I've had 3 conversations in the last few days that have really forced me to look at my romantic history. The conversation last night was with a really great guy. He's handsome and sweet. He's known me since my teens and he's constantly calling me out to expect greater than I do. He says, "How are you love?" and "Raise the bar, ma." Decades ago I was the confident flirt. If this expression of him were to meet me then, I'd be in trouble because he is dangerously hot and his emotional intelligence of women is off the charts. He's capable of making someone very happy, but he would be settling. He was shy and quiet when we were young. I may have enjoyed him for that on more than one occasion. We talked about what we want in romance. I'm not polyamorous but we talked about it. It's about wanting a mental, emotional and physical connection with several people. That would never work for me because I thrive in monogamous relationships. I like the idea that I'm on someone else's mind as much as he's on mine. I want to know that random things remind him of me and that he's on the street and something about the person in front of him makes him think of me. I guarantee that happens for me when he's special. When he's special, I don't have a poker face and I can't hide it. It's written all over my face and it's in my body language. When he's special, I feel like who I am is bending around him into ways that make him a part of me. And yes, that scares me. I'm the type that gets a rush in doing the brave thing in spite of fear. I would go with it. I can press in without worrying about the future because there is amazing joy in the present. But it scares me.
Yesterday I had a brief conversation about where I am in my dating life right now. I'm not seeing anyone and enjoying the many ways I get to date myself. I buy myself lingerie and flowers. I take myself to nice restaurants and museums. I catch beach sunsets and take long walks through beautiful parks. My dating history looks nothing like what I do for myself and if someone wants my attention, I have to first believe I'd have a better time with him than alone because my alone time is special to me. There aren't many people I would give up my free time for. There's an even smaller number of people I'd be willing to drive to and meet on their side of town. And if he wants to meet my boys, he'd have to be able to offer them more than my happiness. He has to be curious and intelligent and beautiful. . . So I date myself and my sex life is only in my dreams but that's okay too.
My reality is that I was sexualized at a young age. I had men make me uncomfortable with their desire before I even needed a training bra. By the time I was the same age as my first born, I was having regular sex with a boyfriend. Through high school I had a few relationships that lasted over a year and a half and my in between times were about learning to flirt comfortably. I may have a problem with shutting that off. It's not on purpose. Early college days meant many fleeting hookups. Then I met the man I married. I had never had an innocent relationship that was just about making out. There were innocent enough hookups but innocent relationships skipped me entirely. My sexual history tells me the best encounters are the ones in meaningful relationships. My last relationship isn't one I would want my children to model. So I'm cautious. I'm a chicken shit. I'm happy in my celibacy.
When I was younger, I would find someone that was full of amazing and I would very easily look over their terrible qualities. I was having a conversation with a co-worker and naming out things that were part of my marriage that I now see were not normal, but her reaction told me how far from acceptable it all was. It's not okay to be jealous of platonic friendships to the point where I'd end them. It's not okay to feel responsible for how others see the man I'm dating when his actions will speak for him. It's not okay to feel bad about wanting to learn more and do better in life because of how that might reflect on someone else's ambition. I don't know how to be in a relationship that doesn't walk all over me. But I'm learning.
I had many relationships where it was very clearly just sexual on his part. He would let me know in direct and subtle ways that I wasn't the person he was pouring his soul into. I would accept what he offered and hoped that I would grow on him. Like a fungus. I was very big on settling for what I was being given. I was always in this perpetual state of hope that my love could flow through him and back to me, even if he consistently proved to me that it was just sex.
I'm learning. It's changing.
I look at my history. Today would have been an anniversary for my parents. They've been divorced since I was still in high school and I have a high schooler now. I saw their dysfunction and persistence as normal. Mom yelled. Dad ignored. When my ex said he was leaving, I became them. I was my Dad that first night in packing and separating our stuff at 3 am. I was my Mom in saying, "go." I didn't need him. Then I was me, in my crazy need to hold on and fix it because I saw my mom hold on and try to fix it for so long. It was all I knew. They had rare moments of affection that skeeved me out, but I was too young to remember if they were ever madly in love with each other. As an adult, I can see the ways they still love and care for each other, even if they still refuse to talk to each other.
As Mom, I see my kids in their good and their bad. I see more than anyone else, and I consistently choose to love them deeply, even if there are moments I don't like what they are doing. I tell them they are consistent in who they are. It's my ability to be patient that fluctuates and it's my fault if one day I lose my shit. This blog post was born from my need to step away and calm myself. As a mom and a daughter, love means I accept you as you are, without a need to change you because that would rob me of the gift of knowing you in your purest form and warmest light. I want love to be about accepting the dark and the light and basking in all of the ways it feels to.
My latest goal is to love unconditionally. Offering love isn't the same as being in love. There's a difference. I know it. Lust and infatuation are very different from being in love and I'm aware of it too. I'm a hugger. I don't offer a hug unless I know I can hug the way that feels good. If it's an arm or a side hug, I'd rather not bother. If I feel I can hug you, I can offer transparency (in doses). I can offer affection and build a person up with the amazing I see in them. I'm going to let a person know when I randomly think of them because this is expressing love. When I get to the point that I know I would offer more than I have to give, that is a transition into being in love and that is where I step back. I run away when it feels like my moods are dictated by how they make me feel. That is what being in love feels like to me. Otherwise I'm offering love without expecting a return. It feels good and in the offering I'm being selfish by not expecting an exchange or allowing myself to rely on them.