I’m still very much learning the ins and outs of this dating stuff. Part of that is learning what I’m looking for as well as learning to step away. The big thing I’m realizing is that it is imperative to make hard lined boundaries and decisions. More hurt was caused by me this morning for someone who, had I stuck to my guns, would have been moving on as of last weekend.
The reason for this writing is not so much to capture the details of the breakup, but to retrace my steps and note decision points where things could have gone differently; causing less hurt and animosity.
Thing 1: Stick to “person-metrics”
Person-metrics are traits I’m looking for in my person. These can cover a wide range of traits that are important to me. For example geographical proximity, for me is very important. Other areas are things such as level of education, favorite activities and are you going to make me listen to country music. How important is family? Religion? Going to the gym?
I think what I compromised most, and earliest, in the recent lesson was geographical distance. “Commuting is for suckers” would be an apt chapter in my memoir. The momentary ex, who I’ll call Amy (really it had only been three months, can you really call the person an ex?), was nearly an hours drive away.
I knew this was way too far, yet I allowed myself to visit and hit it off early on. Amy had no issue with the drive; she didn’t see it as an obstacle to a long term relationship. However, Amy was legally blind and couldn’t drive. A Lyft drive to my house would have been at least $100USD so any which way I could see her I had to put on the miles.
The distance may sound petty, but there have been several studies that one of the best determinants for a relationship leading to something more is simply physical proximity. It weighs more than a lot of other factors, such as religion and political views. It’s then funny that I took a firmer stand against dating a Trump supporter than someone who was an hour away. In fact, I can attribute distance to part of the ending of the last long term relationship. After a while, driving across town just isn’t that appealing.
Another trait that I need to be firm on is not dating anyone who is not yet divorced and who hasn’t put some distance and done some work on getting back to being in a healthy place.
Divorces are often horrible and lonely things that make one want to cling to someone who might not resonate with the normal you. I’m pretty sure a pair of horcruxes are made in nearly any divorce. It can really tear the soul I really do not want to divorce again, even if that means not getting married again. People are right in wanting to find an escape from it; a place to divert their pain. During my divorce, I fortunately had good sobriety and was in good communion with my recovery family and my Higher Power. It staved off a lot of additional pain and drama.
Amy was in the throws of her divorce, just as the affair person was. Ultimately, I was likely a pacifier. When dust settles, that is often revealed. I deserve to be loved for who I am, not for being an emotional crutch.
There are other person-metrics that are important. They are often filterable on many of the dating apps. Beyond divorce and location status the other traits are a little easier to weed out. These include:
- Education level
- Drug/alcohol use
- Want of kids (post-vasectomy I’m only good for practice AND I’m good with my two)
- Politics (picking Trump for president is like someone picking Jeffrey Dahmer for preparing dinner)
- Humor, hobbies, interests, faith
Thing 2: Allow for me time
This is part of Thing 1, but it’s also about saying no and limiting resentments. I need quiet time, by myself with my thoughts. I also need time to work on the multitude of things that I have going on. I’m in the middle of a basement remodel. Also, laundry and housekeeping aren’t going to do themselves. This requires energy and, as a physicist would recognize, there’s only so much energy in a finite system. Right now I need dating to be simple. Maybe the ability to grab a spontaneous drink within 15 minutes. The more I have to routinely plan on account of driving, parenting schedules, weather, money for gas, etc. the less fun the dating is for me. I need to stand firm that I need my time, with a clear and focused mind.
Thing 3: Be direct and mean what you say
This can be a little tricky, especially for someone who doesn’t trust their gut. Guts in the arena of dating, in my view, are seldom wrong. If you’re on a date and the conversation feels forced or if something just plain doesn’t feel right, trust that feeling. Not trusting the gut is how gas-lighting is able to be gotten away with. When the person you’re dating decides to go downtown at 8 at night in a Lyft, from an hour away and have two changes of story about why she couldn’t get together that night; that’s fucking fishy. Your bullshit detector should be cranking the 110 dB air raid siren. This happened with Amy, this was the same crap that happened with the affair person. As Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it surely does rhyme”.
Even if the behavior is legit (the second story was Amy was meeting clients for drinks), that’s really weird behavior. Who does that? While I like to give the benefit of the doubt, unpredictable behavior and dishonesty (the story changed at least once) are person-traits. What other BS might be in store if things move along?
Maybe it’s fortunate, but this is really where my interest was broken. I don’t want to deal with bumbling lies, gas-lighting and outright drama. I’ve had my share of that for my midlife. Call me again when I’m old, I’ll need something to make things exciting.
I ended things with Amy and then abruptly un-ended them, throwing on a bunch of planning and crap we could do, only to end things again today. I have to say that was a major dick move on my part and it was all from not trusting my gut. I would have staved off more pain and confusion had I stuck to my guns. Three months in, if you believe the relationship grieving cycle of giving a month per year of dating, is a week of feeling like crap. Now who knows if I kicked the drama into high gear? At least there’s no one to vindictively send chat conversations to this time.
I did reach out to recovery people after this episode. They assured me I’m not a total asshole. I tend to trust them as they can be brutally honest with me and have known me for years. I even got some help from a female recovery friend on what not to do if the text tirade continues, i.e. don’t reply and get sucked back in.
This is part of the learning cycle. I do feel legitimate remorse. I know Amy will move on. As another friend said with relationships, I need to make myself the priority to start. Despite my screw up it’s not for me to be responsible for her feelings.
Ultimately, in dating I’m learning a lot about being a confident person. Figuring out what I can and can’t live with is part of the process. I’m human and as such will screw up. I will hurt feelings, but I can’t lose myself in trying to not hurt feelings. Not sticking to boundaries by placating will typically cause more hurt.
To Amy, I am sorry and I wish you all the best.