Saturday, June 6, 2015

A complement

A while back, I met a guy on meetup.com. I thought this was funny because... 1) I always hated that Turtle met friends at meetups and 2) I've always wondered how it would work with someone I met somewhere other than a dating site. (For those not familiar, meetup.com is not a dating site. It's a site designed for users who want to set up activities for groups of people. It's really for people who are looking for others with similar interests to share activities. As a result, many users happen to be single.)

Anyway, this guy messaged me and we started chatting. He eventually asked me out. We've formed a good friendship, but not much more. He has said he'd be interested in dating, but I have been clear from the start that wasn't in the cards.

We have gotten into the habit of chatting about his dating life. He tells me the tales, I offer occasional advice, he ignores me because obviously, being single, I know nothing.

The other day we got on the topic of a guy I have been seeing. My friend (we'll call him Hiker) asked why I am willing to date this other guy, and not him. Not an easy question to answer.

I started by explaining that it worries me that he and I wouldn't share his favorite hobby (hiking, obvs) and that I know he's looking for someone who will join him. That is a relatively minor thing, which he pointed out. But it's part of a larger issue, which I then had to explain. (Leading off with the hobby angle was a rookie mistake; I'm rusty.)

He and I are in very different places. His marriage is newly ended and he's looking for casual companionship to keep him busy. He's still learning his dating style, and he's still accepting women who are not his type, or who don't treat him well, simply because he wants the company.

I'm pretty sure I fall into the "you'll do for now" category, and I told him as much. I explained that I think we could have a great time, but once he gains some confidence, he will realize I'm not for him. Experience has taught me that will happen right about the time that I fall head-over-heels - and I will be left heartbroken. Again.

He said he'd never want to hurt me. "Hiker," I said, "No one ever wants to hurt me. That doesn't make it hurt any less when they do."

I don't begrudge anyone going through the post-marriage phase of looking for a distraction, or looking for some fun. Everyone needs a little time to figure themselves out - who they are now, what they want, and what works for them. I've had the "opportunity" to be that distraction for more than one man. My heart got hurt each time - but I learned a lot, and wouldn't change a thing.

I never saw it coming before. Now I do - which means I've learned even more than I realized.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Something missing

Did I mention I created new profiles on two sites (Plenty of Fish and OK Cupid)? I gave in about a month after things ended with Turtle. I felt like I had been hiding; like I needed to put myself back out there, and let people in. I still believe the right guy comes along at the right time - this is just my way of giving him a door to walk through.

It has gone about as well as one might expect. I've gotten emails from men who are married...an email from a woman who clearly did not know how to use the search feature....emails from boys half my age who just want to hook up....and emails from an army of men who don't speak English (or any other language) very well. I even got a message from a guy who lied about his first name, and couldn't understand why that was an issue.

In a way, it's annoying that online dating hasn't changed. In another way, it's comforting that you can still count on some things to be consistent - even if the consistency is found in its flaws.

But while the online dating world hasn't changed, something else has: Me. My attitude is different. I talk with fewer people. I forgive and overlook far less. I have (slightly) higher standards. I question more. I am more selective.

The truth is, I don't think the online thing was ever the problem. I think the problem was my attitude. My need to push, to force, to compare myself and my situation to others. My need to accommodate and please, even to my own detriment, because I believed I did not deserve better.

I think this time around, online dating will work better. Actually, dating in general will work better. Not necessarily because I'll find more people who like me - but because I finally like me.

That's what was missing all along.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I have learned

As angry as I am about Turtle, I am grateful for the lessons he taught me.

I learned about letting go of control. I realized that I spend a lot of energy trying to force things, usually as a way to make myself feel more secure. I also learned that security, especially in relationships, is an illusion. Relationships, by definition, involve other people - which we can't ever control.

I learned about patience. Not everything is about me. Some people will need you to slow down. Not everyone you meet will be in the same place, or ready for the same things. Some are worth the wait.

I learned that not everything is about me, and sometimes I need to be there for others.

I also learned that sometimes, it is about me. Sometimes it's OK to look out for myself. Sometimes, it's OK to expect others to wait for me - or catch up, as the case may be.

I learned I do not want to feel like a chore, or an obligation. I do not want to be treated like a problem that needs handling.

I don't want to be a second choice, or a backup plan. I don't want time with me to be spent at someone else's convenience. It's great to be considerate and understanding of others - but sometimes I should come first.

I want someone who wants me around. Who genuinely enjoys my company (quirks and all). Who will go out of his way to not just talk about having fun, but to actually put those plans in motion.

I am tired of being treated like a secret; like a guilty-pleasure TV show you watch when nothing else is on, but are ashamed to admit you've seen every episode.

I've learned I am tired of feeling left out of all the real fun, and kept as a backup plan when nothing better is available.

I have learned that it doesn't matter why a person might treat me that way. He could very well have the best reasons in the world (and yes some are better than others). What matters is how it makes me feel.

I have learned that I can be patient and let go of control, and still look out for myself and my feelings. My wants and needs are just as important as the other person's.

I have learned I am no longer willing to feel like second best - and I have learned it's OK to say so.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lesson in lies

I thought I was finally getting past the feeling stupid phase of being rejected. Then last week, I learned that Turtle has a girlfriend. It's a woman he's known all along, but insisted there was nothing between them.

Adding insult to injury, when Turtle and I were still spending time together, I could see that he and this woman seemed close. I even asked him specifically about her just a few months ago. He told me there was nothing.

I'm absolutely sure he was being honest way back, when he said he wasn't ready to date. But I've also come to realize that was never the whole truth.

I feel a little lied to, and led on. What's worse, though, is feeling foolish. I convinced myself that he wasn't leading me on, or keeping me around as an option. Really he was, but I was either too blind to see, or too stupid to put it to a stop.

Every time I think about it, I get angry. It's like I go through the whole thing all over again. (Which, makes the whole maintaining a friendship thing tough, but more on that later.)

I'm all about accepting responsibility,  and finding the lessons in even the toughest of situations. I'm also learning to not take blame when something isn't my fault.
It is tough to realize Turtle just didn't like me, and it's hard to feel like he led me on, and it sucks feeling lied to. But it's also important to remember that he wasn't the only one lying to me. I lied to myself - and at least that's something I can prevent going forward.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

What not to say

I get a lot of well-meaning advice on my dating life. I accepted a while back that I kind of invite it, even if not directly, simply by sharing my stories. I know it comes from a place of love and concern, so I try not to let it bother me. Still - sometimes, it does.

There are a few things that friends can do to avoid further hurting a heart broken friend, and show support at the same time.

Don't say.... platitudes and clichés. "It'll happen when you least expect it," or, "It just wasn't meant to be," sound helpful and positive. The thing is, your friend likely already knows all this nonsense. It's all true, of course, but is also little comfort to a person still trying to find her footing. When she's ready, she'll find it on Pinterest anyway, so just hold-off on the Paul Coehlo quotes.

Don't offer... advice on how to be happy. Your friend has not forgotten everything she's ever learned. She hasn't quit her job, stopped eating, or started avoiding people. She knows how to take care of herself, and she'll be happy when she's done being sad. Offering that advice really sounds like you're discounting her feelings and trying to rush her back to happy. Stop.*

Don't ask... how she's doing - unless you mean it. You know the answer - she's sad. If you're sick of hearing it, that's fair. But don't pretend you want to know, while secretly hoping she tells you about work or family. If you don't honestly want to listen to the answer, just don't ask the question.

What can you do? If she wants to talk, listen. It will mean so much that you care. Instead of advising her to "go out and live" or "find stuff to look forward to" - create those things. Make plans. Invite her out. You're right - distractions and plans will help.

Mostly, just don't forget how this feels. Chances are, you've been where she is. She'll be fine soon - just be her friend when she's ready.

*Of course, if your friend has stopped eating, working, or seems to be hiding from life more than usual - say something. She could be in a bad place. A little sad is normal - depressed is something else.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ups and downs

It's been four weeks since Turtle ended things (it sounds strange to refer to it as a "breakup" since we weren't actually dating...but we also weren't just friends...anyway, you know what I mean). In general, my rule following any sort of heartbreak is at least 30 days to get myself together.

I broke my rule slightly by going speed-dating last week. While it was more successful than in the past, it doesn't appear it will amount to anything, so let's just pretend that didn't happen, k?

But what I'm finding is, while I was good going out last week and feeling all friendly and positive - this week, all I want to do is sit in my living room and cry. I feel lonely and scared, and also foolish and (to be perfectly honest) a little pathetic. I don't really want to bother my friends with it because, honestly, I don't even know what to say. I'm still as rejected and hurt as I was a couple weeks ago - but I'm no worse. Know what I mean? There's really no reason for me to be sad. I just am.

But I think that happens with grief. It's not an easy trip on a straight, flat road. It's more a journey with twists and turns, with big ups and really, really big downs.

I suppose the trick is to remind yourself that, if things looked really positive last week (or month, or whatever) then they could pivot and look better any second. Nothing's permanent.

Not even the lowest low.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Not quite yet

I know, better than many, how bad an idea it is to rush into meeting new people after a heartbreak. So I know that right now is not a good time for me to return to online dating. If I had any active profiles, now would be the time to hide them all.
 
Besides, I meant it when I said that deleting those profiles was my way of breaking a bad cycle. The last thing I need right now is to revisit bad habits.
 
I found myself wondering why it's such a temptation. Am I lonely? Do I just feel like I need to do something to take back control? Am I just bored? Do I just want an ego boost?
 
I think it's a little bit of everything. A few minutes on a dating site could cure any of those problems. I'm single, I want to have a little fun, so what's the harm?
 
Meeting people is great - and obviously necessary when you want someone new in your life. When motivated by an honest desire to just find new people, it's the best thing possible - fun, innocent, healthy. All good stuff.
 
The problem is, when motivated by boredom or loneliness or low self-esteem, all that healthy fun goes out the window. You (or at least I) meet the wrong people. My guard is down, and I'm looking for just anyone, not good, quality people who have something to add to my life. That pattern is how I've met some of the worst guys ever (and I've met some pretty bad guys).
 
I am open to meeting new people right now - in other ways. That keeps me open to possibilities, without returning to bad habits. Meeting people online is familiar and easy and it can work - and I may return eventually. Just not quite yet.
 
(So if any of you know a nice single guy who likes short, curvy, sarcastic brunettes - send 'em my way. Just make sure they're not psycho.)