I’ve been rather introspective lately. Analysis comes naturally anyway; but I’m at the three-year anniversary of the ending of my marriage, and these things invite even deeper thoughts.
I have had no interest in being a single hero. I make no claims about how happy I am without a partner in my life. My Instagram isn’t filled with girl power memes and lists of the things that make being single awesome. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Don’t misunderstand; being with the wrong person isn’t worth it. I’m confident in who I am and the value I provide, and having a man in my life doesn’t make me feel better about myself. I don’t need to be rescued and I don’t need someone to handle the repairs in my house.
But having a grown up person to share my life with (distinguishing between my child who is the physical embodiment of my heart, outside my body) makes many things better.
My ex husband and I both started dating shortly after our split. So I’ve been dating for three years. What do I have to show for it?
A lot of stories to be shared with friends over wine, that’s for sure. I often say to survive dating, you need to have a sense of humor and a thick skin, and not take yourself too seriously.
I’ve had a few boyfriends, and that’s been nice – until it wasn’t. Unfortunately nothing worked out right, as everyone who reads this blog well knows.
And as the 800,000 odd words on this blog can attest to, I’ve thought a shit ton about relationships, dating, and myself.
But when I think about the relationships and dating experiences I’ve had, I’m hard pressed to think of many that seem even-keeled. There seems to be no middle ground between men who treated me as their ONLY priority, and those for whom I seemed to be at the bottom of the list. Always.
There are exceptions.
Ironically, it hasn’t been true for the men with whom I’ve had a primarily sexual relationship. Jason and I were fairly well matched with our expectations and interests. Lewis, despite occasional lapses in communication, is consistent. There are other examples but you get my point. I’ve felt relatively equal prioritization in each other’s lives. We aren’t obsessively prioritizing each other, nor are we completely ambivalent.
It also wasn’t true with Tony, but that relationship was so fraught with other issues I…well let’s just say, I know I was a priority for him but ultimately at the end, not in the way that mattered.
But the men I considered boyfriends, or on the path to being one, all shared one characteristic. The Giant, Johnny Id, Fox, HWSNBN (aka the man no longer on this blog)… I recoiled under the pressure of feeling like I was their one thing. I felt suffocated. Their focus ultimately seemed a character weakness. I couldn’t live up to it as it was too much for me. There were other things that made those relationships fail, all different, but it was one consistent theme.
I have a decently busy life. I am a single Mom every other week. I often work until dinner time each day. Sometimes I travel for work. I plan play dates with my son and adult dates with my friends. I have seasons tickets for my favorite sports team. I go to the gym with a trainer twice a week.
But I have free time, and even when I don’t, I manage to find time for the men I’m interested in dating. I can send daily texts, I can strategically eke out hours to see someone, I plan ahead to make things work. I do that even for the men I’m simply fucking.
If I’m dating you, you will know I’m interested but I won’t suffocate you. You won’t be my number one priority (that space is reserved for my son and always will be – but I very rarely have to choose between the men I’m dating and my child), but you’ll be a priority, until I decide it’s not working or there’s no potential, and then I will end it or change the parameters – but not without telling you.
And perhaps that’s where the difference is. One friend says to me “you aren’t special until you’re special” whenever I complain about a general lack of proactive communication and courtesy. But I start with the belief it could work and the intention to build something. Because I’m ultimately seeking a relationship, I start down that path with every new person I’m dating. I don’t act as if I’m already in a long-term relationship, I know that intimacy and trust is built over time, but I treat someone like they are important. Because some day they could be.
I don’t get the same in return. My experience with men who didn’t make it to boyfriend has been characterized by the horrible yearning for attention and time from those who treat me with at best, passive interest.
Men who don’t proactively plan. Men who disappear with no warning. Men who can’t find the time to communicate. Men who don’t prioritize me.
It seems a cruel twist that those who have the busiest lives are the most interesting, because on the surface they seem the most like me. I can’t be with someone who has no friends, no life, and who will subsume all of their time and activities to me. But these men, the active and busy men, are also the ones who don’t particularly need a girlfriend, and they act accordingly.
I suppose it’s the rare person who can admit they don’t really want to make space in their lives for someone. Or they can’t. Or don’t know how. I mean, for crying out loud – Tony of all people said he was seeking a relationship and we all know that was a farce when he was still considering getting back together with his ex. There are many men I’ve come across who say they want a relationship, but ultimately don’t want to do what a relationship entails.
Perhaps they tell themselves that when the right person comes along, suddenly the path will be made clear. I’ve been told this countless times – “I’m not looking for a relationship but that would change for the right person” which is code for, don’t expect me to treat you well until I’m convinced you’re that person. But we all know behaviors don’t change overnight. An intention is just that – to be made real, it’s all about action.
I start with the intention for a relationship, and I act as if the men I’m dating could be that person.
They may start with the same intention, but they won’t act that way until they believe I’m at that person. And how can I possibly build trust and excitement and all the great things at a start of a potential relationship when I’m constantly wondering whether someone actually even likes me?