Divorced and Dating Again: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
It’s a common strategy, to imagine the worst that could happen and plan that escape route, as you are hoping to relieve pressure about the risks you are taking in the present. And while I think it’s a fine defensive strategy, it sort of leans into the failure. And for the most part I like to lean into the win. Both sides have their advantages.
I am sure that I suffer from the optimist’s dilemma. Yes, I know I am overly optimistic. And I use that positivity to drive myself forward even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. It works for me. Sometimes. And other times it is my blind side. Even today, I am overly optimistic about a lot of things. I know I am unrealistically projecting my *happy* on things that might not go as I hope.
How does the optimist (me) temper their momentum?
And I’m not saying the what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen plan is more or less accurate. But both approaches angle the outcomes, even slightly, towards their expected or predicted outcomes. I’m not talking about “you create your reality” here. I’m talking about leaning in. Holding back. Or thrusting forward with too much gusto and wreaking havoc with enthusiasm.
I understand both approaches. I am consciously trying to dial back my forceful will towards winning and listen to the flip side. And, my hope is, that in this tempered view I can arc towards the middle ground, and middling success, rather than a spectacular victory or crushing defeat.
I have frequently let my rosy perspective set me on course with failure. I’ve overshot relationships in the first days of courting. I’ve held on to business proposals and opportunities that were a sure thing right into the poor house. And I’m not happy about that. I’m positive about it. I’m certain that I can fix it. But am I?
In the trajectory that my “worst” friend imagines, let’s say, we start up a relationship, have a good period of time, and then move on. Looking back, years later, we still look back fondly on this period, when things were new, fresh, and full of passion.
Okay. That’s no so bad.
In the internal dialogue going on in my brain at that very moment, I’m saying, “Yeah but…”
And of course that’s not really the worst. But it’s the descending arc of a relationship that doesn’t quite make the cut. We know what that’s like, right? We’re here–single adults imagining their next future–because things didn’t work out. The “worst” arc happened in our life. And we view things a bit more “realistically.” Right?
Right alongside that train of thought is the overly-up perspective that fears no risk, pushes the positive, and presses on in spite of the warnings or signals coming from their partner. [Um… Me.] And it’s hard to hear “what if things don’t work out.” It puts a damper on our flame. And we love the flame.
When the “we’re never going to make it” voice came into the discussion I jumped directly to, “of course we will, we’re perfect for each other, we can do this.” But I missed an opportunity to hear what was being said. I rolled right over the signals coming from the potential partner, who was clearly saying, “You scare the shit out of me.”
And I was also saying the same thing. “Wait! What? If you say we’re not right for each other, then what’s all this blood rushing through my heart about, what’s all this energy and passion?” And glossing right over a deeper feeling, “You scare the shit out of me.”
So there is a way to meet in the middle. I can learn [am learning] to temper my steamroller of love. I can, I promise I can. But I need to listen to the “Wait!” I have to acknowledge the fear inside of me that still recalls the taste of tail feathers and loss. I have to under stand that I am blazing right through the “You scare the shit out of me,” so that I don’t have to feel it. Get it? So that I don’t have to feel my fear. My own what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen. My flip side is to ignore any signals or ideas that don’t match up to my what’s-the-best-that-could-happen fantasy.
What? Wait, I’m a massively feeling individual. I mean, that’s what I’ve been saying here on this blog all along. I’m always open with my feelings. Sure. Try me. Ask me anything.
“What if it doesn’t work?”
“Oh… Heh heh… Forget that. Try another one.”
There is only one way forward for either of us. Stay in the present moment. Don’t look too far ahead, you are just predicting what you cannot know. Don’t give the voices (both fears and dreams) in your head too much credit, they are ghosts of past relationships, and patterns that might need to be discarded.
How can we stay focused on the person in front of us, while all of this rushing thinking is going along inside, in opposite directions, even as we are staring into each other’s eyes? How can we do it?
Here comes the cliché. I use the serenity prayer. And then I try to come back to the present. I listen to the sound of the other person’s voice as I’m trying to understand their perspective. I attempt to look at both sides (even though it’s hard for me to hear the breakup potential for any reason) and then let them dissolve. The future is the unknown. And the edge of the unknown, where we stand at any given moment, can be terrifying, exhilarating, and is actually unknown. We don’t know.
You simply cannot know what’s going to happen in the next moment. You can only know the present. The touch, smell, sound of your partner. Sure there are logistics, plans, budgets, chores, pains, and ecstasies ahead as you wind down the road of “whatever.” But at this moment, if you listen, if you stop the chattering brain, you might hear…
The Off Parent
< back to On Dating Again index
- Beyond the Rush of Love, Is the Test of Time
- Our Sexual Brain and the Lies it Tells Us
- Sex Rules: The Frequency, the Fun, and the Fantasy
- Browsable Women: The Three Hells of Online Dating
- Relationships and Dating Are A Bit Like Space Travel
- Blinding Desire
- Learning About “I Need You” vs. “I Want You”
- What’s This About Marriage?
image: first date, emily hildebrand, creative commons usage