huge: buying a one-way plane ticket to a country you’ve always wanted to visit.

Being realistic is part of these changes. We all have a dream list of qualities and physical characteristics we’d like – both physically and emotionally, in ourselves and in a partner – but those qualities may not truly be attainable. It’s not settling to be realistic – being realistic actually opens your eyes to more possibilities and brings you more peace with what is. Try on a style you never thought would flatter – but your new healthy shape may surprise you. Maybe go on a date with a cat-lover or a blond for a change, and see what happens…you never know! Change takes courage: courage to break out of your comfort zone, courage to know when something feels right – and when it doesn’t, courage to take a risk when the benefits far outweigh the what-ifs.

I once went on a date with this Gap-model gorgeous, dog-loving, SAT-tutoring runner and world-traveler. Sounds perfect for me on paper, right? Too bad he had the personality of a dishtowel, no sense of humor, couldn’t stop going on about his ex, and had the audacity to tell me it was good I was taking half of my sandwich home because I didn’t “need to eat that much.” I’m glad I had the courage to walk away from that date, knowing that although he seemed to fit the qualities I thought I wanted, it was definitely not a match. Back on the rack.

Today, the man I didn’t think existed found me while we were both hiking on the Appalachian Trail – and he has blue eyes instead of the brown I usually go for. If I’d written him off just because something about his physical appearance was slightly different than my usual “type,” I’d be missing out on the best relationship I’ve ever had. I’d been single – lots of dating, but no serious relationships – for close to four years prior to meeting him. That gave me plenty of time to reflect, grow stronger, consider what I want in a partner and what I have to offer, and be open to the possibility of a healthy, loving relationship.

I started lifting weights last winter after being a runner for over a decade, but I still haven’t found the right pair of jeans for my newfound muscles. I hope it doesn’t take me four years to find new jeans.


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