Note: This is a long, rambling post. Here's a summary in case you want to skip it: I've been going out on some dates. I don't think I want a real relationship right now, but it's fun to get out. Then again, when one is getting out, who knows where things might lead? The end.
Someone commented on my Loneliness, Aloneness post that it sounds like I'm ready to be dating. Agreed, and I have been dating, just not writing about it. The dates read the blog, and that's causes a certain amount of censorship in my writing that I'd rather just totally avoid. So I go out and I mull it over and I don't write about it.
But yeah, I'm dating. Well, I'm going on dates. Let's put it that way. Seems more accurate. I'm certainly not dating anyone. That implies a level of commitment that is completely absent from any outings I've been on of late.
Going out on dates has made me think about what I want in a relationship, and it's made me think about my relationship history. The longest relationship I've ever had was with John. From our first date to his death was four years, almost to the day. That's not an incredibly long relationship to begin with, and nothing about it was typical given that we moved in together four months after our first date and then he was sick for 2.5 years at the end. In a way, it's like we had a much longer relationship than the four calendar years would belie, given all that we went through. But by the numbers, it was four years, the blink of an eye, a brief—if incredibly meaningful—interlude.
Outside of my relationship with John, I have dated a handful of people for around a year each, a handful more for a few months. I really have no significant long-term relationships in my past, at least not long in terms of the ticking of the clock.
I loved being married to John, and I love the idea of a long-term relationship or another marriage. The security and comfort of that kind of close tie to another person is very appealing to me. I'm inherently social. I like having someone around.
Relationships are, however, a lot of work, at least the good and meaningful ones. I think that's why my relationship history is filled with what I'd call medium-term liasons. Often, you can be with someone a few months, up to a year or so if my experience is to be believed, before you have to deal with really tough stuff, before you have to start putting in the work to make things continue to be meaningful. I look back on past relationships and I can see times that I stayed with someone even though I knew the relationship had fatal flaws, riding it out until the flaws became too much to ignore. I can also see times that as the problems emerged, I decided to cut my losses and leave rather than figure out how to make things work. Oh, yeah, and sometimes I got dumped.
I like to think of myself as cool-headed and rational. I'm an editor, for crying out loud. I follow rules and impose consistency for a living. Frankly, though, I think this is more a symbol of my need to control something—anything!—than it is a sign of a disciplined temperment. At the end of the day, I make a huge proportion of my decisions based on gut reactions. That's how I decided where to go to college: Lewis and Clark just felt right as soon as I set foot on campus. And it's pretty much how I decided that John and I were a good match: he, too, just felt right. There was some underlying compatability, some kind of click. I wouldn't call it love at first sight, or fate, or destiny. I was just immediately comfortable with him and he with me and the work seemed worth it from the get-go.
When I go out with people now, I'm not looking for someone like or dislike John. I don't understand how or why I'd do that. Oh, sure, I want some of the same general characterisitics in a partner: honesty, intelligence, the ability to make me laugh, to name a few. But looking for those kinds of things do not mean that I'm looking for John. I am, however, looking for someone who just feels right, and I'm very open to the idea that this person could be quite similar to John or in fact entirely different. How am I to know? It's not like this is done via mail-order catalog.
Except it kind of is, or at least that's how Internet dating feels to me. I did the Internet dating thing back in Boston, ending up going out with Mr. Coffee for a few months and going out on a bunch of Total Date Fails otherwise. Eh, it was a worthwhile experience, got my feet wet and all, but I wouldn't say I loved it. In a fit of relatinship-related pique, I recently put up another online profile, and I would hardly say that interesting, attractive guys are beating down my door. In fairness, I basically never log on to the site and have waited for people to come to me rather than making any effort to reach out to others. You have to give something to get something in return, I suppose, and I find that I'm just not terribly motivated.
Which circles back to how relationships are work. I have a career and two small kids. I have a large circle of friends and a family who lives nearby and a lot of personal interests. I'm just like everyone else: I don't have a lot of free time, and I don't want to waste one minute of the free time I have. But there is no way to avoid wasted time when dating. I'm inherently going to enjoy some dates and not others. Some dates will lead to something more, some will not. I have been stood up—talk about the ultimate waste of time!—and I've dispensed hours of what feels like wasted emotional energy fretting about all manner of things date-related.
Yeah, sure, I'd like to believe that all of these experiences are leading me somewhere. And sometimes inauspicious beginnings are just that: beginnings that don't feel that way. But what I feel is myself pulling away from the idea of wanting a meaningful, committed relationship right now. I want the relationship fun, but not the relationship work. And I want smart, funny—cute!—guys to just magically appear in my life without my having to make any effort to find them, and I want to go out for drinks and dinner and kiss and maybe more. But I don't want to have to figure out how to integrate that person into my life or introduce that person to Maddie and Riley or any of the tough stuff.
Not that anyone is asking me to do the tough stuff right now. I just can't figure out how it all works. Maybe I'm overthinking it. I do know that it's complicated by the experience I had with John, in that having had that one time where I knew almost immediately that things were different with him, that's my barometer for how a long-term relationship begins. That's probably not fair. Add that to the fact that I don't even think I want a real relationship right now and, well, it makes all this dating stuff kind of hard.
I guess I just want to get out, have fun, feel like a grown-up, try on a life that's not really mine. Easy enough. It's figuring out what to do if I like the way it fits that's tricky.
I shall now stop counting chickens, putting carts before horses, etc.