Whole Adults Dating Again: Knowing Ourselves, Knowing What We Won’t Compromise

OFF-closelips

Last night I had the pleasure of eating dinner with an old friend from out of town and his new girlfriend. When he texted me that he was in town he said, “Down here with new girlfriend. Recently divorced but all good.” I was surprised but not all that surprised. Seems like this divorce thing is going around. And my friends and I are in the 7 – 11 year itch period where the rubber meets the road. So he was divorced and already travelling with his “new girlfriend.” Wow. Good for him.

So how can we enter into a new kind of relationship, now knowing what we know about ourselves? How will the mistakes of our past reframe what is and is not acceptable in our next relationship.

It was great to see my friend and his delightful new partner. She too is the survivor of divorce, with two kids who are a bit younger than my friend and I. We had a very interesting discussion about what we were doing with our lives.

You see, in addition to catching up with my friend, who I hadn’t spent time with in over two years, we were also catching up as a group of recently divorced people. I took the opportunity to explore some ideas I’d been kicking around.

Here’s what seems to ring true for all of us.

  1. We start marriage with a set of assumptions and a set of ideals.
  2. Over time, as we add mortgages, kids, and health insurance to the equation, we begin a long process of adaption and compromise.
  3. If we continue to compromise away from our true selves, we will eventually get depressed or angry. We will start looking for a way back to something more vibrant, more authentic. We want to get back to sometime more like the ME I remember.
  4. Divorce happens. Initialized by one of the party, and then the transformation begins.
  5. In the process of divorce recovery we either 1. jump right back into another relationship, failing to examine or learn from what failed in the previous one; OR 2. we take some time to rediscover our solo-selves.
  6. As somewhat activated solo-selves we are now able to reclaim our artistic passions, our authentic aspirations, our alone-wants and our alone-desires.
  7. In imagining and testing the concept of dating and relating to another adult human, we have new “non-negotiables” as part of our needs.
  8. We do not want to re-enter the path of compromise if it means a collapse of this newly rediscovered self.
  9. We are forced to create something new.

As the three of us talked about our dreams for ourselves, we were careful to listen to the other person’s dreams. I was sounding out, and exploring my friend’s musical aspirations. I wanted to hear about his new symphonic ideas. I was interested in the part of himself that he was rediscovering and re-establishing. And his new girlfriend was clearly in that same camp. She too was an artist. She had vision and drive. She wanted the musician in my friend to reignite and come alive.

So how can we enter into a new kind of relationship, now, with what we know about ourselves? How will the mistakes of our past reframe what is and is not acceptable in our next relationship. And ultimately, can we create a Relationship 3.0 that keeps our goals and ambitions as creative individuals at the forefront of the mix WHILE we are also negotiating the togetherness that we also want.

So in defining and finding a next relationship, what time am I willing to be flexible on and what time am I going to keep just for myself?

I am curious how much of relationship is about sex for me. And if sex was more a function of several “dates” perhaps I would not need a relationship so much. I don’t think that’s it. I KNOW there is much more about relationships than sex. And I know, recently, that sex without the deeper connection is much more like masterbation. But it is interesting to pull apart all the aspects of a potential relationship and see which parts of it are valuable, and which parts are limiting.

At the moment I am limitless. I am alone, yes, but I am the sole determiner of what I am doing tonight. (Well, I have my kids this weekend, so not tonight…) And then I can ask, and what am I willing to give up to be WITH someone. What would “tonight” look like if there were another person waiting in the wings to spend time with me.

Often in the early months of my courtship with the ex-y we would have breakfast on a weekend and make plans to get back together in the early evening. And off we would go to our separate artist studios. (For the most part, art is a solo endeavor.) These were some of our happiest times.

When she let the work and compromise of our relationship kill her artistic dream she became small and resentful of mine. I have never stopped trying to write songs, or poems and stories. It takes time. And for sure, time away from the relationship.

So in defining and finding a next relationship, what time am I willing to be flexible on and what time am I going to keep just for myself?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: Lujuria/Lust, Gabriel S. Delgado C., creative commons usage

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  1. I, recently divorced as well, have had the hardest time trying to get past the loneliness and work on myself. I didn’t sacrifice my art when I was married, but I did compromise on a lot of things that made me resentful. The pattern as you laid it out follows. However, I’m finding it difficult to rediscover myself and feeling stuck with a desire to be attached to someone else. That’s a whole ‘nother process all on it’s own. I cannot wait to get on track and start genuinely finding “me” again.

    • Thank you for your honest comment, Laura. We all go through stages. I occasionally fall back into loneliness. Mostly, I’m on my type-a driven path, but sometimes, missing the kids, or a snuggle partner, I still feel the loss.