Sunday, October 18, 2015

It's Different for Me Now

Driving to work this morning, I heard Dr. David Buss on KGSR talking about dating in the modern age. The gist was that modern technology and communications do not make it easier to find a long-term mate.

I'll be completely, officially divorced soon, probably some time in November, so I've been thinking about dating and mating and finding a match that works in the long term. I thought I'd found The One two decades ago. I was sure of it. But The One is now as foreign to me in heart and mind, as inscrutable, as an alien. I'm sure I am to her, as well. We simply do not speak the same language. It's not her fault, and it's not mine, or if there is fault, it belongs to each of us. But I think fault is meaningless in the end of our marriage. There was no infidelity. There was no abuse. There was the long, slow accumulation of resentment and the inevitable separation of what was once, truly if briefly, a close union of souls. Some of that foreignness comes from the pain of The Breakup itself, the cruelty we inflicted on each other while finally, irrevocably snapping that bond between us. But I also think most of our marriage was the desperate attempt to return to what existed for a few years and was lost through the vagaries of time and circumstance, mostly because we were at our cores incompatible in our personalities and desires. We were friends for a long time, even good friends, close friends. But we stopped being mates, I think, probably some time in the 20th century. We fell in love quickly at the age of 20 with the people we had the potential to become, and we fell out of love slowly over the next 20 years with the people we actually became.

Anyway, that's my paragraph-long post mortem on almost 23 years of daily interaction.

All of which begs the question, whether you call what came before a failure or an indispensable life experience, how does one go about making a new match that lasts and uplifts and continues to uplift over the course of years?

I don't think it's on Tinder. Or Match. Or eHarmony. Or OKCupid. Maybe. I don't know. Dr. Buss pointed out that each of these, and especially all of them in combination, give the illusion of infinite choice, infinite possibility, which leads to a paralysis of choice. It's a world where the next possibility is always better than the current reality.

A friend told me I'd have to go through my "divorce crazies," to go crazy and date lots and lots of people over the next couple of years. To step out of my comfort zone and go wild would be the only way to find out who I am in relation to other people, to find out what I liked and what I wanted. While I can see its value, that idea kind of gives me the heebie jeebies. I said in June or July, shortly after I moved out of my marital home and established for the first time in my life a space that was my own: I don't want to date. I wanted to live on my own, making my own choices for my own sake. I wanted to spend at least a year or two discovering who it is I am alone before I try again to discover who it is I am in cooperation with another person. And it was true when I said it. And it's still kind of true now. But I can see that a time will come, and maybe sooner than I thought when I was just beginning to believe that the end was in sight, the end of something that had become destructive, that I will want to find someone. Someone to spend time with. To talk to. To cuddle with. To help and to be helped by. To uplift and to be uplifted by. And yes, to bone. Bonin' is fun, after all. And making love is an expression of, an extension of, and a reinforcement of emotional intimacy. But more than sex: I will want someone to show my intricacies and to discover her intricacies, with all of the joy and fear and frustration and giddiness and fever and love that comes with that openness and discovery.

Who do I want? The more important question is who do I want to be? I think it's answering the second question that will lead to the answer of the first.

What I will not do is hold on to the past. I have friends who model for me exactly the behavior I refuse to engage in. I will not dwell daily on what I had and lost. I will not dwell daily on what she did that brought about the end, or what she did in ending it. I will not remain mired in the muck of what went before. I can't see anything of value in fighting any longer to keep or regain what is gone. I can't see anything of value in hating her or pitying myself. If you are one of my friends who thinks now that I'm talking to you, then hear this: let it go. It's over. You are only hurting yourself and your kids. Find a therapist. I have a recommendation for you if you want it. She was instrumental for me in seeing things differently. But you have to stop it. There's no point. There's nothing to be gained, only everything to be lost.

That's what I won't do. What will I do instead? I will be honest. Trying to be someone I wasn't didn't work. Pretending to want what I didn't want or to be happy when I wasn't didn't work. That staple of couples counseling and Alcoholics Anonymous, "fake it 'til you make it" only goes so far. Eventually the faking is as destructive to the self as the not faking was to the relationship. So I will tell the truth, even when it's difficult or awkward. I am who I am, and I'm a lot more comfortable with that at 43 than I was at 20.

I will be kind. Bullying someone to make them become someone else is a stupid strategy. It didn't work for her, and it didn't work for me. If I'm dating someone who turns out to have very different priorities than I do, it'll be OK to end things and move on. Better now than later. The ending can be as much of a kindness as anything else.

I thought it would be a long list, but I think that's it. I will be honest and kind. I think everything else is a subcategory of one or the other. Is it possible that the next great love of my life will appear, will draw me to her and be drawn to me, by living my life and endeavoring always to be honest and kind?

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