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Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

I find myself in an interesting situation where some close friends are going through a divorce or are considering a divorce.  Since both of these friends are men, it provides a different perspective on my divorce.

I should first say that I consider my divorce the most painful gift I have ever received.  Though I never thought we would get divorced, it was a blessing in disguise.  I don’t regret the marriage – we had a ton of great times and good memories.  In hindsight, we should have remained friends, but …

The way my marriage dissolved was a shock, and to be honest, there were a ton of questions I had that remained unanswered.  I’ve moved on with my life and those questions are no longer important, but seeing my two male friends consider divorce provides some answers.

I don’t believe a mid-life crisis is responsible for all divorces and I think “mid-life crisis” is misleading.  I think it’s more of an identity crisis and isn’t limited to any set age.  I think most people can relate to being in a position where they wonder who they are and what they are doing with life.  We think back on choices we could have made and how our lives might be different.  Too often we think back and create a different future where our life is better than it currently is, but there’s always the possibility it could be darker.

Both of my friends are in an identity crisis where they are wondering if this is the life they want and if they could be happier.  (It’s not like they are mildly unhappy, both have expressed a lot of unhappiness and frustration with their lives.)  Listening to their thoughts and complaints, I can empathize with the situation their wives are in, but I can also project some of what they are saying back on my ex.  (I’m not saying this excuses bad behavior because it doesn’t – it just allows me to see a new perspective.)

One think I know for sure is that the end of a relationship or marriage will not kill you.  It might break your heart and hurt like hell, but you survive through it – and often you find yourself happier afterward.

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I’ve had interesting dating experiences – some fun and some scary!  I haven’t experienced that special “spark” people speak about.  (To be honest, I don’t know that it exists.)

Sometimes I wonder if my psyche is screwed up and I’m not able to become deeply involved at an emotional level.  Even now when I think about it, I tense up or cringe because I just don’t believe people stick around – at least not in my experience.

I was hanging out this weekend with someone who is becoming a good friend and he even called me out on this.  He said I don’t open up and tell him when things are bothering me or what I am thinking about – he’s right to a large degree.  I keep a lot of my deep emotions locked away.

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Ever felt strong emotions or a strong attachment to someone you probably shouldn’t?  I’m there.

I’m inexplicably drawn to a man who stirs up emotions I have never felt before.  It sounds wonderful until I say that he is not emotionally available.  I think sometimes he wants to be, but then other times I think it’s a game of cat and mouse that he likes to plays.

It’s the worst game of back and forth with poor communication mixed in.  Riding this ride is a natural wreck for me.  It triggers
feelings of not being good enough and wondering what I did wrong – only I know I didn’t do anything wrong.

I’m not sure how to get this guy out of my head, out of my heart and out of my system.  There’s always this small nagging pull.  It’s even worse when he randomly reaches out.  I can logically tell myself that his random texts asking how I am doing have no substance, but they are enough to cloudy my mind.

So it’s even more important for me to remind myself of my basic must-haves and that a loving relationship should be just that … loving.

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I’ve been emotionally unavailable. I thought I was in a position where I could open up and love a potential life partner, but I wasn’t. I was able to develop deep feelings and perhaps love that person, but I wasn’t able to open up and let go of my defenses. I think I just might be ready now.

I can’t blame the guys I was dating for the relationships not working out – many shouldn’t have worked out! Some were amazing experiences I think I was supposed to have in life. Others were a testament to what I have learned since my divorce about myself … how early experiences shaped my thinking and behaviors; how family dynamics created learned dysfunction; how I created barriers that led to repeated experiences and how I have to take chances in order to live a fulfilling life.

I have the power in my life to create a healthy life with a healthy relationship. The first step is knowing I deserve it! The second step is allowing myself to take chances – emotional chances where I open up and don’t create an invisible safety net. I won’t lose myself in the people I date and I know I can survive if the relationship doesn’t work.

Now I need to make a decision; do I stay in the city I live in now or do I move elsewhere. I can’t open myself up to a relationship before I answer this question. I have a small network of incredible people I call friends and that will be difficult, not impossible, to recreate elsewhere.

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I’m not very good with developing healthy relationships with men. Although I think I finally understand the root cause of why my relationships with men are so dysfunctional, it doesn’t make it easy to break patterns and learn new behaviors. Bear with me for this rollercoaster ride – I’m going to divulge more than I ever have before for the sake of being authentic with myself and even perhaps prodding myself to the next level.

On a subconscious level, I never registered that I have power over sexual relationships – at least just as much power as anyone else. Instead, I always felt sex was an obligation. Don’t get me wrong, I do like sex, but there are many emotional land mines for me when it comes to sex. I tend to disconnect, freeze and run away.
I’ve only had one healthy sexual adult relationship and perhaps one healthy sexual relationship when I was 21. Other than that, most of my relationships with men have been unhealthy and dysfunctional. I think this is because of a long history of exposure to negative sexual behaviors and trauma.

I was almost abducted twice when I was young; once in the first grade and another when I was in the third grade. Both attempted abductions were very similar. The first time I was playing with a class friend in the school playground after school and the second time I was walking to the library with my cousin – two young girls alone in both situations. Both men approached in a car, stopped and asked for directions and acted as though they couldn’t hear us so we would move closer to the car.

With the first guy, there was a fence around the playground he wanted us to climb over. We climbed up it so that he could hear us, but we didn’t climb over. That’s when we saw he was naked from the waist down and masturbating. I don’t remember what he said at that point, but I remember him unbuckling his seat belt and moving to the passenger seat and opening the door. We ran to the principal’s office who called the police. The police were great up until I overheard one cop telling my mom the guy I identified had threatened to kill anyone and their family if we testified against him.

The second attempted abduction was similar, only this time I memorized part of the license plate as my cousin and I ran home. (Memorizing the license plate was something I had learned to do after talking with the cops from the first instance.)

I don’t know the odds of one child encountering two possible abduction scenarios, but I do know I am lucky. Unfortunately, those experiences created a further fear of men. I say a further fear because my biological father was mentally unstable after he returned from the Vietnam War. As a baby, I became scared of men because my biological father was always yelling. My mom has told me I would start to cry or even go to hide when I would hear a man’s voice or see a man enter the room.

The exposure to dysfunctional sexual behavior continued through elementary school. A neighbor’s adult son was mentally handicapped and would expose himself through open windows and doors. He never approached us, but if he saw us playing outside, he would stand in the window or door naked and masturbate. I remember thinking it was creepy, but not really understanding why. I do remember everyone telling us to be careful of him and to stay away.

I think these experiences by themselves are enough to make one misunderstand sexuality and sexual relationships, but unfortunately, my story doesn’t end there.

My first and second sexual encounters with men were not consensual. My first experience involved a much older guy who didn’t want to stop when I asked him to. He put his hand around my throat and told me not to make him hurt me, so I was quiet and disconnected. I was scared, ashamed and believed it was my fault so I never told my family. My second encounter was a partial result of the first. I was still hanging around a crowd that was much older than I was and I drank until I passed out. I came conscious to a guy on top of me having sex.

It’s no wonder I learned to disconnect and become an object. I became an object with several boyfriends and even my ex-husband. What’s sad is that I never told any of them this wasn’t okay. I even married my ex and loved him deeply for many, many years – that’s how warped my sense of self and sense of sexual relationships was.

I’ve progressed a lot in my thinking of what a healthy sexual relationship is, but I haven’t progressed as far as I would like when thinking I deserve to be treated with respect, compassion, dignity and affection. I still freak out, get super scared, disconnect and want to disappear. I don’t ever wear turtlenecks and only started wearing scarfs about six years ago because I can’t stand to have anything tight around my neck. I still have a hard time saying no and think it’s easier to disconnect than to endure whatever might happen if I say no.

It’s been a lifetime since those early experiences and they created a foundation I have to break. Outside of a small circle of very close friends, I’ve never discussed these stories or experiences. Perhaps this is my first step in making a healthy change.

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This is a brief post where I rant about flakey behavior. I’m not a needy person and I’m not demanding either, but I do think you should treat people with respect and consideration. I get that things happen and “life” can get in the way sometimes. Sometimes plans have to be changed because you just can’t make them. It isn’t a big deal until there’s a strong recurring pattern of not showing up and making excuses.

I used to accept a string of excuses and explain away flakey behavior. (Notice the past tense there?) No more. We all deserve equal consideration. There is no one out there that is so great that their needs always trump everyone else’s.

So, to the self-absorbed, self-important, self-centered or those who are simply unaware, we’re not a match. I don’t want to waste my time waiting when I could be spending it laughing and making great memories with people I care about and who care about me.

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I’m trying to take stock of the dating lessons I have learned over the last year. I can honestly say I am not the same person I was 12 months ago. I have had a lot of positive personal growth and still have more to do. (Personal growth should never stop in my opinion.)

Consistency is a big lesson I have learned. For me consistency builds trust. When behavior and availability is consistent, I trust more and can open up more. Inconsistent behavior and availability makes me think a person is flakey and can’t be depended upon. I don’t go into jealous girlfriend mode and wonder about cheating or who the guy I am dating with is spending his time, but I do wonder about his interest and sincerity.

Not all consistency is good either. There were two guys who would always text late at night. With one it made sense because he worked evenings, but with the other it didn’t make much sense. Instead, I began to wonder about his actual motives and finally decided it was more physical than emotional. (I don’t think I am ready to get married tomorrow, but I know I am not interested in a purely sexual relationship.)

Making excuses is something I don’t always realize I am doing when I am doing it. My awareness is improving, but it remains a challenge. I tend to make excuses for the person I am dating. This ranges from instances when my feelings get hurt to when they are not responsive. My self-appreciation is increasing and I am starting to realize I deserve to be treated with consideration, respect and eventually love.

Passion isn’t an indicator of love or genuine interest. Again, there’s a difference between physical attraction and compatibility and an emotional connection. Just think of how many hook-ups are alcohol induced! These are mostly physical connections with no real depth to them.

I don’t think strong passion is something that is always present in a relationship. Attraction and passion ebbs with high and low periods. That’s where other elements kick-in that make you want to invest the effort to keep the relationship going. This is when it takes both people investing effort to keep the relationship going and alive.

A big lesson learned is that actions should match words. I’m included in this bucket too. If I review my past, there are definite times when I just went with the flow of a relationship because it was easier than breaking up or because I felt guilty. Wrong move! You can’t force emotions.

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I recently broke up with a wonderful man. Why, because the timing just wasn’t right and there were some differences that were too great to overlook. I refuse to be a person or part of a couple that breaks ups and gets back together over and over again. That’s drama I am not willing to jump into, but I do wonder if we might get back together in the future. It’s probably not a good idea to entertain these thoughts, but it’s what’s rolling around in my head and my heart.

So, when is it a good idea to get back together with an ex?

I’ve come to realize that after a break-up it seems like the bad memories and reasons for the break-up fade away. (Let me say that these bad memories do not include any violence or cheating. Deep physical and emotional pains take time to heal and I am not dismissing those pains, but they were not a part of this relationship.) I’m trying to remain realistic and remind myself of why we broke up without harping on the past. There weren’t any actions that require us to attempt to forgive the other. Our problems were a combination of communication issues and personal issues we both need to work on. It wasn’t a bad relationship; it just wasn’t the right relationship at the time.

Commitment is something I am scared of and he was pushing hard for a commitment I just couldn’t make. Our communication was also off a bit, but both of these can be improved over time and with effort. We both need to grow a bit as individuals before we should consider coming back together as a couple.

It’s interesting in that neither of us blame the other for the break-up. We both played a part in it and our conversations since have been emotional, but healthy and positive. We are actually sharing more information about our feelings and frustrations.

We’ve both admitted to missing the other and expressed a desire to work on building a friendship in the future. Essentially, emotions are too raw to attempt to be close friends, but we both value the other person. It’s possible we aren’t the right partner for one another, but I do see him as a valuable friend with positive influence.

I miss him and not just the relationship. Don’t get me wrong, it feels wonderful to be held in the arms of a man you care about and to know he cares deeply for you, but I want more than a physical connection. I need to trust the person I am with and trust is difficult for me. I don’t worry about my partner cheating, but I don’t always have faith that they will be there when I need them emotionally. So, yes, I am lonely, but I don’t want to jump into a relationship so that I don’t feel lonely.

Before I can even consider getting back together, I need to know that I have changed; I need to know he has changed. It won’t work if everything is the same.

So, for now, the plan is to take it one day at a time. If, in a few months, we still have feelings for the other we can talk about getting back together. If that happens, we need to move slowly to make sure we are not repeating the past. It may be that we are meant to be friends. If that’s the case, I will be lucky to consider him a friend.

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I still have a long way to go in terms of dating, but I am seeing progress and the application of lessons learned!!!

Remember Guy #4 from one of my earlier posts this month?  Yeah, well he is still a flake.

I don’t think a guy has to call, text or IM a girl every day.  In all honesty, while flattering, it’s a bit too much –but that’s a new and separate lessoned learned.  I do think that when you make this a pattern and suddenly become sporadic, the person is distracted or not interested.  Perhaps both.  That’s what has happened here.

Guy #4 randomly IM’d me and we began talking again.  He began IM’ing me every day along with sending texts and calling me.  Again, I was flattered at first and then I wondered what the urgency was.  I just broke up with my boyfriend so I didn’t want to jump into anything right away and wanted to take things slow.  Oddly, given all this “attention”, he never asked me to go out other than an initial invite to go to his place for dinner which he would cook.

I think dinner is an intimate gesture and at the time I didn’t feel comfortable with going to his place.  Dinner leads to drinking a glass of wine which leads to sitting on the couch talking which leads to kissing which leads to …

Anyway, although this guy continued to invest a lot of effort for us to connect online or with phone calls, that was it.  Then he started texting later and later.  This can seem innocent enough if you truly live different schedules, but I think there’s an element of lost respect and expectations when you begin texting someone after midnight asking what they are up to or if they awake.  This was warning flag #1.5.  (The .5 warning flag comes from the high-level of attention he was paying me initially.)

After a pretty intense and personal conversation, where he revealed a lot of past personal hurt, the tone of our texts changed and his calls were non-existent.  I decided it was better to call whatever this was between us off than end with one disliking the other.  After expressing my concerns, he expressed his continued interested in me and said we would connect during the next work day.  There was no IM, text or call.  Warning flag #2.5 … no need to go to #3.

In an earlier conversation I mentioned to him that flakiness is not something I accept and I think it just makes a person appear unreliable and immature.  He agreed and said he knew he can be flakey at times.  So while he is aware he can be flakey, he is either unaware or uses flakey behavior either to avoid awkward situations.  The reason isn’t really important.  The fact that I recognize his flakiness and am saying I deserve better is HUGE!!!!  I’m not into casual relationships or friends with benefits.  I don’t have a crazy biological clock or an urge to get married.  I simply want a real relationship without immature behaviors – mine or his.  I’m not going to compromise myself because I know what I am asking isn’t too much or hard – and I deserve it.

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I recently broke up with my boyfriend and all of a sudden several guys from the past have cropped up. It’s like this cosmic test to see how much I have grown or how lonely I am.

  • Guy #1: I met while on vacation. There was a definite attraction, but there were several red flags that cropped up. He’s very accomplished, but yet insecure; he’s intelligent and manipulative; he’s caring and attentive and then can turn and be purposely hurtful on an emotional level. He’s had some crazy personal experiences in the past few years which he says has changed his personality. I won’t don’t want to break his confidence and relay the details, but they are significant enough to where I have extra compassion for him.
  • Guy #2: I met online about a year ago and went out on an initial coffee date to meet and see if there was an interest to pursue anything further. There wasn’t. The guy was nice, but he had crazy ugly teeth and his thoughts about people and his job were far too different from mine. He worked for the government to collect back-taxes. He didn’t seem to have any compassion for the people he pursued for back-taxes. I’m sure he has run across some jerks in his career, but not everyone who owes back-taxes owe them intentionally or are jerks.
  • Guy #3: I also met online. He’s an attractive, good-hearted man with an amazing soul. There wasn’t a romantic connection when we met and we decided to be friends. Eventually our dinner invites faded and we stopped exchanging emails.
  • Guy #4: I met through work and went out on two dates about three years ago. It never progressed into anything – we didn’t even kiss. I was fresh out of my divorce and he was a bit flakey. I also learned of a nickname of his that led me to believe he was a man-whore. We didn’t end on bad terms … I started dating my lovely hippie, masseuse guy and he started dating another girl. Oddly, we worked less than about 50 feet from one another last year and rarely exchanged hellos. We simply had different lives.

With Guy #1 I have to be careful that I don’t fall back into a role I played with my family. It’s sometimes easier to put others in front of my needs. This is something I have to remind myself of and try to change when I realize I am doing it. I also have to remind myself that my boundaries are most likely more distorted or accepting of unhealthy behaviors than other people because that is what I grew up with.

He lives in Chicago, so I don’t really have to face the reality of dealing with him on a day-to-day basis or really consider a potential romantic relationship with him. (Although he has offered to fly out here or fly me to him.)

Guy #2 IM’d me a few weeks ago asking if I was interested in meeting for coffee. I was out doing something, but forgot to sign out of IM. By the time I got the IM it was several hours later so I never responded. There’s no reason for me to respond. I had told him after the first coffee date that I thought there were too many differences and not a romantic connection.

I don’t think Guy #3 reached out to me for romantic purposes, but it was out of the blue. We hadn’t communicated at all for at least 6 months or more. Then all of a sudden he sent me an email telling me about new things in his life and asking how I was doing. He since made a decision to quit his job and travel through Asia for a while. We have exchanged a few emails and IMs, but haven’t had any significant conversations.

Guy #4 always made me nervous. I’m not the giddy type, but for some reason around this man I get nervous and sometimes tongue-tied. He randomly reached out to me on IM and began flirting. I was confused about his intentions and how bold he was being, but agreed to meet for drinks to talk and ask questions. He said that he didn’t reach out to me randomly or out of the blue and that he has thought about it for a while. We talked about the events we experienced during the past three years. I told him I could offer friendship and see what might develop from there.

He has since invested a lot of energy to IM me and to call or text every day. He’s been very bold in his conversations, but there’s a large element of caution I have. I was honest and told him I am not interested in a casual sexual relationship or sex between friends. Although he said he wasn’t interested in just sex, sometimes his actions indicate otherwise. For example, yesterday we exchanged a few text messages and I told him to call me if he got bored. He texted after midnight to ask if I was asleep. He has also called late at night another evening and asked me to come over. (Keep in mind we have never kissed and since re-establishing contact we have only met in person one time.) This all adds up to a booty call in my head. Perhaps I am reading more into it, but I don’t think you invite a girl over late at night if you are interested in getting to know her outside of a carnal sense.

While I am not ready to jump into another relationship, it is comforting to have hope about a future relationship. I guess I just need to be patient and believe I will meet someone when the time is right.

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