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


  1. I've gone through this too; it's always the toughest hurdle. Especially for me. I've had two long-term relationships. The first one was with a girl I'd known for years and we were in the same circle of friends, so we already knew each other & never really went through the awkward "I like you but do you like me? Are we going to take that plunge together?" stage. The second relationship was with my now ex-wife; things moved very quickly from the beginning, but that was because we were completely on the same page about how much we liked each other and what we were looking for from the start and had few hiccups, a rare occurrence.

    Now that I'm divorced, I've gone through the same thing you have; meeting someone, having a few really good dates, and then figuring out whether it's worth it to take the next step. I always try to trust my gut with that, because my gut is rarely wrong.

  2. I totally get the gap! In fact I had it myself just a couple of weeks ago, and like you, without a real clear trigger-things were (and phew-still are!) going well, so what's up with that?
    I think for me, it's like a ex essentially left me for someone else and part of me still thinks, when I'm vulnerable, that maybe it could happen again-after all, I've been seeing this guy for several months, and my ex and I were together for 13 years!
    And I also think for me at least, it was a good chance to pause and check back in with myself that this was a relationship I did really want to commit myself to.
    I hope, and I'm certain you will, get over the gap!

  3. Your story with your ex wife sounds like me with my ex. We were very much on the same page, pretty much right from the start. Our first date was 10 years ago this month!

    I totally agree about following my gut. My gut is good on this guy... I just hope he doesn't do some weird freak out and disappear on me.

    Thanks so much for reading -- I especially appreciate the male perspective. :)

  4. It's totally me trying to protect myself. I guess it's only human, but perhaps even more so for those of us who weathered divorce.

  5. Mind the gap. I think that's a movie. Great analogy though. Good luck!

  6. You know I never thought of it as The Gap, but you are right, there is one. As a 43 year old guy with a kid, I think I feared the gap for different reasons like; Is this person worth my very limited time? Will they treat my son right? How are we going to make this work when she lives 45 min from me? - we have busy jobs and have kids to boot!

    I think a lot behind the questions was just a lot of fear of putting myself out there emotionally again. -My ex wife wounded me very badly by her post divorce actions in regards to my son. So that didn't set the stage well. On top of that I dated two women - one was not physically available much as she had two elderly parents to take care of that lived with her. The last woman I dated said she was emotionally available, but I think she was just too wounded. Our relationship tore apart in about two months because I wasn't emotionally available either - too consumed with anger over how my ex wife treated me.

    In the end, I guess both of you really have to be ready and emotionally strong to survive the Gap! I was able to get through it with my girlfriend as she was my friend before we ever dated. But is has taken a lot of trust, communication and patience! The communication was probably the hardest for me, but it has really paid off in the end.

    I hope you and Ryan make it and I hope he has some good answers as to why he hasn't ever been married.

    Cheers, --Mike

  7. I think everyone is afraid of getting hurt, but it's definitely amplified when you've gone through something so shitty as divorce.
    Ryan's communication is fading, which isn't a good sign on many levels. Perhaps THIS is why he's perpetually single -- does he walk away just when there's the real possibility of connecting with a woman?

  8. Could be his Modus Operandus.
    Anyways, 35+, attractive, articulate, etc. but never married is a BIG flag for me. Usually a sign of some psychological issues. I didn't want to be a Debbie Downer and jinx it for you though.
    Better to go with divorced, bruised, beaten but still ready to try for love. You want someone that as you get closer to them can admit their faults, tell you how they want to improve, communicate with you and say they are sorry when it is appropriate.

  9. As usual, you give me really good food for thought. I have never dated a divorced person. Might be time to try that out...