“Don’t date anyone for at least a year.”
This piece of advice is given to men and women who are recently divorced. I’ll admit that no one said this to me exactly. “Take your time,” they said, “you’ll find someone who adores you. Someone who really loves you. They’re out there, and when you find them, you’ll see the difference between what you had and what you’ll have.”
What I think is missing from the counsel and what the advice-givers misunderstand is that it isn’t a person who’s going to come and make you right again. There isn’t some missing puzzle piece that, when placed correctly with all of the grooves in tact, makes you whole, allowing you to see the entire picture. And as much as we may want everything to be the story of how two halves with baggage come together to create one beautiful, functional relationship, the real thing is not as theatrical. It’s honestly so hideous and unappetizing, that I shouldn’t go into specifics. I really shouldn’t.
And so I won’t tell you about the time I went for a run and ended up sobbing and screaming, “Fuck you!” over and over again for miles.
And I definitely won’t tell you about the time I spent a night with this girl I didn’t really like that much so that I didn’t have to spend it alone and hurting.
And I would never in a million years tell you about that time I broke up with one of the kindest, sweetest girls I’ve ever met after only a month because I had so much relational backlash and fear of ending up in another failed marriage that instead of staying in a relationship that possibly could’ve worked out to my benefit, I walked away, leaving her alone and regretting having ever met me.
Well I can tell you now, that makes two of us. Sometimes I wish I never had to meet the person I am, but what would be the point, then?
“Who is he?” you might ask, and in truth, I’ve had that question asked of me this very week by a friend of mine from which I haven’t heard in quite some time. In a lot of ways, I’m not the same person I was a year ago, so it’s a fair question. The man a year ago had everything he ever wanted. He was in a stable relationship; had a dog, a house, a wife, rich in-laws, two cars, a job in Nashville; and secretly believed he could do nothing wrong. Relative to others, I felt like I was killing at life. I was self-righteous. I was arrogant. I was wrong.
There lives within me an increasing desire for approval, acceptance, and validation. Having a wife, girlfriend, or lover can give you shots of these virtues, but like someone who watches porn to get off, it doesn’t compare to real intimacy. At least, I don’t think so. But then again, this is my hypothesis.
“Don’t date anyone for at least a year.”
My response to this statement hovered around two words that can set a driver against a speed limit, a child against a parent, a man against the world: why not?
I knew what I wanted in a potential partner. Every characteristic I desired I’d written down on a small sheet of paper tucked safely away in my wallet like it were cash, and with it, I’d purchase exactly the kind of partner with which I wanted to spend the rest of my life. No sense in putting it off. I wouldn’t make any bullshit mistakes.
Until I made them all.
The miscalculation wasn’t that I knew what I wanted, but instead that I wasn’t a person setup and ready to take on the kind of partner I felt I needed. I didn’t know how it would feel to be acclimated to a certain level of intimacy and then thrust myself in association with someone else at the ground floor. I wanted immediacy and to have someone quell the huge, gut-wrenching loneliness as soon as possible. It had everything to do with me, and why not? I believed myself so selfless and knew I deserved the things I wanted: gentleness, physicality, intimacy, graciousness, comfort, and friendship.
It wasn’t until I dated again that I realized, too late, I was making the same mistakes I made when I married my wife. Instead of waiting and learning what it meant to be ok with being alone, I jumped right in, because she checked off every box on my list.
So what can I do? How do I keep myself from making subjective decisions based on emotion? And at what point do you take a chance?
So I’m going to take the advice. I’m not going to date anyone for a complete year and fill the time and effort with other things. A couple people have already told me that this is too long (maybe they should join me, eh?). In taking a pre-specified amount of time, I remove myself from the equation. It’s no longer about the feelings I have toward someone, because I can convince myself I’m ready (especially if the particular girl is kind and cute). Settling down will happen for me.
But until I’ve learned to live with myself, I’ll never be content sharing my life with anyone.
This is going to be a hard year. After a few days, I’m already feeling it. Growth hurts, and like an addict, I’m going to go through some withdrawals. It’s all part of the journey. I’ll be writing every week about what’s going on, new struggles, reflections on experiences, and the occasional epiphany. Hopefully, by the end of this, I’ll be better.
Wish me luck.