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Aside

Objects Not As They Appeared

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How long do you date someone before you know you’d like to continue pursuing something or you’re ready to say thanks, but no thanks?    I’ve given myself a two month time limit with the man I’m currently dating, taking care to note the things that inspire interest from me as well as the things that make me go “Hmm….”.  Dating is an exploratory period and I fully embrace that.  It’s this tenuous state where you try to notice without judging (too much), be open but with sturdy boundaries in place, and have your bullshit detector at full alert.

For some reason, tonight in particular, I am strongly feeling the divide between how this guy defined himself through his profile and how I am experiencing him.  I am, in essence, feeling disappointed.  Is this bound to happen?  Probably.  When we write about ourselves, most of us shine things up a bit more than usual.  Objects aren’t quite as together as they appear.

Allow me to be more specific.  This guy’s online profile referred to the excitement of being a self-employed, small business owner.  Sounded good to me – a gainfully employed man who loves his job.  Yes, please!

As I’ve gotten to know him, the story has unfolded a bit differently than how it was presented.   I’ve learned that he left his job in September and is taking this time to continue working on his own business, the seeds of which were started last January.  When he first told me, I listened and didn’t feel positive or negative about it.  It just was.  In the short time that we’ve spent together, I have to say my feelings are going into the “I don’t know about this” zone.

It all seems so loosey goosey to me.  I can’t tell you exactly what the business is about except that occasional printmaking is involved – and possibly consulting, writing, and teaching.  I thought it was a business  – already up and rolling.   I was expecting him to be working really hard the way people who have their own businesses have to work.  Instead he has these lovely, leisurely days full of long walks, and well, I’m not sure what.

When two people first meet each other and show a mutual interest in each other, I picture this exchange almost like they are creating a metaphorical soup.  We start adding to the soup little by little, with each thing that we share about ourselves.  I pay close attention to the things that the other person adds to the soup for it is this soup that will form the “broth” of the relationship – if there is to be one.  Besides what he adds, I take notice of what being with this person prompts me to throw into the bowl as well.   And when something funky or unexpected comes flying in the soup, I stop and take a long look. This job thing is a potential big chunk of funk.  Better go get my glasses!

Wanted: Crystal Ball

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I started this blog as a way to share what it’s like to be a woman in her early 40’s in the online dating world.   I want to tell you that I’ve had great success and the time and the money I’ve invested in this venture has paid off.  But,  I can’t – at least not yet.  One thing I didn’t factor in when thinking about doing this with some seriousness was the amount of time it takes.  From the initial emails, to the follow up ones, then come the phone calls, and finally, the face-to-face.  This is just to meet one person, mind you.  And, I haven’t been doing a good job with this – at all.

Supposedly, it works best when you have people you are interested in at different phases of the process.  It begins with a wink or a simple introduction.    You’re still in a fairly anonymous zone, using one-way communication to be in touch with someone.  A few witty lines when you have time and you’re good to go.   This low investment phase is the easiest and I can be in touch with plenty of guys at this level.

Following this step, are the more personal emails, when both parties have expressed some degree of interest in getting to know the other beyond a quick hello.   Obviously, this takes more time as you are getting more personal.   I strive to keep my emails light and unique.  I don’t want to be the one who writes the  “I like blue.  Do you?” kind of correspondences.  After reading through the guy’s profile a few times, I find something interesting and try create a response that goes from there.   This step is more time consuming and I’m finding it hard to manage.  I wind up just not responding to people I had been in touch with previously without a word and without reason, really.  It’s just good old fashioned blowing off.

Let’s take this out of the abstract and bring it into the real world.  I met XY (hah!) at the beginning of January and we’ve been out several times since then.  At this point, he is not my boyfriend.  So, while we do this dance to see how and if our interest evolves, I am still online.  It would be silly for me not to, based on a handful of good dates with one guy.  While I haven’t done a ton of online dating, I do know that anything can happen at this point.  Seemingly solid things can suddenly crumble without warning.

In all honestly, I suck at this.  I’m trying to keep several balls rolling while working full-time and having a life.  It finally occurred to me that I just need to be honest with the guys I’m in contact with and tell them that while I can’t say that the guy I’ve been seeing is my boyfriend, I just work better focusing on one thing at a time and seeing where it goes.  I figure I’ll know within a month or two if anything more is going to transpire with him and I.  Have I pushed aside a better match and am just following the path of least resistance?  This is where I want a crystal ball.  Anyone have one they can send my way?

Pick Up Your Phone And Call Now

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I’m a few weeks into the online dating world and I’m both amazed and dismayed by the amount of texting that happens.  Did I just inadvertently give away my age by saying that?  We are, by and large, much more comfortable texting with potential dates than we are speaking to them on the phone.  The way this was suppose to go, according to the advice I have been following, is that after a few email exchanges on the dating website, the man and I would transition to communicating through our personal emails.   We’d spend a little more time in cyberspace and then, finally, he would ask me for my phone number and we’d be on our way to talking.   This chain of events has happened exactly zero times.

The point of these steps is to weed out people before spending the time, money and energy involved in meeting them.  A filtering system if you will.  The tendency is to exchange a few emails and then rush out to meet a person and see if there’s the magical, elusive “chemistry” everyone is looking for.  No one wants to waste their time, after all.  Let’s keep the dating train moving!  What usually winds up happening, though, is that these rushed meetings result in one or both parties feeling disappointed, deceived, or just all together uninterested.  Have enough of these kinds of “dates” and it’s easy to see how one can become quite disillusioned by online dating.

Personally, I like the idea of skipping less than stellar face to face meetings and having more semi-awkward phone conversations.  The men I’ve been in contact with have wanted to meet right away.  None of them offered me their personal email address nor their telephone number.  So, I’ve been the one to offer my phone number along with a time to call me.

The conversations have ranged from extremely boring to pretty good.  The first guy I talked to was a total dud.  He went on and on about the linen delivery business he was in.  Really?  Please tell me more.  I’m dying to know every detail about the delivery truck you drive and the amount of linens it can hold.  Fascinating.  He actually texted me after the conversation saying how great it was to talk to me.  I think he meant how great it was that I didn’t hang up on him or fall asleep mid-sentence.  It’s amazing how polite I can be sometimes!

I had a decent phone conversation with a man who I was the most interested in at the start of this adventure.  But, as soon as we hung up,  I began receiving texts throughout the next few days, filling me in on the minutiae of his life.  It’s like this weird attempt at intimacy or something.  No thanks.  One guy I spoke with recently acknowledged his awkwardness on the phone – with a text following our conversation.  He found it strange.  I responded by saying it didn’t seem any stranger than meeting someone you’ve only exchanged a few emails with.  If anything, it makes that first encounter much less awkward.  It’s as if you’ve already met on some level.

At this point, it’s hard for me to suss out from these phone conversations who I want to meet and who I don’t.  Unless the guy is obviously a total bonehead, I’ll probably meet him.  If nothing else, it has slowed this process down and allowed me to have a relaxed, easygoing attitude toward the whole online dating world.  I’m keeping things moving, but at a pace that feels human.

Everyone’s A Match

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I finally got the cajones to post a profile, photos and all. Despite all the reading and talking I’ve done about it, a feeling of reticence still remains.  But, I am following the advice of a professional “love coach” to see if this more informed approach makes a difference.  Here’s what I did this time:

First, I spent a chunk of time writing my profile, even sections that I would normally skip, like “The most private thing I’m willing to admit” or “On Friday nights I…”.  The virtual spaces were filled with stories that showcased several essential qualities of my being.  I tried to be light and yet not shallow, witty but not crass, to show that I cared about this but not too much.  Again, the ongoing challenge of balance.  Having copious amounts of tea and no people around were definitely helpful in getting this done.  Plus, I was at my mom’s home during the holidays, feeling rather sheepish as I half-heartedly explained why my last relationship ended.  Being surrounded by families and couples was a great reminder of why I’m doing this in the first place.

Not having many photos of myself, I picked a few current ones and posted them.   A friend of mine says she uses pictures that are good, but not necessarily the best, of her.  That way, when she actually meets someone in person, he will be pleasantly surprised.  I tried that.  More time and discretion could have been applied here but I’m thinking about this whole thing as a work in progress. I’ll gather some pictures of myself over the coming months and post them.  That way, instead of this being a static, unmoving declaration of who I am and what I want, it will evolve as I do.

Right away, the emails/winks start rolling in.  With a sense of excitement, I clicked on the first guy who wrote.  As I peruse his photos I come across one that showcases his muscles bulging through the sleeves of a too small shirt, arms proudly toting a giant gun of some sort.   Yeah!  That’s what I’m talking about.  This might be somebody’s cup of tea but definitely not mine.  Move on buddy.  Besides him and a handful of other others that are definite no-no’s, I’m pretty impressed with the seeming quality of the men who wrote or have visited my profile.

This is where most everyone I’m interested in seems great! Everyone’s a perfect match! Pictures look good.  Smiles are bright and welcoming.   Profiles read like made-to-order men.  Who knew there were so many fiscally solvent, active men who whipped up healthy four star meals while attentively listening as a lover relays her daily happenings.  If you’ve online dated, you know this is where the challenge lies; how to most efficiently tease out the fact and fiction of a profile.

Let the work begin.

Calm Waters

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Is there a window of time in which we learn the swearwords that we are forever to reference?  Having just made it out of some serious stop-and-go traffic, it became apparent that the expletives I use today are the very same ones that came out of my mouth, oh, about twenty years ago.  Now, I’ve heard more current foul language, so it’s not a lack of exposure.  And, if asked to list all the swearwords I know, I’m sure I could impress most.   It’s just not something in my life that has evolved like my taste in food, music or men.

But, I digress from the intention of this blog, which is to share my unsuccessful dating life.  Ok, it’s true, it’s all how you look at it.   Let’s try that again….It’s not that I have been unsuccessful, but rather that I’ve just had many, many opportunities to learn; to learn what and who doesn’t work with me.  Truth be told, sometimes I’m just tired of “having the chance” to learn through something not working out.

As I see it, there are two sides to meeting and dating someone.  Bare with me as this is very simplified.  There’s the external side, which is about how you look and present yourself, the places you go, the activities you do,  and all the ways that you put yourself out there to try to meet someone.  Then, there’s the internal side, which is your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about dating.  Together, when working well, they help you to arrive at the side of a loving, compatible partner.  But, if one part is malfunctioning, you get shuttled to the side of a person that leaves you scratching your head and wondering how it is you missed your stop.

Let’s expand a bit more on the internal aspects.  If you are a consumer of relationship literature, as I am, you can’t get around the emphasis on being good with yourself first and foremost.   It makes me think about a saying that I keep coming across:  water meets its own level.  In relationship terms, this means that you will find someone who is only as healthy as you are.   Think about your recent and/or past partners.   Does this ring true to you?

Reflecting on my past relationships, there is definitely a disconnect with how I thought they were at first, and how I thought of them at the end.  People present the best of themselves at the start.  No one advertises that their self-proclaimed love for hiking is really a fond memory from their boy scout days.  Or that their idea of being active is all the movement they do from the couch to the kitchen.  It takes time to discern this stuff.  I wonder if it makes a difference on who you attract from the get go.  Maybe that’s why I was so put off by the last guy I went out with.  If that’s any indication of my current water level, I’m doing ok.

 

A Virtual No

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In the last post I declared my intention to summarize the various approaches I’ve taken to meet someone, beginning with online dating.  As I wrote previously, I do not currently have a profile on any website.  That hasn’t stopped me from looking though.  Recently, after spotting a few men I thought I might connect with, I sort of tried it out.

Not feeling up to the whole process involved with getting a profile ready – the writing of it, the choosing of photos, the rewriting, the vigilant checking of my email to see who, if anyone has contacted me, I found I was able to login by just choosing a username.  No written profile, no photos, nada.  I could peruse and contact anyone with minimal effort on my part.   

I then wrote two men who had interesting profiles and seemed cute.  Now, remember that I’m just a username writing them so the only thing they are going on is a message from some random woman.  One of the guys wrote me back and while he lauded me for contacting him first, he was completely uninterested in communicating with me.  There were too many women who did take the time to write a profile and had pictures that he could contact.   I was a virtual no.

The other guy, however, wrote me back and was totally open to being in touch with me.  He requested a photo and I happily obliged.  Right away the texts and emails flowed.   When we decided to meet up several days later, I told him how for me, first meetings are just first meetings.  I don’t put a lot of weight into them and don’t consider them an actual date.   The only thing I can know is if I’m interested enough to see the person again.  He responded that he feels the exact opposite and puts a lot of significance into them.  

Upon meeting, three things were immediately evident:  he was not 5’10” (more like 5’5”), he was at least 30 pounds heavier than his pictures, and boy, was he enthusiastic.  The one picture that had piqued my interest the most was the one he looked like the least.   Still, I’m trying to be open.  That’s my mantra right now:  Be open.  Maybe love will come to me in a short, squat, exuberant package! 

The conversation was fun and lively.  This guy held nothing back and was clearly interested in me.  Every other sentence he uttered was a compliment and not having heard such sweet words from a man in sometime, my common sense was temporarily disabled.      It turns out he had been married twice, had a kid from his first marriage, and two from his second.  Yes, these are clearly red flags.  But at the same time, I appreciated his honesty and my inflated ego shucked this unsavory information aside.  Then, when he discovered that we both loved travelling (who doesn’t?) he took my hand and said we should go to Nicaragua next year if we are still dating.

Dating?  Who said we were dating?? Concerns duly noted, I did agree to go on another date at the end of the night.  I will usually go out on two dates with someone unless it’s absolutely awful and his company wasn’t – yet.   Plus, his enthusiasm about our meeting was enough to sway me into thinking another date was in order. 

The second date made it clear that I was in no way interested in him.  He was a virtual no. The exuberance gave way to obnoxiousness.  Any boundaries I set up he bulldozed right over.  He however, thought we had an amazing connection.  Isn’t that funny how that works?  I think about that a lot.  How I can feel like there’s really something between a guy and me and he’s just not that interested.  So, I wrote him a nice email, lying about how great I thought he was but just not for me. 

Please tell me it will be better when I actually take the time to write a profile and put up pictures.  Maybe I should’ve forsaken my usual two-date rule and nipped that one in the bud.   Clearly this requires more savviness on my part. 

 

 

Online Dating – Yea or Nay?

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If you are seeking a long-term relationship,  advice abounds as to what you can do to bring love into your life.  And if you haven’t managed to do that, there are an equal number of potential reasons why you haven’t.  But what if you’ve tried pretty much everything and you’re still a party of one?  I can imagine a line of  love experts parading around me; one encourages me to “try harder” as another implores me to “not try SO hard”.  One explains that I just really need to believe it will happen on a deeper level, and another suggests that some unbeknownst fears are standing in my way.  

I’m going to explore some of the methods I’ve tried in the next few posts.  Maybe I’ll catch some faulty thinking on my part and get inspired.  Maybe it’ll just be me telling my story.  Let’s begin with my least favorite proactive way to meet someone:  online dating.

Although I am not currently on any dating website, I have tried Match.Com and OKCupid in the past. I never really educated myself as to how to be successful in my quest to meet someone through technological means.  I wrote my profile, put up pictures and went on dates.  However, as I bat around the idea of online dating again, I feel it would be prudent of me to approach it differently.  So, I turned to Evan Marc Katz’s website for guidance.  I am a fan of his work and find his dating advice very practical and relatable.  And if I’m going to do it again, I want to be armed with as much knowledge as possible to increase my chances of success. 

Now, if you are familiar with his work, you know that he is a big proponent of online dating. If you are hesitant or turn your nose down at this particular method, Evan tells you to get over it.  After all, in recent years, about 18% of marriages came to pass by way of people meeting on a dating website. Once your college days fall by the wayside and your age climbs into the 30’s and 40’s, your daily routine probably doesn’t afford you many chances to meet people of your desired persuasion.   At least mine doesn’t.  So online dating is about creating opportunities.

Evan has a host of guidelines to help people in this pursuit.  Some of it is common sense, like choosing a snappy username to set yourself apart from the general masses or to “show” not tell when writing about yourself. I find his reasons compelling and worth considering.   If you really want to nail it, to do it right, he offers an audio series, titled “Finding the One Online”.  Here’s a direct link to this product if you’d like to check it out: http://www.evanmarckatz.com/products/finding-the-one-online.php.  With my love life at a standstill I was moments away from buying it last night.  

What stopped me?  The cost (somewhat) but if I’m honest, it’s partly because I keep hoping that love will “just happen” for me and I can move on to the next chapter. Some part of me doesn’t want love to come to me through a computer screen, like it’s more fabricated or something.   I feel so exposed and like everyone knows I’m looking for love, even the checkout person at the supermarket!  Most of the people I know have met their significant others through work, socially, etc, so I don’t have a bunch of friends who can relate to this particular endeavor.  But here’s the thing, it’s not happening for me anyway.    So, it doesn’t make any sense not to try it.  Right? 

What are your experiences with online dating?  Do you think it works best for anyone, or for people of a particular age, race, etc?   

Never married or divorced – is one preferable over the other?

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In the world of on-line dating, one of the most basic ways you identify yourself is by your relationship status.  It makes sense.  After all, you are supposedly looking for at least a date, if not more. As I launch back into the dating world (hesitantly, I admit), this topic invariably arises.  The relationship history of the potential mate is ever fascinating.  Why are you single, we wonder; sometimes asking outright and other times taking a circuitous route to find out.    

Last week, I met up with a man I had been communicating with on-line.  Personally, I don’t consider these first meetings dates.  To me, it’s really just a way to get off the screen and to see/feel if there’s any kind of live connection.  The conversation quickly turned to the fact that neither of us had been married and were in our 40’s.  Like me, he lamented a bias he felt that came with this status.  I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve heard people say that they’d prefer to be with someone who had been previously married because it showed them that the person wasn’t afraid of commitment.  Ok, I get that.  But what about the fact that the commitment wasn’t honored?  Isn’t it equally fair to say that the person is likely to break a promise?  How is that preferable? 

I want to be married.  I just haven’t met a person that I felt like I could share this journey with and be successful at it.  I’ve had several serious relationships and I’m positive that if I had gotten married, I would be divorced at this point.  I’d like to think I dodged a bullet and used good judgment as opposed to being considered adverse to commitment.

Wherever you’re at on your journey it’s certainly worthwhile to reflect on the choices you’ve made that have both helped and hindered you.   As for me, I’m just working on cultivating a space where love can bloom amid the wilds of my heart.  

 What are your thoughts? 

Do you do love well?

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A few weeks ago I went to a small party and found myself sharing a piano bench, haphazardly being accompanied by a man who clearly had too much to drink.   In no time at all, I knew all the miserable details of his life – how he was unhappily married but had 3 young kids at home and so he felt obligated to stay, etc.  He gushed about the woman who was throwing the party and told of her hesitancy to get involved with him.  Go home and take care of your shit! – is what I wanted to yell at him.  Instead, I listened to him babble for a while.  With no encouragement, the story unfolded….

The beginning of their relationship, the “honeymoon” phase, was awful.  I know.  It doesn’t even start well.  Drawn together by awesome physical chemistry they began dating until he found out she was cheating on him.     Was that enough to detour him?  Nope.  She was “cool”.  She was part of this world that excited him.  And, there was the chemistry.  Surely that must mean something.

Fast forward six or so years to now.  In place of the intense physical attraction is a big ol’ pile of resentment and sour feelings.  Sounds good, huh?   This guy went on and on and while  most of it isn’t worth mentioning, he did have a few poignant thoughts.  I finally cut the booze inspired revelation short but honestly, it was hard.  Not because I was especially interested but because there was a human being before me pouring out his heart.  Eh, who am I kidding?  He probably doesn’t even remember talking to me much less what he said.  Anyhow, I divert….

The poignant part was when he acknowledged that for his whole life, his love relationships have been a mess.  Not for lack of trying or lack of want.  He just didn’t know how to do love well.  There had been noone in his life, most notably his parents, to help guide him.  His parents, for reasons I am unsure of, weren’t very involved in his life  and so he had the task of raising himself.  I really related to this.  In fact, it was this admission that shook me out of my slumber.  I mean, you can only listen to a drunk guy reminisce about his bad decisions for so long.

My parents, who were married for 22 years, were just following the convention of the time – meet someone you like, fall in love, get married, have kids.  Self-reflection and working on actually having a skill set to raise kids and be in a thriving marriage weren’t a priority.  Things weren’t awful.  But if you ask my sister, my brother or I (none of whom are currently married), we all echo the same feeling – that we had to essentially raise ourselves.  My dad was in and out of various careers and my mom generally felt overwhelmed – all the time.  We had the basic necessities taken care of; a home, food on the table, clothing, and their version of love.  But it wasn’t a thriving, sharing, we’re-in-this-together environment.  “We Are Family” was not our theme song.  It was a figure-it-out-on-your-own environment.

Now that I think about it, my parents asked me very little about my love life growing up.  Having a boyfriend much less getting married were not topics of discussion.   You know how some girls have been thinking about getting married since they were little?  Well, I just started thinking about marriage as being a viable option for myself in my mid 30’s.  Even as a woman in my early 40’s , my parents still don’t ask me about getting married (which I’d like) or if I ever wanted to have kids (which I did).

So, why can’t I do love well?  I strive to be competent in love and like to think I’ve overcome many of my limitations (thank you therapy!).  But what if I haven’t?  Am I still single because I’ve spent too much time with the wrong people, because I simply haven’t met the right person, or because my best attempts at raising myself aren’t quite good enough for love?