I am jarred every time. I can’t get used to it and I don’t think I want to. As I flip through the dating app, swiping left and right as if perusing clothes on a rack, a friend’s ex-husband appears.
Forgive my lack of eloquence. What to say? I still can’t get used to a society in which we “shop” for people to date like we do for dresses. So how am I to get used to a world in which the men I used to sit across a dinner table from—men who functioned as a friend’s other half for many years—now appear as an option for me?
They’re not an option, really. I am truly freaked every time it happens. It feels incestuous. To see them trying to present their best selves to potential mates, after having heard too much about their snoring or flares of temper. After having thanked them and their wives for helping my spouse and I clear dinner plates. After laughing over wine, and our kids’ antics and the funny bits of married life.
There are more of us than I’d imagined mucking about out here. Post a marriage we thought would last forever. And if we were honest rather than diplomatic, we’d share that we’re amazed our marriage ended while yours is still going. When you’ve been through hell and back, you get pretty good at recognizing the signposts. And trust me, plenty of marriages are full of signposts. I’ve seen women hold onto a marriage out of faith, fear and just plain foolery. These are usually the same women who are relieved to have a husband to escort them to the black-tie function—never mind that they screamed at each other on the way there and back. Or sat in stony silence.
Maybe that’s the nature of marriage. Heaven sometimes, hell others. Maybe we all need to lower our expectations—or raise them. Maybe the Europeans who believe in a partner for marriage and a partner for romance have the kernel of an idea. I’m far too Midwestern to buy into it, though.
I don’t mean to sound cynical. I do love a love that lasts. I’ve been trying to tell couples I know who are celebrating a long love how happy I am for them. I see couples who make it work. And in a parallel universe, I did. I’m sure of it.
I dance in and out of this dating thing. Mostly out, if I’m honest. I’m better at just being my quirky self and having a no-pressure conversation with you than pretending I’m Miss America in a beauty and talent contest. Trust me on this one. If you move too fast, I will run like a skittish horse through an open barn door.
But I do love a love that lasts. That doesn’t mean getting to it doesn’t scare me. But as I said in a previous post:
“If you have been divorced, go ahead. Quake with me. We’ve done this before, haven’t we? Stood there before all of God’s creation, our crazy aunt, the annoying in-law and our best loved friends, and vowed. To love. To have an open heart. Not to retreat, even when it got hard.
I can’t tell you about my version of hard. Too many people would get hurt. You’ll have to trust me on this one. I learned that there are a few things on this earth stronger than love, for some people. And those things ruin lives, families, marriages.
My open heart had to close. Call it self-preservation.
It worked. I’m still standing. I went into survivor mode and damn it, we’re all still here. So now, to tell me to open my heart again. Well, forgive me if I hesitate. Sputter. Walk away.”
I think of these words as I see my friends’ ex-partners, ex-spouses, appearing before me. I swipe left every time. (And for those of you lucky enough not to be on a dating app, that means “no” in app language.) I hope these men open their hearts again. They’re not bad guys.
I’m not sure if my future holds a love that lasts or not. I am also just enough of a creative odd duck to know that sometimes I’m happiest on my own. In my “perfect” parallel universe, though, I imagined this, the life my alter-ego lives:
“My husband can rock a Harvard sweatshirt like nobody’s business and I love that he wears it with old-school navy sweatpants. You know the kind—with elastic around the bottom, circa 1984. He sports these while fixing the arbor that just won’t stop tilting under the weight of the clematis we planted years ago, when we first moved into this house.
At night, as we sit on the porch with a smoky Cab, I feel the satisfying heft of the glass in my hand. We listen to the crickets. The haunting sound of the loons interrupts our reverie. And we listen to our boys arguing back and forth from their beds upstairs, the ways boys do—trying to one-up each other on every topic known to man.
As we open the porch screen door to head up to bed, it squeaks reassuringly—a squeak we keep so we know when the boys are up to something. I fall asleep in this man’s arms—a man I know so well–comforted by the sound of his breathing and the sure knowledge that while what we have created is not permanent (nothing is), it is at least solid. Oh so solid.”
Solid, passionate, real, forgiving, accepting, curious. I still believe in it.
I just don’t know if I’ll find it. Nor do I know how to explain to the people who will read this and think “poor thing” that I am happy where it matters most. Content in many ways. Excited by my creative pursuits. I don’t require provincial reassurances about a future none of us knows.
I’d much rather have a conversation with those who can hold happiness and possibility, sadness and world weariness, in one holistic life. Those of us mucking about don’t need pity or pats on the head.
We need friends who grasp the complexity of a life that contains curves rather than a straightaway. And if they can help us enjoy the view, all the better.
36 Comments Add yours
🙄’A partner for marriage and a partner for romance’, 🤔all I can say Kay is I’m a British and that’s a new one on me!
I’m of an age now where I seriously wonder if two adults can live happily ever after? If children are involved it’s imperitive both adults make the relationship work, but for us older singles perhaps we should content ourselves with friends for socialising and a ‘fwb’ for sex only? Then again maybe my soul mate is waiting to be discovered and ‘what do I know?’
A fellow Blogger posted something recently said, in jest, as I get older I want a committed relationship where we only see each other three days a week :-). I think a lot of older single people feel that way.
What a great idea!! 😀 .
Incredibly honest, courageous, post. No matter where we are, in dating and or marriage, if we are honest we can relate to this. This part of life can be quite a challenge. I would say more, but maybe now is not the time. All I can say is that what you shared is appreciated. Some times it is good to know that we are not alone in our challenges.
Thank you, Craig. For me, it’s always good to know I’m not alone in challenges. And so few of us are truly honest about our struggles—yet if we were, we’d have an army of compadres to compare notes with.
I can relate to this, I’ve gone out to dinner a couple of times with guys who I met through an online dating service, one guy looked like he was 80 but his picture looked like he was 60, I think that was one of my biggest shocker. To be honest I love being alone, doing what I want, when I want, how I want, and no one to answer to, I love my life and am not sharing it with anyone unless he’s the perfect man and I don’t think that will ever happen 🙂
It surprises me that is a culture we feel people should always be in couples. We have a hard time understanding those that are happy on their own. And yet, many of the women I know who are single are happier than those who are married. I think happiness can come in both ways, but we need to learn to respect both ways.
I’m in a fluid marriage…had a steady drip for years but then he figured out where the leak was. I understood this post! Everything in its own time. Can’t really plan this craziness!
“Everything in its own time” is something my dad used to say :-). You made me smile. And in terms of planning-well, do you know what they say about God laughing.
I wish I could send this beautifully written piece to my friends who are obsessed with dating apps and always have the WORST experiences with people on there. No matter how awful it is, they go back to it every time, hoping to find a soul mate, but getting taken advantage of instead.
Right?! I was just saying to Fran the other day that people my radar would normally keep out of my life are able to enter it-even if just virtually-through these apps. And there are a lot less than scrupulous folks out there. And yet, I have had a couple friends meet nice guys through dating apps. I just don’t see it as an adventure. For me, it’s a painful exercise.
An honest post. I love that you are happiest when you are on your own. It is important that we enjoy our own company. This doesn’t make you an odd duck. It indicates you are a self-assured person who is living a full and satisfying life….a life that already has enough things in it to make you happy. Just go on living your life in your authentic way.
Thank you! Kind words, and true. We do need to enjoy our own company. And be true to who we are. Our society places a lot of emphasis on coupling, on instant gratification through entertainment. And look where it’s gotten us . . .
Good post ! Hope someone comes along to rock your boat – but sounds like you got a good thing going it alone too. Forget dating – live the life you have discovered and bang – life will send you a curve ball ! Cheers to you . xx
Yes! That’s the spirit. That is what I have been doing but I have many “well-meaning” friends ask me every other day if I’m dating, despite my requests to the contrary. I know their intentions are good, but I think we may just have different approaches to life.
I feel this. Every single part. I get lonely – i.e. would like some companionship for an evening – so I resign up and spend my time swiping left and right and getting absolutely nowhere. You connect with one and the exchange happens (or not) and you sit there realising we are so not on the same wavelength. After a week or so. I sign off. Sigh. Continue living my life on my terms (which is fabulous in and of itself). Know I have good friends and that I don’t lack for companionship – though not necessarily of the amorous kind.
I have to agree, there are times I think of the side-effects: snoring, wanting my attention when I don’t feel like giving it, wanting to do stuff I don’t feel like or not wanting to do stuff I do; trying to boss me around or tell me what to do… I can’t even imagine myself wanting to “compromise” once again. I’ve reached the age of not wanting to put up with sh*t! Dunno if that’s a good or bad thing yet…
Excellent writing, as per!
Oh, you sweet thing. Yep. You were describing what so many of us go through. And it’s true-the older I get, the more I realize that I would like to be with someone sometimes but I also like my own space. And they need to be loving and independent, not demanding and needy. That is a tall order :-). Que sera sera, as my mother used to sing. We are just going to live right on into this one :-). Hugs to you!
Sweet knows sweet.
Tall order indeed. We seem to be looking for exactly the same thing.
Hugs right back!
Been there twice, Kay. (Each time it was for life but only made it 15 years) I found your description of life after divorce to be exceptionally accurate. Best to you in the future.
And to you, John! I do believe it ends well . . . just not sure how:).
Yes it does. For me the third was a charm. 😊
You are amazing, Kay!
You are in your straightaway dear lady, at long last in that spot that we all finally reach. The stand back, the questioning, the should I or shouldn’t I, and most especially the most significant one…understanding your not going to die if you aren’t in a relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, we all want to be wanted, to share a hug and the many other things a relationship brings. But there is the rub, they also bring snores, smelly armpits and who knows what else. But there is a reason, and a big one for this alone’ness in life. It is now your time, the self assessment of your journey to find where your heart is sitting…for you. And in that assessment you will find that not many others now measure up, simply because your self worth has found some of you….and maybe a lot. What will it mean to be with another or just be by yourself.
I, after being on my own for almost 6 years now and have seen under my life’s fears, am totally fine with my life. But I too am human, and us dear creatures need that company, that sharing and bits that we think we can do without.
But that urgency is no longer there, the facing of my fear has taken that away so that I am now more accepting that when it is time, she may rock up, that ‘connection’ that won’t have any urgency either, to then share something in a whole new way.
May your journey find that peace, love, and no longer that stony silence in a cab ride home ❤
Beautifully put. And yet, I’m stuck
On the smelly armpits bit🤪. This is what comes from mothering teenage boys. I think their sense of humor has rubbed off on me.
It’s a painful truth, that when we are seeking anything outside ourselves to be fulfilled in someway, we will always be disappointed. So how do we discover what we are seeking is already within us. In Stillness, In silence, I begin to know myself, I begin to accept my pain and my joy equally and when I’m not expecting it, I receive what I need. It’s a practice. It has its downfalls. There’s no shortcuts or easy way out, but always a way through. Sending you lots of love.
Yes. This is sanity. Your words make sense to me. And I find myself somehow an odd duck because I am content, mainly. Because I don’t want to go on a hunt for a partner. I want to trust the Universe . . .
Beautiful, yes trust Kay, because when you do. “The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals” Kahlil Gibran
Ooh, I love that quote❤️
It’s all too weird. Every person I’ve met and loved was an accident. I never would have found them had I been looking.
That’s what I tell my many well-meaning friends who like to ask every other day if I’m “dating.” If I’m “online.” And I’ve promised them I’ll give it a month again. But ugh. This is really not my style . . .
Actually this is Perfect.
Thank you:). I knew you’d get it!