Tag Archives: commitment

let’s break up again

Hollywood has made a killing on romantic stories of first dates that happen over and over again.

And so, while lying in my hammock on the first lovely day of spring, remembering fondly its role in the courtship between me and my first boyfriend after becoming single again, I began musing on what I thought was a brilliant idea:  We had broken up so lovingly, maturely, beautifully…why couldn’t we break up over and over again? Why not spend one more beautiful, perfect, last day together — knowing that maybe we aren’t quite right for the long haul together — but enjoying and celebrating the love and affection we still have for one another. What could be wrong with that? Perhaps I should start on the screenplay!

So as I was remembering and musing — you’d think I’d know better — I dialed his number. To my surprise, he answered. And I rambled on for a bit about all my girlfriends thinking I’m a damn fool and how much I missed him and that I’d brought my hammock out and I told him my idea. We chatted a bit and then, as we were about to end our conversation, he asked, “So, do you want me to come over?”

And he did. And we talked and snuggled in the hammock for a bit and he said, “I’m going to take you upstairs and [this part is really not fit for print] and then we’re going to dinner and then I’m going to bring you back home and we’re going to [do that part] all over again.”

Now, y’all know by now how much I like a man with a plan. And especially one who can execute on the plan. Well, we did exactly as planned. Except for the part where he paused and told me that the only thing that could make it better than it was already was if we were in a committed relationship. And when I told him that I still couldn’t say, “YES!” to that, I know he was disappointed.

As we said our good-byes that night, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Now don’t call me again.” And I haven’t, even though I still think he’s wonderful and will miss him.

I’ve since told a few girlfriends about this, and they’ve all nodded and repeated, “mmm, breaking up again” knowingly, like it’s a thing. So apparently this is no novel idea. Apparently, for years, all around me and without my knowing it, people have been breaking up again and enjoying it! Like so many other things, I am a late bloomer when it comes to enjoying the benefits of break-up sex.

None of this brought up difficult emotions for me. I’d made my peace with where we were at — and I still think this guy is a terrific catch!

And then, earlier this weekend, I saw a little film (again) called 500 Days of Summer. Months after breaking up, main characters Tom and Summer find themselves at the same wedding / reception and she falls asleep on his shoulder on the way back to the city. She asks him to a party that weekend and, at some point that evening, he realizes that she’s engaged to a new guy…and he’s devastated.

That’s when I realized that I was Summer and he was Tom, and inviting my former man back into my life for a day may have given him false hope of reconciliation and was, probably, actually kind of cruel…and that hurting him was the furthest thing from my intent.

Toward the end, the two leads run into one another again and, in the course of their conversation (I may be paraphrasing here), Summer, now married, says, “One day I woke up and I just knew.”

Tom:  “Knew what?”

Summer:  “All those things I was never certain about with you.”

And I guess that articulates really well what so many of us are looking for:  certainty, something to which we can say YES!

Oh well. Lesson learned. But I’m still toying with that screenplay idea, Hollywood.

p.s. If you haven’t seen the movie, do — it’s a tale wonderfully told. Besides, who can resist Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel?


there you have it

I think those of you who follow here can tell that I’m fairly real and genuine. One moment I think I’ve forgiven and moved on; the next I’m behaving badly out of lingering blame and resentment.

These are realities for the divorced, and these are the things I choose to share here. I don’t dwell in them. It’s not my whole life. But it’s the sliver of me you get to see for visiting here.


end game

I know I’ve touched on this theme before:  How does a woman know that the guy who’s doing it for her now is the guy who’s going to do it for her in forty years?

There’s a part of me that goes:  Duh. She can’t. She can’t possibly know. None of us know. We can’t know the future!

And then there’s another part of me that goes:  This whole expectation that one person is going to meet our needs now and also forty years from now is ridiculous and arcane.

Finally, there’s the part of me who wants that…to love a man now and love him forty years hence, and for him to do the same.

If it sounds like there are a lot of voices in my head…well, so be it.

But like most stubborn broads, I want what I want what I want. And I’ve seen guys who are attractive and good fathers and good providers and are smart and healthy and good conversationalists. (Of course they are not perfect. No one is.) And I’ve seen elderly couples holding hands while walking on the beach. Maybe I’ve only seen that in television commercials, but so what? It’s okay if some marketing is effective — that gives me hope on both a personal and professional level.

As I’ve also mentioned before, I’m totally digging my man. I’m enjoying every minute.

I can’t see the future. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know whether he will be a good husband or co-homeowner or parent, much less whether he’d be a good husband at eighty. I know he’s a good and loving man. And, for now, that’s enough.

 


marital efficiencies

I haven’t been getting any rest on the weekends lately. That’s because when my children are home, they’re running me ragged. And when they’re not, a certain special guy has been keeping me up at night.

We sat on a park bench one day a while back, both of us stifling yawns as we proposed big, wild ideas for the evening, of which none stood any real chance of actual implementation, because we were both far too tired. I teased him about keeping me up all night and translated that into what could be a future state, whether with me or another, in the wonderful, blissful drudgery of married life and parenting:  “All that caressing and foreplay and loving gets squeezed into the daily routine of life, with children in the next room and narrow windows of opportunity, and what we now do until all hours of the morning gets condensed into a very functional 13 minutes.”

I think that’s a pretty real example of something that happens in many marriages with children. And I don’t think it’s really such a bad thing when it does. Work lives, logistics, spit up, diapers, play dates, hobbies, the gym, sports, other activities, chauffeur duties and more enter back into a humdrum stream of days. The romance and excitement make way for everyday life. Love, which was once demonstrated with flowers and kisses, takes on new meaning, like cleaning up the toddler’s vomit.

I mean, you still have to take time for one another, keep the magic alive…but, as I’ve written before, I was totally cool with married sex…it was efficient in a very satisfying way. There are other opportunities for intimacy and loving acts and I guess my point is that sex can’t really take center stage forever in a relationship. A certain equilibrium or balance or something takes over… Life can be beautifully, exquisitely, satisfyingly routinized — almost boring — without ever getting remotely dull.

How did my guy respond to this whole train of thought? He laughed and gave me a big ol’ “Hell no!”

And does that mean I want to trade sleep for being kept up late loving and caressing? Nah, I kinda dig this stuff, too.


too much

I’m one of those women who do too much. I seem to recall a book by that title several years ago. I haven’t read it, but I have an inkling about what might be inside.

True, I bring much of it on myself. In addition to working full-time and parenting 85% of the time, I’m busy planning a dish for the holiday potluck at work this week, addressing somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 holiday cards, shopping and wrapping gifts, and trying to keep up with the usual chores. I’ve spent the weekend baking three different types of cookies, corralling the children to cut shapes from the dough and, later, to frost, ice, sprinkle, dip and otherwise decorate the cookies that will become gifts for their teachers. This afternoon, we put together little bags and trudged throughout the neighborhood, delivering sweets and cards to neighborhood friends.

I know full well that, as a single woman, I am not expected to send cards, bake cookies or bring a homemade dish for the potluck. I could skip out on a good share of the “extras” I assign myself, yet it would be hard to let go. I have an extended family who I see rarely. Sending a card and photos once a year seems the least I could do in an attempt to stay in touch.

Like so many people my age, I grew up with a stay-at-home mother. She kept a clean home, made healthy, well-balanced meals, decorated a fresh fir-tree each year and baked cookies and such. Those experiences I didn’t get at home, I acquired through community — cookie baking events, crafts and more. While I’ve chosen to parent differently in many ways, I recall many of my childhood events fondly and want to create similar traditions with my own children.

So, while I am beyond wiped out after a busy weekend, it’s balanced by a sense of motherly accomplishment and peace. No one is likely to compare me to Martha, either, but it’s nice to have a few shining domestic moments.


about the children

The other night, I held my phone out at arm’s length and snapped a photo of me and my daughter enjoying dinner out. I posted this photo on Facebook, checking in at the restaurant we frequent. Then I messaged the photo to my guy. I didn’t think twice about it.

I’ve had my guy over to my house, he’s seen photos of my children and listened to my stories about them. But that was the first time I’d sent him a photo that included one of my children. And it kicked off (again) the whole discussion about when it’s appropriate for him to meet the children. Sure, we’ve talked about it…

Early on in a relationship, most responsible women don’t introduce men to their children for several reasons, which (just off the top of my head) include these:

  • They barely know the guy and want to be sure — let’s be honest about this — that he’s not some creepy pedophile who’s going to prey on her children.
  • They don’t want their children to see a revolving door of men coming in and out of their lives.
  • They want to step into the fantasy world of dating without children.

While the first of these needs no explanation nor commentary (and I’m confident my guy is a pure soul), let’s further explore these other reasons.

I’d hate to allow my children to become attached to a man who I’m not certain will be in my life for good. Divorce, I’m sure, was hard enough and I’d hate for them to go through something like that again.

Then again, I’m pretty open with my children. I’ve talked to them about dating, and they know I have a boyfriend. We’ve talked about whether they should meet him, and they know I haven’t decided yet whether to introduce them anytime soon. You see, I think it’s important that my children know that decision-making is a process, that I don’t always or automatically know the right answer, that some things are worth deliberation and discussion. An early conversation included these observations:

Eight-year-old:  “He should like to play football and go sledding.”

Ten-year-old:  “I’m going to give him a quiz, like his favorite food and color and stuff. And preferably he won’t be blond.”

Another of our conversations went something like this:

Me:  “I’d hate for you to get attached to someone I’m seeing, because then what if we broke up?”

Eight-year-old:  “Well, maybe he could come and play with us sometimes anyway.”

Ten-year-old:  “That would be awkward.”

Conventional wisdom says that we shouldn’t introduce a man to our children until we know it’s going to grow into commitment. If not, they’ll see a “revolving door” of men and develop beliefs about that — e.g. men leave, or Mom gets tired of men and kicks them out, or some such. Furthermore, in the event that things don’t work out, I don’t want the breakup to be harder than it might otherwise be, because he’s attached to my children or they’re attached to him.

I recently read a book (by a man) who suggested the opposite is the proper approach for men. He opined that women should introduce a man to her children early on, because a man needs to see the whole package so that he can envision himself as a provider and man of the family before deciding whether to stick around.

My children are resilient and, while I want to spare them heartache and pain in every possible way, I genuinely believe they can handle meeting someone with whom I’m spending time, as long as it’s in a casual environment, their meetings are few and far between, and we keep the dialogue going. But there’s more to the decision than that:

Right now, I get to date and spend time with my guy on weekends when my children are with their father. At those times, it’s almost as though I’m young and single — it’s romantic and exciting and fun. How will that change if I introduce the children? When he comes over to pick me up for a date, will they try to persuade him (us) to stay home and play a board game instead? Would he be tempted to relent to their pressure to win them over? In other words, for purely selfish reasons, I’d like to prolong this “just the two of us” period. I’m not sure how the dynamic might change if my children meet my boyfriend, I’m only certain that it will.

So, while I’d love to include my beau in my family’s holiday activities — that would definitely give him a view to what he’d be getting in to — we’ve decided to wait to introduce him to the children until we figure out our own relationship first.


committed, again

I finally decided to become a career gal again, and I worked my way into a decent job (that’s proving a little stressful already). It’s kinda gratifying that it has a pretty decent title and a salary that’s higher than what I earned a year ago. Nice, right? (No one changes companies for less than a 20% increase anyway, right? It’s just too big a pain in the butt. If you think I sound spoiled, try that sort of language on a recruiter — they get it.)

It took me awhile to decide to commit. At one point, after I’d been offered my current role, I actually confessed to my boss that I wasn’t sure I was ready to make adult decisions. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that sort of commitment. And then they sweetened the pot, so to speak.

But another key factor was this:  While chatting with one of the executives with whom I interviewed, we discussed children. I let him know that, yes, I have two and am, in fact, a single mother. He said, “You can play the single mother card on me any time. I was raised by a single mother and I get it. There is nothing that I do that can’t wait one more day if you’re needed at home.”

I like the work. And I don’t have to travel. Not regularly, anyway. Which makes this a pretty sweet place to be right now.


the thrill of first base

At the thoughtful recommendation of a reader, I’m beginning to read “The Thrill of the Chaste”…I forget who it’s by and, frankly, I’m feeling a little lazy just now (so you can look it up for yourselves).

While I’m far from in love with the book, there is something about the notion of going back to chastity, back to a simpler time…

I recall high school days of boys driving up, knocking on the door, politely — if not painfully — chatting up my parents, and dropping me off at the end of the night. Holding hands in a movie theatre or necking in the car were thrilling, and were far from taken for granted.

Sometimes I think it’s true that, these days, we get too caught up in the sex. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s absolutely wonderful and I enjoy sharing physical intimacy with someone special…but I can also see how difficult it might be to look beyond the sex to all the other qualities that impact a couple’s daily life together. Heck, I think it may have blinded me in the past.

I’ve always thought of sex as a barometer — an indicator of the health of a relationship. In the early stages, of course it’s hot and heavy. But a truer test of the long-term potential of a relationship is how it holds up when the flu is passed around a household, keeping parents up with children, juggling clean-up responsibilities between day jobs, until one spouse goes down and then, inevitably, the other and sex, for a good two-week interval or more, is less than a distant thought. How we treat each other during those ugly, smelly, sleep-deprived times might show us more about compatibility than our sexual chemistry.

More than that, daily life, when there are no reasons for our sympathies to be heightened, amidst the day-to-day irritants of leaving a toilet seat up or towel on the floor or using a particular tone or running late to school, work and extra-curricular activities, how do we love and support each other then? These are the real questions, the real juice of a relationship that may, at times, be obscured by great sexual chemistry.

So it’s tempting, at times, to look back and wonder whether it was easier to know what a relationship was truly made of, whether it truly had staying power, before getting physically involved. Yet sexually active or chaste, I think I’m old enough and wise enough to take my time, make better choices and let the answers reveal themselves to me.


what a wife wants

I hear my guy throw “I’m a bachelor” often in response to the way he takes care of himself — e.g. lots of take-out food, cigars, etc. I wouldn’t say there’s any issue with these behaviors, but the “I’m a bachelor” default could become a worrisome habit if we were to enter a more serious stage of our relationship. I often find myself wanting to coach or prep him for what a wife wants, whether that woman is me or some another lucky lady. But it’s hard to balance my commitment to not making a project of him with keeping up habits of excellent communication. I’d rather see what he has to offer than try to train him to be something I want…a husband who…

Plans for an abundant future, both financially and physically:

  • Takes care of home and property.
  • Saves for retirement.
  • Eats right, exercises, has healthy habits.
  • Releases what is no longer needed.

Pitches in around the house:

  • Can prepare a healthy meal for the family.
  • Can make a bed, do laundry, fold clothes, etc.
  • Can clean or, in lieu of cleaning, votes for hiring a housekeeper.

Keeps his own friends and interests:

  • We all need time alone and other healthy relationships.

Has good habits / manners:

  • Puts the toilet seat down.
  • Picks up after himself.
  • Keeps his stuff organized.

Is loving:

  • Prioritizes to make time to stay connected.
  • Plans the occasional surprise.
  • Learns my love language(s).

Knows:

  • That where there are children involved, your time is not your own, and you must simply surrender to the present needs of the family.
  • How to fix a thing or two around the house, and when to call in the experts, instead.

much ado about exclusivity

The gentleman I’ve been seeing recently asked me if I was ready to be in an exclusive dating relationship with him, to “give this thing a chance.” We talked about it for a while over the phone (which is how we manage the challenge of our sporadic actual in-person dates scheduled around my parenting gig), and then decided to think about it overnight.

I can’t deny having had mixed feelings. I mean, I like the thought of casually dating at this time in my life. Being open to receiving masculine energy from more than one direction sounds great — at least as a concept or in theory. In practicality, I haven’t the time to date more than one man at a time and, besides, I like the one I am seeing. My personal history shows that I am a monogamist at heart.

Also, we’d already been physically intimate, both expressed a desire to respect and attend to another’s physical and emotional safety and, frankly, this exclusivity discussion was overdue — at least as far as sex was concerned. I don’t sleep around, and I don’t want to be intimate with someone who’s putting my health at risk, either. So even if I were interested in keeping my options open, I wouldn’t be interested in getting physical with another man at present.

Still, I was startled to experience fear in considering whether I was ready for exclusivity. To be fair, my beau used the word “commitment” almost interchangeably with “exclusivity” and, in my mind, these are vastly different concepts (as in one of them usually comes with a ring). When we were able to meet the next evening, he clarified that he had merely meant to imply certain expectations, in particular honesty and open communication.

Ultimately, we agreed to giving this thing a chance, fears be damned. I can agree to being as honest and open as possible. I can open my heart to possibility. And we agreed to use the more palatable “exclusive” to describe it.