My recent foray into dating came as a result of a separation last fall from husband number two. It’s been a long, long time since S and I decided to see other people (yeah, you read that right – we were stupid enough to try an open marriage). Our decision to file for divorce came in March, right before my 40th birthday, and after much angst and heartbreak on both our parts. It was clear to both of us that things weren’t working; we weren’t on the same proverbial page.
S and I were – and still are – best friends. There is no one else on the planet that I love more than him. And yet, something was missing on my part. I could not get past the idea that I didn’t love him the way he deserved to be loved.
In other words, this is not going to be a blog about a woman scorned – although I am not judging any of the women who have been trampled on out there who also want to write about it. In fact, to a large extent, every single relationship breakdown that I’ve experienced has been at least 50% and sometimes up to 90% my fault. I have walked away from two marriages and a couple of long-term relationships over the past two decades of my life. In that time, I’ve learned that a part of me is a lot like Dickens’ depiction of Estella in Great Expectations. I was built to conquer and, ultimately, to wound.
And yet, I am not immune. My heart has been broken so many times, in so many different varieties of ways, that I often wonder how I have anything left to rend. But, still, it’s possible to wound me deeply. (In fact, two men have very recently caused me bouts of tears – the stories of which will be retold here in the weeks and months to come).
And yet the thing that tears at me the most now is guilt and regret over hurting S. No one has ever captured the nuances of romantic pain better than Dorothy Parker, so I’ll just let her express what I’ve been feeling about this divorce:
A Very Short Song – Dorothy Parker
Once, when I was young and true,
Someone left me sad -
Broke my brittle heart in two;
And that is very bad.
Love is for unlucky folk,
Love is but a curse.
Once there was a heart I broke;
And that, I think, is worse.
Our divorce becomes final this Friday. A single day after Thanksgiving. I cannot decide if this is high comedy, an example of what the Chinese call “eating bitter melon”, or fitting. A combination, perhaps.
And in the past year, I think I have been dating men to: 1.) figure myself out; 2.) avoid the pain of separating from S; 3.) have a lot of therapeutic sex; 4.) avoid thinking about turning 40; 5.) decide what kind of man – if there is one – that might be able to both put up with my very special brand of bullshit and make me feel content and secure and happy. The reason I think I need to write about these experiences publicly is because I have found – through talking with my friends – that it helps all of us to share our stories. It’s a way to feel less alone and to start to collectively work things out.
I honestly believe that there is a cultural shift going on out here. Women are more empowered than ever before. And yet, we don’t know how to navigate the shifting social worlds we all inhabit (and this is true of men just as much as it is true for women). We are embracing our sexuality and yet are still a little scared of it as well. In essence, the old rules of dating and marriage are not working for a lot of people, but we don’t know any other method of going about relationships. I guess this is my small contribution to the discussion. And my own shared effort to work out the ultimate question we all ask ourselves:
What do we WANT in a relationship and how do we get it?