The Other D Word
I wasn’t crazy about dating the first time around, mostly because in my early twenties I lived in Dallas where navigating the dating scene felt a bit more like a full-contact sport and I didn’t really know the rules. Or it seemed like few played by them if this elusive list of rules existed in the first place.
Fast forward to singledom in the latter part of my thirties, add two kids, a more than full-time job, and some challenging life experiences. I could not even fathom dating after my divorce. Just. Gross. No thanks.
Of course eventually the dust settled, I got a handle on my new single-mom life, my kids were thriving in spite of enduring their parents’ divorce, and the idea of sharing my life with someone started creeping its way back into my thoughts as something I might start to consider. This took me years, and that surprised me. I read everything I could find on post-divorce dating, and of the statistics and suggestions presented, one suggested that I needed to take half the years I was married before getting married again. That meant I was looking at 5.5 years of being single. At the time, I thought that was insane, BUT there’s something to be said for taking the time to heal. I’m very grateful I didn’t rush into a relationship I couldn’t have been ready for. Allowing myself the time to heal was the best thing I could’ve done for myself, my children, and for whomever I share the rest of my life with.
So all healed up, and with no small amount of cattle-prodding from just about everyone (PARTICULARLY my kids!!! What?!) I decided maybe it was time…
A great friend of mine set me up on a blind lunch meeting (date was still hard to say then) with another friend of his. I was incredibly nervous because it was just so odd to be going on a date. I decided to think of it as a practice date, which helped take all pressure off. Later I told Blind Date I’d psyched myself up by calling it a scrimmage in stead of a game that actually counted, and he laughed so hard his drink came out of his nose! I knew this wasn’t going to end in Happily Ever After, but the first post-divorce date was actually the best time I’d had in a while.
I let myself off the hook after that. Blind Date turned into a good friend to meet for coffee, see a movie with, or just go enjoy an adult conversation over dinner. Not a single regret there. I’m glad I got to practice getting ready on a Saturday night, making plans without being annoying, managing my expectations of another adult who has as many responsibilities as I do, and realizing that it’s important to get to know new people and broaden my human experience. I think he recently got married. Way to go, Blind Date Guy!
I remember one time running into someone I hadn’t seen in years out with someone that was not my ex-husband. We had been divorced for years, but apparently this person hadn’t gotten the message, so that was about as comfortable as well, something really uncomfortable. What do you do? I learned another important lesson here–Let it go. I don’t owe explanations for my time and with whom I spend it. If others would like to draw conclusions without facts, that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t change or define me. Thick skin. A wardrobe must for getting back out there.
I made a bunch of rules about whom I would or wouldn’t date to protect my kids and myself. I decided I wouldn’t date anyone I knew through their school or activities because I didn’t want to put them in the middle of any adult situation. I wouldn’t date anyone from work because I’m in education, and that is just a colossally bad idea. And I decided I wouldn’t date anyone in my new neighborhood because I was “new” and wanted to stay out of the local watering hole conversations. I’m a terribly private person, so this just seemed prudent. Did you notice what I did? Yep. I made it pretty much impossible.
Online Dating. In the words of my wise son, “Mom, you cannot date anyone from those online dating sites because it is too dangerous and you could end up murdered.” Probably not, but I’m just not a fan of computer-generated scatter plots.
So all this to say I still don’t know the rules, but I usually make my own anyway. I took something I sincerely dreaded and figured out a way to get off the bench on terms I found slightly uncomfortable but safe. I set myself up to take small steps in a positive direction, and eventually dating didn’t feel like a game where someone is keeping score. I look at it as an opportunity to expand my understanding of the human experience as it pertains to relationships. If those relationships complement my attributes and make me want to be a better version of myself, I’m happy to invest time there and see what happens. If someone tells me how much I remind him of his deceased wife, not so much. (Yes. True story. That was not fun.)
It’s rough out there, but nothing worth doing ever just fell in my lap so I’ll keep an open mind.
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