Trials and Tribulations of Dating

Rejection hurts no matter what shape it takes, or from whom. Online dating has forced me to reject guys more often than not, and I’ve been ghosted so many times I’m beginning to wonder if the profiles on Match and POF are even real. It’s like anything you want though: it only takes one person or one job or one whatever thing it is you want, right?

My wild oats are sewn, or should I say my one wild oat, and I’ve decided not to see Khalid again though he doesn’t know it yet. I don’t know who he is, where he goes when he’s not with me, where he’s been… and I want a meaningful relationship.

Liam, the one guy I was interested in (after being on two different sites for months and months), turned out to have issues I can’t deal with, including three DUIs in his past, a very recent break-up, and a diagnosis of ADHD, of which he’s only now getting treated for. ADHD is probably not that big of a deal, but after my experience with a guy who had OCD, which turned out to be “relationship OCD,” and prior to that, the ex with bipolar disorder, I don’t want to take my chances. Last weekend I texted him that it’s not gonna work, thinking he’d go away yet hoping he wouldn’t, and indeed he didn’t. He asked me why, then said it sounded like I was making a lot of assumptions, and asked if we could keep communication open. That was my cue to give it a shot, or so it seemed to me at the time, and I remembered a recent conversation I’d had with my friends.

“I believe in throwing it all out there, on the table, this is who I am, like me or not,” I’d boasted. “I’m a sober alcoholic, and if the guy doesn’t like me because of that, he can move on.”

Then I had the phone call with Liam when he blasted me with all red flags at once, and I was like whoa there train wreck this is not your station. Because my past is so pristine, as y’all probably already know, or will soon find out.

But because I liked “him”–or rather, his online profile, and the things he had to say, his pictures, his job (therapist! because they all make healthy decisions, right? probably no codependent relationships there at all!), I thought, Maybe I’m jumping the gun.

So I agreed to continue talking to him, and I thought we should at least meet in person and ADHD isn’t that big of a deal and he said his relationship was over long before it was actually over and maybe the DUIs were a long time ago. He said he had no desire to drink now, and hasn’t in a long while, and it’s not like I’m perfect nor do I have the perfect past. So we made a plan to meet Saturday.

Then a few days later he sends me a text cancelling our date, saying he’s going out with another girl instead, someone who lives closer to him, and he felt that I was too guarded.

rejection

The above image was taken from this site.

I’M too guarded??? You just laid all your baggage on me on the first phone call, and I’M too guarded? I just told you about how my ex had bipolar disorder, that the relationship was a literal emotional roller coaster, and then the guy after that had “relationship OCD”–and who knew there was even such a thing? How do i know this guy doesn’t have “relationship ADHD?” The ex probably had “relationship bipolar” for all I know. If that’s not in the DSM-V now then it probably will be, with my face, or my personality type (shout out to all the INFPs out there!), next to it: This is the woman guys with this illness are attracted to.

Do I just expect too much? I have scrolled through so many profiles, swiped left to so many guys. Every now and then I think well maybe I’m being too critical, and then I just feel like I’m settling. Never do I ever want to be in another relationship in which I feel I’ve settled. It seems to me that I’m not asking too much: a guy I’m attracted to, who has a job he likes, who likes to have fun, who’s funny, at least 5’10, preferably with dark hair or brown hair or even bald. He doesn’t have to be rich, he doesn’t have to be in some position of power, he doesn’t have to be a non-drinker (but I don’t want a heavy drinker), preferably he’s a nonsmoker, and he doesn’t have to be gorgeous but I’d like him to be good-looking–someone I’m attracted to. There has to be chemistry. And I just really do not like blond guys or short guys. Is that really too much to ask? One would think out of all the hundreds and hundreds of guys in the Baltimore/DC area, someone would fit that description.

And come to think of it, my therapist told me I’m actually too tolerant, so it can’t be that I expect too much.

Every now and then I come across some guy who looks interesting, but they’re never available. They don’t respond, or if they do, they ghost. The really good-looking ones just want to hook up, and even they will ghost. Is there something about me that just really turns guys off? It’s baffling, because I get a lot of emails from guys who compliment me—rarely guys I’m interested in—but the ones I think would be a good match just ignore me right off the bat, they ghost, or they send a few benign emails and we do that for weeks until one of us just gives up. Those particular emails go something like this:

Guy: Hey how are you?
Me: Good and you? Just finished Zumba and about to go to work.
Guy (a day or two later): Nice.
Me: So I noticed you mentioned you’re a foodie. I love food too! I’m studying nutrition in grad school. What kind of food do you like?
Guy (a few days later): I love all food.

Um, really, Guy?

Maybe I should start dating unattractive guys or short guys or blond guys. The funny thing is, I’ve been told in the past that I dated guys who weren’t that attractive, and what are you doing dating him? Um, because the good-looking guys don’t like me, y’all. They just don’t. One thing I’ve noticed is that they maybe are used to women chasing them, and I don’t like chasing guys.

There’s one potential silver lining, which is that I’ve reconnected with an old friend, a guy I knew who used to work with my first husband, who I’d always liked, who always liked me more, yet who I never dated, for many reasons. For one, I was married. And he was married. Then it turned out he’s an alcoholic. Well, he got sober a year ago (divorced a few years before that) and he wants to see me. We’ll call him Evan. Evan lives in Florida and is going to fly me down there to visit him next month. I should be way more excited, but Evan also has a lot of baggage, and he’s a smoker, he’s irresponsible with his money, and how do I know he won’t drink again, and I guess I just feel like I’ve been through so much shit when it comes to relationships I don’t even know if I want one anymore.

To top it all off, I have fever blisters all over my mouth, which I’d gotten from my ex-husband years ago. I’d cheated on my first husband with my soon-to-be second husband, then I cheated on the second with the first right before I moved to Maryland. A few months later, I got cold sores all over my mouth, which the first had gotten from this girl who he’d always flirted with in the meantime. So I felt like that’s what I get for being a cheater. (I would like to add here that it turns out he’d cheated on me before I ever cheated on him, and I only recently found this out. Not that it makes me a better person but it certainly doesn’t make me worse.) Anyway, the cold sores never returned, so I thought I had the kind that lie dormant, as some people have, but here they are, back again. Painful as hell and worrisome because who’d want to kiss me or be my boyfriend and what if Khalid gave me something?

Maybe it really is better to be single.

believe

The image above was taken from this site.

Peace and love,

TCH

Freedom and Self-Love on Valentine’s Day

This article from the New York Times jumped out at me this morning when I logged onto my laptop: For a Better Marriage, Act Like a Single Person. Stephanie Coontz writes, “Many of the problems experienced by divorced and widowed people may result not so much from the end of their marriage as from having relied too much on their spouse and thus failing to maintain social networks and the skills of self-reliance.” Amen to that, sister.

Last night my friend Kate invited me out, saying sometimes a group gets together to go bowling, and also there’s a girls’ night out on Fridays once a month. I’d been invited to the girls’ night already, so I’m excited about that. Mixed feelings about both because there’s a back story to both situations, but overall I feel glad to be single because when I’m in a relationship I feel like I can’t participate in these kinds of outings. Or if I do, it’s not as much fun. Never have I been in a social circle that included the guy I was dating, because I don’t typically date guys in AA, which is where I make all my friends. Kate told me last night she doesn’t want to be in a relationship; she’d much rather have her freedom and have friends. She looked at me and said, “You don’t seem to broken up about Mark.”

Spencer had said the same thing, and I must admit it’s true. My life has been far less stressful without driving 30 minutes to Mark’s house, packing and unpacking my stuff, skipping meetings or missing outings because I’m with him, etc. I told Kate I wish that he and I could’ve kept the sex part lol, and she said something like I needed a much more low maintenance sex partner (lol). I do want a companion, more than just a sex partner, but what I also want is someone I can share a social circle with, but who has their own friends, and doesn’t become possessive of my time, who’s okay with me having my own friends.

So here’s the backstory to the social situation I referred to earlier. One of the girls in the group is someone I sponsored but who decided she wanted another sponsor because she felt like she didn’t see me enough. She’s younger, about 28, and ended up asking someone else to be her sponsor, a bossy woman in her late 50s. Apparently both of them are part of the group that goes out, so it’s mildly awkward. I can’t help but feel rejected by Brooklyn, the girl I’d sponsored, and I’ve just never liked her new sponsor. And Brooklyn started dating this creepy older guy who has about 25 kids, a guy I’ll call Jake, who’d sent me a like via Match a while back which I ignored. Dude is twice Brooklyn’s age, and he has so many kids, including little ones. He’s not attractive in the least; he looks like an unattractive woman. Brooklyn on the other hand is new to AA, pretty, young, and she has whole life ahead of her. It’s just creepy. None of my business, but still. I can’t help but think if I were her sponsor I’d be giving her better guidance, I hope, than that bossy Bianca. For one, I’ve been there before. I’ve dated creepy guys not worth my time because I was so insecure I loved the attention and didn’t think I’d get it anywhere else. That’s experience I could’ve shared with her, and she could do what she wanted with that information, but it would be a seed, I hope. I suppose I still can share this with her if the opportunity comes up. Bianca’s the kind of person who will have an opinion and will probably give it. She seems like someone who tells you what to do, and maybe Brooklyn likes that. But it wouldn’t work for me.

It’s none of my business but that’s what goes through my head. At the root of all this is me feeling rejected because Brooklyn left me for another sponsor (as if she was my girlfriend lol), when I felt like we had a good relationship. I was always available for her, we met frequently, we’d gotten to her 7th step already. The only thing was we didn’t see each other at meetings often because I was usually with Mark instead. She didn’t know that but probably guessed, so I feel judged, like she and everyone else thinks Bianca is somehow a better person than me. As if somehow I’ve failed at sobriety, lol, which is ridiculous because I’m still sober, and I still practice doing the right thing in all my life situations. Anyone who can’t see that chooses not to see it, and it doesn’t matter anyway because I know who I am and what I do. What I forget is that Brooklyn’s decision to fire me and get someone else has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with her. Sometimes when people do that it’s because they feel like they’re not working a good program and they want to blame it on their sponsor. That’s why I changed sponsors so many times during my first four years of sobriety. Whatever the case, I must remember not to take it personally. And who knows? Maybe the guy’s not really a creep; I don’t really know him… Btw, I’m coming up on eight years now! What a blessing and a miracle that is.

Anyway, the other awkward situation is that the group of friends who go out bowling sometimes includes the guy I’d dated briefly (Jay) who went back to his girlfriend (Yvonne), a couple I refer to as Jayvonne, and Kate wanted to know if I’d be okay with them being there. Honestly, I don’t really mind, and would love to go out with the group; it’s only mildly uncomfortable when Jayvonne is there because I feel bad for having slept with him when they were separated. No one, including them, knew they’d get back together, so it’s not like there was infidelity, but if the tables were turned I wouldn’t like having the other woman around. Kate doesn’t think she’d mind, and he doesn’t care and probably likes it because he’s a guy, and he probably feels like a rooster. Anyway, I’ll probably go out with the group soon. That whole situation is just a lesson learned not to sleep with guys in the group. Or anyone else for that matter.

Both of those situations, and my recent break-up with Mark could leave me feeling rejected—and I do, especially with the sponsorship situation. I mean, I hate rejection, no matter what form it takes. But these situations also make me glad to be single. Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I actually feel grateful to be single, to have my freedom, to do whatever I want with my time. I’m glad not to be in Brooklyn’s or Yvonne’s shoes. I’m grateful to be enjoying school this semester. My room and bathroom have never been cleaner and more organized, which I’ve been able to maintain because I’m actually home now, so my space has become a haven. I have a warm home, a fun job with supportive co-workers, friends and a social network in sobriety, and sobriety itself. If you’d told me 10 or 20 years ago this is where I’d be today and I’d be happy, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here I am.

I hope everyone can find this kind of peace and gratitude. You just never know where you’ll find yourself. I know a lot of people who are suffering, and I can relate. I’ve been there. For SO long. Years. But if you believe good things are just around the corner, that good things are here already, you just have to open your eyes to them—life gets better. It really does.

May you find peace, happiness, and self-love.

Here’s a song (a cover of Meghan Trainor’s song “He’s No Good for You” by someone named Eliza) I’d like to dedicate to Brooklyn, and all the girls out there who are dating creepy guys who don’t deserve their time, because they want to fill a void that really only a higher power and self-love can fill… Girl, I’ve been there before, and I hope never to go back.

Love,

TCH

Men and Relationships: My Favorite Addiction

This is the time of my life in which I’m single. I hope. I can’t make any promises, y’all, because you know how I am. The first good-looking, interesting guy who catches my attention I’ll be imagining how we’ll live together. Men are like a drug to me; relationships are an addiction for me. If Mark texted me today to see if I wanted to get together, you better believe I’ll be there. I’ll say it’s better this way, I can live my life and he can live his, we don’t have to get married, we’ll just see each other on occasion…

But if I play the tape the whole way through, as they tell us in recovery to do, it doesn’t end well. It can go one of two ways. Either he comes back to me or he doesn’t. Let’s say I get what I want. Guess what? I won’t want it anymore. Oh I’ll play the game for a while, years even. We may even get married. And then I start feeling trapped. You mean I have to stay with this guy for the rest of my life? Eventually someone appears on the fringes who seems much better, who I have much more in common with, who I wish I was married to instead. Secretly I’ll pine over that guy, or I’ll create some persona of who I think that guy is, and I’ll feel like a fraud, living a double life, knowing in my bones and in my heart I don’t want to be married to this guy anymore, pretending that I do. Wishing I was single. Free.

How about being grateful for what I have today?

Yesterday I woke up so grateful not to have the flu, which has been going around, literally killing people. At work our immune support section looks post-apocalyptic, empty, signs up that the manufacturer is out of stock. I’ve been taking so many supplements I don’t even need to eat food (JUST KIDDING—everyone needs to eat food, y’all, and that whole breathatarian bullshit is a dangerous lie). But I’ve been taking a lot of herbs and vitamins, and washing my hands like a mad woman. I’d gone home the night before not feeling great, paranoid and convinced I’d wake up with the flu.

But then I woke up feeling SO happy, and so grateful to be well. That’s a blessing that not everyone gets. For example, one of my friends has rheumatoid arthritis which has no cure and causes her so much pain she can’t work. And I’m over here worrying about my silly boyfriends? I mean, come on. Now’s the time I can embrace this moment.

Last night I went to a women’s meeting, which I love because rarely does anyone talk about drinking, which I don’t care to talk about so much anymore. Even though I’m an alcoholic, drinking is just not something I think about very often anymore (which is a miracle because for 20 years the obsession dominated my life). In March I’ll have eight years of sobriety, and I thank God for that.

At this women’s meeting I go to we usually talk more about what’s going on in our lives today and how to live a spiritual life, how to find peace and gratitude without using alcohol or drugs to escape. It was so nice to be in a room full of supportive women talking about our lives and how to live better. We all laughed a lot, and I got them laughing too which always makes me happy, and a few women came up to me afterwards to chat. It’s so comforting and welcoming. A few of us even talked about the culture we live in, the families we grew up in, how we’ve grown up with low self-esteem as a result of being taught that getting married (and to marry well) is a sign of success, or that we’re not as smart as men, or just not smart enough or good enough.

When I was in Georgia visiting my dad, he asked me what he often asks when we see each other, which is why my oldest sister and I don’t have good jobs. He couldn’t understand her especially because she has such a high IQ. I’m his dumb, pretty daughter, so I guess it makes more sense for me, and plus I still have a chance to get rescued by a husband. (That last sentence was meant facetiously; I feel like it makes the writing worse if I have to explain that but I would rather have y’all understand me.) I explained to him that Sherry had a good job as a director at an animal sanctuary, and now she’s searching for something new, and we’re happy anyway. Then I tried something new and I asked him, out of curiosity, “Are you disappointed in us?”

That surprised him. He said that he was just baffled, because he’d gotten a job out of college on the air force base working as a chemist, got promoted several times, and retired with a pension. Today is a different day, I explained. If we could have that, or if I could, I’d take it (IF I liked the job, which I probably wouldn’t, lol, but no need to tell him that part). I asked him what was it that makes Tracy, my other sister, better than us? She didn’t work for many years. She got married and raised kids (and she’s an excellent mother and has done a great job, btw, so I’m not knocking stay-at-home moms).

“Well, that’s something,” he replied.

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong. If I’d had a good head on my shoulders like Tracy has always had, I’d have found a good man as she did when I was younger, and maybe I’d have had kids (but knowing me, probably not). I’d love to not work, and have free time to do something fun or rewarding such as volunteer work or taking a painting class. And it’s not that I can’t do those things now, but my time is limited right now while I’m in school. And I’m not saying that’s how she spends her time because it isn’t—she’s actively involved in her kids’ lives which takes a lot of work and time, which I couldn’t have done when I was younger, given my alcoholism. To prepare a little human being to become a good, responsible adult is a huge task I don’t think I could undertake. She also got a part time job and has been working to get her CPA. So it’s not like she does nothing; that’s not what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is, when have I ever gotten credit for my independence?

All through college I didn’t ask my parents for money, I took out student loans, I worked part-time. I got married and paid half of the mortgage and bills (my ex-husband did buy my alcohol and food which was ridiculously expensive so I’m not saying I was a saint). The second time I married I paid half the bills, maybe more. I told my dad this, just the part about the husbands and paying half, and he said, “Well they should’ve paid more.”

That’s not the point. The point is I did this all on my own. And am still doing it on my own, working while in grad school. And no one gives a shit.

And honestly, why should they? This is my life, not theirs. And am I going to be on my deathbed one day feeling glad I paid for all of my stuff? Will people be at my funeral talking about how financially independent I was? God, I would hope that wouldn’t be the most important thing anyone could say about me. I just wanted my dad’s approval, is all.

He must’ve thought about it, because lately he’s been sending my sister and me emails talking about how much I helped him with nutrition advice, that I gave good advice that his doctor corroborated. He really is sweet—he’s become much sweeter lately, since he quit drinking a year ago. He’s the person I remember from childhood, who I’d forgotten, to be honest. But he’s a product of his generation, the baby boomers, and his goal in life for my sisters and me is for us to get married so a man can support us. He just wants us to be okay, to be taken care of. But that idea is not helpful for me. My subconscious has been ingrained to believe that I need a man to complete me, and it’s just not true.

As independent as I pride myself on being, which is my ego talking, I’m not really independent as long as I keep looking for a man to “fix” me. I can take care of myself. Today I have God in my life, and for that I’m truly grateful.

No promises that I won’t go back to Mark if he asks, but I’m not reaching out to him, and today I’m not reactivating my online dating memberships. And that’s a start. I really, really want to try to stay single for a while this time. And I will probably go back to Codependents Anonymous meetings.

Here’s a song I love by my new favorite, Taylor Swift. She’s been around for years but at the time I snubbed pop music and country-pop before that. As a side note, I like what she says in the beginning. She’s funny and human, and it makes me glad not to be famous, not to be criticized for my life choices by a public who doesn’t even know me as a person. I love the line, “Oh my God / Look at that face / You look like / my next mistake.” Oh man can I relate.

Peace and love,

TCH

Ex-Boyfriends, FWBs, Relationships, Etc.

Mark and I had decided to be “friends with benefits,” but we still have feelings for each other, so the fwb thing just ain’t happening. Yet he “can’t be in a relationship with anyone who’s divorced and been hurt by the divorce” (his words) because it triggers childhood trauma from his mother feeling lost (for years) after her divorce from his dad, and subsequently neglecting her kids as a result. She apparently paid more attention to her boyfriends in search of a new husband that never came along. How that situation is anything like mine, or how she and I are anything alike–other than in the way that we’re both human, and all humans experience pain, and most single people our age or older are divorced–I fail to see. I do want a husband, although some days I think I’d be just as happy (or possibly happier, lol) with a boyfriend who lives in a different house who I see maybe twice a week for the rest of my life (lol).

Luckily, Mark’s in therapy. He has OCD, as I’ve mentioned, and suffers from unwanted, intrusive thoughts, and when we’re apart he re-lives the pain he felt as a child when his mother neglected him. I can’t pretend to understand any of this—I’m just telling you what I know. Maybe he feels like I’m neglecting him? He wants to be with me all the time so maybe that’s it.

I’m not sure if any of it matters, because after I talk to him today it’s likely we won’t talk again because I don’t think he can deal with it. I’d be willing to try, because I already know that everyone has issues, and you just have to find someone who’s craziness complements your own, and who’s willing to work with you through theirs. But he probably won’t be willing or able to do that.

The way I see it, you (I) can spend your life trying to find someone who’s perfect, only to be constantly disappointed. Eventually you (hopefully) come to realize that when you find someone new they may be amazing in the beginning, but eventually you find their skeletons, they find yours, and what it boils down to is a decision to deal with each other’s skeletons, and how you communicate that with each other. You’re going to have childhood issues that come out sideways with each other, so you can choose to deal with it together or not.

It’s not that we should settle for any old person who comes along. What I’d like is someone who I enjoy spending time with, who I have chemistry with, who treats me well, and who I trust. It would be great if that was Mark, but I don’t think that’s happening.

In the meantime, my ex emailed me again. He had sent me an email before that he’d been on NPR (eyeroll) for an educational interview about the field of research he does. He’s an academic superstar complete with a PhD, big salary, and high status. Good for him that he has that going for him… but really? I’ll probably never have that in my lifetime, but you know what? I don’t care. I don’t think I’ll be on my deathbed one day regretting that I didn’t get a big job that put me on NPR. I sense he’s feeling me out, trying to see if we could be friends, maybe even get back together, but guess what?

Nope. Ah to the nah to the no no no.

That break-up killed a part of me that will never come back, and probably for good reason. I’m no one’s doormat. No way in hell am I going back to that. It’s too late now. We tried and it didn’t work. I won’t be treated that way again. Dating Mark is like having a girlfriend who’s on her period all the time, but at least he’s nice to me. And respectful. And he can either stay with me and work it out or not. Who knows? Maybe he’ll grow up and get his shit together, come back to me in a year after so much therapy and want me back. By that time I’ll probably have already found someone else who’s already got their shit together, or at least working on it, because no one really has it all together.

But if not, then I guess the time just hasn’t been right yet. I’m getting closer though. I can feel it.

Here’s a song I dedicate to my ex, Steven:

Relationships, Amends, Healing, etc.

I caved.

The same day I posted that I’d stand strong and not give in to Mark’s request to be friends with benefits, I texted him and said fine I’ll do it. Of course I’d rather have love and commitment, but I don’t have time for a boyfriend while in grad school, and my hormones are raging. So there you go.

As soon as I texted him that, he was like, Come over now, so I went to his house right after work. We talked for a bit, he told me how bad the past few weeks have been for him, how therapy is going, and how much he’s learned already. The poor guy really has had a rough go of it. Meanwhile I haven’t shed one tear. It’s strange how I cried so much over whatshisface when he went back to his ex, and I didn’t even like him that much. He was boring. But I think it was because at the time I was still grieving my break-up with Steven, and I felt jealous that he’d go back to his ex and have a long-term commitment to someone, while Steven left me.

And to be fair, Mark’s sadness mostly has to do with childhood trauma that he needs to work through. His mom was negligent, paying more attention to her boyfriends than to her kids. It turns out he did a lot of drugs until the past few years, which I think is why he hasn’t fully dealt with this until now. When we drink or do drugs, we numb those feelings and we just don’t deal with them. That’s why they say in recovery we come in at the age we were when we started using, which for me would’ve been 14. So I guess that makes me about 22 now, in recovery years, lol, though I’m really almost 42. That sounds about right. I don’t know how many other 42-year-olds have blogs like this, about their boyfriends and school. LOL. I’m really like a teenager. But, whatever. This is who I am.

I noticed that I’ve always dated guys who didn’t get enough attention from their mothers, and pointed it out to my friend Spencer, who said that it’s not so much that I attract them to me as that I am attracted to them. I don’t know if I completely agree, but it does make sense. I’ve always liked a needy guy due to my fear of abandonment, in the hopes that he’d never leave me. It’s unhealthy, but that’s the truth. Then I just end up leaving them. I sure hope I can break this cycle, without it being with someone who can’t commit, because it seems that now I am attracted to commitment-phobes. They’re so much more attractive than needy guys. It’s like I want someone who’s in between, which is probably why I was so into Steven. He’d go back and forth from either extreme, and I was addicted to that excitement, like the good little codependent that I am. I guess you could say I’m doing the same thing with Mark.

I have this tendency to want to project years into the future, which I think is a human tendency. I want to know how all this will play out. Maybe we’ll just be friends with benefits forever, and I’ll get my own place, and he’ll have his own place, and we’ll see each other however often. I won’t have to put up with his neurosis and he won’t have to put up with mine. I won’t have to be annoyed that he leaves the sink dirty with dried toothpaste yet vacuums the house 25 times a day. He won’t have to be annoyed that I forgot to take off my shoes before walking into the house. We can each do whatever we want, have our cake and eat it too.

We all know it won’t play out that way but I’m doing it anyway. God help me.

In the meantime Steven sent me another email, this time to my work address. He wrote that he takes responsibility for the end of things (um, what about the middle, when he’d ignore me for days at a time?), he would’ve committed if he could relive it (yeah, right), he’s sorry he didn’t make me feel more “safe” with him and his kids (I hope he means safe as in comfortable?), and thanked me for introducing him to ACA, which he says he’s really involved in now. My sponsor and I both agree that his amends is really about him feeling better, which is mildly annoying yet understandable—I know I don’t like feeling guilty—and at the same time I truly do feel bad for him because he clearly regrets it. Spencer suggested that maybe he’s been in the dating field for a year now and can see in hindsight how good he had it, and wishes he could go back in time. I’d guess he didn’t have much luck with the online dating sites. My sponsor feels that he’s manic right now, and I agree.

So I emailed him back and said that I appreciate him apologizing, and that I’ve grown a lot since that time, that it was needed for spiritual growth, that it looks like he’s done a lot of soul-searching, and I’m glad that he’s in ACA, and hope he and his kids are doing well. I had my sponsor read the email first, to make sure it was nice and not too resentful-sounding. And I must say that his emails have helped diminish my resentment quite a bit. Now I’m at a place where I don’t really want to talk to him or see him, but I do hope he gets better. I wanted to say something along the lines of how I wish he’d take care of his bipolar disorder if not for himself then for his kids, but that’s none of my business.

One thing that really stands out to me in all of this is just how damaging a bad childhood can be for a person, especially when combined with a mental illness. His dad was abusive, his mom didn’t protect him, and then he had bipolar disorder. That will really eff a person up. He could’ve turned out to be much worse. He’s not a bad person. He’s a sick person trying to get well, like many of the rest of us. Same for Mark. They’re both good people, which is what I feel is true for most of the people on this earth.

After I published my last post, I felt like I must look like one of the rich people on “Hunger Games.” There are people in the world living through war and poverty, and here I am worrying about my various ex-boyfriends. It’s important that I remember to be grateful for all the good things I have: friends, family, a place to live, a job, food, an opportunity to change careers, sobriety. And I have God in my life. Not everyone gets all of that.

That’s all I have for today. I’ll leave you with this song by Sia, “Chandelier.” I’m so grateful to be sober today.

An Opportunity to Do Something Different

School started back this past weekend and my class so far is easier than I’d expected, thank God. Right now we’re learning how to work with clients, so it’s starting to feel more real and therefore scary. Also, I heard that almost no one passes their certification exam on the first try, including two girls I knew from my first semester who seemed smart and studious. In a way that makes me feel better, in case I don’t pass the first time.

Steven emailed me again, this time to apologize for the time he went with me to visit my family and how he’d cut the visit short with a mood swing. He didn’t like my dad and he didn’t want to spend the day with him and my sister and her family, which I’d wanted to do since I didn’t get to see them often. I appreciate his apology, but can’t help but wonder if he really thinks that’s all he has to apologize for. How about leaving me right after my mom died? I haven’t replied to him yet because I’m not sure if I want to just say thanks and move on, or if it’s necessary to bring that up. Probably not, but I asked my sponsor anyway. We’ll see what she says.

In the meantime it’s been hard not to reconsider being Mark’s friend with benefits. At 41, I’m in my prime so it’s like telling a teenage boy he can have sex with a beautiful girl for fun, or holding a raw piece of meat out to a dog and saying you can have this with no strings attached. It wasn’t just sex, but it was incredible sex, with experiences I hadn’t felt before, that a lot of women don’t get to experience. I haven’t cried over the break-up, I think because I’m realizing I wasn’t that into him, I just wanted to be. I still want to be, tbh.

There’s this part of me that believes you really just end up settling with someone, especially after dating so much that you’re just beaten down, and you realize that the best thing you can hope for is someone who’s not an asshole. It reminds me of a conversation on the “Hang the DJ” episode of “Black Mirror:”

What I want is someone who’s a good friend and who I’m attracted to, and he was those two things. I wouldn’t call Mark my best friend, like how I felt about Steven at the time (even though he was borderline emotionally abusive), or my actual best friend, but he was fun and easy to talk to.

I met this girl in my class who’s getting married to a guy she’s known since middle school. It’s just like my sister. She’s known this guy since middle school, and they went to high school together, but they didn’t start dating until after college, and now they’re getting married. In other words, he’s a nice guy and she knows he’s a nice guy because she’s known him since he was a child.

Sometimes I wonder if I did something really bad in a previous life.

Which means I’m not being grateful.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” ~Brother David Steindl-Rast

It would be better to meet someone after I graduate and have a stable career. Right now I get to focus on me, school, studying, spirituality, finding myself. Spending time with my friends. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I don’t have to worry about what someone else wants for dinner, or how messy my room is. And having a boyfriend or a husband isn’t going to solve my problems. I already know that from experience.

So really I need to just put these guys out of my mind and focus on me. Right now I have an opportunity to do something different than what I’ve done in the past, and what a blessing that is. I have an opportunity to choose a different path.

Here’s another beautiful song by Sia, “Bird Set Free.”

Friends with “Benefits”

“Lust rushes but love waits” – Bridget Devoue

One morning this week I woke up early, thinking about making an unwise decision, so I prayed to my higher power, which I call God, and asked for guidance. And then I went to my favorite source for inspirational quotes, Pinterest. And the above quote answered my question. It appeared on my home page, the very first quote. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. Of course I want love.

Mark asked me to be his friend with benefits. I’d reached out to him earlier this week, letting him know that I consider him a friend, in response to his initial request to remain friends. Initially he’d suggested we be friends “to ease the pain of the break-up.” I thought (hoped) he wanted to remain friends so that he could go to therapy and heal his mommy issues, then hopefully come back to me. I thought he didn’t want to tell me that in case he wasn’t able to heal, or wasn’t able to be in a relationship with me. What I’d forgotten was that when a guy wants something, he says so, directly. I also forgot that I could’ve asked him specifically if that was his aim. Instead I said that I didn’t see how being friends would ease any pain, but that I’d consider it, and then I decided to be his friend. It took him less than 24 hours after that to come back and suggest that we be friends with benefits. At first I was hurt. Then I was angry. At the same time I felt satisfied that he’s missing me, even if it’s only in that way.

Th next morning I woke up and thought, Eff it, I’ll do it. I don’t have time for a boyfriend while I’m in school so it’s not like I’d be closing myself off to anyone since I’d be already doing that (or so I told myself). But it would be on my terms. And I came up with a long list of what my terms would be. For one, I’m not spending four nights a week with an FWB. He gets one to two, and I’m not spending the night. Secondly, I’m not going over there on nights I spend with my friends, unless he wants to see me afterwards, around midnight. I’m not taking any baths with him like we did when we were dating. He pays for my meals and movie. He comes to my house on occasion, when I don’t have time to drive to his house. I’m not meeting his friends or family. While most of these terms may sound like a dream come true for a commitment-phobe such as himself, these are all things he wanted in the beginning, before we started dating, when he’d asked to be FWBs at that time. What he wanted, and presumably still wants, is a girlfriend who he doesn’t have to commit to, but who will commit to him.

Been there, done that. He can talk to the hand, my friends.

But it is enticing. I am human. If he did all of this on my terms, and I stayed open to meeting other guys, even go on dates with other guys at some point, I’d be getting the best of both worlds. I can’t promise y’all I won’t still do it. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to be open to meeting other guys. And I’d be spending time I really don’t have on a guy who won’t commit to me, when I could be meeting someone who will give me the love and attention that I deserve.

I got clarification on why he left, and what his plans are. He feels that he can’t date anyone who reminds him of his mom. The way he described her to me, I can’t relate to her at all and feel that I’m nothing like her, so I asked for specifics. He said that when he was a kid she’d gone through a lot of pain after her divorce and that she’d felt unwanted, was lost and had a lot of casual sex. He’d already told me previously that his parents divorced when he was three, so she must’ve been in a bad place for many years, and at one point he walked in on her having sex with her date in the kitchen at a friend’s house where they were all hanging out.

After my divorce, I dated a couple of guys and then I met the guy I fell hard for, we broke up, and then I started online dating, where I met Mark.

I did have a friend with benefits right after my separation, and this is not uncommon for someone in the process of a divorce. Nor is it uncommon for anyone in America over the age of 20 to have had casual sex at some point. And everyone has felt lost. Everyone has felt rejected. And in my case, I was the one who’d done the rejecting, though prior to that I felt unwanted, which was incorrect. The marriage simply got boring, and I had changed: I got sober, he smoked pot, I found God, he had no interest in spirituality. We lived two different lives.

None of that matters but I pointed it out to him anyway. It’s not going to change his mind, and at this point I’m not sure that him changing his mind would do any good. Also, regardless of whether or not I’m like his mom, I remind him of his mom, and that’s not going to change.

I asked him what’s the solution for his problem, and he said that he can’t date anyone who reminds him of his mom in any way, and he’s going to therapy. Yet somehow he can have me as his friend with benefits? He must be kidding me. I told him that no, I’m not going to do that, I don’t see how it would be easier, and that I feel he must not have loved me if he can just have me as an FWB now. He insists he loved me, that this is the second most painful time of his life next to his dad’s death. We only dated for three months, so I think he just means the trauma he’s re-living regarding his mom. What I think is the real issue is that he’s a commitment-phobe with mommy issues and his OCD makes it all worse. Because basically what he’s telling me is that he can’t be in a relationship, period, because all women he falls for are going to be human and therefore remind him of his mom, but he can be in an FWB situation because he won’t have to commit or do any work for the relationship and can keep his independence. Eff that.

This situation is so similar to Steven except Mark was nice to me and encouraged me to speak my mind. So in that way it was a better situation, and I didn’t allow myself to be his doormat. So I am moving up, my friends. And I think each of them “loved” (liked?) me as much as they were capable. But here’s the thing: they’re not capable of love. You can’t get love if you don’t give love.

I can’t help but worry about the diminishing pool of available good guys in their 40s that are out there. Everyone says this is true, and I don’t want to believe it. How nice it must be to have your head on straight in your 20s and make wise decisions that set you up for security and stability later in life, rather than to find yourself at the age of 41 with two divorces and no career or retirement money and no kids. But I must remind myself that those experiences made me who I am today, and I am doing something for myself today. And if I’d had a kid back then I wouldn’t have been the best parent I could be. It’s a huge responsibility, and I’ve spent my life trying to figure out who I am. Plus, I can’t say I felt that maternal urge except for here and there, fleetingly.

So I’m back to my positive affirmations, and trying to stay open to what the universe has to offer. My goal is to focus on my own personal growth, get through school, learn more, be a better person, and stay open to meeting someone who’s the same way, and who will treat me the way I deserve to be treated, as I will do the same for him.

I’ll also pray to forgive and let go of my resentment towards Steven. Because at the same time that I found the quote I mentioned earlier, I also came across another quote, listed at the bottom of this post.

Steven is sick, and the thing is, he doesn’t get to enjoy the good life I have. While he did hurt me and cause a lot of damage, I’m not broken, and I don’t have to experience the lows of bipolar disorder nor have I had to feel unloved by my parents. The same goes for Mark. If he’s really in as much pain as he says, he’s got some serious issues that, quite frankly, I don’t have to deal with. So really, I am actually quite lucky. I guess I’d have to say that I do hope they heal, not just for them, but for the rest of society. Mental illness and child abuse cause people to grow up and become hurtful to others, in ways that are much worse than what they’ve done and what I’ve experienced. It’s in the news all the time.

“Be an example. Show kindness to unkind people. Forgive people who don’t deserve it. Love unconditionally. Your actions always reflect who you are” – ebuddhism.com

I couldn’t decide on which song was more appropriate, so I’m posting them both.

Peace and love,

TCH