my last failed relationship

Do you ever get yourself into something and then, somewhere along the way, you realize it’s a bad deal, but you’re in it and you forget for awhile how to get out?

That pretty much sums up my last relationship. Even looking back at how it began, there was nothing that really suggested it could last. Our early dates didn’t generate warm and fuzzy feelings inside me. And yet, somehow, I got sucked in. And, before I knew it, I found myself feeling as though I was four years into an unhappy marriage — to which I’d never committed in the first place.

For the record, we dated for approximately ten months.

He was positive at first and could be surprisingly sweet. But we disagreed about political viewpoints that made me think he was a closet misogynist. And life was throwing a few sucker punches his way. He became negative; he used language that painted himself as a victim ever so subtly; he complained about being broke and his health problems; he sucked me into his drama.

And it’s so easy to see now because TWICE since we’ve broken up, he’s done something so crazy I can barely recount it:

  1. Right around the new year, he called to ask if we could get coffee and talk. He said he needed a friend. I agreed to meet him. He told me about the woman who’d broken his heart. (This was all of two months after we’d broken up, mind you.) And then, before I understood what was happening, he was telling me how much he missed us and that we were steady and stable and I wasn’t crazy and couldn’t we just go back to where we were? To me, where we were was a realization that, no matter the circumstances, I was never going to want to move in with, much less marry him. To him, where we were must have looked different.
  2. Three months later, he called and said he needed a friend and would I meet him for a drink? I swore that this time, if he asked me to reunite, I would never answer his call or agree to meet him again. This time, he told me about the women he’d dated in the past few months — those who’d broke his heart, those whose hearts he’d broken — and his engagement. Yes, engagement. But he’d called it off. He’d asked her to marry him on Tuesday, then asked for the ring back on Friday. You see, women are all crazy and bipolar and couldn’t we just start over where we left off? Yep; he did it again! And I’m quite sure it’s never dawned on him how that might feel to me.

Anyway, maybe that sort of explains why I haven’t written much lately and why I haven’t been dating lately. You see, when you attract someone who ends up hitching a ride on the crazy train, you have to take a moment to look in the mirror and wonder what’s going on with your own energy for you to attract a situation like that. And I’ll be honest, the emotional ground beneath my feet still feels a little shaky. I can’t really put my finger on why…but it does. So I’m not going to look for someone else who, at this moment in my life, is only likely to add drama. I’m going to take care of myself for awhile. And, if it so happens that someone comes along when I’m taking care of me, I’ll be okay with that.

rites of passage

This was the school year during which my daughter first told me she had a boyfriend. In fact, it was the first year she even expressed interest in any boy.

Her boyfriend, who I met on more than one occasion, was painfully shy. He came to dinner and giggled across the table at my son, eyes and body averted from my daughter to his side.

I suspect the whole of this fifth grade “dating” experience had more to do with status than anything else. “Going with” a boy meant being liked, being chosen. It meant being part of a special group, along with her best friends who had also been chosen.

I suppose it should have come as no surprise that, in the last several weeks of school, my girl told me she had broken up with her boyfriend… My daughter called her guy over during recess and told him, “This isn’t working out.” As it turned out, many of the fifth-grade couples had split — all at the girls’ initiation — within days of each other.

The mothers and I sat around after a school event one evening and discussed this phenomenon, suddenly realizing it wasn’t all that different from what we would have done as we reached the end of middle school or high school or, in many cases, college. After all, who wants to be tied down when something new and exciting is around the corner? And, I hate to say it, but especially when that new and exciting thing includes a whole new group of boys, older boys.

Single is the new status symbol…at least until middle school starts.


lasting impressions

People go on and on about the importance of first impressions. No doubt it’s all true. But what of latest, last or final impressions? Doesn’t their discussion merit a moment of attention, as well?

Some of you may recall that, while in bed with the boyfriend I was seeing just over a year ago, he asked me what my first impression of him had been. He insisted I be honest, so I can hardly be blamed for blurting out, “Man boobs.”

Luckily, we were both consumed with laughter and able to get past this awkward incident. So much so that the ending of our relationship was tender, sweet and respectful.

My point? The “final” impression in our relationship was so overwhelmingly positive that I look back on our relationship fondly and, in fact, I can admit to probably romanticizing it. And because we were loving and caring to one another until the end — and at the very end — we have become friends.

Contrast this experience with my more recent dalliance with more-like-it:  I found him interesting – intriguing – from the start. I enjoyed talking with him, flirting with him and spending time with him. Physically, I found him sexy! In the end, though, I felt hurt and disrespected and, as lovely as I imagine it might be to cherish the memories, I find it’s difficult to look back at the experience fondly. At present, I am more likely to roll my eyes and think, “I can’t believe I fell for that!”

Admittedly, I am a pragmatic optimist. I’m sure, one day, I’ll see things differently. My hindsight tends to wear rose-colored glasses, after all.

In fact, I’ve already come to see the silver lining in this… If things had ended sweetly, I might have allowed myself to ponder possibilities. As it happened, closure was — shall we say — “firm.” Ultimately, he did me a favor by making it easy for me to move on.

ruling him out

Despite my post a week ago, I want to assure you that I am not, in fact heart-broken — it simply made a better headline than the reality of the situation. In fact, let me clarify some things:

This man by whom I felt so wounded was not my boyfriend. We were not, in fact, dating. We merely had an “arrangement.” Within the confines of such an arrangement, there was closeness, secrets shared, vulnerabilities, trust… And the basis for all of these things was friendship. I did not assume what we shared to be more than it was, nor did I have expectations that it would develop into something more. Certainly a part of me had some hope, as I experienced some very high highs while in his presence. But I wasn’t sensing or assuming that he was feeling that way.

Further, let me expand on a single word I’ve chosen in the previous paragraph:  expectations. I had none about what would happen any given time we met or talked, or for the future. I didn’t read meaning into the time we spent together, words said or unsaid.

Thus, it wasn’t even really a breakup. It was simply a shitty-feeling situation…from which I am genuinely grieving.

In the end, as I look back on the whole unnatural beginning of it all, I forced the issue. The truth is, I felt such a strong connection and attraction to this man — yet I simultaneously had misgivings — that I had to know. It would have been difficult for me to move forward and commit myself fully to another man without knowing for sure that more-like-it simply was not and would never be “the one” — he just seemed too close to my ideal to let it go. Now I know. With certainty. What looks, feels and sounds good doesn’t always act it.

And, in the end, I discovered something I never imagined I’d say:  he reminds me a lot of my wasband.

wanna break my heart? make an appointment

Yesterday my daughter came home and announced, “My friend just got broken up with in the worst way…by text.”

Not to be outdone, I replied, “Aww, that’s awful. I just got dumped via Facebook chat.”

“Wow! That’s even worse!,” she remarked.

And then, my eleven- and nine-year-old children had a conversation about the right way to break up with someone:  face to face. Or, if there are geographic differences, Skype or a phone call are appropriate, as it turns out, according to these youngsters.

So…since around the first of the year and, if I’m honest about it, before the holidays, it’s been pretty clear that this casual lover thing wasn’t working out. As sometimes happens (who am I kidding? I really have no experience with this stuff and wouldn’t begin to know!), the more my feelings evolved, the more distant lover boy became.

And that’s okay, for all the reasons I’ve talked about in my past couple of posts. I really felt a strong new energy in 2013 and was prepared, once again, to consider welcoming a real relationship into my life. I made no assumptions that my infrequent lover was interested, regardless of how good it felt — I think for both of us — to spend time together.

We hadn’t communicated much over the holidays or New Year, what with both of us traveling and all… So, I waited it out. Finally, about a week ago, he texted and started trying to tell me a story. I immediately sensed where this text exchange was going to go and shut him down, proposing he tell me all about it the next time we got together…oh, and, by the way, Saturday would work.

No word. All week.

Sunday morning I noticed he was on Facebook chat and said hey. And he began again with the story, which was obviously important and relevant (to him). I played along, and pretty soon he was telling me about this woman he’d been hanging out with for a couple of weekends and I was like, “Seriously, we’re having this discussion via Facebook chat? Not cool.” He brushed off my comments with something about “digital age” and really needing to share, and since we hadn’t had a chance to see each other…which, you’ll recall, I’d given him the opportunity to do the very day before.

So I started to get just a little belligerent, with “so you’re embarking on a relationship with a woman going through a divorce who lives in another city?” which was really my way of saying, “get to the point, please, because I’m already pissed off by this whole situation!”

So even if we weren’t really dating, regardless how casual our relationship, I got dumped via Facebook chat…with the usual “let’s still be friends.” And I said I had to go.

As all this crap soaked in, I began to get really hurt. By the time I went to bed, I swear there was steam coming out of my ears. I was angry at him for treating me so disrespectfully and I was mad at myself for trusting him to be a steward of my feelings.

Of course I couldn’t sleep. So, finally, at 3:30am, I sent a message telling him how I was feeling — disrespected, undervalued, angry — and that, given all we’ve shared, I (we) deserved better; namely, an in-person conversation. To my surprise, by 4:15am, he had agreed that we should meet. Not sure how the part about meeting in person beforefor the “I’m out” conversation got missed in his mind… I told him I needed space. p.s. Nowhere in any of this exchange was a genuine apology.

Bottom line on this breakup fail? Don’t do it using digital media. Ever. It’s cowardly, disrespectful and completely devalues another human being. (Sadly, it wasn’t the first time I’d witnessed cowardly behavior on his part.)

In other words:  If you want to break my heart, make an effing appointment!

It’s been a long time since I felt so incredibly angry. I can’t remember the last time…really. So it was kind of cathartic. And empowering. And clarifying. And I’ve learned I can be pretty fierce!

what’s wrong with you, girl?!

If there’s a single phrase I’ve heard more than any other in the past few weeks, it’s “What is wrong with you, girl?!” Insert the cuss word of your choice before “wrong” and you would likely sound just like any number of my girlfriends.

All of this in reference to my letting a perfectly decent man go because I wasn’t ready or something wasn’t right or whatever that feeling of unease I was having that was telling me that I needed more time to find balance within myself. It’s difficult to place just what it was anymore, in part because their shocked expressions have made me question it all. I’m a Libra; I weigh all input and feedback. Let’s summarize by saying my breakup has been unpopular amongst those who met my former beau.

Even the response to my recent guest post on The Plankton clearly demonstrated a bias toward hanging onto a good relationship, even if it’s one I was not, at present, fully capable of appreciating. The pendulum of public opinion, it seems, has clearly swung to the Mr. Good Enough camp.

The problem with this, of course, is that Mr. Good Enough wants to be prized — he doesn’t want to be just good enough or for so many of his gifts to go unnoticed or unappreciated by someone who is unable, at this moment, to fully embrace them. Surely Mr. Good Enough for me is Mr. Over-the-Moon Love-of-My-Life to some ecstatic woman. And he deserves that.

Unlike many of those vocal girlfriends with whom I’ve been spending time, I already have children. I’m not on the clock; I don’t feel a biological imperative to settle in to the first relationship I find after my divorce. In fact, I think something inside me was biased against doing just that. A part of me hopes to see a little more of what’s out there — even if the only purpose that serves is to show me how great I had it.

I’m not looking for perfection — I would have been willing to fully embrace the relationship if I had been absolutely certain that it was right. But I wasn’t 100% in it. And it would have been wrong to try to feign otherwise.

my dating story

Earlier today, The Plankton was lovely enough to post a little something I’d written about my recent relationship and break-up. I was surprised at some of the commentary it received, and reading some of those comments really made me think about the entire dating experience:

Months ago, actually about a year ago, I started dating. I think I thought I was looking for something special. I think I thought I’d be ready for something special if it came along. I think I thought I’d end up going on three or four dates with a few different blokes before deciding to share more time with a single one among them. I think I thought I’d have some varied experiences against which to measure a man. I think I thought it would all begin a little more slowly. I think I thought it would take time to meet someone special.

So no one was more surprised than me when a gentleman asked for an exclusive arrangement early in our dating relationship. And it turned out he was pretty darned great!

Looking back, I’m a bit surprised how quickly a few weeks became a few months and then suddenly it was six months. And, looking back, I had no idea how difficult it would be to keep my life in balance with children and other obligations, especially starting a new job. And he, too, started a new job and, rightfully, wanted a supportive girlfriend…which I was sometimes available to be.

From what others tell me, six months seems to be a new magical number in adult dating, one I hadn’t realized before. That’s apparently when things “get serious” or don’t. And, life being what it is, I realized that I’m just not ready for a serious relationship right at this moment. Even with a great guy. I haven’t really dated or had any other relationships since my (obviously) unsuccessful marriage.

I’m not sure I was mentally or emotionally prepared to fully embrace the possibility that the very first person I really dated since my divorce could be the person with whom I’d want to spend the rest of my life.

My failed relationship lasted, give or take, a dozen years. And, despite the ambivalence I feel about having a serious relationship right this minute, I do genuinely desire partnership and hope to find the mate with whom I’ll spend the rest of my life. Given my family’s genetic make-up, that could easily mean spending more than forty years with someone. So I’d like to consider carefully, take my time, and be healed and whole enough to make a better choice than I made last time around.

I think I could have gone on dating and enjoying and being with a man — this particular man — for much, much longer, in a sort of dating status quo. If he’d asked, “Do you want to stay together? Do you want to continue to spend time with me?” my answer was simple: “Yeah, for sure. You’re wonderful. Why wouldn’t I?”

But he was looking for a different answer to a different question. He wanted to know: “Woman, are you as crazy about me as I am about you?” And he was looking for a resounding “YES!”

I still believe it’s possible that my “Yeah” would have grown into a “YES!” over time. I didn’t need the knock-kneed, butterflies-in-the-stomach feelings of infatuation to care deeply for and share physical excitement with this man. I wasn’t seeking perfection. I was willing to take time to allow my feelings to grow and blossom naturally.

In the end, he thought I’d had enough time to know. My having been honest about how I felt, he chose to venture back out there in search of that woman who is absolutely, positively crazy about him. And I can’t say that I blame him…because who among us doesn’t want that?

little thing to which I cling

There is nothing remarkable about the fact that I threw my few-month-old toothbrush in the trash a couple of weeks ago and plucked a new one from the cabinet. The bristles at the edges of the old one were bowed out and I was beginning to sense that it might not be optimally effective. Perhaps it is a bit more telling that, at the time, even though my former beau and I had broken up, I couldn’t yet bring myself to throw away the spare toothbrush he kept in the bathroom cabinet.

I actually had it in my grasp and was about to toss it, but somehow I wasn’t quite ready yet. And I’ve learned to be gentle with myself about the weird small things I sometimes feel inclined to hold onto for just a bit longer. Even now, it’s there, occupying the space next to mine, tucked close to the edge — in part to go undetected by the children.

It’s not likely to make the next round of bathroom cleaning. In fact, it make not make it through the day. If we were to change our minds, to find our way back to each other, the cost of a new toothbrush would certainly be no barrier or hurdle. I don’t think that is likely to happen. Yet I let it rest in its place, a single small reminder of the sweet and wonderful things its user brought in to my life for a while…and I smile fondly.


I suppose it was inevitable that my body would begin to go through withdrawal symptoms.

I mean, this has been my weekend:  I felt sick, I pulled myself together for a single family outing (presumably for the sole purpose of listening to two hours of bickering), I overdosed on hot Tang and Netflix and, finally, today I’ve awoken with swollen lymph nodes, an even sorer sore throat and a seemingly incurable case of 40-year-old divorcee libido.

In fact, the dream from which I awoke was distinguished in my personal history by the vast number of naked bodies and penises that graced it. Room after white room of naked bodies languidly sprawled on white-dressed beds, like multiple Calvin Klein underwear ads occurring simultaneously, but without the underwear. Yes, there were naked women, too, but the naked men and their generously sized semi-erect members (member — who ever thought of that euphemism, anyway?!) were the dominant feature of my dream. The bodies appeared artfully arranged and were seemingly both post coital and ready to serve. I wandered from room to room, greeted by the occasional unashamed acquaintance…and then I awoke. Horny.

Here we have a situation 80s hair band Cinderella so eloquently sang about in their ballad, “Don’t Know What You Got (Until It’s Gone).” In other words, over the past several months, I’ve had the luxury of forgetting entirely what it’s like to be sexually unfulfilled. It was a luxury (along with so many others, like feeling loved and appreciated, for example) that I appreciated. Yet that doesn’t ease the urgency or pain of what I’m missing now.

Of course this is just one of many things I do and will miss about being in a relationship and the gentleman with whom I was involved, specifically. But that doesn’t make it any easier to manage these unfulfilled desires, at least not in the short term…at least while I’m out of the habit of replenishing my battery supply.