It’s a cold winter’s night in Brisvegas and I’m at a loose end. I’m a single woman living in the time of Corona – when dating is challenging and socialising hasn’t quite returned to normal.
I’ve done my daily scroll through the dating apps and still feel uninspired. Why do so many men have a strong penchant for bushranger-style facial hair and scowling demeanours? Who told them this is attractive?
Clearly my true love is not online this evening.
I decide to do a little romantic personal development and pull out my friend Carolyn’s book, Finding Love Again. I finished reading it a few weeks ago but I skipped over most of the exercises in the back.
The first part of the book contains personal stories of men and women who have lost and then found love again. With a strong emphasis on common values as the glue that makes relationships work, people share their experiences of divorce, being single, grief, children and much more. It also explores what each of them learned on their journey to finding love again.
But it’s the end of the book with its self-reflection exercises that I turn to tonight, specifically Exercise 6 – Your Story which centres on the problem of how to talk about yourself when you first meet a new potential date.
I’ve joined some online speed-dating events recently and been faced with the challenge of describing myself in an interesting way to a complete stranger in two minutes via Zoom. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Carolyn has a suggestion about how to approach telling your story, so I decide to give it a go. It seems I need to go back and map out the most interesting and significant events in my life so far, from birth.
Perhaps this is going to be a rather short story…
No. I’m doing this – you never know what gold I may discover to fill those awkward silences on my next date.
Carolyn suggests you create a table and for each year, jot down things like where you were living, what you were doing, an achievement, a people thing, a funny thing, little known fact. You don’t need to fill every box for each year, just put in anything noteworthy that springs to mind.
Obviously being born was significant for me but I’m not sure if that’s something I need to highlight on a date. Fast forward to late primary school though and I won a prize for one of my oil paintings and got my picture in the paper – that was pretty cool. I still have the newspaper clipping somewhere – all skinny legs and gaunt-faced cheekbones. I was one of those kids who ate and ate and never put on any weight. Pity that didn’t last post-21…
Back to the task at hand.
Two memorable moments from my under-graduate degree – watching a disturbing German film where the female protagonist had all her teeth pulled out and sitting behind some Goths and their pet rat in a lecture.
Got married, traveled overseas for the first time and my love affair with Italy truly began. Repelled down five stories of the children’s hospital with the police special emergency response team – as you do.
Went overseas for a second time – yes, Italy again and I still loved it. Left marriage and traveled solo overseas, felt fearless and free. Watched the moon rise above camel trains in the Sahara.
Bought a house, worked with judges, zip-lined with gibbons through the jungle, published a book…
I could keep going but I don’t want to reveal everything before we’ve met in person, dear reader. But I’m sure you get the picture.
I know this is meant as a dating preparation activity, but I think it has value far beyond that. Revisiting your history and recognising your achievements and the events that have shaped you is a great thing to do at any time. When we get stuck in the daily grind and pressures of life, we often forget just how far we’ve come – this exercise is a great way to remind ourselves.
As I read back over my story, I have a laugh to myself and realise Carolyn’s words on page 238 ring very true – “this exercise demonstrates how uninteresting your previous break-up is in the totality of your life story”.
Your copy of Finding Love Again by Carolyn Martinez is waiting for you at Hawkeye Books.
A lot of us have been struggling with love and matters of the heart over the last few days. I’ve had so many conversations with friends about loving the wrong people, putting yourself out there and being rejected, trying to work out how you feel and then how the other person feels, losing your cool, saying the wrong thing, feeling disappointed then happy within minutes, and so on. It’s been a veritable emotion-filled quagmire with many of us trying to lift one foot out of the mud one excruciating step at a time, only to take another step and get sucked back in again.
There’s probably a very good reason astrologically why this is all happening now (astrology friends feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below) but that’s not my area of expertise.
However, as someone with a PhD in Heartbreak, I can say that I am very experienced in matters of the heart, and the joys and devastation of loving people who don’t quite fit, run away, are too scared to tell you how they feel or are just wrong (even when you think they’re right!). I can’t say my experience has necessarily made me any more successful at navigating romantic relationships – heck, I’m currently residing in Italy, the most romantic country in the world and I’m single so you do the math! But I have learned some things over the years:
- Falling for someone never happens as you expect it will and your feelings will invariably take you by surprise.
- They will rarely match the template you have created in your head for the perfect partner. Often they will look like the exact opposite of what you thought you wanted.
- You can meet them in the most unexpected places and sometimes your attraction to them will hit you immediately, right in the middle of your chest. Other times it will grow silently before one day rearing its head up like an asp at midnight, striking you in the middle of your chest and.. and… oh sorry, I just had a flashback, please disregard.
- Sometimes they will be older or younger than your mind thinks they should be. When this happens, remember it is the person that you are loving not the date on their birth certificate. Obviously, they need to be above the age of consent. Also consider that the years between you also equal life experience and that can sometimes cause issues.
- Sometimes you will take a chance but they will not love you back. You will keep hoping but they won’t change their mind and you will feel terribly hurt. You may even lose their friendship when this happens.
- You can’t make someone love you back – that is an impossible request of anyone because love cannot be forced or manipulated into being. It just is, or it isn’t.
- If someone doesn’t love you back then they don’t deserve you. Full stop. No returns on this one. Don’t keep throwing yourself at them hoping that, one day, they will finally see the magical amazingness that is you. If they can’t see it, then it’s not your job to help them open their eyes.
- When you fall for the wrong person and they treat you appallingly, it is vital that you learn from the experience so you don’t repeat it!!! Too many of us go back to the same type of guy (or girl) over and over again and wonder why we get the same results. If you see there is a pattern, change it so you can get a different result. If you can’t see the pattern, ask an honest friend or an impartial counselor for their input.
Bottom line, most of us will at some stage have our heart broken. But you will survive it, I promise. You will go on to love someone else and maybe, just maybe, if the planets align and you hold your head in exactly the right position when you wish on that next shooting star, they will love you back too.
Until then, be kind to you and love yourself. That’s the least you can do and is completely what you deserve.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
I’m sifting through the interviews for my book on partnership and as I read the thoughts of men and women of all ages, the overwhelming desire is for connection. Whether in marriage, dating, polyamory or choosing to be single because you can’t face another brush with rejection, we all want connection.
Our reasons may differ but our desire is the same.
There is a beautiful vulnerability in people when they talk openly about partnership with me. The anonymity of being able to share their story entices them to reveal their innermost thoughts, beliefs, perceived failures, joys and love, so much love. There is pain there too. Of course there is. My primary motivation for beginning this work was to relieve my own pain; pain born from a decade littered with men who had little to give and me, a woman who wanted to give everything. I wanted to know how to do it better; how to create something that was more positive, sustainable, supportive, embracing and loving for myself. So I began talking to others, seeking answers.
My only question has been, what does partnership mean to you? And then I have simply followed the conversation wherever it has led me organically. Men, women, gay, straight, single, not single, young, retiring, so many interviews and so many perspectives. The magic of their thoughts touches me when I read them through. We’ve talked about divorce, parental disapproval, trust, having children, losing children, managing ourselves better, sex and sexual dysfunction, working out our previous traumas, choosing to isolate, choosing monogamy and choosing others to fill emotional holes that can’t be filled within a current partnership.
Every person is different. Even when I have been privileged to interview both people in a partnership, their answers have been different; sometimes their views are in complete opposition from ‘being on the same page’ to ‘ marriage is bi-polar’. Yet, for them it works.
And every single person has allowed me, for a few precious minutes or sometimes an hour, to glimpse inside their Soul and see what is truly important to them. What a treasured gift they have given me, all of them.
As I now edit and begin tying their stories together I wonder, “Can I do their stories justice? Can I honour the trust they have endowed on me?” I hope so.
Have I worked out what partnership means to me yet? I don’t know. They are all so clear but I, I feel like I am still seeking the answer. It’s as if it is still hiding within my Soul, waiting to rise to the surface when the right person should ask.
Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash
There was a moment during the editing process for The Men I’ve Almost Dated, when I said I wanted to rewrite the entire thing. I think my editor, Kristy, almost had conniptions at that point. There she was trying to steer me towards the finishing line while I was suggesting a rewind to the beginning.
I was half-serious because as I re-read my stories, it felt like they were written by someone else. Oh, I knew I’d definitely done all the things in the book and lived through those experiences. But the person I’d become was very different from that 30-something woman who somewhat blindly made her way out of a 10-year marriage, through divorce and into the dysfunctional world of dating.
Take for instance my chapter entitled, Why Men Are Like Feral Cats. Even now it seems like an outrageous statement to make but, back then, I came across a number of men who were exactly like our feline friends. As I wrote, ‘Men couldn’t have anything in common with previously domesticated but now wild animals running the streets with absolutely no sense of responsibility. Could they?’
If you’ve been single for any period of time you’ll know the types of ‘cats’ I’m referring to here. In my book I’ve broken them down into some categories. These include the Never-Been-Faithful Cat who ‘flirts and behaves like the most unattached man with any attractive woman within a five-kilometre radius.’ There’s the Shameless Cat who ‘will chat up multiple women in the same location, within minutes of each other’ (for him it’s purely a numbers game). And of course, there’s the Shady Cat. He’s the one disguised as the nice guy until his partner is out of earshot (or in the next room) and then suddenly he’s all hands and innuendo.
Are you seeing the similarities yet between some men and feral cats? I’ll give you a hint…it may have something to do with their need to copulate with as many females as possible, regardless of their relationship status.
Fortunately, I‘ve also come to know some lovely men who don’t resemble feral cats in any way whatsoever. Ladies they do exist, thank goodness! But the feral cats are still out there and when I look back at the woman who had those experiences, I shake my head ruefully. I was so naïve about men and human behaviour when I ventured into the Land of Single. Learning about feral cats was just one of the lessons I learned the hard way.
As I read my book from beginning to end, I realised how much I’d grown from all the experiences it described. I was wiser but in many ways, when it comes to men, yet still just as clueless.
Today I wonder if that will ever change? Or is that just one of the constant mysteries of life…that men and women are different creatures so we must always be prone to miscommunication, misdirection and misdemeanors while we navigate the dating world?
I’m not sure, but I’m still out there hoping for the best. Except these days, I can usually spot a ‘feral cat’ at 10 paces.
Would you like to read more about men, feral cats, divorce and dysfunctional dating? The Men I’ve Almost Dated is available now in eBook and paperback. Get your copy today!