Thursday, March 31, 2016


I haven't labeled what I'm doing much. I haven't put it in my OK Cupid profile. Sometimes I think I should, though I'm going on the assumption that the act of online dating implies non-exclusivity in and of itself. I suppose it's best described as "in an open relationship."

It gets raised eyebrows sometimes when people ask me about it, and sometimes furrowed brows. I've been on the receiving end of high fives and fist bumps. Some of the conversations I've had are goofy, and some are thoughtful. A couple of people have mentioned the old adage of "If you love someone, set them free..." etc. One person told me, "It's like that old saying, only you're really doing it. Everybody says it, but nobody really does it. You're actually doing it. That's cool."

And it is cool. But I wanted to verbalize what it is I think I'm doing, and why.

For me, this is about two things most of all: fear and genuine human connection.


I have been afraid, and I have been dishonest because I was afraid. Fear has done more damage to my interpersonal relationships in the past than anything else. And the greatest fear of all? Fear of rejection. I have not been honest about who I am and what I want because I have tried to be and want what I thought other people wanted or expected. It didn't work. I was insecure because I couldn't know what they wanted, so I couldn't know who to be.

An open relationship brings that fear of rejection to the front and center of everything. I am reaching out and asking women to meet and interact with me to see where, if anywhere, it goes. Friendship? Romance? Rejection? It was a terrifying idea to me, reaching out. But now, already, only three weeks in, that particular fear is nearly gone, at least in the online realm of dating apps. I still haven't made that leap in person, but I have no fear of messaging women anymore. I have almost no fear or nervousness in meeting them for the first time. I've been rejected twice after first dates now, and even that wasn't the horrifying, embarrassing, or even mildly awkward experience I was afraid it would be. Both times, it was a "Fair enough. Best of luck to you!" sort of experience, and one of them even told me, "You are a gentleman, and you deserve to be happy!" How terrifying is that?

What I'm learning is that the world is full of an infinite variety of human beings. Some of these may be a good match for me in personality, temperament, humor, and taste. Many will not. If we are not a good match, then what's the harm? None, unless we arbitrarily determine that staying together is more important than being a good match, and then, damage is done to both of us. That's a silly path to take. So peace be with you! Go with God! Fare thee well!

Jealousy, too, is only fear of rejection. If the woman I love chooses to date other people, what shall I choose? To be afraid that she will find someone she likes better than she likes me? No. I can choose to set aside that fear response and look at it from a distance. She loves me. I love her. If we go on our separate adventures, just like anything else we may do separately, we can come back to each other and talk about it. We can each find in other people human characteristics that we do not find in each other, and that is part of the joy. Each person we meet, interact with, and connect with meaningfully will resonate within ourselves a different set of tones, and by discovering the differences in how we connect and relate with others, we discover truths about ourselves we would not otherwise have had the opportunity to bring into the light and examine. We have new pathways through others toward change and growth in ourselves.


That's the real treasure of this weird scavenger hunt I'm on: human connection. For me so far it's mostly been first dates, which is only the first step in developing connection, a first step with its own challenges, but it's a necessary first step. I've told and listened to tales meant to reveal something of who we are. How we tell and hear these tales is the beginning of a kind of connection that we as humans seem incapable of having with the hundreds and thousands of nameless strangers that surround us. It is the first step in humanizing The Other, in turning a Them into an Us, and it's a joy. And with second and third dates, it's an even greater joy to begin to see how that connection can, with openness, honesty, and a rejection of fear instead of a fear of rejection, begin to blossom and spread into something even more meaningful.

And the connection with the woman who started all of this for me has deepened, too. Maybe that's a surprise. Maybe not. When we come back together, missing each other and craving each other's company, we talk. And some of what we talk about is what we are learning about ourselves and each other through this process of opening up, reaching out, and connecting. That, in turn, brings a new and higher level of connection between us. And missing each other, by the way, is a wonderful thing. Being apart long enough to yearn for each other's company is far preferable to seeing each other so much that the connection becomes stale and taken for granted.


The added bonus to all of this is that I'm finding that I really am losing interest in maintaining the relationships I have that don't fit, that provide no real connection, that make me feel bad about myself. And that's a relief. If you don't like me, that's fine. You don't have to. But I don't have to listen to you tell me all about why you don't. That that is a revelation to me says a lot about who I was and who I'm working to become.

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