dating


I feel guilty for having coffee and dinner with two different women over the course of this past month. One or both of them, I think to myself, will be hurt at some point in the future, when another is chosen to receive my romantic affection. [yeah, and presuming they don’t drop me first and so on, but that’s not the point]

I have been worrying about this, stressing over it, for days, wondering if there was any way I could have avoided it, if there was anything I should have done differently. Kicking myself for having gotten into this position.

Then just a few minutes ago, the opposite thought hit me.

I need to do this. It’s not just something that is a by-product of my lack of willpower. It’s not something I can avoid because it’s difficult, or even because it’ll hurt others. If I want to be sure of my next relationship, I need to meet and know more than one woman. Which means that — all arrogance aside — some other women will be hurt.

And I need to do it.

So… following up on yesterday’s dilemma…

I got some advice from a few friends tonight that is pretty darn good, good enough that I want to list it here so I can refer to it again later.

Remember what I want at this time in my life

  • While I’m married, I want to get to know new friends, some of them women. The hotter, the better, but they also have to meet the other (i.e. non-hottie) requirements.
  • I want to have coffee and dinner with them, go on walks, and have long intimate conversations.
  • I don’t want to be exclusive.
  • I want to be fair to them. For me, that means I want to avoid physical relationships and romance until I am exclusively with one woman.

Remember what I want in a woman

  • You are happy, satisfied with who you are, loving, and playful.
  • Your eyes sparkle with humor and you’re known as a fun gal.
  • You’ve made peace with your inner demons — hey, we all have them — and you’re not looking to be rescued.
  • You understand desire, intimacy, vulnerability, and how to fit these into your life.
  • You’re successful at something, not necessarily business, and you’ve found things you are passionate about.
  • You’ve still got dreams, even if your life hasn’t gone exactly as you planned. Maybe it’s an ideal home life or job or even vacation, but it’s something.
  • You are secure enough with yourself (emotionally and physically) to be playful now and then, to find joy and laughter. Life for you isn’t all about doing the dishes or paying the bills (but you do those when you need to).
  • You know yourself, you’re a bit introspective and know when you are being ridiculous and can laugh about it. If you’ve been in relationships that failed, you know what your contribution to that failure was, and you take responsibility for it.
  • You’re attractive, you take care of yourself. You manage your weight, you know how to be as beautiful as you can be.
  • You’re smart, confident, and sexy. Wait, that’s a cliche. You’re confident, sexy, and smart. That’s better. (Oh, and you can put up with a bit of a wacky sense of humor.)
  • You ask insightful questions that make me re-think my opinions on things. You have open-minded opinions of your own, and you’re willing to put them on the table for discussion.
  • You think about sex, and like it. Occasionally, you buy sexy clothing. You plan on seducing me at least occasionally. You want to pounce me.

Seems like a lot now that I list it, but the list is considerably pared down and distilled from the hundreds of ideas that sprang into my mind months ago when I realized it was ok to want something in a woman.

Remember that I’m ok as I am

  • Be honest with them. Tell them what I want, both in a woman and at this time in my life. It’s ok to want what I want. Whoever leaves, leaves, with my fond blessing and no hard feelings. It’s all about the match.
  • Chill, be cool, relax. There’s no rush. Their approval isn’t needed to make me ok.
  • Don’t be in a hurry to be exclusive or physical. There’s lots of months left in this particular time continuum.
  • Remember what I want in a woman; remember that after a date with a hot gal I may end up saying “no”.

(and departing from the Remembery theme…)

Avoid the word “dating”

It has too many meanings. Having coffee could be a date, and so could sleeping with someone. When someone asks “are you dating?” it’s sure to raise red flags if your answer is “well, it depends what you mean by dating…” Instead, avoid the question altogether.

Q: Are you dating?

A: I occasionally have coffee or dinner with female friends, but I’ve decided not to be romantic or physical until the divorce is final and I can be exclusively with one woman.

That has the dual benefit of being honest and irresistible. :-)

So thanks, guys.

<The sound of peace, settling softly after a flurried flight…>

There isn’t enough time for me to chat with all the hot 38 year old divorced single moms out there.

Seriously. I’ve got one new good lady friend now (I’ve mentioned her here before), and over the last three months we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. Sometimes we’ve gone a week or so without talking, and sometimes we’ve talked for hours in a day. Over three months, that’s a lot of hours. Way more hours than I spent talking with my wife in the last two years of our relationship (if you exclude shouting matches). At the start, it was strained and I had a hard time breaking through her shell, but lately she’s been pretty much wide open to discussing anything and everything, even open to having fun together. That doesn’t sound like such a big thing — who wouldn’t want to? — but it took her a while to come around. At this point, I think she’s very interested in me.

And that’s kind of the problem. I never planned to only date one woman before choosing to settle down. And since I’m still separated, not divorced, I don’t want to start really dating now. But when January (or so) comes along, and I am divorced and want to start dating, it’ll be a very awkward situation. I want to hold back from a serious relationship with her for now. I also want to move forward with a physical one, but I want to be fair to her more. So the next couple months will be somewhat strained, with (presumably) both of us wanting to explore a bit more in our relationship, but me holding back. I ask myself: Am I leading her on? And I answer: If I don’t tell her my intentions, yes.

Ok, but then, problem #2: A week ago I was talking with my therapist and told him the above part about not wanting to date until I was divorced, and he asked why not? “Because I don’t want to have to explain why I’m dating while I’m technically married”, I said. He asked what would happen if I was just up front about that from the start and see what happens. I couldn’t think of anything wrong with that idea. Actually, it was only a question, but it quickly became an idea… :-) I talked with a friend about it and he told me about some gals he had met online; that night I listed myself on a dating site, www.millionairematch.com. I browsed around a bit and added a few hotties to my favorites list, but didn’t contact anyone.

The next day, one of those gals “winked” at me. As it turns out, folks are notified when others add them to favorites. I wasn’t quite ready for that. I was just browsing. But she was very pretty. So pretty, in fact, that I had serious questions for the first week about whether she was a “trap” profile, the kind of admin-created profile that winks at all the guys to get them to pay money to chat with her. I was, in fact, suspicious until today when after exchanging four emails, she asked to talk in person. That kinda reduces the likelihood that she’s imaginary.

And she wasn’t the only one. Oh, maybe a dozen others have winked or emailed me. Most I’ve replied to with a polite thanks but no thanks, which was a very hard thing to do. I admit I was judging them 80% based on their looks and 20% based on their profile, and I didn’t think that was fair to them. But there are so many, I really can’t talk to all of them, especially not meaningfully. So I choose the pretty ones to add to my “someday” list, hoping that one of them is also secure, funny, and likes geeks. It almost sounds like I’m bragging about this — hell, it almost feels like I’m bragging about this — but I’m genuinely concerned too. I haven’t promised exclusivity to anyone, but if my new lady friend found out that I’m having conversations or coffee with someone else, I think she’d be hurt.

The thing is, she’s not perfect for me. I could list faults, even what I consider serious ones and deal-breakers, but even with all that, I enjoy spending time with her, whether in person or on the phone. (Mostly.) I don’t want to lose that. But I need to be honest and open with her. I’m just afraid of hurting her.

Too much of a good thing isn’t the same thing as just the right amount of a good thing.

She has told me several stories half a dozen times, about how bad her ex was, the horrible things he said and did, her perception of how he’s not the best dad, how she now feels sympathy for his first wife, how horrible it was for her after her divorce, and many more like that.

It took me a while to get beyond the concern for my own self when listening to her stories. “Why is she slamming on her ex so much? Is she still looping around him? Are they real stories, or exaggerations? Will she slam on me this way if we get together and then split?” and so on.

But once I remembered to:

  • Listen to understand the person, not just the story

    • Not just “Wow, what happened next?” but “What did you feel when he did that?”
  • Listen to understand the person, not to fix them
    • Not “You should…” but “You seem sad.”
  • Listen to understand the person, not to judge them against my own needs
    • Not “Will she treat me the same way?” “Why is she so mean to him, is she a bitch?” “Can’t she see she’s being ridiculous?” but “It sounds like you felt taken advantage of.” or “After such betrayal, do you find it hard to move away from your anger?”
  • Listen to understand the person today, not just at the time of the story
    • Not just “What did you feel then?” (which is a good question) but “Was it hard to tell me that?” (which is an even better question because it pulls her into the present with me, now)
  • Just listen to understand the person:
    • She seems afraid as she tells me this
    • Hmm, her hand keeps going to her face
    • She laughs awkwardly when she talks about me
    • She’s playing with her hair
    • <she keeps telling me the same old stories, what’s underneath that? What does she get from it? What does she want from me?>

… it became easier to listen. And that’s when I was able to filter through all the repeated stories to observe how badly she needs to be “the good one”. To have others know that she’s sane, not a crazy man-hating bitch.

But why does she need that?

  • Because she’s not centered enough in herself to let the stories just be the stories and let people think what they want.
  • Because she’s looking for validation from others.
  • Because she doesn’t talk to be known, she talks to be validated.

She doesn’t just observe peoples’ reactions to her stories so she can learn about her listeners, she tries to manage her listener’s opinions of her by convincing them that her stories are true. And in an odd twist, it’s actually the former that would lend more credence to the truth of her stories and allow a listener to see she’s stable. As with writing, show, don’t tell.

<sometimes I do it too, though, hypocrite that I am…>

She’s insecure, vulnerable, unsure of herself, and needs validation from others. (Aren’t we all that way sometimes?)

And so she’s a target for me, knight in shining armor, who can make her feel good about herself.

But that insecurity, that other-validation, is one reason why I don’t want a long term romantic relationship with her.

But she’s only human; she has many good qualities. And her attractiveness and neediness would make me feel good emotionally, physically, socially.

But moving forward wouldn’t be healthy, it would be short-sighted, and it wouldn’t help her.

But she’s pretty, and needy, and vulnerable, and I could…

But <infinite loop>

These last few weeks I have found myself trying to impress “her”. I mentioned things to let her know how full my life was (men’s group, friends, work events, parties, etc). I showed off my daughter’s room, a friend’s gift, our flower garden. I’ve several times told stories to show what a great father I am. That’s even with me knowing that showing off is a sign of lower value — it needs to be seen naturally or at a minimum through the words of others. And what’s more, I’m not attracted to her in a long-term relationship way. So why show off?

I suppose there are two possible answers, maybe not exclusive of each other.

  1. I do it because I need to know from somewhere outside myself that I am ok.
  2. I’d like to have sex with her and this is part of convincing her. She’s not that seductive or flirty, but it would be interesting in a self-affirming sort of way.

Sigh.

The approval of others is like cotton candy: sweet but not very filling. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t showing off for that reason — sometimes I like sweets — but it’s easily dealt with once awareness sets in.

Showing off to have sex with her, though… there could be something to that. Sex with attractive women stopped for me a LONG time ago, so there is some desire for sex, if not for her. And that is precisely the problem.

I’ve known her for a few months now, so fucking and leaving is no longer considered acceptable behavior. I guess there’s an expiration date on that sort of thing, before which the girl blames herself for her bad judgment and beyond which the guy is just an asshole.

And I don’t want a long-term romantic relationship, I can’t even pretend I do, so fucking and staying is out too.

Unless… is it possible to fuck and stay, but without a romantic relationship? That’s rhetorical of course, I know people who do it regularly.

But I’m not one of them. Never have been. In the past, I mean.

Yeah, I talk big. Acting on those thoughts still doesn’t seem like me. A year ago, thinking them wouldn’t have been either.

I’m going to the park with a new lady friend and our separate kids on Saturday. I met her last weekend at a single parents campout. We talked for hours after others had gone to bed. We’ve emailed a couple times since. But so far, the only thing I’ve seen to indicate interest from her is her willingness (and apparent desire) to spend time with me at the campout, and the emails since. Even though I’ve tossed out a few electronic bids for flirting, they haven’t been answered. And even though I’ve asked her a couple insightful questions to learn more about what makes her tick, she hasn’t asked any of me. I need to figure out what I want to do about that. Do I want to be a nice guy, focus on her, and take the multi-month route toward a relationship that might eventually end up somewhere? Or do I want to be a cocky funny guy and move for a physical connection even knowing this might not end up anywhere? I actually want to do the latter, but only for the physical aspect. I don’t know her anywhere near well enough to love her, so shooting for a physical connection this soon with a church girl would put me into a category I’ve never imagined myself in. Plus I don’t think they want to be “hit on” that way.

And that’s when it hit me. I don’t think of church girls the same as I would think of a girl I met at a club. (Theoretically, as my club experience is somewhat non-existent. Except for the somewhat part.)

That may seem like a no-brainer. Actually, looking at the words, it seems that way to me too. It’s the idea of changing that thought that I find fascinating. What if…

If I met a girl at a club, I would flirt, touch, play, tempt, tease. I would use ideas from The Game and the dozens of websites and newsgroups. At least I flatter myself that I would. But with church girls I’m nice, reliable, friendly. Safe. Do I somehow think that girls are different just because I met them at church?

It’s as though girls with a spiritual side are somehow above being hit on and don’t desire it, but “worldly” girls are not only fair game, but looking for it. But what if that’s not true? What if church girls really want to be physical just as much as anyone else, and they’re just waiting for a man that’s bold enough — not timid — to want her as much as she wants to be wanted? What if they don’t actually mind short, physical relationships that maybe don’t go anywhere? That’s the thought that got me writing this.

Girls are girls. I mean, there are wide variations, but what if those variations are across the entire set of girls, not grouped in subsets. In other words, what if a church has approximately the same proportion of girls who want physical relationships as a club does? Wouldn’t church girls want to get laid as much as other girls? Don’t they have the same amount of unwed pregnancies? Someone’s hitting on them. (And doing it better than me.) And also on the inverse: what if a club has as many girls looking only for love as a church does? For the first time, I’m beginning to realize that’s probably more true than false.

Wow. This could open up a whole new world.

There are risks. In any tight circle of friends (like church), if you piss one member off, you’re out of the club. A nightclub on the other hand has a certain level of anonymity. If you piss off someone at a nightclub, well, they’ll be gone the next day and you can find someone else to piss off. But if you piss off a couple people at a church (or at work), you may end up needing to leave.

To avoid that (and beat the analogy to death), I suppose I shouldn’t piss in my own pool. Visit other churches maybe. Visit clubs. Use online dating. Just don’t get the water all muddy near my dam.

“But I want to hit on that girl at church,” I say. Then do it, but be aware she’s got a circle of friends and I could be voted off the island. Seduction is risky in tight social groups.

This still doesn’t tell me exactly what to do with my friend. But it opens up the door to some interesting possibilities.