Saturday, July 4, 2009

Seventy Five Per Cent: Intention and Forward Progress

As I am nearing the end of my dating experiment, an idea keeps being tossed in my general direction and begs to be explored; how intentional are the choices we make when we are choosing someone to date or partner with? This may sound quite like an obvious question, but looking back over my life, I have come to the realization that I mostly chose people who just happened to be attracted to me. As one of my dates recently described it, he ended up dating girls who “fell into his lap” in bars. Very rarely did I stop and think, “Is this person good for me?” No, I basically would find myself so overwhelmed that someone actually liked me or that someone told me I was special, that all reason and deliberation was thrown out the window.

Surveying the last 16 dates I have been out on, I can say, without any doubt in my mind, that this is not the most intelligent way to pick a romantic interest. If I were operating the way I have always operated, I would be dating people I don’t even like, just because they happen to be handy and are willing participants. I also have to wonder why this is such a revelation and if people reading this think I am a complete numbskull for not having realized this sooner. I mean, I am freaking 40 years old for the love of Isis. I am not stupid. Why has it never occurred to me to think about what is best for me?

The reality of this epiphany, of course, is that the dating pool has just gotten much smaller. In fact, I would say it has been diminished by at least two thirds. So then you have the other item up for examination: Do people in general, viewing the depressingly small dating landscape, end up dating out of desperation? Is it wise to be with someone just to avoid being alone? My experience tells me it is much lonelier to feel alone when you are with someone than when you are not. At least when you are alone there is no deliberation over what is for dinner, or what movie to see, or what to do this weekend. There is no argument over who will do the dishes, walk the dog or take the garbage out.

Then comes the next and in my mind, most inevitable of questions, after we have been through so much and sacrificed and worked at relationships that have ended badly, how then do we open ourselves up again to new and exciting experiences, when our tendency is to narrow our possible choices? Assuming that our dating interests over the course of our lives are pyramidal in shape, what happens when we all find ourselves at that teeny tiny point? Do we fall off? Or do we live our lives going from one one-night-stand to another? When I speak with people about this aspect of dating, the same argument is always presented: “I don’t want to grow old and die alone.” Well, both my parents had a myriad of partners over their lifetimes, and all it ever made them, from my perspective, was miserable, the only people there for them when they died were their children, (which makes that no child decision of mine a bit more pertinent), and when you die, you are alone. Additionally, fear-based decisions are often the most fool hardy, the present unpleasantness in Iraq being a shining example of this fact.

There was a point after my parents died and my marriage ended that I was worried I would always end up picking the same kind of people to be in relationships with; those who needed to be the center of my universe and needed me to give up my hopes and dreams in order for me to live my life with theirs. Now, I am worried that I will never want to be in a relationship again because my definitions have changed significantly; that I will not find someone to be with because either he or I are being so choosey that one of us will pass the other up. Is this situation now better or worse than the one I was in before? At this point the question is mute, because there is no going back, but is it what you would call progress?

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  1. Well...I am confused. Your endeaver was advertised as clinical yet you appear to have actually been looking for something more. By giving the impression that your 20 dates were a social experiment you certainly steered away many men who were looking for love and to be loved. You were working with a very skewed dataset, so to speak. Also, I don't know what you mean by "picky", but when a guy comes along who genuinely looks out for you and tries his best to make your life easier you might want to take a second look.

  2. Hi Informix.
    Great observations, and as it is such a good one, I must remind you that once the observer becomes at one with the observed, which is inevitable in this type of set up, parameters change. I have come to understand that I am looking for much more than what I initially set out to find. I have also discovered more than I originally suspected I would.

    Additionally, I think you might be forgetting a very important facet of relationships; no matter how badly a man wants to take care of a woman, or vice versa, if this effort is not desired or appreciated, it is a wasted one at best; we are all operating under the paradigm of free will. When this type of effort is put forth, it is by choice, and should be put forth with the realization that it can either be accepted or rejected by the receiver.

  3. Hey "Spike,"
    You seem to have hit the same wall of questions that my friends and I have all been at for a while. I think part of it is just this time in our lives (standing at the tippy-top of the unfortunate dating pyramid). Some things I have come to realize:
    1. I also let people choose me, and then contort myself into whatever the other person wants me to be, then end up resentful and running the hell out of there.
    2. At some point, the pyramid starts to re-open, as people outgrow their past partners or look for something new. We're all different than we were before (duh), so it makes sense that there are still endless opportunities to connect (at least this is what I try to convince myself most of the time).
    3. It's NEVER better to settle (see above-referenced feelings of resentment).

    Hang in there. You have learned a huge amount about who you are and what you are looking for in a partner throughout this process, and you're now armed with those tools. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, and good luck as you move forward!

  4. Thanks Kristin!!!

    I hope you are well and I am sending you good vibes every day. You are a rocker.