It’s Not a Match

Writing about your dating life isn’t necessarily easy. And yet, it’s still easier than actually dating. I’ve been a little slow writing this sequel to Plenty of Fish in the Sea, but a recent article in the Buffalo News was so sympathetic to my plight, I knew it was time for an update. (Mom and Dad, do NOT panic. And maybe don’t keep reading along.)

I can’t JUST include the link– I must SHOW you the article for complete and thorough understanding of this bizarro world of online dating:

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A new study lists Buffalo as the nation’s most dangerous city for online dating.

The study, conducted by security review company SafeWise and HighSpeedInternet.com, ranked 56 U.S. cities based on two risk factors that researchers said were key to online dating safety: STD cases and violent crime rates, both adjusted for population. Using these metrics, researchers produced safety scores for each city.

With the highest STD rate in the study and the 11th highest violent crime rate, Buffalo was found to be twice as dangerous for online dating as the study’s next most dangerous city, Riverside, Calif.

“Buffalo residents may not have a lot to do while cooped up indoors for those long Buffalo winters, but clearly some people could use more precaution,” one of the researchers, John Dilley, wrote in a summary of the findings.

Alrighty then.

STDs and violent crime? So basically Gonorrhea and stabbings? Is that all you got, Online Dating?  Psssh.  Buffalonians are a hearty bunch. You’re going to have to do better than that!

(And yet. This article still says nothing of the other real danger out there: The Heartbreak.)


I must point out– the few people I met and went on actual dates with were TOTAL gentlemen. Total. (No STDs or violent crimes, thank the sweet baby Jesus) It was weeding out the crazies to actually get to the first date part that was the toughest. But still, I was in near tears before every first date. My girlfriend would say to me EVERY SINGLE TIME, “For F*#&s sake, Bean– it’s a DRINK. Not a proposal.” And I would whine back, “I knoowwwww. But I don’t wanna goooooo.”  Super attractive, right? And I get it- you’re thinking, wait- I thought you wanted to meet people and date…?

Well I do. But I just want to skip ahead to the part where we’re happy and it’s a match. Are you saying that’s not realistic?

So I started corresponding with a few people and emailing back and forth and getting to know each other a little bit, because that’s how this gig works. And I did go on a few first dates.

Here is a very abridged version of my experience:

#1 was married and still living with his wife. This was a touch confusing. I thought- well- I thought we were all gonna be single and available. “We” weren’t. Not a match.

#2 was not a match from the second we met— and when he said he didn’t believe in God, I told him that was a deal breaker for me. Later in the week he messaged me to say he was going to attend church that weekend and “give it a try.” (I make the boys believe in God! It’s like magic! ) Ultimately I told him I would’ve had more respect for someone who stayed true to their beliefs (or lack thereof) than someone who was so willing to jump the atheist ship for a girl– ‘cuz we’re not just talking about switching from Protestant to Episcopalian. We’re talking about THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. It’s not a match.

I can’t even remember #3. I was too jacked up from #1 and #2

On Date #4, I distinctly recall waiting and wishing he would swear first so we could just sort of relax a little. And also order a third drink. It was not a match.

There was also one in there that- I’m not exaggerating- spent THE ENTIRE date talking about his ex and repeatedly and emphatically convincing me just how over her he is.  Even the bartender was rolling his eyes. Check please. Not a match.

On the last date, I knew from the second we met it was not a match. His online persona and his real life persona were… incongruous. And that’s being polite about it.

And then I quit Match. I cried and quit and shut down my profile. Match could go match itself.

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And then I tried one more time because I only learn from my mistakes after I make them approximately 437 times. (On the low end.) And whaddya know? I met a match. I fell in love. And then it turned out to just..not be a match.  No matter how much I wish it were or wanted it to be. Love is a complicated thing. Not everyone is for everyone.

More than 500 times once I’ve said, “As soon as I saw him, I knew we were not a match”, and I’m not just talking about someone being attractive. Each of us has a very unique and specific vibe that is made up of so much more than just physical appearance: Body language, mannerisms, energy, spirit… So much of our chemistry and attraction with another person is about everything that’s unspoken.  Within minutes of meeting someone, your subconscious is already deciding if this person feels good to be around and is someone you’d want in your space. (So to speak. Ahem.)

There are three general immediate responses:

“This is okay.”

“No. This just doesn’t feel like me

Or “THIS! THIS! THIS! ALL DAY LONG THIS!”

The last one is like a unicorn–rare and extremely hard to find.

The heart wants what the heart wants. The heart is not always schooled in reality. Sometimes the heart is a drunken fool that won’t shut up. That’s the problem. You think you know exactly what you want and you think you know exactly what you don’t want. Getting those things to collide, well, that’s another story.

Stay tuned. And if you live in Buffalo, stay safe my friends. Love is a dangerous game.

 

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

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The thing about dating is eventually you’re either going to break up or get married, and the truth is, I don’t want to do either– so you can see my dilemma.  But about a year ago, I felt like it was time to make my social circle a little wider if I ever hoped to be in a relationship again. When you work from home and like to spend your off hours in bed with a book, your options become pretty limited. (Plus I had already dated my boss and the UPS man. Hi guys!) I was either going to have to quit, move, or join an online dating site– and since I love my job and my home… Enter Match.com

I approached Match the way I do any new project: competitively and with enthusiasm. I was going to have the best dating profile out there! And honestly, after creating it,  I wanted to date myself so hard. I had the best pictures (Look how cute I am!) The most appealing descriptions and write up of myself (I’m NOT COMPLICATED AT ALL!) The most fun sounding life (Likes to watch sports and grab a beer and hardly spends any time reading and writing alone and crying herself to sleep!)

I did not understand at the time what a huge mistake this was.  HUGE. All you really need when you decide to “get out there” is a pulse.  Instead, I sold myself as the Taj Mahal of girlfriends and within minutes, it was game on.

Day 1: Wow! This is so flattering! Woah! I’ve still got it! Hey, look at all these winks and likes and emails! This is so fun! Why didn’t I do this sooner?  How did online dating get a bad rap?? I’ll have a date in no time!

Day 1, hours later: WOW. Okay. WOW. This is a LOT. How will I ever sort through all of this? I think I might need to use an alternative email address. And I don’t think a lot of these people look like a “match”, if you know what I’m saying. But hey. Think positive! There are a lot of people out there looking for love. Plenty of fish in the sea and all that jazz!

End of Day 1: Responds to almost every inquiry with kind and thoughtful comments such as, “Since you live in Ohio, that’s slightly out of my geographical range” or “I’m not sure we’re a match, but I hope you find what you’re looking for” and “No thank you.”

Day 2: How could I possibly have 73 emails already today? These people are a little bit aggressive. Don’t they sleep? Were they on here during the night? What about work? This is like a part-time job. And why does HOT4U374 look like the same exact guy as URman109? Is that the same person?

Day 2, hours later: LET ME LIVE. I DON’T LIKE ANY OF YOU. NO ONE WINKS THIS MUCH IN REAL LIFE- AND IF YOU DID, we would NEVER date. EVER. STOP it. And it’s “you’re” not “your”.

End of Day 2: I cannot even check my email. I cannot jump on Match to “see what’s out there” because you trolls might notice I’m online and try to chat me. I’m going to read in my bed. ALONE. And all of you should, too.

Day 3: Turns profile off.  Orders Chinese food and binge watches Sex and the City.

It’s fun being me!

Stay tuned to hear about my first dates… also known as “It’s Not a Match”

Your Kids are Watching You. Man Up.

Yesterday was a bad day. It didn’t start out that way, but at some point in the afternoon, it slid sideways.  Kid issues, pain from a jacked up back, the death of someone we know- by dinner time, I was done. DONE. I felt irritable and sad and just off.

And boy did my kids feel it.

I was short. Impatient. Annoyed. Quiet. They’re not used to that version of me- at least not anymore- and it was awful. By the time we sat down to eat, there was silence. And so on top of everything else, Mom Guilt over the atmosphere I had created was washing over me heavily. After dinner, I laid down with a heating pad on my back and texted each kid an apology.

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That might sound lame, but that is definitely how we handle some things around here and it works for us. Sometimes it’s a little easier to say exactly how we feel when it’s not face to face. Plus, everyone scattered after dinner, no doubt, to escape me.

My kids were forgiving and gracious and understanding and I’m grateful. And as I went to bed early to put us all out of our misery, I promised myself, “I’ll do better tomorrow.”

Here’s the thing: It’s not that there’s no room for us as parents to be human; of course there is. Actually, it’s important that our kids see us feeling and see us working through some of our stuff  (when it’s appropriate), but it was impressed upon me for the millionth time: My mood and attitude sets the tone for everyone- and it’s not a job I take lightly.

If I’m happy, they feel it and they’re happy, too. If I’m sad, they feel it and they’re concerned.  If I’m mad, they feel it and they don’t like it. If I’m worried, they feel it and it makes them anxious. If I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, they see it and they take note. When I’m proud of them, they stand a little taller, work a little harder.

You get the point. And I know you see it in your own house.

Man, that’s a lot of power. And a LOT of responsibility.

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And so when I woke up this morning, I knew I needed to regroup before the day got underway.  I made coffee, wrote in my gratitude journal, prayed for myself, for them, for all of us on this journey together. I looked over some meditations to strengthen and encourage myself and basically re-center myself in goodness and positivity. And it worked. I woke the youngest and as we sat at the table while she ate breakfast, we talked and laughed the way we always do and I knew she was relieved I was feeling better today.

So I want to tell all the other Mamas and Daddies out there today: Regroup. Do whatever it takes. Make whatever changes you need to, big or little. Get counseling. Get medication. Get time away. Get a hobby.

Your kids need the best and brightest version of yourself.

They need you to man up. They need you to find a way to push through the bullshit of life like a champ. They’re watching you and taking their cues from you. And they’re modeling much of their own behavior after YOU.

There is no excuse. There is honestly no excuse. My back still hurts. Today will bring the usual crap any day brings. But the sun is shining and today’s a new day. I’m here and I’m ready and so are they. Let’s do this.

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Taking the Long View

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One of my kids recently had to do something really hard. They had to go make something right that they had kind of screwed up. This is no easy feat, no matter how old you are. Making a mistake is so much easier than making amends. But making amends is so powerful. So much better. So freeing.

And so as my kid was going out the door to go do this thing– and just DREADING it, I looked them in the eye and said, “You are GOOD. YOU. Are. A good, good soul. You’ve got this.”

And then I cried at my desk. Tears of gratitude. Tears of compassion and humility and overwhelming love. Motherhood, personhood, is so raw and exhausting at times.

And what I’m learning right now is that it takes decades to build a person. Decades.

We expect so very much from ourselves and from our kids. And yes, it’s good to have standards and expectations; of course we should. But our character, our true selves, our best selves, our real selves…those things are built over a lifetime. An entire lifetime. And yet we expect things from each other that we just haven’t had the time and life experience to develop.

 

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As a mom, this moves me deeply and challenges me to see my children in a different light. I expect so much of them. Self awareness and emotional intelligence are a high priority for me personally, but at 43, I’m just barely there. And it’s hard, conscious work all the time. I’m not sure how I can possibly expect the people in my house who have the distinct disadvantage of less time and less life experience (and let’s be honest- less therapy) to be even close to that.

So I’m learning to take the long view. Nobody needs to be perfect right now. Or tomorrow. Or next week. (Or quite frankly, next month or next year. Mercy.) Nobody needs to get it all right, right now. We need to keep stumbling forward. Making tiny strides and picking each other up with lots of empathy towards how hard it is to grow up and adult. Lots of forgiveness. Lots of grace. Lots of Love. Lots of acceptance. Lots of quiet conversations about who we are and who we want to be and if our actions today are helping us get there.  Lots of laughter at ourselves and with each other as we’re  trying to figure it all out. Over decades. Over a lifetime.

Because here’s the thing about the short view: It’s incomplete. It’s underdeveloped. It doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s unfair. It’s unforgiving. It’s unrealistic. It’s impossible. It’s an exercise in frustration– with ourselves and with each other. It’s harsh and uninformed.

It’s true the longview takes a long time– a lifetime– But since that’s all we’ve got, I’m going to stick around for it because I can see in the distance it’s going to be beautiful.

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Where I End and You Begin

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Not long ago I was on a first date with a nice guy. (We’ve already had our last date, but I’ll get to that later.And if it seems as though I’ve become the Taylor Swift of dating and then writing about it, I feel that. And you’re welcome.)

My date and I were chatting over a few drinks and having a very typical getting-to-know-you type of conversation when he started to describe a sticky situation in his life. It was a little weird and after he finished describing it and how he got into it, etc… He looked at me and smiled and said, “But if I were in a relationship with someone who didn’t approve and asked me to get out of it, I would.”

You could tell he thought that was a pretty smooth, impressive thing to say. And a few years ago, I would’ve thought it was too. Except now I have better boundaries. (Thank you, therapy. I love you. You are the one for me.)

And so instead, I thought, wait what?

Side Note: If the dating scene isn’t a freakin’ messy and bizarre melting pot of bad boundaries and crazy boundaries and no boundaries, I don’t know what is. And admittedly, I have not perfected the art of boundaries, so I’m not throwing stones as much as I’m making observations. But even I knew we had a boundary situation on our hands here.

A Boundary is a definite place where your responsibility ends and another person’s responsibility begins. Boundaries stop you from doing things for others that they should be doing for themselves.

A Boundary prevents you from rescuing someone from the consequences of their destructive behavior that they need to experience in order to grow.

Boundaries help other people understand how you will and will not be treated.

A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect.

I smiled sweetly at my date and said, “You are a grown man. And I’m a grown woman. I would never tell you what to do and you will never tell me what to do. You’ve chosen to be in that situation and that’s cool. But it will never be my job to tell you to get out of it. What I would end up telling you is that it’s not for me, but I wish you well.” (That’s some fine boundary-setting. Well done, Jules!)

Good luck! Godspeed!

Next.

He seemed to be a little confused that I wasn’t swooning over this generous offer to let me dictate his behavior.  But now the idea of that makes me want to run. I have a hard enough time figuring out my own stuff- I don’t want to figure out yours too, buddy.  And why on earth would you want me to?

Fast forward a few weeks and this same nice guy cancelled plans at the last minute twice and stood me up once.

And I’m not the kind of girl who gets stood up twice.

So that was the end of that.

But funny thing, he started calling and texting again recently. And I very nicely told him that the way he operates and communicates is not for me. I like him. He’s a nice guy. But I won’t be treated that way. (More good boundaries. Rock. On.)

Boundaries make it so simple, don’t they? They aren’t meant to be mean or inflexible. They’re meant to keep us safe and keep expectations clear. We teach people how to treat us. And when we’re clear about what we’ll tolerate and what we won’t, it helps both people decide if the relationship will work for them. If it won’t, we can both move on.

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It’s much harder to set boundaries with people we love deeply–Our children. Our partner. Our parents or sibs. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or see people we love suffer. But the truth is, we’re the ones who end up suffering when we fail to put healthy boundaries in place.

I’m getting better at boundaries all the time. And now that I’ve prioritized self-respect in my life, it’s easy to recognize situations that compromise my boundaries.

So how about you? Do you know where you end and someone else begins? If you don’t, there’s no better time to figure it out than now. But I’m not telling you what to do. Because that’s your job, not mine.

BOOM.

 

 

Well That Escalated Quickly

Literally just DAYS after I posted my last blog, {How Does a Widowed and Divorced Single Mom Teach Her Kids About Love}   the relationship I was in fell apart. Like. Nuclear.

And one of the first things I thought was:

“EFF! Why did I just write that stupid Pollyanna post about love and believing in love and love being a good thing?? Why was I feeling all shiny and Valentine-y and loving and like I needed to write about it??”

Because that’s what I do. Because that’s Real Life. Truthfully.

Which is why I’m writing this.

I wrote it because I was trying. Trying to love smart. Trying to be optimistic. Trying to believe it was true.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t.

And also Real Life, Truthfully?  My knee-jerk reaction was predictable.

I hate love. I hate relationships. Men suck. Men are all the same. This is why I like being single. Single is easy. And fun. And free. This is…Shambolic. Calamity. Nonsense. 

But the next day as I was regrouping from disappointment and anger, I started flipping through one of my favorite new books, Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed. Every single page has a powerful punch of a quote– and I came across these:

The first one got me totally fired up.

Yes, Cheryl Strayed! Yes!

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But then there was this one, which had me like…Ugh.

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And finally, there was this. The worst one of all:

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“To love and be loved. That is the meaning of life.”

Sigh. Eye roll. So precious.

Except it’s true.

There is TONS of love in my life. Romantic love is only one stream in a vast and deep and breathtaking ocean of love. Love rains down on my life from so many different directions, in a hundred different ways from the loyal people in my tribe.  And all of this love… it is, indeed, what gives my life such beautiful meaning.

So.

Love still doesn’t suck. Love is a good thing. Sometimes people suck. Sometimes things don’t work out quite the way we pictured. (Um. Make that most of the time.)

But love is still the meaning of life.

And I still believe.

 

How Does a Widowed and Divorced Single Mom Teach Her Kids About Love?

I always wondered how my kids would feel about their own love lives as they got older. Without a happy, healthy marriage model to watch and learn from, what would  be their takeaway? Will they want to get married some day? Are they jaded about love and relationships? Will they recognize and value real love when they see it and feel it?

And Valentine’s Day has always been a little bit like a litmus test in my own love life. After being widowed and divorced, I haven’t always loved love. And for a while, I kind of hated love. And then after I hated it, I felt cynical about it. I felt snarky and sarcastic. I felt just OVER the whole love thing. Been there. Done that. No thank you.

And then I felt nothing.

But this past year, I did it.

I opened the door.

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I let myself feel something.

And it turns out, feeling something was so much better than feeling  nothing.

And so this what my kids and I are learning, side by side:

Love is a good thing.

Love is good. Real love is good. It’s sweet and tender and kind and fun. It’s taken me a long time to feel this way again. To really believe it. To look at love, to think of love, to hear about love– and feel loving towards it. To want it. To accept it. To embrace it. To smile about it. To stop being afraid of it and pushing it away. Real, true love is a good thing. Love doesn’t stink. Love doesn’t suck. I had to consciously stop playing that record in my head. Relationships that feel like that are not love– they’re something– but they’re not love. Real love is a good thing.

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You know what love is by the way it feels.

Love feels good. When my kids see that I’m peaceful. That I’m happy. That I laugh and smile a lot in my own love relationship, they understand: Love feels good.

And that’s  important.

But they also learn what real love feels like through my relationship with them.

When we have deep conversations about important life stuff and they feel heard and understood, they’re learning what love feels like. When they’re having a rough day and I take time to comfort them and be “in it” with them, they’re learning what love feels like. When I’m   one of us is crabby and short and tired, and we backtrack to apologize and make things right between us, this is what love feels like.

When their feelings are validated and there’s space for them to be who they are and feel what they feel. When we share goofy stories and inside jokes and text funny things to each other. When they get “just because” gifts. When we have dinner together and everyone shares the “Happy and Crappy” from their day.  When they catch my eye during a school concert or sporting event and know I am cheering them on. When we sit in my bed together and quietly read, side by side. When everything goes right or wrong or both, and we are with each other through it all, they’re learning what love feels like.

This is what love feels like. All of it.

I’m no longer going to underestimate my ability to teach my kids about love. I’m no longer going to feel shame that somehow a widowed, divorced single mom can’t successfully teach her kids to fully know and recognize healthy love. I’m not going to feel insecure about it. I don’t buy it. I don’t believe it.

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But I do believe in love.

I do.

And if a widowed and divorced single mom can believe in love, her kids can too.