Updated: Feb 5
Since I never had the chance to "play the field", once I knew my marriage was ending, I couldn't wait to look around.
They tell you not to date for awhile after a divorce but my curiosity was killing me. I told my friends, "I am going to play the field, then in a couple years get married again." They told me "Its cute how you think you can plan it" One thing I know, there are a lot of guys out there who are in fact looking for relationships. It was surprising to me. If you were just looking to settle down, honestly it would be pretty easy. But quality is something worth waiting for. Honestly, I think the tough part is staying out of a relationship until your really ready for it. I was told by multiple people I wasn't ready. Honestly, at the time I had no idea what that meant. What is ready?
Against all advice, I got on the dating apps pretty quick. I did a lot of window shopping.
In the first year (pre-COVID) I followed my game plan, just get out there and meet people. Find out what different men are like, try the unexpected, just have fun. It was fun, met a lot of guys, made a lot of new male friends. In spite of going on two or three dates a week, I found that I was not really interested in any of them. Couldn't tell you why, a lot of really nice guys. More than once I looked across the table and thought, someone will be really grateful to find this guy, he is a great catch for someone. But that someone wasn't me. Just never felt the vibe.
I have now learned, in the early days before you start healing, you will not be attracted to healthy. Healthy will seem boring and uninteresting to you.
There were some in retrospect scary close calls, early on I definitely would have settled. I met someone who on the surface seemed fine, and he was funny made me laugh, which apparently is my weak spot. But there are men out there who are looking for women like us, just out of traumatic situations. He was one of them. I was hooked. Almost exactly like my ex. Charming, funny, appeared to be really caring. There were some serious red flags waving, but I completely ignored them. Things like he disappeared every weekend, at certain times he was slow to text back. And I notice he would slide subtle little devaluing comments into the conversation. COVID hit, and he introduced me to livestreams as a method to communicate, ironically by doing this he introduced to a way of seeing his behaviour when he thought I wasn't around. The other women on the live streams reacted badly when I mentioned him. "OMG him...he is a creep" I literally could not believe it, he was always so nice to me, and had been for months. Then one day I saw it with my own eyes. He didn't know I was there, and he was hound dogging. I was mortified.
It showed me how men could really have two completely different sides. They can be wonderful to you, and minutes later be treating a woman like she is meat. Men like this place women in categories, the ones you have relationships with and "respect" and the others that get the whole hound dog treatment. It turned out he had a girlfriend, that he was pretty much living with. Previous to that he was living in his parents basement, a real winner. Dating apps were his playground. Not only that, he continued to contact me, but using different profiles and for months.
It got to the point that he knew I knew it was him, and he still did it. I guess he had lost his pictures of me and he wanted more. Said he had lost them when he reformatted his phone. I should get him to shift through the apps for me, he seemed to have figured out what I like, he cat fished me at least 5 times that I know of, and each time managed to get to the point I gave him my number. So at any time, half the guys I was talking to, was actually just this one guy. I don't use the apps in my home town because of this anymore, because I am always catching the same fish.
That's exactly what gets you into trouble. You see those red flags all over the place, yet you talk yourself out of them. And you get yourself back into a situation that is the same as the one you just left.
This experience opened my eyes. I was always someone who took people as they come. I didn't look for ulterior motives. I trusted face value. When this particular man showed me this, I realized my ex-husband was the same. And likely had been doing the same things. The whole charming kind thing was a façade while he went out and did who knows what behind my back. I finally figured out, I had not been cheated on just the once I knew about but probably multiple times. It was a very lucky first lesson. I know I wouldn't have had the wisdom to stop a relationship at that time. And I would have ended up in a nightmare situation.
Still, I kept dating. It was fun, I really enjoyed the dressing up. I kept going out. I think it was a distraction as well from actually dealing with my emotional state at the time. There was a lot of unresolved feelings from my marriage. So, it was a stream of first dates, with me not interested in anyone.
Then one night, it all changed, and it was interesting because that particular night I was just going for a drink to kill some time. Expectations were zero. I had been chatting with the guy a couple weeks, He seemed fun and was available that night.
That particular day, was a rough one for me. I had received some messages from my ex that were particularly cold and brutal. I had another of those realizations of what I was actually dealing with.
So I made the arrangements and when I walked in, there was my date, looking like every other guy I had gone out with in the past year. For the first 5 minutes, I thought this date was going to be the same as all the others, nice guy, fun, but at the end of the night. Nice meeting you see you around dude.
As I got to know him a little bit, I was floored by the things he noticed and remembered. He said to me once "I would fix anything you pointed your finger at, and I would complete it, because I know that's important to you." When he said this to me, one is was probably the hottest thing any man every said to me. And, two, it made me aware how I needed to develop that in myself. Being interested and paying attention to the needs and desires of the other person.
For so long, I had just been in survival mode. In my marriage, it was not a relationship of give and take. There was no conversation about how we meet each others needs. So while it did educate me on some things I need to work on for future relationships. This person that I had met randomly, shook me to the core. I experienced what it was like for someone to actually listen to me, to understand me. I truly felt heard. It made me want to do the same, I wanted to be like that for him too, or if not him, what ever partner I might have in the future.
To someone in a marriage coming out of a marriage like mine, this is very alluring. And dangerous, because it blinds you to the warning signs. Apparently someone noticing every little thing about you is one of those warning signs. Honestly at that point it seemed he remembered my stories better than I did. This would later change. They cannot hold up
The irony of it all, was I actually got some rock solid advice, that really made a difference. He pointed me to resources that could help me. The first day he send me a link to a YouTube video he was watching about How to have a conscious relationship If you have time watch it, its actually really good. This video he told me he was watching on his lunch break, really took me aback. Again, causing me to stop and really look at him again. He was always catching me off guard. This side of him however did not last.
While I am giving this background, what this really is about is what was going on in my head at the time. He was such a contrast, completely different from my former husband. A man that's kind and attractive? Odd as that sounds, I didn't really think these men existed. I was used to hard and cold. And if they are that sweet kind man, (my ex was for awhile) that never lasts, and inevitably they turn on you. And as it turned out, he did. I was to later learn this man was very much like my ex-husband. He had a history that definitely was not what I wanted in my life. The reality was far worse than I ever could have imagined. That scared me, and because of this experience I decided to stop dating and focus on healing. Recognizing how I had completely fallen into another toxic trap was scary. I just got out of a nightmare and I almost jumped right back in.
Ironically though, some good came out of this, he showed me, what it is I need to do to get to the point where I could get ready to be in a relationship. This is the important part. He made me think about relationships in an entirely different way. I don't think I have ever met a man that was interested in actively working on developing themselves or their relationships in this way before. ( or at least he pretended he was) I found myself, kind of examining him, like an oddity. What is this thing? Is it real? Nope it wasn't. However, the information he exposed me too was.
There were things that were really scary for me in that situation. This is what lead the the "break up" if you could call it that. For me, as wonderful as he appeared to be, it was all just so intense, so fast, which made it feel so dangerous. and it turns out, those warning signs and gut feelings tend to be bang on.
When I met my ex-husband is was all at lightening speed. Within three weeks we were basically living together. It took me 27 years to get out. One of my greatest fears is getting sucked into something way to fast without weighing it carefully. Things in the beginning can seem so wonderful, but then end up being hell. "Marry in haste, repent at leisure" I know that experience well.
The issue for me, was I have read all about the red flags. And I had no idea if I was really seeing them, or if I imagining things. I don't want to get into any thing too deep if it means I am going to get hurt.
Through the self educating I have been doings as a result of meeting this man and developing myself to being a great partner for someone. I have learned the this is hypervigilance. Its very common for trauma survivors. But I didn't know that at the time, all I knew was he was freaking me out. Its common to be watching for any sign that something isn't right. You can't really relax and just enjoy the events. Now the difficulty is, which of my reactions is just hypervigilance, and which is an actual alarm.
I have been learning we are not attracted to what is healthy, but what is familiar. If you are used to toxic situations your subconscious goes ahhh here go, this is love.
I had not realized the level of my fear until then, I had not allowed anyone really close before that. To me, this was like a hot stove, warm and comforting but seeming very dangerous to get close too. I wanted to stay just at a certain distance, where I could feel the warmth, but stand back and observe at the same time. I didn't recognize what I was feeling was complete fear. I had been fooled by the nice guy act before, and it cost me my adult life to this point.
I remember him telling me exasperated, "I am just a good guy Carolynne" I could see his frustration, and I told him "they all start out like that". His shoulders slumped and he was defeated. This is an area where I am still struggle. How do you tell the real good guys, from the ones that one day will threaten to knock your teeth out.
I have been working on communicating better. I have been working on my attachment style He brought out a side of me that I had deeply buried. I tried to explain to him the depth of the impact he had on me. Honestly, it didn't seem like he really understood or honestly cared, because helping me wasn't the goal, that was just an accidental by product.
The bottom line is, there are good men out there. The trouble is, in the early days its really really hard to tell them apart. Its going to take time.
I don't think I would have gotten to the point of healing that I have without the dating experiences I had. That included the basement dweller. Luckily I never get into anything serious. It would definitely be a mistake for me at the point. After so many years locked in a terrible situation, I want the chance to get out there and just have fun.
As a result of the instance, I decided to finally follow that advice my friends gave me in the early days, and I won't be dating for awhile. I am taking the time to actually do the healing I need to do. They next time I will be ready if I ever find a pearl. As they say, if you want to have a great partner, you have to be a great partner. I am going to take the time to develop myself and rediscover me. I will keep you posted on my progress.