Sex and the Single Mom: Cultivating Dating Grit


datingAs a teacher, grit is a word I have heard far too often. It is something I am supposed to foster in my students. Simply put, it is a desire to get up and try again after being knocked down. Grit is billed as the key to academic success (read Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth), and I have proof in student performance that it works. So, I looked at the place in my life I felt most unsuccessful: dating, and I tried to get gritty with it.

I took the techniques I’d been using with my students to cultivate grit and applied them to my love life. Duckworth first suggests identifying a burning interest as a place to begin getting gritty.

I thought deeply about what I really wanted on a date. At times in my life, I wanted just a partner to do things with or a distraction from all the mommy chaos. But now, when I reflected, I realized I wanted a long-term, substantial relationship. I wanted marriage and a bigger family. That is why I was dating. That is what I was passionate about. So, what was I doing to get it? Not as much as I should.

I was dating people for too long because they were fun, even when I knew we didn’t have a future together. To combat that, I actively changed how I worded my dating profile, stating that I wanted long-term love and someone to build a life with. I asked questions of potential partners that I hadn’t before and really listened to their answers. If I wanted to find a partner I had a burning interest in, then they needed to be someone I could see in my life long term.

Next, Duckworth suggests that you practice it a lot.

For me, this meant going on more dates, in other words taking the time to practice dating. It only made sense that I had to practice if I wanted to get better at something. So, I set a goal of one date a week. It didn’t have to be with someone new (but it could be); I just had to dedicate the time needed for the task. In other areas of my life, when I wanted something, I put the time into it and saw results. Why not with dating?

As I dated weekly, I became more comfortable being “myself” on dates. This then led to deeper and better connections with potential partners. Additionally, I was able to “read” my dates with greater accuracy because I recognized patterns in my new, larger sample size. When he said things like, “I am just seeing what’s out there,” when asked about what he was looking for in a partner, I knew he wasn’t a serious relationship guy. I also stopped feeling a sense of dread that I’d be single forever because I knew that no matter what, I was going to make sure I had a date the next week (you’d be surprised how easy it is to find a date when you stop making excuses and say yes).

Duckworth’s third suggestion on how to get gritty is to develop a sense of higher purpose.

This was the most challenging correlation to draw between dating and education. It took some time to realize what my higher purpose was. I knew I wanted a long-term relationship, but why? What was so great about it? What would it give me that I didn’t already have? The answers to these questions lie in generations of media programming (yes, white picket fences and 2.5 kids are still #goals) and in my past.

I know that being someone’s partner and having a partner to share my life with makes me happier. My higher purpose in dating is happiness. When I tried to live a one-dimensional life and focus on only being a mother, or only a student in college, or only an employee in my early teaching life, I didn’t feel fulfilled. And, for me, part of being well-rounded and living a multidimensional life is in a relationship.

The final tip in building grit is cultivating a growth mindset to overcome pessimism.

She saved the most challenging step for last because, in this day and age of ghosting and benching, it’s easy to get down on yourself when a date doesn’t work out. Developing a growth mindset means believing you will get better the more you try. You can’t be “good” at dating or “bad” at dating; instead, you learn something from each date.

I needed to tell myself this, but more importantly, I needed to believe this about my partner. So, I started to note what went well and what I liked about each person more than what went wrong. I recognized my growth in relationships specifically and believed that I could continue to grow, as could my date.

Since working on my dating grit, I have become focused on my relationship goals, I am actively working towards the relationship I want, and – most importantly – I’m proud of myself. I no longer feel like I’m a bad dater or unlucky in love. I am going after what I want and not letting a bad date or being ghosted stand in my way.

How do you cultivate grit in your life?


  1. So good and so inspiring! I am going to try these rules of getting gritty in my life. More specifically I will try to apply them to my professional life (a place where I sometimes doubt myself.) I didn’t really have the best formal education, but I do pride myself in my tenacity and grit… so maybe I need to apply these skills at work instead of doubting myself.

    • Yes. The book is a good read (she has a TED talk I like too) and it helps focus areas of your life that need it.

  2. Grit is essential for dating in NYC! Getting up by bootstraps and keep on keeping on is the only way to learn what you know and like and be the best YOU when dating. Love the concept of being gritty!

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