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Dating in the Digital Age

What I learned about myself dating post-divorce

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Starting over is never really easy, especially post-divorce. I know life is never meant to be easy, but sometimes I’m just like, “Please, God, throw me a bone here!” Here I am several years after one of my lawyer’s most contentious/petty divorces he has ever seen, and I think I’m ready to throw myself out there in the dating pool. To be honest, it’s more like dip my foot into the dating pool, because I’m a little scared-–not that I’m going to meet an axe murderer (OK, that’s a scary thought, too), but more that someone will hurt me the way my ex-husband tried to hurt me. Throughout (and even after) the divorce, there was this person I use to love and trust, who placed a proverbial grenade in my heart and gleefully danced as I detonated into a million tiny pieces. What a fucking asshole, right?

Through my faith and trusted network of people, who legit supported my well-being without pitying me, my heart was slowly pieced back together. I found myself not only asking my friends and loved ones for support, but I also (reluctantly) sought professional help. Granted, my friend kind of cajoled me into it by asking me to do it for her if not for me, but I’m glad she did. I should also point out she’s s a family therapist, who specializes in domestic violence, and obviously saw through my compartmentalizing of the trauma I was being put through. Although the traditional approach helped me to realize that what was happening to me was abusive and traumatic while at the same time in the space of working with other amazing woman who were also survivors, I was left feeling somewhat dis-empowered, like “OK, now what?”

I was pondering what do to next when I saw a PBS special about a love and relationship coach, who also happened to have her doctorate in psychology, so I didn’t feel too weird getting her books. I was one of those people who had mixed feelings about life coaches, but after years of individual and group therapy going (relatively) nowhere, I thought I’d give it a try. Surprisingly, I found that it helped me to be the most proactive version of myself in a short amount of time when compared to traditional therapy. My life coach, Peggy, taught me how to dig deep and battle my own hang ups and self-delusions rather than sit on a couch rehashing in gruesome detail how awful my life seemed. Upside, one of my old therapists would let me bring my dog, Murphy, to sessions, which were pretty much the only time I’d see her smile as she mindlessly petted him with her foot. Other than that, she always had this flat affect that edged on a look of boredom, which always bothered me.

One of the most pressing issues for me as a professional, divorced with kids (yes, plural) is that I don’t have the luxury of “me” time anymore, so time is a pretty hot commodity for me. I won’t date on days when I have my kids with me, which is roughly half the week. My life coach convinced me to try online dating as a way to practice figuring out what I wanted in a mate and ways that I could also be a better partner. I was very skeptical at first, but even more so, I was wary of the stigma online dating possessed, e.g. online dating is for those who are unattractive, desperate, socially inept, sexually degenerate, etc. I won’t lie, I’ve probably been all of those at one point in my life, not all at once (maybe), and definitely not enough at the time to make want to attempt online dating–ugh!

As we all know, dating is a numbers game best summed up by Wayne Gretzky’s quote about attempting all shots. The good thing about online dating is that you literally have thousands of potential dates in your area at your fingertips. I liked being able to choose from a large pool of men to weed out people who were not compatible. Although, that approach can be very time consuming and tedious, and sometimes felt like a job. Because I’m not a big drinker, meeting someone at a bar is not really my scene. Yes, we can talk about all the different places to meet a guy in person, but seeking potential mates online is the sign of the times. It’s not that I’m opposed to meeting people in person “the old fashioned way,” but usually, when I’m out and about, I’m not looking to hook up with people. I just want to pick out my Gala apples in peace (Then again, who knows when God will actually throw you a bone?).

I’ve tried a handful of popular dating sites, like Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, Match, Zoosk, and OK Cupid. They each had their pros and cons, but we can visit that at a later time. A burning question I’ve been asked multiple times from would be suitors (and some of my friends) is, “Why are you on here when you can probably meet someone easily in person?” I know I’m relatively new to “adult” dating (I know, sad, right?) but I’ve dated long enough to know what I do and don’t like.

I’m not super kinky, but kinky enough to ask for a quick spanking to spice things up once in a while. I remember the look of horror on the face of one of my partners when I asked him to spank me. I seriously thought for a second something was wrong with me. Granted, he did acquiesce and patted my bottom in a “there-there” sort of fashion, but needless to say I was left underwhelmed. I liked him even though he wasn’t someone I would normally find attractive, but I gave him a shot because he was a really nice guy, and I was tired of dating jerks. Turns out, you really can be too nice, especially when people are using you as a doormat to wipe all the crap off their shoes with, which didn’t bode well for my lady boner when it comes to respecting your partner.

I’ve also dated a dashing, older triathlon guy that had the BEST body. I could not stop ogling him to the point that I seriously had to have a picture of him because “it would last longer.” The problem was every time he opened his mouth, he was so inauthentic I wish I had a pause button. Needless to say, even making out with him turned out to be a chore. I just couldn’t bring myself to putting up with him anymore no matter how much I salivated looking at him. It got to the point where just looking at him turned me off. I know that sounds harsh, but if you heard half of the racist, sexist, classist things he was saying, you’d be like, “Yo, pass the remote–-Pause!”

I then dated an amazing guy who was working on his PhD in geology, who loved to cook and make me laugh. I got excited just hearing him talk about how passionate he was about his work and thesis. Imagine the disappointment I felt when he lamented that sex should improve with time—he was mainly talking about why I wasn’t enjoying myself. I realized that it was because we never really talked about sexual preferences, and when I did broach the subject he would shrug it off. It also didn’t help that he was so stressed about his thesis and finding a job that at least matched what I make, that he would become impotent at times. His preoccupation with where he was in his phase of life compared to where I have only stressed the relationship even more.

I’ve always thought that if a guy was nice enough it would be enough to overlook some sexual and personality incompatibilities, but the reality is I’ve experienced life enough to already have the career, the house, the kids, etc. I’m beyond needing a man, especially when it comes to social or cultural expectations. I’m to the point in my life, or self-actualization (not quite guru-level, but definitely way above a slug) to know what I want matters, to realize that I don’t need a man, I want a man, specifically a man who can blow my mind and socks off. I’m just not willing to compromise anymore when it comes to sexual and personality must-haves.

3 months later…

Interestingly enough, I’ve met a handful of really awesome men recently, who for whatever reason(s) the relationship never took, and it got me think about what another therapist friend of mine said,

“There will come a time when you’re going to need to stop ‘practicing’ dating, and really come to terms with the common denominator of why it’s the same guy different face.”

Interesting thought. She was right. Although the group of men I was now dating would be considered attractive, successful “good” men, they all had one thing in common—they all became emotionally unavailable when it came down to things whether it was due to life circumstances or an avoidant personality. Pretty sure this is a sign of God throwing a bone out for me. I’m going on another dating sabbatical until I can figure this one out.

To be continued…

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