Finding “me”mo (*snort*)
I’ve been looking back on and processing my personal life since I’ve been single. I held things together well in parenting and at work, which left my social life, interpersonal relationships with adults, and dating as the areas in which I could afford to be a mess.
When my ex and I separated, I did what I do in breakups–lean on girlfriends and nurse my wounds. When I found out about my ex’s affair, I did the same, but I also made an effort to go out more (but with girlfriends). I started dating a few weeks later, and that was the majority of my social life until recently.
I ended up in a regrettable relationship very quickly, and I stopped feeding my potential friendships. I became the woman who disappears socially when she gets a boyfriend (he was extremely controlling, but it’s on me that I stayed in it after that became apparent), and that was a huge mistake.
After we broke up, I used dating as a crutch/lazy way to always have some kind of connection with another human. I had kind of blown it with some potential friendships (and, last spring, a very close friendship ended rather abruptly), but I could tell myself I wasn’t a loser or that I felt that lonely because I always had something to do on Saturday nights. I felt this intense pressure to go out at least once a week, and the easiest way to accomplish that was to date.
(I didn’t consciously realize this until this summer. Once I became aware of it, I was able to let it go. Now I still enjoy socializing when things come up, but my focus is on being a better potential friend rather than checking off a box on my to-do list for the week. I also enjoy my alone time. To anyone who has a kid, watching Netflix and sleeping in is freaking luxurious, and I’m kicking myself for not realizing that before!).
I let in a lot of people that I shouldn’t have let in. I should have filtered out most of the guys I dated, but I’m a little bit of a sucker. It’s not that they were inherently terrible people (with two exceptions), but I was, in most cases, the one who was more invested in the relationship.
My therapist and I had this ongoing disagreement about men. She said that men look for sex and find love, that a man can think he only wants to sleep around but “accidentally” fall in love. I say that if someone isn’t open to a relationship, he’s not going to see any woman as a potential girlfriend, no matter how wonderful she is. I believed what I believed, but I operated as if viewed things her way.
I still firmly believe that, outside of movies, people who aren’t open to falling in love won’t. I don’t think it’s any woman’s job to be so amazing that she changes a man’s fuckboy ways. My experiences certainly have validated my beliefs on the issue, and I think that it has helped me take my apparent rejections less personally.
Anyway, I dated for a yearish. Before that, I dated a little bit during the year my ex and I were broken up (1996-1997). Before that, it was high school. I had never done “adult” dating, and I certainly hadn’t done 2000s dating. The year was spent trying to adapt to things as much as it was trying to find love.
In my efforts to adapt to this new realm, I lost some of myself. A lot of times I felt that I did “well” on a date simply because I had acted normal and not shared anything weird about myself. A lot of feeling I was doing well with a guy was suppressing myself/hiding natural inclinations:
(1) Sex. I don’t think that anyone comes out of divorce without significant sexual issues. I am, in a lot of ways, just figuring out how I tick in that area. I’ve racked up some partners, but you don’t get better or learn about yourself in sex by having sex with someone a couple times…At least, I don’t. I’m not going to be able to completely sort out my needs and wants until I have a partner with whom there’s both chemistry and safety. I sort of let enthusiasm for sex run wild, and I found ways to rationalize the bonds of my relationships…but it was mostly fake intimacy. I felt a bond, but I’m sure it was mainly not reciprocated. I don’t feel wronged by this, but I also don’t really have the stomach for it. Or, I can “handle” it, but I don’t really think that racking up sexual partners enriches my life, or even my sexuality, very much.
(2) Hiding my neediness/acting much cooler with things than I actually was
(a) I am very physically affectionate, but if I were to show that every time I had the urge, I’d be a leech. So, unless it’s initiated or I feel VERY secure that it’s not going to be rejected, I tend to just not snuggle. Not snuggling is a pretty good gauge for me of an empty relationship, but suppressed it. I missed it, but I also knew enough to realize that snuggling with someone who isn’t really attached to me wasn’t going to fix anything.
(b) I never asked for anything or had the audacity to show anger/disappointment when I was let down. I always talked myself out of anger because I felt that I didn’t deserve anything–that it was entitled to think someone I was dated owed me anything at all. I’d feel sad/disappointed all of the time, but I saved it for girlfriends, because I didn’t want to look needy or psycho. I just took what I got, rationalized why it wasn’t so bad, and tried to enjoy whatever I had.
The truth is, though, I’m very needy. It takes me a long time to establish some kind of object permanence with someone I like. I’d be practically having a panic attack because I hadn’t heard back from the guy in X amount of time, but I would not double text.
(c) I get jealous, but I don’t show it.
I must have gotten so good at this that I actually changed, because I felt jealous for the first time in ages the other day. M was over, and his phone kept going off (LATE at night). I had this weird feeling thinking about it, and then I was like “oh my God–this is jealousy I’m feeling wondering who’s blowing him up. I’m jealous.” And I felt like I was back somehow, that that’s me. I’m not proud of it–obviously, it would be better for me to not be insecure–but it did feel authentic.
Overall, I’m just very sensitive. I do think that dating helped me to become more self-sufficient, secure, and aware that I can’t control other human simply by caring, but I don’t really want to be in it right now.
M said I’m not ready for a relationship. There’s a possibility that he’s right–although not in the way that he thinks (being faithful to one person really isn’t a challenge for me). My therapist thinks I shouldn’t be dating, although she doesn’t disapprove of me seeing where things go with him. I wish that we were meeting just now…although that would be impossible, because I’m not on any dating sites or looking in anyway, and I am not remotely interested in dating. We met months ago, I may or may not be ready for a relationship…but I want a relationship, and I adore him, so, y’know…what am I supposed to do?
Am I “doing me” right now? I think I’m doing me.