Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I'm Not Afraid to Walk Away From A Guy I Really Like

I am ready for a relationship, and I don’t apologize for it. Hell, I'm proud of it! It’s taken a lot of post-divorce healing/therapy/yoga plus a healthy dose of pointless – but fun! – dating. I know I’m ready and emotionally healthy enough to open my heart to a man… but he must earn and be worthy of something so precious.

I really like Ryan, the guy I've been seeing since December. I see so much potential for a relationship with him, more so than with anyone else I have dated since I got divorced two years ago. But for all the ways that Ryan and I are compatible in our personalities, lifestyles, and even sexual styles, none of it matters in the slightest if we don’t both want a relationship right now -- not eventually, not next month, right now.

Last week, after days of my doubting and questioning (and a long overdue trip to my therapist), I decided that maybe I’d been a crazy female. I needed to chill the fuck out and just enjoy.

So, when Ryan and I spent last Friday night together, it was lovely. We got takeout, snuggled, watched a movie, had hot sex, and slept together. He held my hand, he called me babe. The next morning, we got breakfast together (bagels!!!). I was loving it. All felt boyfriend-y. It felt nice and real.

But, I asked if he wanted to come to my friend’s birthday drinks that evening, and he said he had already made plans. That is fine of course, and actually very attractive that he has a life. But, it dawned on me that in all the weeks that we have been hanging out, he has never once suggested I meet his friends or coworkers. Not that I need to meet his best friend yet, but even a casual, “come meet us out for happy hour” type thing.

Then on Sunday, I asked if he wanted to just hang out, super low key, in a close the gap between Dating and Relationship type way. He said yes… then an hour later, he said no, he just wanted to chill (read: alone). The big "ouch" factor was that he didn’t ask when I would be free in the week.

We hung up and then I realized, I can do better than this. 

I like Ryan a lot, but I’m not interested in hovering in this almost-a-relationship-but-not-quite territory indefinitely. I do think he likes both my personality and appearance, but I have felt him slowly throw up a wall the past few weeks. I don't know why, and I'm not particularly interested in playing armchair shrink to find out. If he doesn’t want a relationship, I completely understand and respect that (I've been there!), but I also respect myself enough to walk away.

So, I called Ryan back. I said, “I’d like us to get together and talk about what’s been going on between us. Are you free tomorrow?” (Totally stole this approach from this article.)

He agreed, and we were supposed to meet last night, which is why I was holding off on this blog post. However, the faux blizzard hit our area, so The Talk is postponed until tomorrow Thursday.

I recognize that in all likelihood, this will be our kiss-off, which super sucks. But we need to talk so I can stop guessing, and we can either move forward together or go our separate ways.

The bitch of all relationships, whether platonic or romantic, is that you have to want the same thing at the same time for the relationship to work. I have learned that I must be loyal to myself, first and foremost. I don’t settle for subpar relationships with anyone, so why start with someone who I want to date?

(And next week, I'll obviously dish on what happened during The Talk.)

Have you had to walk away from someone you were enjoying dating but felt you wanted different things?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Happened When I Got Brave About Forging New Relationships

Is your wedding ring off, like really off, not even trying it on once in awhile when no one’s around? Are you past the point of bursting into tears driving home from work? Are you curious to see what dating will be like?

Perhaps you’re ready to Put Yourself Out There, one of those platitudes that divorce/single people have to hear. A lot.

I know it’s really scary to take the padlock off of your battered heart and bruised ego to let new people in, but let me tell you  -- it’s worth it.

I got to thinking about this because of last weekend. I hung out with lots of new people – we’re talking four girls on Friday, six girls on Saturday, and two guys on Sunday. Only one of these people had I hung out with more than a few times. I thoroughly enjoyed each day and each new person I met.

As I walked home Sunday night, quite amused and pleased with how my weekend had transpired, I thought of a great compliment that Nora recently gave me:

“You have a cool life, and you did it yourself.
I have a great life with my husband, but I share the credit with him.
But your life, your new friends, your condo… that’s all you.”

I hadn’t thought about things that way, but she is right! My divorce was finalized almost two years ago. The way I have set up my life is all my doing, and one of the coolest parts has been the new people I’ve been meeting, thanks to Putting Myself Out There.

When I think back on my years with Max, I was putting so much effort into trying to save our fledgling relationship that I had no extra energy for forging new relationships. Hell, I am fortunate that I didn’t lose any friends during this difficult time.

Since I have been free of my troubled marriage, I am proud to say that I have been Out There plenty. Sometimes it has paid off beautifully, and other times it has ended in heartache. 

In the past year, yes, I have done a lot of dating. (In fact, I counted and I kissed 13 people in 2014. Yes, I’m secretly 16 years old and I make lists like this.) I have had some wonderful highs from the early days of dating when you see much promise, and I have had the sting of having it collapse and you have no idea why. After years of rejection from my ex-husband, I have FINALLY had some great sexual experiences with both guys I have liked and guys who are just my Special Friends. I’m coming into my own in the sack – better late than never!

Admittedly, parts of dating have made me want to hide under my bed or swear off men entirely. But I’m so proud of myself for experimenting with dating, even now while I hover in the gap with Ryan. (Sadly, I think our days are numbered, but I’m trying to be brave and not sabotage what’s still there.) Eventually, I will find love again, but that will only happen if I stay Out There.

But it’s not just in my dating life where I have taken emotional risks. I have made new friends since I moved back to Ford in 2013. I was already blessed to have wonderful friends in my life, but there is something to be said for challenging my heart and mind with new company. These days, I do not shy from building new friendships with women and men. I have taken friendly acquaintances and elevated them. Or, when I meet someone who I think will enrich my life, I seize the moment. I ask for the person’s phone number and suggest getting together. Sure, some of those phone numbers end up eventually getting deleted from my phone, but in plenty of cases I have formed new friendships, such as Yoshi, Mandy, and Meredith.

When I think about how I want my life to look, I truly feel like I’m on the right track. Unlike when I was married and sinking energy into a doomed relationship, it’s empowering and exciting to expend energy on cultivating healthy relationships.  

So, thank you Nora, I will take total credit for this cool life of mine, thanks to Putting Myself Out There!

What changes have you seen in your life from Putting Yourself Out There?

Monday, January 12, 2015

How Do You Cross the Gap From "Dating" to "Relationship"? (Answer: I have no clue.)

I’m really good at first and second dates. Hell, I’m pretty solid on the third date, upon the rare occasion that I have one. I know just enough about current events and sports headlines so I make conversation easy for both of us. I will wear a feminine outfit but I still leave something to the imagination. I smile and laugh just enough without seeming like a bimbo. I’ll totally kiss you but I won’t invite you in.

Fast forward past the awkwardness of meeting each other's best friend and farting in front of each other for the first time....

I’m really good at being a long-term girlfriend/fiancĂ©e/wife. I get along with (most) people so you can bring me to family functions or your best friend’s wedding and I’ll be fine. I’ll email your mom. I’ll surprise you with your favorite cookie or a card for no reason. I’ll remind you to get a physical and I will totally understand how stressful playoff football can be.

I’m really not good at the post-first dates but pre-relationship gap. 
On this side I can have first dates and no strings attached sex.
On that side I could get my feelings hurt.
Tough choice.

It’s this thrilling and terrible place where you’re getting genuinely excited about the person you’re seeing while also starting to get more comfortable with him. You start having sex. You might start meeting each other’s friends. Things are uncertain – this seemingly great guy could just disappear (trust me, this BS happens) or we could fall in love someday.

In other words, it’s official: you like this guy (yay!), so your feelings could get hurt (shit!).

The gap is a scary place to be.

I Got Dumped the Last Time I Was in the Gap

In my 17 months of dating since my divorce, I have only gotten into the gap one other time, almost exactly a year ago with Aaron.

We dated for a few weeks. We went out, we stayed in. We laughed a lot. We started sleeping together; it was a very strange experience to have sex with someone I actually liked. Just as we were slipping into the gap, he started losing interest in me or he saw something shiny that he liked more or whatever. Eventually, I had to make him dump me.

I was pretty disappointed at the time, but interestingly I never cried over him. I thought there was Boyfriend Potential there, at least for a couple of months. But of course in hindsight I realize that as sweet and cute and hot in bed as Aaron was, he was just wasn’t it. After that letdown, I took a nice long break from dating to lick my wounds. (I’m a big believer in the post-rejection hiatus from dating.)

Ever since, it's just been casual or only a couple of dates here and there, until I met Ryan in November.

Tumbling into the Gap with Ryan

Ryan (the 44-year-old with no relationship history) and I have been seeing each other for a month but talking for about two months.

In his low key but genuine way, Ryan has made it clear that he likes me, all of me, from my curly hair to my love for my book club to my ability to easily orgasm. We have mutually agreed to monogamy. But, as of the last week or so, as I am realizing that I actually like this guy, I’m getting so insecure (and being mindful to hide it).

It seems illogical to get insecure now. We had a fantastic date on Friday – a romantic dinner, followed by fun drinks at our favorite Irish pub, and concluded with some amazing sex and then falling asleep in each other’s arms. Ahhhh! Awesome. Yesterday, he came over for dinner. I attempted to make Boy Food, which is a little hard for my health-conscious vegetarian cooking. But I came through with macaroni and cheese with a side of roasted broccoli. Then, yeah, more sex. Woohoo!

Shit, I realized on Friday night, I'm back in the gap.

The gap turns me into this neurotic, over analyzing shell of myself. The good news is that I’m able to mostly keep her hidden. But damn does she make me feel nuts!

Plotting My Escape From the Gap

So yeah, the gap scares me and renders me totally annoying. I don’t like it there, even though it could be just part of my journey to finding love again.

Today, when Ryan didn’t text me (he always texts me!), my head was ready to explode as it filled with self doubt. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old texted me (“Want to fool around?” No subtleties there!). Then, one of the hottest guys to EVER show interest in me finally got around to texting me over the weekend and then asked me out today. Yes, both today, and when I hadn’t heard from Ryan.

I could avoid the possibility of getting hurt entirely by accepting the fuck date or the dinner date. Or both...!

I admit that I was tempted. I’m good at being a first date or a fuck buddy – both have lots of laughing and little to no emotional risk.

But wait. What the fuck am I thinking?

Is the risk of getting hurt more powerful than the possibility of finding love? I don't want to be that kind of person. I want to always hope for the best, which means seeking love from platonic and romantic relationships, and, yes, risking getting hurt. 

Based on what I know so far, Ryan is the best match for me of any guy I have dated since my divorce. Hell, based on what I know so far, Ryan is a better match for me than my ex-husband.

I’m not going to chicken out and fuck this up for no good reason. I declined both offers.

I am going to tolerate my quiet hysteria in the gap with the hope that Ryan and I might cross over into Relationship territory. If he is the right match for me and vice versa, we will pass through the gap together. If Ryan (or whoever) is not the right person for me, the sooner that can be revealed to me, the better for both of us, and back I go to being a great first date.

Whew. Did you like the pep talk I just gave myself? And can you please say it back to me the next time I'm being an insecure idiot?!

(By the way, while I was writing this, Ryan texted me.)

Your turn, dear reader! Does my reaction to the gap sound familiar to you or completely nuts? Have you ever considered a little self-sabotage to avoid getting hurt? 

Epic Mommy Adventures

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Men's Divorce Interviews Me Even Though I'm Not A Man!

I was checking out Men's Divorce, a resource tailored to men's questions and issues surrounding divorce. Long story short, I connected with the editor, and we thought it could be interesting and useful to share my story as an ex-wife with the Men's Divorce readers.

The editor focused on Max's and my efforts to keep our split amicable, from our choice to use mediators to figuring out how to peacefully cohabitate for months as we waited for our condo to sell.

Check out the interview on Men's Divorce!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

In the Dating World, Which is Worse: "Divorced" or "Single and Never Married"?

I used to fear that my “Divorced” label would make people – especially potential suitors – judge me. Commitment issues. Baggage. Damaged goods.

Recently I have been wondering about the implications of the “Single and Never Married” label. Commitment issues? Baggage? Unemotional psycho?

Yes. This. Always!
...but, can you be too single? 

This is weighing on my mind because of the new guy I’m seeing. Here’s the scoop.

I met Ryan in early November at a happy hour with a mutual friend. He was in town making final arrangements for his cross-country move back to Ford. (We had actually lived in Ford at the same time several years ago.) We hit it off so he got my number. Over the next three or four weeks while he packed up his life out West, we texted a little, and then more and more. By the time he arrived back in Ford in early December, we were in contact daily.

A few days after his return, Ryan and I met for drinks; he was cuter than I remembered. Yes! Next date was dinner, complete with him picking me up, opening the car door for me, and ordering for both of us. For our next date, he came over for takeout and a movie, which obviously led to some making out. He CALLED ME (did you know that people still do that?) on Christmas Day, just to wish me a merry Christmas. We have hung out several more times – including New Year’s Eve and my small post-birthday gathering.

Sidenote: I’m 35 now. A grownup in her mid-30s. WTF. Moving on!

  1. He is college educated.
  2. He makes as much or more money than I do. 
  3. He’s nine years older than me.
  4. He lives alone.
But there's more!

Conversation is natural and genuine. He likes to write!! He is totally a grownup with a real job and a nice apartment but he also likes to smoke a little weed here and there. (This combination is hard to find and I'm a huge fan.) I like how he dresses and he wears cool glasses. He remembers everything I say, including dumb shit like my love for The Bachelorette. He gets along well with his family, including his sisters. The physical chemistry is hot; I know this is important to anyone, but it’s crucial for me to uncover as soon as possible based on the demise of my marriage.

Yes, so far, things are pretty… normal, and I mean that in the very best way! Things with Ryan are just relaxed and enjoyable. I must say, it’s exciting and fun and scary to actually like a guy again. I’m not seeing anyone else. Last time this happened was with Aaron a year ago!

But here’s the thing you guys… Ryan is 44-years-old and has the Single and Never Married label. It seems he hasn’t even had a big relationship! Fair or not, his lack of relationship history raises eyebrows.

Could this be why a person is perpetually single?
Part of me finds his lack of relationship experience very appealing. We are on the same page that being single is not bad – in fact, it can be terrific if you’re at peace with your life and choices. I like that he isn’t one of those people who needs to be in a relationship just to be in a relationship. (After all, I have only really had two boyfriends in my life: the guy I lost my virginity to in 1998 and then my ex-husband, who I started dating in 2005.) Presumably, Ryan has less baggage so there are fewer ghosts of ex-girlfriends for me to battle.

On the other hand, I find his lack of relationship experience a little disconcerting. I’m all for being independent and not “needing” a relationship, but what about choosing to be brave enough to have your heart open? What about experiencing the terrifying thrill of being vulnerable to the person you love? Does he know what it’s like to have sex with someone you love so much that you feel like you could just burst? Does he know how to stay by a woman's side for more than a couple of weeks or months?

Then, I think of my ex-husband, who might be in the dating world. Max is attractive, smart, has a real job, and, OK, he has the Divorced label. Otherwise, he seems like quite a catch. Max is a catch… if you aren’t into physical or emotional intimacy. 

Superficially speaking, Max could seem like a better potential boyfriend than Ryan, but you and I both know how very wrong Max ended up being for me.

What do you think, dear reader? Is assuming commitment or other dating issues from the Single and Never Married person any more justified than from the Divorced person?

Is it a red flag for a person to be in his or her 40s (or whatever age you pick) with no real relationship experience? Would you assume the person is weird/overly picky/commitment phobic? 

Or would you view the person as a sort of clean slate, free of the messiness of past love and heartache and patient enough to wait for the real deal?
Our Three Peas