04/09/2013 06:11 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2016

Single, Stuck But Safe

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For most of my adult life, I've been a pretty active jogger. Right up until I developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot and had to give it up. At first, it was tough to take it easy but after several months, the pain did vanish and I could start running again. There's just one problem. I haven't. I'm so out of the jogging habit, I can't convince myself to get back out there pounding the pavement.

I really should start again. After all, if I'm ever going to find my first full-fledged post-divorce relationship, I should stay fit and presentable. However, like my running life, my love life is equally stuck. I've been through something painful. I took time out to get over it. And now, I'm so out of the coupling habit, I may be stuck single for the rest of my life.

Don't get me wrong. I've done my share of dating. Still, whenever I get to the point where I should be making room in my life for someone, I become the Unabomber of relationships: a self-destructive (and poorly dressed) man with who spends his time ranting at home alone. Rather than wanting to wake up next to someone, I don't want to give up my side of the bed. Rather than introduce a woman to my friends, I don't want to deal with eventually introducing her to my kids. Rather than share my television, I can't imagine letting someone else's shows fill up my DVR.

I realize the male fear of commitment has been around since Adam told Eve it wasn't her, it was him. Plus, it's natural to cocoon post-divorce, taking time to get your bearings back before searching for another relationship. However, I was married for 13 years, which I'd think is a pretty solid commitment. And I've been divorced for seven, which is more than enough time to collect every single bearing I might have misplaced.

Truth be told, I went way in the opposite direction once I started going out. After a second date, I was already wondering when we'd dine with each other's friends or share each other's toothbrushes. That enthusiasm, which I hoped would seem charming, apparently came across as needy since it was at that point these women stopped returning my calls.

After that, I slipped into romantic self-preservation mode. These days, instead of excitement wondering how a date will end, I don't even clean up before leaving the house because I know I'll find some reason to return home alone. Logically, I realize that being alone this late in life is about as unhealthy emotionally as eating Hot Pockets this late in life is unhealthy physically. Still, while I continue to go out, I've made sure that there's no endgame to the dates.

In the past year, I've made it to the fourth date threshold with three separate women. The outings have all been dinner or drink excursions with a little makeout action here and there, but I never once invited anyone back to my place to extend that activity. Instead of envisioning things I wanted to do with each woman, I thought about what I didn't want to do: share closet space, set the alarm to wake up on someone else's schedule, remember to buy anniversary gifts. Hence, it truthfully is a case of "It's Not You, It's Me," and no fifth dates have ever been arranged.

I can only hope that last night is a small step in the right direction. I was with the one female I happily share my time with -- my daughter -- and we were watching some TV before bedtime. During a particularly emotional scene, the show used a snippet of Alison Krauss' "When You Say Nothing At All." Suddenly, a long dead memory drifted to the surface. In the early days of my first attempt at a serious post-divorce romance, the woman I was seeing sent that song to me to explain her feelings. And from that point on, I was completely head over heels, right up until she complained that I was being too clingy.

Before then, I was certain divorce meant never dating again. And yet, I let her into my life. Going back even further, there were plenty of times before I got married when I figured I was too self-absorbed to give up the single life. The lesson from all that: the Moment happens when the Moment happens. You're single until you're not. It's worth noting that, as I've been writing this, I heard from a single female friend who has had an equally hard time finding someone. And not only did she have a set up date a few weeks ago that went well, she's already introducing him to her parents.

So perhaps I haven't bailed on the women I've seen lately because I can't break my newfound bachelor habit. Maybe it's just that I haven't yet felt the inspiration that leaves me wanting to break it. I keep thinking it's too late for me to regain an interest in coupling up, but maybe it's actually too early. Finding a new partner is more like playing football than baseball -- there is no time clock ticking away the minutes until my dating time is up. I need to just relax and quiet my brain down a bit. And come to think of it, I've always relaxed by going for a jog....