I have been dating six years. That seems like a long time to me. Well, some back story:
When I first started the online dating thing the very first woman who contacted me on Match – I was not interested. She looked kind of like my ex-wife for one thing. I noticed though that she worked at the University like I do. So I was an idiot and basically wrote back something to the effect that “she was not my type” romantically but that I would love to pursue a friendship and do lunch since we both worked at the U.
Understandably, she was like thanks but definitely no thanks. I saw her on campus though a couple of weeks later so I approached her and was able to better explain how she looked like my ex and I did not think I could get past that. And somehow I talked her into lunch.
I didn’t know anyone who was dating when I divorced, all my friends were married, I had no clue. So I really enjoyed learning from her and getting advice from her and sharing stories of our dates with each other – I would tell her of my dates and she would tell me about hers.. like we were wing-persons for each other.
At that time, as I as starting up with dating, she had been dating for six years, and was very discouraged. When I heard that my first reaction well what is wrong with her – six years? Not really, I knew already she was good people – more it was that after being alone for years and years in a dead marriage – I mean I suspect you cannot be more alone than you are when you are in a marriage that is dead – I just didn’t even want to think that I could be looking at lots more years of not finding a true connection.
I ended up talking her into staying on match another month instead of giving up. On the second to last day before her subscription was going to expire, she met the man she is still very happy with today. So a nice success story – and that is sweet, to know there are success stories.
On the other hand, I am realizing recently that I have now been dating for six years. Oh my.
And trying to figure out what mistakes I might be repeating, and always wanting to understand why things did not work out with the women who I pursued for more than a first date. Because I want connection, I want to meet a life partner, someone to grow old with. Science says we humans do best when we have that… society says oh we should be ever so independent… but at least the research done so far says we fundamentally need the deeper connection that cannot come from a friend only, that typically comes from a long term committed romantic relationship only – that being dependent in some ways is fundamentally good for humans. It is how we are wired.
And I get that who knows… maybe I’ll never find that – life is a lot of who knows. I still have a great career, meaningful work, wonderful friends, and the greatest gift of all in my sons. I live in a rich country and have every advantage. I am a privileged white male and blessed to a ridiculous extent. I still hope though to find one someone to share the rest of my life with. I want to matter to someone who matters to me.
So some of why it has not worked out in the past is that the other person did not want or value that – committed connection. And I get it – not judging – maybe it is not the path for everyone. And shorter term things can be a hell of a lot of fun, and lead to a lot of growth. But not what I want in the longer run.
Another common reason it has not worked out is because of timing. Timing is a mean nasty heartbreaking monster sometimes.
For example, at our age, people are often in different life phases. My ex and I had our kids late, Nate arrived when we were forty. Most women my age – their children are out the door, and thus they are in a different life stage. Sometimes that has been an issue even though I only have my sons about half-time and they are great kids. Other times not an issue.
Also, I have met a lot of women who were too newly divorced, and not ready for anything more than casual dating yet. Sometimes though it is hard to rule such women out because it is variable for every person.
Or they want to focus on their career – perhaps they subsumed their career or personal growth because in their marriage they focused on kids and husband. So very understandable they would then want to focus on themselves. I would end up falling for women like that sometimes because often they are so smart and dynamic and exciting because they are in such a personal growth phase. But then I would want more time with them than they with me. In the worst cases it was like they just wanted me for a once a week good time.
The most surprising reason -to me – that it has not worked out to me has been that so many women I meet are not emotionally available. Obviously building trust takes time, and is a precursor to any connection there. But I mean like they might likely not be emotionally available even if I stuck with them for years. For example, to explain: I recently dated a woman for four months. She had four sons ages 8-18 almost all the time. Her ex was bipolar, got them one day a week so that is why I was able to still see her, and he was not helpful… he was very messed up and a bad influence on the sons and he had been verbally abusive to her for much of their marriage. She got divorced, and three years ago met a guy she dated for about two years. He was great at first and she even had him move in with her. Then he turned out to be a real asshole. Totally broke her heart.
From all that, she is jaded, deeply jaded. I don’t know if she will ever be able to trust a guy again. We shared values big time, and she appreciated that I was likely different, a good man. But it became very clear that it would take years before she would really be able to trust me. So I could have stuck with it, settle for seeing her once a week at most, and hope that she might be able to open up to me eventually… but I could not see doing that because it seemed like even if she did come to trust there was no guarantee that there would be real love eventually. So I moved on. Maybe if she had met me instead of the other guy three years ago we would have built something great, and she would not have become jaded. So maybe timing and not the jaded is to blame here too.
I was in a two year relationship in that six years, and that one was a similar case, great for a year, magical almost, I thought she would be forever, and the two year woman was the one who even introduced me to such things as building big love and how to validate someone’s feelings and the science behind relationships etc etc. Yet, when we started to talk of my moving near her after a year (she lived 45 minutes away in Oro Valley) – when it started getting more serious – she realized she would rather be alone than risk it. It was one thing to risk heartbreak from losing someone you were regularly dating – but another thing if she risked it with a more serious relationship. So she could not take the leap of faith, I held on for more months, but it was one-sided, and eventually I had to let go.
So I am thinking – six years – and who knows if I will ever find my one? I guess I just keep looking – I don’t want to give up. But should I be doing something different, approaching it differently? Maybe I should not focus on trying to find one and just make friends. Just have fun. Yet if I value the possibility of that connection from something more serious, how do I let that go and just go make friends only? Sure, spend some time on friends. And have fun in the mean time – I do have a strong libido so it is hard to say no when a woman wants things more casual… at least until I meet someone who seems to have more potential.
Navigating it all though… I have grown so much… but at the same time it seems like now it is all the more confusing. I want to learn from mistakes. That is easier said than done.
So now I come to the latest one. We slept together immediately – physically there was just big time chemistry – and that was mistake, perhaps. In all my dating in the past, when things got physical, there was a desire on her part, and my part, to be exclusive. Either that or up front it was clear that it would not be exclusive. Yes, it takes a long time to truly get to know someone, so maybe from that standpoint exclusivity is not called for. But disease risks and all that oxytocin flowing.. the younger generations seem different… but for the women I have dated there has always been an expectation of exclusivity once physical. So you settle in and focus on getting to know that person only — until such time as one or the other decides you are not a match, then you move on — or hopefully some day, you find your match.
The latest one felt that was crazy – to be exclusive for what she defined as too soon – she felt getting physical or not was irrelevant. And I can kind of see her perspective, on the other hand, it is new idea to me, and doesn’t resonate with me. She saw my confusion and uncomfortableness with the idea of dating others when I was sleeping with her – she saw it as a desire to control her – and she was an independent modern woman so how could I dare – she felt it was none of my business – but my feelings were not coming from any desire to control at all. Control is icky, I want to be loved, how can you be truly loved by someone you control?
It was not control, nor that I feel commitment was justified from a stand point of the heart and given it takes a lot longer to get to know someone. It was more that I just felt getting physical justified focusing on one… focusing one’s limited time on that person to see if they were a match… as opposed to trying to get to know multiple people at the same time.
Anyway, I moved on from that because it just did not feel right. I couldn’t decide what do I do about the other dates I had set up? Normally if I got physical with someone I would not date others – I thought that was how it worked. It seems it is different now though. This woman was still dating others and her attitude was it was none of their business what she was doing otherwise because it was early. And I agree it is fine to date multiple people… I just am confused on how you handle it once things become physical.
I was not judging, and not a prude, and I get it that others can compartmentalize better than me, but I simply did not feel right about that kind of a setup. And also did not want the disease risk. I get why others might want to have things totally free and no commitment… but can real connection ever be born in that? Maybe they do that until they get to know someone better and then they are wanting to eventually become exclusive and that is an effective route to connection? or no?
And I offered that one to stay friends and continue to get to know each other, as friends, not being physical. She was not interested in that.. but if her argument against being exclusive was she didn’t know me well enough yet, then why would she not have wanted to continue to get to know me as friend? She could then go date all the others she wants, sleep with all the others she wants, none of my business if we are just friends. And if in time once she got to know me we decided to go back to physical, but then exclusively, then well she got would have gotten her cake and gotten to eat it too. But she said no thanks to that. I don’t understand that.
So then I wonder well maybe the approach for me is friends first only. I have a female friend who I care for very much who was originally a co-worker – that precluded more initially. She is no longer a co-worker and seems to want to consider more. But I have zero interest in being more than friends with her – now she feels like a sister to me. So if you pursue friends first then how would that work? Do you just up and decide one day heh now lets get physical and romantic? If it is meant to be then in theory the sisterly feelings would not have ever set in?
So I write all this and usually writing helps me get clarity… but in this arena I still feel confused. Sigh.
I think my answers are try to go slow, if you can, but not worry about it, if you end up in bed together sooner than later, no worries. But if that happens there does need to be exclusivity. And going slow with your heart is the critical part. You can love the person you know so far, but you have to remind yourself it takes time to really know them, and not commit with words and plans too much too soon. Give things time. Have patience. My Achille’s heel all my life has often been lack of patience, and it seems in pursuing a life partner, it is a critical piece of the puzzle.