It’s been a little more than three months now from our first date.
It seems like eons ago right now, with the changing seasons and the pandemic slowing everything to a crawl. Time moves almost imperceptibly some days, to the point that you can forget what day or month it is if you don’t pay attention, and shifting weather patterns make it more confusing. The ongoing repetition of daily life blurs the lines.
Four months ago, I started out with the goal to “just date”.
I needed to feel alive again. I’m not going to lie, I needed to feel wanted, attractive, engaging, busy, desired, etc. I needed to fill in the dead space, or maybe just to stretch my boundaries and expand my world a bit. I needed to find the girl that was lost on the way to becoming a wife and a mother. I needed to laugh and smile like I used to so long ago.
No husband now, and my babies are almost fully grown. Time to figure out my next life.
Friends are fun, I have a healthy variety from many avenues of my life, but dating is different. It’s a different skill set, utilizing another side of your brain, your heart, your soul. It opens up the light inside of you, like a refrigerator light that only turns on when the door opens, a light that I was definitely dimming the last few years (or more).
I needed to open the door.
I was never a “dating around” type of girl when I was younger, I’ve joked that I have been a serial monogamist, but that was then and this is now. Life has changed, the rules have definitely changed, and we are all older and supposedly wiser now. So it just makes sense to cast a wider net and fish around for awhile, doesn’t it? Why aim to settle down, or to look for “the one”, when I’m not even sure I’m ready for it?
Do I have room for another person in my life right now?
So I dated and chatted with more than a few men, for a few weeks. A few first dates, a couple of second and third dates, but only one that went beyond. I continued looking, swiping, texting, chatting, but I kept coming back to him for some reason, and slowly stopped connecting with new men online. It just didn’t feel right to me.
Let’s see where this goes, no expectations, just curious…
I will admit that I also went into this with my guard up. My online profile said that I was looking for “chatting, dating, casual dating and don’t really know”. Kind of a broad selection, I know. But I didn’t really know what I wanted or was looking for at the time I wrote my first bio. The only thing I did know is that I didn’t want to commit to the idea of a “LTR” – longterm relationship – up front, that sounded much too scary and too deep for me.
I don’t need someone looking for a new wife.
So now that I am closing in on seeing someone for three months, and we’ve been out or together almost weekly in the last two months, I have started to notice the old expectations creeping back in. Old as in the last time I was dating, over 25 years ago.
It was different then, obviously.
I’m trying to stay “casual”, but I really don’t know how to define that once you’ve become intimate with someone. Is it casual because you don’t call it exclusive? Is it casual until you’re willing to introduce each other to your friends and family? Does casual imply that we can expect to still be dating other people while we are sleeping with each other? Can or do we sleep with other people??
Once again, we are in the middle of a pandemic, so safety becomes a factor to consider.
It’s a tough conversation to have, one that I am definitely out of practice of doing if I ever was in practice, which brings up another question: when do we have that conversation – three months, six months or further down the road?
In the last month or so he has sprinkled conversations with little bits of future talk, making possible plans for vacations and holidays, mentioning that my name came up while he was talking to his mom about Christmas…
But then, he will flake on me and cancel for a weekend date a day or two before.
And not text or be in contact for days…
Is there some sort of secret language that I needed to learn before beginning this odyssey? I have watched more relationship and dating coach YouTube videos by now, and read more books and blogs about relationships than I ever dreamed I would, trying to decipher the messages and read between the lines. I am an avid student when I am motivated to learn or feel I am missing out on key information.
For the most part I feel good when I am with him, secure, connected and happy…until he backs out or puts me on the sidelines.
Two steps forward, one step back.
Or maybe this is part of the “casual” dance, and there are other partners dancing along with us. Partners I am unaware of at this point. Not my partners. His partners that fill in the other days/nights, fulfilling other needs, or maybe just his need to be wanted and fill up his dance card to make up for lost time in his youth, or during his marriage? We both have families and friends, along with work and other commitments, so being busy is a given.
But too busy to be with someone you’re investing in emotionally?
Then again, was he really ever investing in me “emotionally” or did I just want to believe he was, we were?
A few long talks about his family, his job, his hobbies…is that investing emotionally or is that just filling in space and time while you’re together? Or is it part of the ‘girlfriend experience’, all of the fun and connection without the commitment? I honestly don’t know, I have no way to measure or compare at this point in my life.
I’ve been trying to ignore the real message: he’s just not that into you. Ouch.
Sadly I tried not to be that into him at first, I stayed reserved and cautious, and kept my family life separate until I felt ready. Baby steps in my view, but maybe I sent a different message that I didn’t see him as worthy of being let into my private world or to get too close to me? And now that I am ready, now that my door has cracked open and the light is glowing in that thin sliver, I may have missed the window of opportunity to go to the next level. To be considered girlfriend material.
Is it my fault? Maybe.
I created the environment to keep things at a distance, to play it cool and casual, in the name of protecting myself. Trying not to get too caught up in someone too soon, not really knowing what I wanted in this arena. After a twenty year marriage that blew up in my face, it shouldn’t be too surprising, but everyone has baggage at this age and fears of the unknown when it comes to new relationships. I’ve always been a late bloomer, a little slower to catch on in relationships, waiting for the right signal without really knowing what it will or should look like.
Tough lessons to be learning in your fifties.
But lessons that need to be learned to be ready for the next time, the next romance, the next connection. After a period of beating myself up for missing the clues, not reading the signals or jumping in too quickly, I will dust myself off and try again. But I will go into it this time with newly discovered expectations, newly decided boundaries.
A little smarter, a little more experienced. It will get easier, right?
Still, sad that this is how it ends. Not with a bang, not really ghosting, just a slowly fading interest. The rubber band stretching farther and farther each time. This time not springing back as easily, possibly snapped?
But the door has been opened, and I have seen and felt the low warm glimmer of light from inside, and it gives me hope.