I've known for many years that I don't have a good history when it comes to romantic relationships and when I decided to dip my toe back into the dating pool, it was with some trepidation and a vow to do certain things: be authentic (honestly me), be vulnerable, take big risks (big for me, anyway) by doing it different, feel the joy and be willing to feel any growing pains, and finally to remember to do relationship by committee (hint: I'm not always able to see through my blind spots, but family and friends who love me have clear vision and my permission to get my attention with a 2x4 if necessary).
So my dating game started several months ago on an internet singles site. Flirts, emails, phone calls, and coffee dates. I've met some interesting men along the way and learned something valuable about myself from each of them. This recent man (Mr. X) who crossed my path to teach me something was wonderful. I learned much about myself and him from our budding relationship.
He was SO appropriate! Yes, absolutely APPROPRIATE! I was smitten from the 1st real date. I was in love with being in love and it felt SOOOOO great! He was perfect. After spending some time with him I made a shift in my consciousness and realized that because of this man, I was no longer asking the Universe for a partner - I wanted a husband. (OMG! Did I actually mean "HUSBAND"?) Well, yes, I did. This was the first man I'd ever been interested in who knew how to be a husband. He was my first role model and I was totally loving it and him.
I planned my spring wedding and visualized my future life with him fantasizing about how phenomenal it would be - the two of us, blending families, traveling, laughing, joking, sharing, loving, deeply connected intimacy, the whole enchilada. This man brought out the best in me and said I brought out the best in him. What a match we were. We were blissfully engaged in flirty, witty emails and phone conversations, so stimulated by our exchanges that I eagerly anticipated every second I could spend with him. We played, we laughed, we talked, we teased, we planned, we enjoyed each other so much.
Do you hear the sound of the approaching monster "Jaws" yet? Well, I absolutely didn't. Actually neither did he (at least I don't believe he did). We were spending as much time together as two busy people can and talking and flirting our way into "committed relationship" country. Then a little problem reared its ugly head (or didn't) and things began a rapid downward spiral.
He couldn't imagine himself in an relationship without the "S"(ex) word and his Dr. was telling him that was history for him - he was devastated. He panicked and re-focused on getting busy with many projects to keep his mind occupied so he didn't have to think about what he used to think about all the time.
More and more was being revealed to me about the perfect Mr X. What did he mean when he said he didn't want to be in a relationship unless sex was involved? Did that mean that the only reason he'd be interested in me in the first place was that he was attracted to me sexually? I mean, I've heard that men think of sex 60 times more often than women, but is it the ONLY reason to be with someone? What about having fun together? What about doing things together? What about enjoying closeness? What about all of the "alternative" methods of reaching sexual fulfillment? I was full of questions and he had one answer: no deal.
I arrived home after a weekend away with friends and saw the writing on the wall - his email saying he wanted me to find a much younger man who could match my vitality and say good bye to him. It broke my heart. I saw him as so much more than that. When we talked, he apologized and said he didn't want to hurt me but he just couldn't be with me - he didn't want to be with anyone. If he could be with anyone, it would be me because I was fabulous (I knew that!), but he just didn't feel anything anymore - that part of his life was a "dead zone" now and that was more than he could bear. The part of himself with which he most closely identified was MIA and he didn't know how he could recreate himself.
He asked for a couple of weeks to get used to this new version of himself. We would stay in communication via email and phone. I knew he was in pain and asked him to allow himself to receive my love and support and that we could make it through this together.
We exchanged chatty emails and talked a couple of times over the next two days. When I knew he was coming to my home to help me do something he'd agreed to before the bad news hit him, I asked him if it was OK to hug. He said hugs were good, but when he arrived and I hugged him, he was noticeably uncomfortable and when I reached up to give him a peck on the cheek, he quickly turned his head fearing that I'd zoom in on his mouth, I guess. We had the same experience when he dropped me off and walked me to my door.
How could it be so uncomfortable only two days after it had been so fantastic? I was reeling and trying my best to be patient and supportive. I wanted to honor his request for some time to get straight with this new situation.
The phone calls stopped and we exchanged ever shorter emails over the next couple of days. Finally, I realized that even though this man's unilateral decision had impacted me and I was feeling sad and hurt, I had stepped into an old behavior of protecting him from my feelings. I wanted to suffer in silence so I wouldn't bother him or be too much trouble, or even feared to let him think I was deeply hurt. After all, I'm a strong woman who's survived much worse than this and bounced back. I would tough this out by myself. My old thoughts about men in general began to creep into my grief, but I knew it was just a flash of old stuff, nothing big. But here I was protecting him from me.
I decided to send him an email that was chatty and subtly referred to my sadness. It was beautiful and I edited it to say just exactly what I meant. I decided to take the biggest risk yet and hit "send". I anxiously watched for his reply the next morning (our pattern was my email at night and his reply early in the morning) and when I arose, there it was. His response to my missing him was "hang in there".
When I feel connected to someone, I get a spiritual/physical feeling of separation when they detach. With two previous men, as they walked away from my home I felt them detach. I'd felt connected to Mr X, even as he drove away, even when he was in his home and I was in mine, I felt our connection like a physical presence. It's something I've always felt with people and I'm even more aware of it as I grow in recovery.
I was feeling Mr X detach and fearfully, I wrote another chatty email that night then checked my inbox as soon as I was up the next morning - no reply. OK, I'll be fine - just keep checking - OK, still nothing, but it's OK, he's probably busy, more OK's - it's OK, I'll be OK, OK, where the H-- is his reply??? I checked constantly that day, the next day and the next morning. By then I was a mess because my brain was in overdrive jumping from one scenario to the next. The one thing I couldn't deny was my sense that he was detaching. I thought of how I'd practiced being patient, letting things play out, waiting (W8NC), and taking the risk of trusting the Universe that I would be guided. I prayed, I meditated, I took my dilemma to quiet time, I talked with friends and sought their counsel. I wanted to call Mr X and be straightforward - was he in or was he out? What did his silence mean?
When I talked with a good friend she told me to take care of myself and honor who I truly am. That statement took me to quiet time again. Hey God, who am I really? Am I a willful, stubborn woman who MUST have her way? Is my need to call him being manipulative? I was full of questions and decided to ask them and sit in silence until I received my response.
I got my answer in the simplest of messages: Toni, you are a person who is clear and clean in your communication with yourself and others. You are courageous and appreciate clean cuts. You hate hacked off, strung out, messy endings. You're a practical woman who is resilient and will be OK with this no matter what the outcome, and a phone call would be taking care of yourself and honoring who you are. So I dialed his number.