Monthly Archives: February 2011

keeping my imaginary relationship in check

Yesterday I wrote that I tend to compare new men I meet against an “ideal” I already know, therefore allowing these potential “new” men little opportunity to make an impression in their own right. My behavior of making these comparisons can have the negative side effects of my feeling reluctant to meet new people, not being truly open or available to the potential in others and strengthening my attachment to an absurd imaginary relationship. And it’s entirely possible that I sounded just a little obsessed.

But I think having a high water mark against whom to compare new guys has a positive side:  I have often tended to be a push-over in personal relationships, saying yes to everything and wasting time with people and on activities that don’t add anything meaningful to my life. In particular, let’s consider the online dating experience — there are so many men out there, so many who seem so earnest and eager — and who knows? As my wise friend Adonis (ha!) once said, “How are you to know who will love you best?” Well, guess what? When I’m feeling strong and centered and think of my high water mark, it’s pretty easy to see that I’d be wasting my time with those guys who can’t complete a sentence. The idea of a high water mark then serves the positive purpose of keeping me focused and aiming high. And I normally hold this “ideal” in a healthy, detached way in my mind. It’s potential energy, nothing more. Okay, maybe a little bit more.

But as I wrote yesterday’s post, I was feeling a bit unbalanced, insecure and under the influence of estrogen. (I really believe PMS should be considered a perfectly valid reason for absolutely anything for which a woman wishes to invoke it.) Besides hormones, there was another contributing factor for my being a little wrapped up in my imagined relationship:  While I was meditating, emptying my mind and opening myself to possibility, a vision of this particular fellow popped in to my head. I am occasionally visited by visions — some prophetic — that seem to come out of the ether. They are not created by my conscious mind, nor do they appear at my own will. These “visions” are very realistic, detailed and persistent. Perhaps “vision” is not even the right word, because I can see as a witness — as though I’m out of my body — what’s happening; meanwhile I’m feeling, smelling, tasting, hearing — experiencing through all of my senses. It’s rather bizarre, actually, and the realistic nature of these little interludes is what makes them so darned difficult to shake!

For example, from the time I began dating my (now ex) husband, I regularly saw visions of a child between us. It’s true that I wanted a child and was in love with him, but the very clear picture of me, him and our girl baby came out of nowhere. I could art direct a photo shoot that would exactly replicate my vision to this day. It was that clear, and the memory of it remains that clear. And this vision became a reality.

So when a vision of my high water mark man in the shower with me interrupted my meditation yesterday, it seemed incredibly real and true — not to mention pretty damn hot! But I was meditating and tried to bring my focus back to my breathing, yet the next thing I knew…I could feel every sensation of his hands on my soapy skin; I smelled the soap and the faint scent of chlorine vaporizing from the steamy water; I felt the water wash over us, his hot breath on my ear and the way each part of me warmed to his touch; I heard the water streaming and his voice in my ear…You get the idea, and I don’t want to turn this blog into soft porn. One might be able to gather how difficult it was to put this experience out of my mind and maintain my sense of perspective!

Even though some (thank heavens not all) of my past visions have manifested in my life, I try not to give them too much power or thought. That which is right will come into my life — I prefer to believe with detachment.

And you’ll be happy to know that today I’m back in balance, having put my high water mark in proper, useful perspective.


my own worst enemy

I have a date planned today with someone I met online. I have vowed to keep an open mind, enjoy meeting new people, focus on how I feel when I’m with a man and, ultimately, make better relationship choices. I actually met this fellow for coffee a couple of weeks ago (working around our respective parenting schedules) and we enjoyed each other enough to agree to meet again.

As I go into this date, I am trying to be open to the possibility that I might allow myself to truly enjoy getting to know someone new — no artificial barriers, no comparisons to other men. I have vowed to enjoy dating. Yet I feel the old patterns trying to work their way back. Let me elaborate:

As a Libra, I’m born to partner. I enjoy the sharing and closeness of being in a relationship. I fall quickly and easily, and I feel natural and at ease in the throes of infatuation with a mate. I love falling in love — so much so that one might say I’m in love with being in love. This astrological affectation can also cause a girl to lose herself in the role of girlfriend / wife / lover.

Thus, I’ve been on a relationship treadmill pretty much since high school, from boyfriend to boyfriend, rarely spending enough time enjoying myself to know what I really want or how to express myself authentically in a relationship. The most alone time I’ve ever had was in my marriage — that’s when I figured out who I am, grew strong and realized that the kind of relationship I desire was vastly different from what I had.

When I wasn’t in a relationship, I was crushing hard on someone. Usually someone unavailable…look at Max, for example. Max, married and miles away, was part mad crush, part obsession and probably the perfect fantasy for someone half in and half out of a marriage. He affirmed my strength and renewed my hope that I could find love again. And, not so long after I let the idea of him go, I found someone else — another unavailable man, another long-distance object of my affection — to fill the gap.

I mentioned my current “high water mark” earlier. Most days, I find myself bemused by our flirtatious friendship; it just feels good to have a crush! Other days, I find myself a bit too married to the idea of exploring the energy between us and closed to the possibility that my ultimate life mate might be someone else. Part of me wants to cling to the thought that maybe someday, we might share something truly special. Because it feels somehow safe to think that way. Yet I’ve begun to see how I’m using this hope, this fantasy, as a defensive tactic to prevent me from getting close to anyone new, anyone real, anyone who’s actually here and available and wants to get to know me. He has become an emotional surrogate, an imaginary boyfriend, to whom I unconsciously pledged my faithfulness to prevent myself from letting anyone else in. For the second time in my life, I’m seeing a part of myself that would rather hold out for a fantasy than allow me to risk finding something real, and this realization scares the shit out of me!

I keep telling myself that my high water mark embodies all those qualities I want to find in a partner, but I don’t actually know him that well. This is to say that, while he may indeed have every single characteristic on my list, I haven’t been around him enough to witness or experience those things. And I also tell myself that I’m open to the universe bringing me all those wonderful qualities and more in a partner. But is being open to [insert guy’s name here]+more the same as being open to true possibility? I think not. I’m not truly detached to the outcome. So I’m likely to compare every new man I meet or date to this other guy, rather than measuring him on his own merits and what I experience with him.

Heartbreak creates the illusion that there are two paths to choose from:  on one hand, there’s the fear of being alone; on the other, the fear of setting one’s heart free to love again, to be vulnerable, to let someone in. But I see now that this is a false choice.

My path forward will be to revel in the happiness that can only come from loving myself. And I will cultivate courage, learn to lower my defenses and allow someone entirely new to see me authentically. For perhaps the first time in my life, I’m going to open myself to genuine possibility.


analysis of the unexpected call

Yesterday I wrote about one of the most bizarre and uncomfortable conversations I can recall having. Today I will reflect a bit more deeply on this discussion and the relationship minefields it brought up.

A day later, I’m still flabbergasted that this friend, the thought of whom has not crossed my mind since I addressed holiday cards, believes me to be harboring some sort of feelings for him. What might have given him that impression?

I am a firm believer in taking responsibility and in karma and, for all those fools who wonder why there’s so much drama in their lives, I say it’s because they attract it. But I have shed need for drama in my life…so what part do I have in all this? And what do we owe others in relationships — platonic, romantic or committed?

  1. First let’s look at my own questionable behavior. I was not entirely respectful toward Genna, Adonis’s live-in girlfriend, when I last saw her several months ago. That is to say I did not treat her as the woman of the house. My friendship with Adonis goes back many years to when he lived in the same home with his wife, and I simply defer to him as the homeowner and host when I visit. Still, being a woman, I suppose the most appropriate course of action would be for me to communicate primarily with Genna and treat her as the hostess. Are such rigid social roles necessary in 2011? Oh, all right, I suppose rigidity is neither here nor there, when one has behaved like an insolent brat.
  2. In my defense, while keeping up a friendship with me, Adonis has not been forthcoming with updates, such as “I’ve been seeing Genna for a few months now” and “Genna and I are living together” or even casually bringing her up in conversation. And these are the sorts of things most of us tell our friends. In fact, I might go so far as to suggest that it was disrespectful of Adonis to fail to bring up the critical fact that “this is now Genna’s home, too.” Add to this that Adonis has made it clear he does not intend to get married (this is fine with Genna). Are the ways in which he behaves towards her providing me cues about how to behave toward her, as well? I can say with certainty that I want my mate to let others know when we reach relationship milestones, such as moving in together.
  3. What would compel a man with whom I haven’t spoken for a few months (and with whom previous conversations were related to cars) to believe that I was holding out hope of a relationship with him? I wrote recently about having a “high water mark” among my single friends — and Adonis, while a beautiful specimen — is not him. Even if we’ve flirted in the past, isn’t this a classic case of Narcissism? And if I have a tendency to attract Narcissistic men, does that mean I am also a Narcissist? Or is my awareness a critical first step along the path to healing?
  4. I’ve been so busy trying to figure out how this misunderstanding happened that I forgot to bring up probably the #1 Cardinal Rule for Men and my biggest relationship pet peeve:  Do not ever tell a woman how she feels. Ever. Or assume you know how a woman feels. (My ex was the master of this misbehavior:  he assumed and he never bothered to take the time to verify. p.s. He also didn’t bother to address his own feelings. He just projected onto me.) A woman is much better equipped to know her own feelings, even if so many of us have been socialized to suppress them. Or even if she doesn’t know them, it would be better to begin with, “You seem upset…” Adonis could have handled all this weirdness in a much gentler, less offensive way. He might have asked, “Are you sure you’re not mad? Because I was sensing some… and I observed… and last time I saw you, you said… and so I thought…” Telling me how I feel is never going to get a positive response.
  5. I’ve been told that I have a very “sultry” energy about me, something alluring or intriguing without being full-on sexual, a certain je ne sais quoi. (Mostly I’ve been told this by other women.) Truth be told, I am not often conscious of having such energy, nor do I feel adept at using this to my advantage. Is this cluelessness about my own feminine energy causing confusion among others? Have I been casually and unconsciously flinging signals about in all directions?
  6. Folks in the Midwest are known for indirect communication. Often, things I’ve said quite plainly have been interpreted to mean something wholly different from either what I said or intended. I once remarked to a man that he had beautiful eyes and was immediately told by a bystander that this man was married. Is it really a crime to compliment someone simply because he or she is married? My goodness! I sincerely meant that the bloke had beautiful eyes — nothing more! (And I’d like to think that others would see my compulsion to blurt such things out as innocent and disarming.) By the same token, when I suggest we go out for sushi, I’m merely suggesting that because we both like sushi, we might grab some sometime. It’s not an exclusive sort of invitation, nor is it a suggestion that “maybe you want to step out on your girl in favor of me…”
  7. There are surely some lessons in this experience with which I can and will use to cultivate my own maturity:
    • curb the social drinking, particularly when functioning brain-to-mouth filters are necessary (I have an under-developed filtration system as is)
    • be more conscious of cultural boundaries
    • use provocation cautiously and reserve it for intellectual discourse
    • don’t flirt with men in relationships, particularly in front of their S.O. (you’d think this would be obvious, but some of us are apparently slow learners)
    • communicate with as much clarity as possible

     

Bottom line? I still think my conversation with Adonis was outrageous, and I continue to be befuddled at how it all got so convoluted. Is Adonis projecting his own feelings onto me? It’s pretty clear he has regrets. I admit, accept and take full responsibility for behaving badly toward Genna.

What do you make of it all?


an unexpected call

Yesterday, I received one of the strangest phone calls of my life.

A long-time male friend of mine called, immediately chastised me for not having called him in a long time and told me that he understood why:  “I know you’re mad at me.” I’ll call this Mediterranean friend of mine Adonis — after all, most of my girlfriends do.

Some history:

  • I met Adonis well over a decade ago, before my marriage, while he was separated from his Midwestern wife. (They later reconciled; a few years ago, she committed suicide. He is now living with another woman from a Southern European country, who I’ll call Genna.)
  • Adonis and I went out a few times during his separation, but I soon stopped seeing him because I felt uncomfortable with the situation and his desire to move too quickly in our relationship.
  • I’ve never slept with him.
  • Without telling my ex how Adonis and I met, I had occasion to introduce the two. My husband thought Adonis was cool…so, from then on, our families celebrated children’s birthdays and other occasions together, socializing a few times a year. We were at his wife’s funeral.

After much small talk and some discussion of my ex and child support, he came back to the topic of my being mad at him. Again I insisted that I wasn’t angry with him. And then he said, “I know you like me…and I like you, too, but I’m in a relationship…”

I was flabbergasted! It’s true that I find Adonis attractive and, given our history, I feel comfortable being mildly flirtatious with him. I enjoy his attention. There was a time after his wife’s death when we talked a lot and I wondered if I might be the woman to whom he was most emotionally connected. I appreciate his sense of style, his DIY skills, his entrepreneurial skills…but (and it’s a big but) Adonis has a very black and white way of thinking: He has a temper, he can be argumentative, he is not often willing to consider other perspectives. He is remarkably non-judgmental, yet stubborn and resistant to change. I have often argued with him about parenting and other topics. In other words, I realized long ago we would not make a successful match.

Luckily, Adonis can go on about his point of view at length with no encouragement, so I sat stupefied while he went on:  “…I can’t disrupt my children’s lives and make them live through another loss like that. We may yell and fight, but the children love Genna.”

“Adonis,” I had gathered my wits, “I like you as a friend, and I know full well that we could never have a successful relationship. I’ve heard you complain about Genna and I’ve seen the two or you argue, and I simply think that you deserve someone with a greater capacity for joy in your life.” Not to mention, I thought, that all this arguing in front of the children does not provide a great example or bode well for the children’s future relationships. This and several other thoughts I kept to myself.

He went on:  “Well, the last time you were here, you said that you find me attractive and that you want to go out with me, and when you say things like that in front of her…” he trailed off.

Okay, wow! I admit that I can be bawdy, inappropriate and say or do provocative things (always with humorous, not harmful, intent). It was true that the last time I’d taken the children there for a play date, I had indulged in some wine. It’s true that I was generally of a mind to have my physical desires met around the time of my visit (though not by Adonis). It’s true that the conversation between me and Genna became uncomfortable later in the day (which I mostly attributed to our cultural differences). But I cannot recall nor possibly imagine how on Earth I would have said such things! I racked my brain.

There was a time that day when Genna was saying some mean / disrespectful things about Adonis. I may have jumped to my friend’s defense with a playful, “I’d date him” or something, meant in an entirely harmless fashion (even if it is inappropriate), save perhaps to remind her that she’d made a pretty good catch. Also, later in the evening, I suggested we go out for sushi sometime. Perhaps this was the “wanting to go out with him” part of this confusion.

Finally, I owned my bit of all this, “You know it’s true that I haven’t given Genna the level of respect she deserves as the woman of your house and, for that, I’m sorry.”

As if all of this were not random nor awkward enough, Adonis next suggested that, even if we were to go out and do things together, it would get complicated and mess up our friendship.

Okay, I had mentioned sushi, but that was clearly not what he was talking about.

I cut him short, “I would never do that.” And shortly thereafter I ended the call, thinking “Seriously, did this conversation really just happen?”


going online

I recently went to a dating site, uploaded a few photos, answered a boatload of questions and filled out a profile. I confess:  I’m on one of the free sites. I’m a bit ambivalent about the whole thing right now, so I’m just not ready to “invest” yet in one of those more “quality” sites. (I don’t even know if my assumptions are true.)

I wonder if men are the same way. In other words:  Are the men who are really ready to commit on sites on which one pays for service?

I may revisit that question later. But in the meantime, here’s what I’ve discovered upon a quick glance:

A picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words! Or, for many of these guys, their photo might be summed up with one:  ewww!

  • Midwestern men apparently don’t think it matters what they look like. For all the effort some of these guys have put into telling us how fabulous they are in their profiles, a great many haven’t bothered to find a decent digital photograph to upload. Note to online daters:  Have a friend take a flattering shot with good lighting!
  • A high percentage of men have posted hunting or fishing bounty, as if to say, “Look! Here’s me holding a dead duck (or fish); me bring-um home dinner!” Do they really think an urban woman wants to be wooed this way?
  • And look at all the guys holding cats! I like cats, but there’s something inside me that just finds this not particularly manly. If I saw a great photo of an average- to good-looking guy and then later discovered he had a cat, I’m sure I would think it awfully sweet. Just don’t lead with the cat!
  • Groin shots. ‘Nuff said.
  • There are an awful lot of bald men with too much (i.e. not well-groomed, sculpted or manscaped) facial hair. Don’t try to over-compensate for a balding pate with a scraggly, unkempt goatee. Some girlfriends and I used to refer to ALL goatees as “woman repellent.” Few men can get away with something other than a well-shaped and trimmed beard on their face. God bless grooming products!

And then there are the sketchy profile details:

  • First, how do I get told I’m a 93% match with someone WHO IS MARRIED? Did I not clearly state I’m looking for SINGLE men? Can’t these fools be screened out immediately — as in criteria numero uno?! I’m looking for my future husband, not a threesome!
  • It’s positively shocking to me how many men are willing to wear their lack of ambition, direction in life or earning power as a badge of honor. You wouldn’t believe the number of artsy types whose profiles suggest they’re still trying to find their way in life at 40-ish. I consider myself creative and a writer, too, but I’m going to list my actual, income-generating profession first. Why? Not because I define myself by my career, but because it might matter to someone stable to know that I am responsible and capable of holding a job. (Um…so, does the fact that I recently quit make me a complete hypocrite?)
  • One guy’s profile brilliantly proclaimed that has given up his car in favor of using a bicycle for transportation. That may be very socially responsible and all…but, in this town, how the hell are you going to pick me up for a date, Genius?! I like to bike, too, but not if it limits my dating life to the warmer half of the year.

So please cross your fingers for me. I’m figuring there have to be at least a few gems out there!


    goodbye, Max

    About a year ago…

    On the final night that we stayed with Max and his family, I took the children to a local attraction while Max and his wife prepared their children for bed. For them, it was back to school as normal.

    When we arrived back at the house, Max had already gone to bed, as he had to be to work very early in the morning. I asked his wife to make sure he said good-bye in the morning. It would be the last I’d see of him for who knew how long.

    Sure enough, at some ungodly hour that seemed still the middle of the night to me, I heard stirring in the house as Max woke and began readying for work. I tossed and turned, trying to fall back asleep, telling myself it didn’t really matter whether he said good-bye or not. I thought about getting up and brushing my teeth, but didn’t. After what seemed a very long time, I heard steps coming toward the guest room and a knock at the door.

    I bolted out of bed just as Max whispered, “I’m off to work, but I wanted to come and tell you good-bye.” We embraced tightly, caressing each others backs. Max leaned down and touched his lips to mine. Damn! Why hadn’t I gotten up to brush my teeth?! It was electric. All the passion we’d buried was in that simple, innocent gesture. We kissed again, lips closed and yet not at all chastely.

    The thought that came into my mind is a saying that goes something like this:  A butterfly flaps its wings; far across the sea, a hurricane forms. As if all the energy in this simple act was channelled, reverberating somewhere halfway around the world. (Sure enough, days later, an earthquake occurred off the coast of Chile, causing tsunami fears as far away as Hawaii.)

    And then Max left.

    I tossed and turned some more, trying to sleep. Eventually, I heard Max’s children getting ready for school, and I woke my own offspring to bid them goodbye. We packed our things for a mid-day departure and took Max’s wife and a mutual friend out for breakfast. We said our good-byes, loaded the rental car and made a few last-minute souvenir stops on our way toward the airport.

    As I drove past the intersection at which I would have turned to go to the local office — Max’s office — tears began streaming from my eyes. I wept silently and uncontrollably, dabbing at my eyes and blowing my nose with whatever napkins I could find in the car, trying to contain myself for the sake of my children safely strapped in the back seat. I wept for all that I would never know or share with this man, and for the hope that I would find a partner of my own. I wept all the way to the airport and was, only then, able to pull myself together and brace myself for the our flight back to reality.


    vacation to Max land

    About a year ago…

    And so it was decided:  my children and I would travel to the coast on vacation and stay with family and friends, including Max and his family, while my ex packed up his belongings.

    I was nervous, excited and sooo not ready to be seen in a bathing suit by a hottie!

    We began our vacation staying with friends and family, going to the beach, the pool, on hikes, boating and more. It was wonderful, relaxing and fun! I felt both embraced in love by the people around me and pushed to the limits of adventure.

    As we ventured closer geographically to Max’s home and to the days we would be spending with him and his family, my excitement and nervousness grew. At the same time, I knew that he knew I was near, and both hoped and feared he would reach out to me. He did not.

    The day we were to begin our three-night stay at Max’s home, the children and I had a day trip planned. We arrived just in time for dinner, shared warm hugs all around, introduced our children and enjoyed a nice meal.

    After dinner, Max’s wife and I sat on the patio with a glass of wine and bonded over horror stories about our failed first marriages. Max excused himself to flip through channels.

    Over the next couple of days, we went to the beach, talked work war stories, shared family meals and relaxed. Max’s boss was making his life miserable, and Max was stressed and hangdog about having to go back to the office on Monday. When we talked, it was about exes or work, avoiding anything too intimate or discussion of the closeness that had developed between us via text and email; our relationship was the elephant in the corner.

    I pined to reach out and touch Max each and every time we were physically near each other, but of course I daren’t. I was so watchfully conscious of my own behavior that I felt physically awkward. I would have loved to have had some time alone with Max, but I didn’t know whether I could trust myself.

    As our families spent our last evening together dining on the patio together, I felt a mild disappointment. Max was a decent guy — still gorgeous, who seemed to be conditioned by an older generation’s gender roles, appeared to be very into his cable channels (read boring) and was, ultimately, disappointingly human. Alas, he was not the super human life force I had recalled from our previous face-to-face encounters. And likely nor was I the dynamic woman he’d anticipated seeing.

    It was fair to assume that we were no longer infatuated with one another.