I thought I would change the subject from my last several blogs and go back to reflecting on my dating experiences and my attempts to connect with a more authentic self. This is the topic of my new book coming out soon titled “Catch and Release – One Man’s Improbable Search for True Love and the Meaning of Life.”
It has been three years since I divorced and moved from Denver to Florida. Married for most of my life did not prepare me for the variegated adventures I would face trying to find love and companionship in my sixties. Having just dated two women up to this point in my life, it was clear I was a neophyte in the dating world and did not feel qualified to share any pearls of wisdom that would help anyone keep their sanity during this new era of one’s life cycle. But I believe I have dated enough women during this trifecta of years of my Florida hiatus to provide a great sampling of what is out there and give a solid and factual foundation for my findings. As a matter of transparency, I must point out I have not yet found “the one” for me, like many others, I am still searching. Nevertheless, I have discovered many things about dating.
First of all, let’s discuss how best to meet women. The most effective method by far to meet women is on-line, but that is my least preferred. I have met wonderful members of the opposite sex in other ways, like the gym and playing tennis. I even dated a very nice lady who sold me the plantation shutters for my home. Friends have also offered a plethora of ladies for me to meet. The sum of my experiences is that any method to meet a person is fine. There is, however, an old saying I live by that goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder”, so keep that in mind when meeting someone late at night at a local drinking environment.
So far, I’ve had good luck, except for one woman who was batshit crazy, the rest of my dates possessed a wide variety of charm, intelligence and beauty. Most women I dated only once, both of us lucky enough to discover a lack of compatibility after the first encounter. The rest I dated more often, usually no less than four dates. A few of them I called ‘my girlfriend’ (not at the same time, of course) and they acknowledged me as ‘their boyfriend’.
Let’s now talk about keeping your sanity while you experience the accompanying hurricane of emotions and experiences that are part of dating. All of us are like wounded birds looking for healing. Most of us see ourselves as unworthy, not enough, flawed and damaged. We attract and relate to mates through the unconscious vision provided by these emotional wounds. Interpersonal relations can help us evolve and heal these wounds, but we have to understand the other person cannot fill in the gap of our emotional healing, that is work we must do ourselves. This is why the most important work we can do to succeed in finding love is to learn to love ourselves. Only then can you go out into the world free to choose what you want rather than trying to fill your voids.
All of us yearn for intimacy, but as we get older, the quicker we are to hightail it out of a relationship the moment we see a prospective partner exhibit behavior that hurt us in the past. This reaction is most often distorted by our past suffering. For this reason I emphasize once again that the best thing we can do to improve current or future relationships is to work on ourselves.
With that in mind, it becomes important to point out that you may not be able to learn to love yourself on your own. Some of us need counseling to get to this point (some of us more than others, of course), but whatever method you use, you must understand that learning to love yourself can only start when you begin recognizing your tendency to be self-critical and undervalue your assets. This is difficult to do because we have been using these negative beliefs so often that they eventually submerged into our unconscious mind. These bad habits causes us to panic whenever we think our partner has discovered our flaws. We then tend to hide, acquiesce or become needy. In order to find true love you have to stop doing that shit; know you are great and someone very worthy of love.
You cannot be something you are not. One of the most incorrect but prevalent advice I received from other men was that women like a bad boy, someone with an edge that will keep them off balance treating them badly, neglecting them or fooling them by lying and cheating. I think that is sheer bullpucky! While it is true that nobody wants a needy someone who sucks out all the attention in a relationship, no one wants a person trying to be something they are not. I believe women and men want a confident partner, but I think that means they are looking for someone who lives happily and comfortably inside his or her own skin.
Establishing your boundaries is part of becoming the real person you were meant to be. I found out I cannot be a bad boy, it is just not in my nature. I am a gentle hearted person, who likes being courteous, loving and treat people with respect. Attempting to be somebody else will ultimately fail me. However, when I try to be “nice” and allow my boundaries to be trampled for the sake of winning my partner’s heart, I have doomed the relationship. Behaving in this acquiescent manner ultimately helps my prospective lover lose respect for me and move on.
You can’t make someone want what you desire in a relationship, they either want enough similar things to make a match or they do not. This has been evident in the issues that have caused women to reject me in the past. to some, I was not attractive enough, geographically undesirable, too old, too liberal, too conservative, too religious, not religious enough or a boring nerd (ouch!). Thankfully, I have not been rejected in favor of some ancient Egyptian Idol who is half man, half crocodile with horns on their head, but even that is still possible. I have rejected partners for similar reasons. The point is that different people will see relationships in their individual way, so don’t take it personal when a woman you are attracted to does not return the favor.
By the same token, you are not duty-bound to wait for anybody to make up their minds on what they want. You deserve to have someone excited to be with you. If they have to think about it, process it or are confused, move on. Don’t waste your time.
Don’t be overly restrictive with your criteria for a partner. On-line dating convinces you that, with the proper features, you will find the perfect partner. This is the dating version of buying the model car you want with all your preferred options. Except, there is one problem, you are doing this in a system that has people who, as a general rule, tend to misrepresent or exaggerate their traits. It is not so much they are lying (although some are), it is more that since most of us view ourselves as not good enough, we tend to highlight the good and hide the traits we think are objectionable. In other words, someone may represent themselves as a Mustang, but they are really more like a Pinto.
Remember, preferences can also serve to box us in and restrict our options for love. The essence of good in the person is far more important than their income, religious preferences or the TV shows they like. I am not advocating that you should settle, but be flexible.
Last but not least, consider the thought that it is better to be alone than to be poorly accompanied. You are not a loser because you could not make a toxic, apathetic, low-energy relationship work. In fact, you are both winners for having walked away before any more time was wasted. I am still alone, that is true, but I am at peace enjoying the life I have been given in a happy and interesting way. I have faith that the opportunities of the Divine cannot be blocked by my circumstances. If finding a partner is in my future, we will both find the way without having to force it. Love is the true meaning of life, it is always there for us when we are ready.