Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A peaceful present

So, it's been a while... I'm sorry about the absence. Between a promotion at work (Go me!), holidays, Toyfriend, family, volunteer stuff - time just got away. Before I knew it, we were turning the page on 2015. Happy New Year!

When we last chatted, I was dealing with some anxiety. I'd actually gotten a pretty good handle on it by the end of the year. I started journaling again, and spent a lot of time working on dealing with the present, rather than worrying about what might happen in the future. I also started coloring - I highly recommend that as a stress-reducing hobby that has the benefit of being fun and portable.

But that's the trouble with anxiety - it's irrational, unpredictable, and comes and goes as it pleases. This was a huge problem for me before I knew what anxiety was, how it behaves, and its effect on me. Part of learning to manage my worries is learning their causes, how to identify if they are really as bad as they seem or if they are being exaggerated by my anxiety, and most importantly, what calms them down.

Recently, I've noticed a little worry creeping back in. At first I couldn't figure out what my problem was. It started as an innocent conversation about something going on with someone in Toyfriend's family. It had nothing to do with me, him, or us. Zero. But somehow, it morphed into a conversation about our relationship, where it's headed (Spoiler Alert: Nowhere fast.), and what we both want.

Let me be clear: Toyfriend and I are on the same page. We're both happy with the way things are and in no rush to change anything. It's super-important for me to say that because I was losing site of it fast, and I need the reminder.

While we were talking, Toyfriend said he has "no interest" in taking the next step. Given that we are together 5-6 nights a week and most of the weekend, have keys to each other's homes, keep toiletries and clothes at each, have met family and friends, and are planning a big vacation, we agreed the "next step" would be living together.

The truth is, I'm not interested in moving in together any time soon, either... but I would like to know that the option might be available in the future. Toyfriend's "no interest" sounded like a formal declaration that he will never want more than what we have right now. Even though I'm happy in this moment, thinking the door had just been slammed on anything more scared the hell out of me.

Is this a dead end? Does he want an exit strategy? Does he love me as much as I love him? Am I settling? Am I giving up too much? These thoughts started swirling through my head fast and furious - and it was overwhelming.

When I came up for air, we talked a little more. Toyfriend isn't slamming the door - but he is also not ready to open it just yet. He can't say for sure if he ever will be. He did say he "can't see us being in this place forever."

When I thought about it, I remembered that I need to focus on the present. We're both happy, on the same page, and able to talk things through. Toyfriend doesn't shut me out, nor does he shut me down. He listens to my worries, no matter how irrational they may seem. He never judges me or minimizes my feelings.

I also remembered that this is what it means to focus on the present and not the future. Neither of us can predict what will happen, nor should we rush into something before the time is right for us both.

I can't guarantee that I will never feel like I need that next step... and I can't guarantee that I will. Toyfriend is the same boat. He may never want to take the next step - or maybe he will.

I can't force it or try to change him. I can't rush into something just to "lock him in." It would be foolish to judge the relationship based on something that may or may not happen, when it's something neither of us even wants right now.

All I can do is check in with myself, focus on what I want in the present, and make sure my needs are met. I can check in with him and make sure we're on the same page. Mostly, I can enjoy the happy, healthy, honest relationship I'm in - and be grateful for every day I get to be this happy.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Dating Sunday

I've been a little quiet around here - something I hope to change now that the page has turned to 2016.

If your resolution for 2016 includes finding love, today is the perfect day to start!

According to Match.com, the world's largest dating website, National Online Dating Day is the proven busiest day for online dating. Happening every year on the first Sunday in January, the exact time down to the minute this year is 8:52pm ET on Sunday, January 3th.

This heavy influx of traffic falls within Match’s “Peak Season,” which spans from December 25th to February 14th annually. During this time, Match will see a 60% spike in new members!

Online dating is largely about numbers - the more people you meet, the more likely you are to meet the right one.

Grab that great holiday selfie, put together a few words about yourself, and start meeting fun people!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What I need to remember

I've been battling some insecurities this week. I'm feeling pretty inadequate, and I have found myself looking for problems. Honestly, I think it has more to do with work stuff, and I'm letting it spill over into my relationship. I have found myself looking to be unhappy, or for reasons to be disappointed or annoyed with Toyfriend.

It wasn't hard to find: He spent most of his Saturday with other friends (both women) - one hiking, one out for her birthday.

I was bummed. We usually spend Saturdays together. I felt a little left out, and honestly a little inadequate that his one friend can handle a hike like they did, and I can't. But I also know that staying connected to his friends is important to Toyfriend, and it was out of his control that the chance to spend time with these friends fell on the same day.

I also realized something else. Part of the reason Toyfriend wanted to get together with the one lady is he really wants to be a good friend. He wants to be there, particularly for those who he knows don't have anyone else.

The truth is, I like that about Toyfriend. I like that he cares about other people and is willing to put himself out. I also like that he knows himself well enough to know that he doesn't want to turn his back on his friends. If I stand in the way or try to change that, I risk changing something about him that made me fall in love with him in the first place. Which seems counterproductive to the whole happy, healthy relationship thing.

But I was so convinced I should be insulted, I found myself feeling frustrated. Was something wrong with me, that I wasn't upset? Am I just accepting too much because I want to keep him around?

Then I noticed that he felt as bad - if not worse - about missing out on our time together. It meant a lot to him that I understand why he wants to be a good friend, that these women are just friends, and that I was able to talk with him about things that were bothering me. He was happy that I spent what time I could with him over the weekend. He made an effort to spend as much time as he could with me, too.

It was then that I remembered some of the things I've written about Toyfriend that I need to keep in mind.

"I'm also really very lucky to be in this with someone who takes the time to understand where I am coming from, and who will meet me halfway."

Toyfriend is a good guy. He's honest, trustworthy, and he loves me (he's also handsome, nice, smart, funny, and super-fun, but that's a different post). He happens to have female friends because he relates well to women. But he recognizes it can be an issue, and he's open and honest with me, which helps put me at ease and reminds me that I don't need to worry.

That's what I need to remember most.

For those wondering, he does have male friends and does spend time with them. I write about the female friends because I'm talking about my own anxiety and insecurity, and the female friends affect that more.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The just friends line

Can men and women be friends? Harry Burns says no. He says eventually, one (or both) of them will become attracted to the other, and sex will ruin the friendship.

I believe something a little different. I think men and women can be friends... if the sex issue has been resolved. How so? Either they've already been there, done that, and know it won't work - or they mutually friend-zoned each other from the very beginning.

There's a fine line that separates a truly platonic friendship from a budding relationship. That line is different for everyone, and it changes depending on the friends' own relationship status. For example, as a single woman I might have invited a guy friend to be my platonic date at a wedding - but only if he was also single. The way I see it, even if I know that we are just friends, it is disrespectful to the woman in his life to invite him on what seems like a date - whether it is or not.

I suppose I feel strongly about this because of what I went through at the end of my marriage. An emotional affair contributed to our problems, and I would never want to risk doing the same to someone else.

If I'm with a guy, I'm also overly sensitive about women who want to be his friend. I think there's a difference between a woman who genuinely wants to nurture a platonic friendship, and a woman who has more in mind. I think it's pretty easy to tell one from the other - especially for me. This is one time when I would never ignore my gut - it knows best.

Sorting through this baggage has been tough, since Toyfriend is a guy who has mostly female friends. Of course I trust him, but it is tough to explain that I still do not trust some women. It's also tough to explain how something that seems like a trust issue isn't all about trust. Sometimes it's about feeling left out, or insecure.

One thing I have learned since my divorce, and through several failed relationship attempts, is that it's important to communicate those feelings clearly and fairly, without blame or accusations or jumping to conclusions.

The truth is, being open and honest seems to eliminate (or at least mitigate) most problems that come up in a relationship. I have found that, with the right guy, I am better able to navigate this issue.

Toyfriend is a wonderful, honest, trustworthy guy who is a good friend - and his friends happen to be women. In 99% of those cases, there's no issue, and I just need to work through my own feelings of insecurity or inadequacy. In the other 1%, I share my feelings and trust Toyfriend to make my feelings a priority.

I know some people think I'm crazy. Maybe I am. I suppose I "put up" with stuff that many wouldn't. It isn't easy; I struggle with insecurity and worry, and of course I'm scared someone will come along he likes better. But at the end of the day, I remember that can happen any time, any place. If it's meant to work out, it will. If he's meant to meet someone else, he will - no matter what I do.

Surprisingly, there is a ton of comfort in realizing I have absolutely no control. In realizing that, if I'm with the right person, that fine line almost doesn't need to exist.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Everyone has baggage

I hate to talk about my own baggage... I prefer you all think I'm wonderful and perfect. But who are we kidding? I also hate to share anything that might make Toyfriend seem like anything other than the kind, wonderful, thoughtful man that he is. So please keep that in mind.

It turns out relationships require more work of me than I expected. I didn't think I would have such a tough time with insecurities and baggage. I know I am strong, and I like to think can handle a lot. For someone I love, I can handle just about anything. I never expected to find baggage that put me to the test.

I also had no idea that my own baggage was so freaking heavy. I don't have the sort of personal baggage that most people think of when they hear the term (kids, ex, finances, work). But I have a crap-ton of emotional baggage. Some I thought I'd checked, and some I wasn't even aware I'd ever picked up.

I know I have a fear of loss, and of being left. A counselor would say I have "abandonment issues" because my mother left me as a kid. Like, literally she was there one day and gone the next.

Since I was a little kid I have worried that anyone who was not right in my line of sight might be gone in a second. Irrational? Yes, but there it is. I am aware it's an issue, and while I can't totally shake the feeling, I am able to talk myself away from the edge, which is not something I could always do. Let's hear it for therapy!

I also have a big thing about anyone (obviously in this case, a boyfriend) making concessions for me. I know that relationships are about compromise, and I know that compromise is a two-way street. I am aware that I should give some things, and I should be able to ask for (and expect) some things in return.

But I've been called a "problem" and "needy" and "selfish" and told that I "ruined a life" when I've asked others. Now - those guys were being jerks; I know this. I know they were just laying blame to avoid taking responsibility for the way they were treating me. I took the blame and guilt because, well, that's what I knew.

I know better now. I have learned that is neither fair nor healthy. But I also know that just because their tactic was wrong, that doesn't mean their feeling wasn't valid. I probably was being unfair or needy or over-sensitive sometimes.

Now, even though I know I can ask, I still struggle to know if what I am asking is reasonable, or if I am being a little unfair. I find myself doubting whether my feelings should be hurt, or if I really am being over-sensitive.

I also find myself wondering if the doubts in my head are legitimate, or if I'm just dragging my past baggage into a current relationship. Of course I want to look out for myself... but I also don't want to blame Toyfriend for something someone else did to me.

I suppose life would be easier if I'd stuck to my guns and avoided falling for a guy who I knew had baggage. If I had just continued to shut Toyfriend out, and kept looking for a guy with zero complications. None of this would be an issue.

But then I think, how can I really know that for sure? My insecurities are obviously still there. Maybe it would have just taken longer to see them with another person. It might be something else that would bring them up - but they'd still rear their ugly head.

The truth is, I was never going to find that baggage-free guy. So maybe I'm lucky to have found someone who is willing to share his baggage with me, so I'm not left wondering. So I always know where he's coming from, and where I stand.

I'm also really very lucky to be in this with someone who takes the time to understand where I am coming from, and who will meet me halfway.

Baggage is much easier to carry when you work together.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Not quite cool chick

Relationships have a tendency to make me really insecure. I have been working on my insecurities for years (literally). I know I’ve improved, but I also know I have a long way to go. For a while, I thought I had totally overcome my worries and fears, but I have come to find that what I really did was eliminate true relationships from my life. Without the investment I had nothing to lose, and without anything to lose, I had no worries.

Toyfriend comes with a little baggage. It mostly holds the sort of complications you would expect of a guy in his fifties who was married for a long time, has kids, and is now single. But some of the complications have proved to affect our relationship. Let’s just say Toyfriend has some things going on that prevent me him from including me in every part of his life (at least for right now).

By itself, that isn’t a big deal, and certainly not a deal-breaker. I don’t mind solo time. I am used to attending family and social functions alone, and I can continue to do so as often as I need (or want). But it is something that matters more than I expected. It turns out that since I can include Toyfriend in every part of my life (if we choose), it bothers me a little that he can’t do the same. I feel a little left out, and I find I feel a little vulnerable, that something more important will come along and I will lose him.

I’d love to be able to say that nothing bothers me. That I’m the “cool chick” - OK with not hearing from someone for a few days, always wants her own space, and totally OK with a host of female friends, family or work obligations, etc. But the truth is… that’s not me. That was only someone I could pretend to be when I avoided actually caring about another person.

Of course, I’m also not “uncool-crazy-will-yell-at-you chick” who needs everything her way. I guess I’m “not-quite-cool-but-still-willing-to-compromise chick” who tries to understand the real issue so it can be resolved, and is willing to admit things are not all about her. I am that chick who needs communication and consistency and clarity, even if it’s just for my own peace of mind. I am that chick who likes to know she’s loved and needs to feel some security. As long as I have all that, I can become the cool chick, who can manage just about anything.

This is not the first time I have felt this way in a relationship. It is the first time that I was able to identify the problem, process how I was feeling, and discuss it with the other person openly and honestly (and rationally – that’s key). It is the first time – ever – that I have felt my worries and insecurities were something I could share with my partner, and that he would face them with me. For the first time, I feel like I’m in a relationship with someone, rather than holding everything  together all on my own.

I know strong, independent, confident women are not supposed to admit when they are wrong, or scared, or need something. I can tell you from personal experience that it took a lot more courage to admit to Toyfriend when I am scared or worried, than it ever did to just avoid my insecurities altogether.

I am much closer to being the cool chick.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Looking for a type

You may or may not realize this, but I am white. Yes, I mean white as in caucasion, as in not-a-minority.

Up until I met Trooper, I pretty much always dated white men. That wasn't by design, just the way things worked out. I didn't date Trooper because of his race, or really even in spite of it. I dated Trooper because he was a nice guy - who happened to be African American.

When we broke up, I guess I did lean towards a particular "type" of guy. I mostly dated outside my race, though there were several dates with white guys mixed in. Again, it really was just the way things worked out.

When I dated outside my race, I came to expect questions, looks, or comments. I could predict what was coming, and knew how to respond.

But I honestly never thought I would spend any time explaining my choice to date a guy of the same race.

When I first started telling my friends about Toyfriend, the reaction was the same, pretty much across the board. Even when I wasn't around, friends reported back that other friends reacted the same:

"Wait - he's white?!"

I probably should have anticipated the reaction, and it probably shouldn't bother me. After all, I did have a "type" for a while. People know what sort of men I find attractive, and I guess everyone just assumed that was the type of guy I would end up with. I suppose because that's who they would expect me to meet.

I guess I just wish that my friends' first reaction would be one of happiness. Like, "Wow, GGS seems happy - how great is that?! She deserves it." A few friends did react exactly this way - you know who you are, and I hope you know how grateful I am.

But I think I also wish that people had believed me when I said I never dated anyone because of his race. The surprise makes it seem like people expect race was a deal-breaker for me - and it never was. It is certainly true that I find men of a particular race very attractive - that's been true since my first crush. But liking how someone looks and falling in love with who someone is are very different things.

When I was just looking for someone to spend a little time with, I went looking for guys based solely on physical attraction. Why not, right?

But if I had stuck to that "type" and made race a deal-breaker, I'd have shut out the possibility of the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to me. Yes - I said ever.

That's the thing about "types" - they work when you're doing the looking. They don't work when you're ready to be found. 

(The fact that Toyfriend is completely adorable is really just icing on my happy little cupcake.)