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.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pleasant surprise

I expected I would be bad at some aspects of being in a relationship. It's been roughly forever since I even attempted to be in a relationship, so I was bound to be a little rusty.

I also figured I would be good at some relationship stuff. Some things come naturally, and others must be a little like bike riding, no?

I was right on both counts. But... it turns out, I'm not good at everything I thought I'd be - nor am I bad at everything I expected.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself taking someone else's clothes out of my dryer, folding them, and putting them in a drawer? Let's not even discuss how I cleaned out that space for these clothes that are not mine.

I thought that my cynical, closed-off side would keep me from opening up... but I have found myself happily making room in my life, in more than one way. I've even cooked. In my kitchen.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd be OK with things like alone time and female friends. (sigh) It turns out that some of my insecurities have reared their ugly head, and I am not quite as OK with that stuff as I expected.

What I am getting good at is discussing my concerns and even my insecurities. It also turns out I can have those conversations without arguing, which was a pleasant surprise.

I suppose that to be a good relationship, it needs balance. A little give, a little take. I have historically given way more than I've taken, and I still find myself struggling to make sure I am compromising without settling.

Mostly, I have found myself very happy - and I have found that I'm better at being happy than I expected. That was a pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Faith is bigger than fear


Remember when I said I've met someone and it's gotten serious and I'm still trying to catch my breath?

Here's the funny thing. It's Hiker.

Yes, I know what I said. We're in different places and want different things. We don't have a ton in common. I don't want to be the "you'll do for now" woman.

The thing is, we kept spending time together. We were just friends - he talked to me about the women he was seeing, I talked to him a bit about the guy I was seeing. We had fun, we laughed, always had something to chat about. It was great.

Then I started to notice something funny was happening. When I made plans for my weekend, I always wanted to make sure I saw him. If I was looking to invite someone out, he was my first thought. I looked forward to his number coming up on my phone. The most telling thing was when I found myself feeling jealous when he talked about his dates.

I was falling for Hiker (who, by the way, would like me to refer to him as "Toyfriend" going forward).

I knew all the aforementioned issues were still a challenge, and a part of me thought I should stay away. But another part of me started to realize that this was someone who makes me happy. Truly happy - which was something I haven't felt in a very long time.

I decided happiness was worth the risk, and even if I get hurt, it would be worse to wonder "what if" for the rest of my life. I finally thought that maybe I needed to stop worrying about all the reasons it wouldn't work, and focus on the reason it could: We make each other happy.

One night, after a great non-date, Toyfriend and I had a very long conversation about all the reasons we shouldn't date.

Then I kissed him. (Way to stand your ground, GGS.)

We have seen each other almost every day since. Turns out, Toyfriend was open to more with me than he was with those other women. He wasn't avoiding a relationship, he just wasn't with the right person.

I think Toyfriend will be around for a while (so I guess I need to get used to that name).

Monday, July 6, 2015

Trust life a little bit

"What will you do [about your blog] when you find someone?"

It seems like it was about 100 years ago when a friend asked me that question. (In reality, it was probably about 4 years ago.) At the time, I answered that if it ever happened, I would probably just change the tone of the blog to talk more about a single woman making the transition to life as part of a couple. I wasn't too worried, because I really never thought it would come up.

Well.... it's come up.

It happened pretty fast and I'll admit, I'm having a little trouble catching my breath. There's a few lingering doubts and worries, but with each day I find myself thinking about them less and less.

My biggest struggle has nothing to do with him, his baggage, my trust or commitment issues, etc. It has to do with me - wondering why am I OK with such a huge change, and why am I not more worried about losing the woman I've become? As I said to Baking Suit, "My lack of uneasiness is making me uneasy." Silly, right?

I told him that I trust and care for him enough to put my cynical, cold, hardened single-gal attitude in the backseat - and I do. But I'm used to that woman. I know her. I understand her. I trust her. She got through some awful stuff - I value her strength. I'd never want to lose her.

Not only that, but my friends know and trust her, too. Will people be happy for me if my life changes? Will they accept me? Will they accept him?! Will they respect me for finding and accepting happiness?

Baking Suit sent this link last week. It's right - I don't owe anyone my independence or my single lifestyle. If it no longer serves me, it's time to let it go.

My true friends will stand beside me.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A complement

A while back, I met a guy on 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, 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 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.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Not enough

Turtle told me the other night that, while he still isn't ready to date anyone, he has realized that when he is, it will not be me. He said he doesn't know why; he likes everything about me, likes spending time with me, and all that. But he's hesitant for some reason, and apparently doesn't think that's going to change.

He wants us to remain friends. In fact, I think if he had his way, we'd still talk everyday and see each other regularly.

The thing is - I just can't. I can't just flip a switch, and turn off my feelings. Seeing him would be a heartbreaking reminder that he doesn't want to be with me. I know me; I would also remain hopeful, and that would cloud the friendship. I would feel hurt every time we were together, and eventually I would resent him.

It's also confusing to me. As soon as I told him I couldn't see him, he tried to extend our evening. He said he would miss me, he held me for what felt like forever when he hugged me goodbye. Heck, when I came back from the ladies room, he had a smile from ear to ear.

I suppose I could be wrong (I mean, obviously I am) but isn't that what we're all trying to find? Someone we enjoy, who makes us smile and laugh, who we can talk with about everything, or nothing, someone who we actually miss when she's not around? I read once that you should date someone who makes you feel the way you do when you see the waiter bringing your food to the table.

So I don't understand why Turtle feels all those things (or at least says he does and behaves the same) and yet, does not want to date me. He admitted it's confusing to him, too. I think if I spent time with him, my desire to understand would get in the way of our friendship.

My friends all insist this has nothing to do with me. While I suppose they could be right, the truth is their opinions are bias.

Of course I realize that Turtle is a complicated guy. I knew that going in. I always knew this ending was a possibility, but I felt he was worth sticking it out, to see what could happen. I realize some of this has to do with him; by his own admission, he likes everything about me, and even he doesn't understand his hesitancy.

Still, it's tough not to take it personally. It's a huge blow to my self-esteem, in addition to being truly heartbreaking. I knew that he needed to get past a lot of stuff if we were ever going to have a chance. It would be easy to pin this on him; say he's afraid to commit, he runs when things get serious, he's attracted to crazy - whatever.

That could all be true. But it's also true that he knows he will want someone in his life. He knows what qualities he'd like her to have. At the end of the day, something inside him knows that person is not me.

He may find me beautiful, smart, funny, fun to be around, comfortable....all those things. But he does not find me to be enough.

Right now, that's all that really matters.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

That tenth time

Way back when, when I was a young, old married lady, I pretty much thought nothing was my fault.
Well, actually, that's not true. I secretly thought everything was my fault, but I pretended to think otherwise.
Having learned the hard way that strategy can only work temporarily (if at all), when I started dating again, I over-corrected. I took all the blame. If I didn't like something, I figured it was me being over-sensitive, or jumping to conclusions. I never wanted to challenge anything my date did or said, because I didn't trust myself to know for sure if it was his issue or mine.
I'd also learned, from bad relationships, that sticking up for myself or speaking my mind was equal to complaining or starting a fight. I didn't want to be "that girl" anymore, so I stopped saying anything.
Over the last few years, I have come to learn that there are ways to tell a person how I feel without making it into an argument. I have also come to realize that a big part of effective communication has to do with the other person. Some people honestly just want a fight. Some want to blame others for everything. Some just take every little observation as criticism, and react defensively, which often leads to an argument.
So, I'm learning. In the last 6+ months, since meeting Turtle, I have also learned that timing is important. I have learned that sometimes it's better to wait, even if I'm certain that what I have to say is of the utmost importance. Waiting not only gives me a chance to mull it over a bit, it also gives me an opportunity to have to conversation in an effective way (eg., in person versus over text message).
But I still find that I don't always know when I should say something. Granted, my situation is a little different. Turtle is not my boyfriend, so the expectations are slightly different. But even without an "official" title, we still have a relationship. If something is bothering me, I should be able to talk about it, the same way I would if I had an issue with a friend.
I find myself wondering if something bothers me because it really bothers me, or if it's maybe me being upset because things are not as I would like them. Nine out of ten times, if I take a little time and remind myself that things have not changed, think about the good stuff between us, and try and remember that hope and patience are my focus - it works itself out.
It's that tenth time that occasionally haunts me. But I suppose this is one of those things about myself that I am working on.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What I need

What seems like centuries ago, Turtle asked if we could continue hanging out, but remain casual. He wanted us to continue "enjoying each other's company" and get to know each other. At the time, it sounded to me a lot like "let's see where it goes" which, in my experience, never goes anywhere good.

I remember thinking it would never work. I'd never have the confidence to "date" without knowing where it was going. I didn't think I could handle knowing he was doing stuff with friends, without feeling left out and worried. I have never been good at the "day to day" thing.

I had all but decided to just forget the whole thing and move on. I owed him nothing, and the truth was, the relationship he was suggesting was not going to meet my needs. A part of me wanted to say, I know what I want, and if you can't offer it, I'm done.

After all, that's what we say when we stop seeing someone, right? This doesn't work for me, so I'm done. At that point I had known Turtle for less than three months. We had no commitment, and were only just starting to form a friendship. I owed him nothing and could have moved on with barely a conversation.

I was pretty proud of myself. I thought it took a tremendous amount of courage and confidence to just walk away from someone because he didn't live up to my standards.

Then I realized...that's not courage. Not in this case. I was actually being a little cowardly. I was ready to walk away because I couldn't have what I wanted - constant reassurance.

My problem wasn't that the relationship didn't meet my needs. My problem was that no relationship could. I had established needs that are unreasonable, and unhealthy, not to mention not realistic at all.

I have always looked for that sort of ego boost. We could probably blame abandonment issues, or being picked on as a kid. The truth is, this issue has been a problem all my life. It was a problem in my marriage, and I think it has probably been an obstacle, one way or another, in most relationships.

I decided that, while I want to feel confident in my relationship, I do not want my confidence to come from my relationship. I want to feel good about myself, and happy in my life, regardless of what Turtle (or any man in that place) thinks of, or wants with, me. I want to be able to not hear from him for a day (or two), know he's out with friends (including women), and still feel confident in where I stand. I want it to not matter where we're going, and instead focus on how I like things in the moment. I realized that all relationships, to an extent, are day by day, and if I ever want to be happy in a relationship, I needed to get with the program.

I decided it was time to get past my abandonment hangups, and my need to always be included, and wanting to control how the relationship works. I decided it was time I learned how to feel secure without constant reassurance. I decided it was time to learn how to move forward without necessarily knowing where I'll end up. It was time to realize that, no matter what I may have convinced myself of in the past, I've never known where a relationship was going, so it's time to stop all the worrying.

It occurs to me that in many ways (some big, some small), I have stood in my own way when it came to developing a good relationship. While it is important to know what I want, and what works, it is also important to know why I want what I want, and to be sure my reasons are solid. 

It is definitely still a work in progress, but I have absolutely improved. I no longer feel a pang of anxiety every time he goes out with friends, or if we go a day or two without chatting (OK - sometimes I have anxiety, but I have gotten much better at getting it in check). I've learned to look at good conversations and fun times as "positive" instead of "hopeful" (one looks to the future, while the other keeps me in the present). I've learned to relax about where we might be going, and how quickly (or slowly) we might get there.

I've also learned how to focus on what I know, rather than what I think might happen. I know he likes me; I also know there's always a possibility that could change. I have no control over his feelings or the future, so I may as well enjoy the now. Worrying about the future won't solve anything.

Something else I've learned? My relationship with Turtle happens between the two of us. Friends' advice, outside opinions, what someone says on Facebook, or even how people behave when we're in a group should not color how I see things between us.

I'm sure to some it sounds like I'm settling, or rationalizing. But the truth is, I need these lessons before I can have a happy, healthy relationship. Particularly because I tend to be attracted to men like Turtle, who are independent and off on their own so much. I can't go looking for reassurance, or expect someone to adjust his personality to accommodate my insecurities.

I always thought what I needed was a guy who gives me no reason to worry. The truth is, what I needed was to meet someone who would "force" (or help) me face my fears and insecurities, and get rid of them once and for all.

Turns out this relationship with Turtle, such as it is, meets my needs after all.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Thanks to bad dates

Some of my friends were super-thrilled to hear I gave up online dating. They never thought it was for me. Maybe they thought I met too many of the wrong guys, or maybe they thought dating like it was my job made it more stressful than it should be. I suppose both are true, though to be fair, both of those things have more to do with me than with online dating itself.

Still, the whole online dating thing was not a waste. I met some nice men, and made some forever friends.

Even better, I learned a lot.

All those bad dates, failed relationships, and hurt feelings have taught me what doesn't work. They taught me what I don't want, what I can't handle, and what isn't important.

I think that's how it works in relationships. It can be tough to learn what you do want, because it is forever changing. But if you figure out what won't ever work, you can - by default - learn what really matters.

Most of all, by learning how a bad relationship feels, you'll get better at identifying how it feels to be in a good relationship.

I needed all those bad dates to teach me what I was doing wrong. How rushing and controlling and worrying were hurting me way more than they were ever helping. There is a difference between knowing what you want, and assuming everyone else is wrong for not wanting the same. There is also a difference between settling and compromise.

I also needed to learn how I feel when I am in a good relationship. It seems the best way for me to get the lesson was to experience some relationship failure. One thing is certain - I know how I don't want to feel.

Finding a strong, healthy, happy relationship has been a struggle for me. Maybe more than most. But I was coming from a place where I really had no idea what one looks like, or how one feels.

I may not be quite there yet, but I know I am close. I've come a long way - all thanks to a whole lot of bad dates.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Outside my comfort zone

It's been a month since I've gone on a dating site. A month since meeting anyone new.

I have felt anxious a couple of times. Wondering if deleting all my profiles is extreme. Is it really a lesson, or just me giving up? Is it really all about Turtle, even though I told myself otherwise?

The truth is, it's not about him. Yes, I still have feelings for Turtle, and yes, he and I still hang out. This month we had five dates (two were on the same day, but separate get-togethers). One was a group date where I met some of his friends.

I would love for us to be more. But we're not there right now. I know that, and I could meet other people. I'm open to it, in fact. Yet I still think deleting the profiles was the right choice.

I kept telling myself I was OK not being more with Turtle - and then trying to find someone who wanted to be more. It was like I was saying I was OK with things, but not behaving like I believed my own words.

It's my pattern. I get caught up in what I don't have. I latch on to how I want things to be. I'm not with him at that event, he didn't text me tonight, it's another holiday alone.

The dating sites helped fulfill that pattern. They gave me a chance to search for the solution. Rather than just appreciate where I am, the dating sites (for me) were an excuse to focus on where I want to be.

Don't get me wrong - it's good to have goals. It's good to know what you want, and how you plan to get there. But not at the expense of where you are. It's never a good idea to miss out on the now.

Instead of lamenting my quiet phone or free schedule, I should embrace this time. Use it to enjoy stuff I couldn't if I were in a couple. Or, taking the positive thinking a step further - enjoy it while I can, because soon, I won't have it to enjoy.

Giving up control is totally outside my comfort zone. I have come to realize that sometimes the only way to get where you need to be is to find the end of that zone, and step outside.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Love done right

We are all inclined to believe ours is the right way to love. The way we show our feelings, the things we say, everything we do is how it should be done. Naturally, we expect others to behave the way we would. If they don't, we assume that means they don't share our feelings.

I've learned that, while that might be true sometimes, it makes sense to tread carefully. There's a big difference between knowing what works for you personally, and mandating how a person expresses himself.

It goes without saying that mutual respect and attraction and affection should be expected. Communication and trust should also be a part of any solid relationship. But there is no rule about how people communicate, or how they show their affection.

Maybe you meet someone you really like, but he doesn't text as quickly, or see you as much as you'd like. That doesn't mean his feelings aren't real or sincere. If he doesn't say just the right thing, it doesn't mean he feels any less affection.

It might mean you are not a good fit - and that's OK. To know for sure, you need to stop blaming him for his "shortcomings" and take a look at yourself. Is this someone you can get to know? Can you learn his behavior and his "language?" Can you get used to the way he expresses his feelings? Or do you really need someone who does things a certain way?

If his way doesn't work for you, there's a good chance that's mutual. You're not a good match - but that doesn't mean either of you is wrong. It doesn't mean his feelings are any less sincere than yours, and it doesn't make his way of expressing them any less valid. It doesn't mean you're asking too much, and it doesn't make you the crazy girl.

It just means you're different.

I'm not suggesting anyone settle, or give up on something that really matters. I just think we should all take a moment to really learn what actually matters to each of us. What works in our life; what makes our relationship good. Not just for us - but for the person we want in our life.

I'm also suggesting we stop blaming others for what we want. Figure out what you want, and own it. If someone can't offer it to you, and you're not able to compromise, understand that's not on him - and move on.

Finding a love that really works would probably be much easier if we all gave up the idea that love works the same for everyone.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Small world

Thanks to Facebook data mining my synched contacts, I have dozens of new suggestions for people I may know. It may or may not (probably not) surprise you that about 80% of those suggestions are guys I have met online.

Since I have no more online dating profiles, my newest hobby is viewing the Facebook profiles of these "suggestions." I'm fascinated by the stuff people post online - and even more fascinated by how connected people really are. It truly is a small, small world.

Tonight I learned that one of the men I met on Adult Friend Finder over the summer (we only met, we didn't "meet") is friends with a guy I dated for a couple months last year, a guy I used to chat with on Plenty of Fish, and a guy with whom I had a coffee date on New Years Day.

I think it's safe to say that I decided to kick my online dating habit just in time.

It also might be safe to say that moving to a new area code might not be the worst decision I could make.