relationship article round-up

I’ve noticed a lot of interesting stuff out there on the inter webs. I don’t have a ton of time for commentary so, for now, I’ll just direct your attention to a few:

Imagine my surprise when I saw this article on trends website PSFK. Evidently anonymous blog The Plankton, which discusses dating from the perspective of a woman as “a plankton on the food chain of sexuality,” has attracted worldwide interest for its unique point of view. As a 40-year-old woman, I can’t say that I consider myself to be at the bottom of the sexual food chain. I have, however, experienced some disinterest that — and this is a gut feeling only — might be attributed to the difficulty in dating a nearly full-time single mother…and that bums me out a little.

This headline on HuffPost Divorce popped out at me the other day:  On Second Thought, Don’t Get Married by Dr. Neil Clark Warren. For those of you who don’t know, the author is the dude who founded Americans believe, in large numbers, that marriage is becoming obsolete. Yet millions of couples still marry, and millions more want to, but are not allowed to in most states. I absolutely see both sides of this issue, as I’ve lived it. And I agree with Clark Warren that we don’t focus enough on learning how to choose a mate, build successful relationships and resolve conflict.

Finally, I’m a big fan of Dan Savage and all the work he’s done to share frank, open discussions about sexuality and sexual ethics (not to mention the amazing It Gets Better project and his political activism). In this NYT Magazine piece, Savage talks about covering off on sexual expectations before commitment — think of it like having the financial pre-nup discussion, but about fidelity. It’s actually kind of ground-breaking thinking and while, as a monogamist, it’s still kind of hard to wrap my head around it, it certainly bears discussing — e.g. If one of us cheats, does that mean the relationship is over? Could we forgive, work it out and move on? What might it mean? etc. Good discussions to have before taking the plunge, right?

confessions of a relationship dummy

As you can tell from several of my posts, I am still far from having male-female relationships figured out. In fact, I seem to still make a lot of dumb mistakes. I’ve confessed before that I’m a late bloomer, that my brain-to-mouth filter is under-functioning at best, and that I’ve never really had any good relationship examples. But then, who among us have? Healthy, loving relationships among our parents’ generation seem pretty rare…in fact, I can think of just a few couples in my parents’ group who have found genuine long-term happiness together.

Thankfully, in talking with friends, I’m not alone in not having all the answers. I have friends nearly two decades into marriage who haven’t figured it out. In fact, I was surprised to learn that one married couple I know are both reading relationship self-help books. (His is entitled How to Save Your Marriage in 5 Minutes a Day or similar…So of course I asked the obvious:  Does that five minutes include the sex? He said that yes, it was supposed to, but he didn’t elaborate. Not sure I’ll be buying that book any time soon.)

Who are these people who find life-long happiness? Who are these lovely older couples who still walk side-by-side on the beach and hold hands and talk after decades of marriage? And how do I get to be among their ranks?

Well…I’m going to have to figure that one out as I go along.

the D word

In the interest of transparency and authenticity, I have another confession:

I’ve been writing about the D word, divorce. In truth, I was never legally married. My ex and I were together for more than a decade; we owned a home together and had two beautiful children; I wore a ring. We were a post-modern couple, unsure that we needed a certificate in a world of domestic partner benefits, hyphenated names and all kinds of modern families.

By the time we’d decided it was time (I’d processed through a slew of misgivings and beliefs about marriage and its meaning, which is one of the reasons Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed resonates with me so), we determined that remodeling the kitchen was more likely to have a positive and profound impact on our daily lives than a marriage certificate. While we could have just gone to the courthouse, I wanted a ceremony; I wanted to get married on the beach with friends and family standing in support of us.

We believed the conventional knowledge that “common law” was seven years. In my mind, we should have married before the seven-year mark for it to really mean something. Yet, by then, I was beginning to see the signs of all this unraveling… (As it happens, there is not common law marriage in this state.)

Still we called each other husband and wife and described ourselves as married in most (though not legal) situations. It was more than shorthand, it was what we felt. I was fully committed. My ex thought he was fully committed, though I would not have described his participation as such. He believed that staying, being there, co-existing was commitment. I believe commitment means partnership, co-creating a life for our family, and a vow to work at regular communication and presence.

And so now I write about divorce as though I’ve actually been divorced, and some may make judgments about that, just as there were judgements about our non-marriage. In fact, I hired a lawyer, there were legal documents and processes relating to joint property and custody and child support, hearings, paperwork and heartache. True, I didn’t have to gut my retirement account, but I suspect everything else — the emotional turmoil and pain, severed or strained friendships, etc. were of the same magnitude. And so I don’t use the term lightly or intend anyone offense by its use… it’s simply the best way for me to name what I’ve been through.

at forty, first dates always suck!

Oh, okay, so I confess that I’ve had fun on a few of these first dates, met some interesting people (even if there wasn’t much magic) and I love meeting people in general, I love even the challenge of keeping the conversation going when it’s waning… but here’s what inevitably happens when you meet that divorced guy from the dating site for the first time:

Naturally, the burning question on everyone’s mind is “what happened?” Thus, I’m obliged to share one version or another of why my relationship deteriorated irreparably and then listen as he does the same. And, to be honest, I’m really fucking sick of talking about it. I don’t mind, I don’t feel as though I have anything to hide…I’m just weary of rehashing it every time I go out with someone new.

But my feelings about the subject cannot possibly compare to the man who sat across a bistro table from me the other day… Perhaps he knew he’d made a mistake after asking me…because, when his turn came, I could see his stomach drop as he took a deep breath and began:  “It was like a scene in a movie…”

Without his having to say another word, I knew instinctively (or intuitively?) that he’d walked in on his wife in bed with some other man. Ouch! My heart goes out to him, it really does… And I probably said something like, “Oh my God!…” or something that maybe even made it all the worse for him while I was expressing shock and then empathy.

I will always remember that moment when I’m asked once again to tell my story…as boring as it is for me to have to recount the mundane demise of my marriage, I will gladly endure a thousand more first date conversations, grateful that there is no single, traumatic image replaying in my mind when I do it…

love: I think I’m on to something here!

I’m coming back into the awareness that I am a vessel…that the universal energy and love are abundant and boundless, and I’m working to get out of the way and let it all flow. This awareness is transforming my energy quickly and powerfully. I feel more fulfilled, joyful, loving and peaceful than I have in a long time…probably in a decade.

Still, I’ve struggled to define my passion and purpose. Suddenly I find it’s much easier when I rephrase the question as such:  How do I express love?

And then the answers flow easily for me:

  • I accept people unconditionally.
  • I write.
  • I facilitate understanding.
  • I share what I’ve learned and what I know.
  • I provide a different perspective.
  • I connect people and things.

So that seems to be the easy part… Now how do I share this love with the world in a way that sustains me and others?

morality, ethics and self-worth

I had a lovely little IM exchange with a gent I know the other day…this is the man who has a crush on me, but is married. Apparently, “the fam” left him alone in town while they took a little summer vacation. Meanwhile, my family is also away. And I think he was trying to feel me out or make a play to see if I might venture into forbidden territory with him…

We chatted (all while accomplishing scads of other tasks, I’m sure, being it was during the work day and all!) about morality, ethics and the very slight nuance of meaning that distinguishes them (please feel free to consult your unabridged dictionary here, as I shall not pursue a deep dive into this portion of the discussion).

Having had some experience with decidedly immoral behaviors in my past, I am not one to judge too harshly others’ behavior or situations. However, I do have a pretty firm view of what I believe to be right and wrong based on my own experience (as much as any moral code). That said, I’m friends with many married guys with whom I share chemistry or attraction, and we still continue to behave as friends — i.e. go out for lunch or drinks, or chat on the phone once in a while, etc. So this fellow and I flirted around with the idea of catching up for a drink…with me thinking this would be a great time to get really clear with him about what I think is in bounds and what is clearly out-of-bounds as it relates to me, the divorcee, and him, the married dude.

Based on the flavor of his text messages, however, it was becoming clear that he was thinking catching up for a drink would be a great time to cross one or more of those lines I’d drawn, or was planning to draw, in the sand. And so I told him we could have a drink if he could behave…to which he respectfully declined, offering me instead (once more) the opportunity for all of the pleasure with none of the commitment.

“That always sounds so good to a man,” I replied. And there are ways in which I can see why they’d think this would also sound good to a woman…particularly given all the research suggesting women get the short end of the stick in marriage. (Egad, I do always talk in clichés!)  Yet I wonder if his wife knows that she’s in an open marriage?

Our conversation concluded with him asking me whether my stance was a moral or ethical decision. My reply? Neither. Even if it’s only about pleasure, even if I’m not at this moment seeking commitment, I still have no desire to engage in any sort of relationship-like arrangement with a fellow I can’t call when I want to, who can’t jet off with me to New York for the weekend or who can’t/won’t introduce me to his friends. It goes right back to the issue of availability. It just doesn’t interest me…no matter how horny I am. That’s why I’ve got Doc Johnson, after all…

My position has nothing to do with morals or ethics…it has to do with what I wrote about a couple of weeks ago:  keeping my eyes on the prize — and about self-worth. I now simply value myself too much to become entangled in something that leaves me emotionally empty and bereft, a situation that puts me at risk for no emotional up side. And it feels good to own it and to value myself enough to stand firm…no matter how tempting the thought might be…because I can get my pleasure without commitment elsewhere, should I decide to.

one big happy modern family

So this is what’s up:

My children left with my ex for the cabin this weekend. No, we don’t have a cabin; my ex’s friend has a cabin. (He lets his buddies go to stay — they just have to clean up before the next guests show…and, apparently, I’m “not allowed,” which is super hysterical because I just don’t have the energy to have such animosity toward anyone.) And both of my (divorced) parents are there…which kind of makes me feel bad for my mother, who will be caring for the children, cooking and cleaning all weekend.

A year ago, I was trying not to be bothered by the same situation…um, hello, boundaries? But now I’m glad things worked out this way; I’m glad that my ex can continue to have a relationship with my parents — and I’m glad that my children will be made healthy meals and be given a little more attention while they’re away.

We’re one big freaky modern family — keeping the fun in dysfunction. And I get a weekend to myself!

“I lost 200 pounds and got a raise!”

A girlfriend of mine is fond of saying this about her divorce. No, she didn’t actually lose weight (her ex weighed 200 pounds) and she didn’t actually get a raise (she just stopped having to support her “handyman” ex).

It strikes me as hilarious that, when she makes this joke to men, they look at her incredulously, as though her fit, petite frame might have ever been so overweight. It always takes them a bit to figure out that it’s a joke…about her divorce / ex.

I guess I could say the same thing, except my ex was probably closer to 170. But it felt more like losing an anchor to me — something that once seemed to be a balance for my airiness — stability. And releasing it was letting go of the negativity and weightiness that seemed to be pulling me down.

Today a girlfriend gave me another tip:  imagine the thread that still connects you, the one you won’t let go…then, visualize getting out your scissors and cut it. Watch the thread, the connection fall away as you release this past relationship.

What language or analogies have you used for a relationship that has ended? What tools or techniques have helped you let go?

the online thing

As I mentioned earlier, I took my profile down from the online dating site I’d been on. Sifting through the matches they sent me and the people who initiated conversations was just too much work for the few in-person meetings I ended up going on. And then, of those fellas I met in person, I enjoyed myself enough to agree to see a few again…but, truly, there was only one who interested me enough to be genuinely excited to see again.

Whew, it was all so exhausting! And I just don’t want to have to work this hard at dating right now. I’d love to fall naturally into something casual, if I could find the right fellow. I’d simply like to have someone who’s company I enjoy, with whom I could go out and have fun, talk, laugh and touch. You wouldn’t think it would be so difficult…

Meanwhile, a friend and I decided to try out, the site for couples in a relationship. While this is such a great idea, it didn’t quite live up to the promise. First, the site was buggy and didn’t display correctly with any of my browsers. (As someone not particularly tech savvy, I much prefer the ease of use I’ve experienced at or the dating site I’ll tell you about later.) I loved and hated the Love Zones questionnaire — it was difficult for me to make choices the way they had it set up. Basically, there was a list of I can’t recall how many actions or qualities you’d want in a relationship, and you had to select three “least important” and three “most important.” The exercise was thoughtful and provided good results, but I struggled to choose three least important things from a list of desirable qualities or actions — especially if I thought about the questions in the context of my ambiguous relationship with the fellow who’d joined me in signing up. I think we were both most interested in the Trading Post, yet we agreed it was lackluster and not intuitive to use. So we’re off… I know Tokii has already made navigation improvements and such, and I hope the site becomes more intuitive and is truly useful to real live couples, because it is a great idea!

Also, I’ve heard of some new online dating platforms and decided to check one out. It’s called How About We… you post a brief profile and then suggest a fun date. Others can respond to you based on whether they think your date idea is fun. And I think that’s cool. Ideally, you’ll find people who share your idea of a good time. The challenges with this are that there are still very few users in my part of the world and that, yes, once you get sucked into adding a date idea, photo and brief profile, you’re asked to sign up for a subscription to actually communicate. I should have expected this, as it is the model of and the other traditional sites, yet I was hoping it would not be so.

So who has time for all this? I’m busy being fabulous, having a fabulous life and being a great mother! Someday or another I’d love to date…someday when I can devote the effort required.

because I think you should know what you’re getting in to

I love the story in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed in which she talks about making a list of her greatest faults for her beloved, to ensure he knows what he’s getting in to. And so, below, I think I’ll give it a crack…because…

In the case that you were the one, I’d want you to know some things about me. I mean, I’m far from perfect. And I think you should have a clear idea of what you’re getting in to before we talk commitment:

  • I like a lot of attention. A lot! And when I don’t get it, I have been known to become sulky and surly and childish and petulant. And I behave like a brat. And the best thing you can do at this point is hold me in your arms and tell me (and the little girl inside) that you love me and don’t mean to neglect me and ask for forgiveness.
  • I am impatient. I want it done yesterday…or several months ago. When I want something, I’m not particularly good at waiting for it. So if I ask you for something, it means I’ve been thinking about it and analyzing this desire inside and finally determining that I really do want it and, by this time, I’ve wanted it for quite some time and the likelihood of my having any patience is slim. Act decisively!
  • I’m vain. If you don’t tell me that I’m beautiful or that I look nice or that you like my figure every so often, I’m going to feel hurt.
  • I am opinionated and vocal. I will state my opinions as fact, as though they are the very word of God. And you will not want to touch that statement with a ten foot pole, you will want the conversation to be over, to let me have the last word. And the truth is that, the more strongly I state an opinion, the more desirable your challenge is. I want you to ask me to open my mind, to see another perspective…I want intellectual discussion and banter — it’s a huge turn on. This is not to say that I enjoy fighting or to create tension…I’m just looking for a man who can “stand up to me” intellectually, is willing to call my smart chick bluff and can read the playfulness through the serious tone. Our life together would be so incredibly dull if you simply agreed with me all the time!
  • Yes, there is a “tone.” I don’t mean to nag or scold; yet, when I’m feeling misunderstood, I slow my speech and enunciate extremely clearly and this is most often interpreted as a cold or harsh tone that means something which does not at all match my intention…which is only to be heard and understood.
  • I can be inappropriate. The filter between my brain and mouth is either malfunctioning or non-existent. And I’m okay with that, because I like blurting out what everyone’s thinking, but no one has the gonads to say aloud.
  • I can curse a blue streak. I am genuinely kind and loving to the humans in my life and around me, unless you are the a$$h*le who can’t step on the gas as I race to pick my children up by 6pm. When tired, irritated or stressed, the string of expletives that can come out of my mouth would shock a longshoreman. The subjects of my rated R rants are typically inanimate objects (misplaced/hiding theatre tickets for the show that begins in 30 minutes, for example) or traffic (let’s be frank, I’m talking about other drivers here…slow and/or bad drivers — and aren’t they really the same thing, after all?). And sometimes these expletives make appearances in front of little ears, and my children know better than to use that sort of language anyway and they make me put money in a piggy bank for it, which they think will one day pay for a fabulous vacation. We should all be so lucky!
  • I’ve been known to judge a book by its cover…or, rather, a man by his looks. In my defense, I shall once again blame the stars and offer that, as a Libra, I am drawn to beauty. I wish that I could simply look into a man’s heart and feel love for the way he treats me. Those things are incredibly important, but he also has to earn a decent living and be attractive to me. And spend quality time with me and touch a lot and give gifts…
  • I hate dishonesty! I think it is perhaps one of the very worst shortcomings a human can have. And because I feel so strongly, I am positively sure there must be some mirror effect at play and that there is an element of dishonesty in me. It sucks to even have to consider or confess it. And then I would swear that, if it’s true, I would only ever be dishonest to protect another…which is probably also bullshit.
I’m sure I could go on, but I’m already exhausted!
Who could put up with a woman like this? Actually, I see a lot of men every day who are putting up with much worse…and that gives me hope. Still, I continue to try to evolve. I truly do desire only to love and do good in the world…but I’m hoping I can do that and retain a little bit of my edgy wit!