Everyday Baby Steps
The alternate title to this post was going to be "How I Lost Four Men in One Week," a situation I lamented about on Facebook the other day. It's true. Four sexual/potential sexual connections gone in the span of one week. Yes, I was seeing four men. This shouldn't be a surprise to those who know me. I've never hidden the fact that I don't date exclusively. That means I see more than one man at a time. So now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's take a look at how I've managed to go from four romantic partners down to zero, shall we?
Looking for Connection, Not Casual Sex
I've blogged a number of times about how I began dating immediately after separating because I was desperate for connection. I also wanted to get out and do new things, meet people who stimulated my mind and my senses. I honestly wasn't looking for sex, and I damn sure wasn't on the hunt for another relationship. I knew I needed to grow as a person, deal with my own shit and figure out what I wanted in life. However, I didn't see any reason why I couldn't do all of that while meeting new companions. In fact, it seemed to me that going out with a number of guys would allow me to get a clearer picture of what I did and didn't want in a man. I was right about that. I have learned a ton about what's important to me in a man through my dating experiences over the past two and a half years. After this week, I am determined that what I absolutely do not want and will no longer tolerate is an emotionally unavailable man, one who doesn't share as much of himself with me as I share with him. I wouldn't want that in a friendship, let alone an intimate relationship.
Though it seems to happen again and again, it presents itself in various ways so as not to be immediately detected. Or at least that's how it seems to always go down. Truthfully, I likely know it immediately, but have found ways to justify and accept the repeated unavailability I encounter. It kinda kills me to admit this, as I know I put forth an image of someone who takes no shit and shouldn't be so easily misguided. However, I am human, and reltionships are tricky bastards. It's very difficult to see a problem while you're experiencing it. Handsight and all. Fucking hindsight. If I look back through the men I've dated, it's almost like I purposefully chose emotionally unavailable men. I may have done just that in my early dating days. I was simply exploring and looking to meet interesting people. There was the married guy, the swinger, the scientist I didn't know was married but who was so freaky intelligent that he had more than a few social quirks. These guys were practically waving red flags of inability to connect.
Once I caught onto my pattern and it became tiresome, I made honest efforts to avoid dating such guys. In fact, my dating slowed down considerably. And that was okay. I needed some time to think and to refocus. I knew that when I dated again, there were definite things I wanted to avoid. Big ones included men who always wanted to make last-minute plans, rarely willing to commit ahead of time, always letting me know at the last possible moment that they wanted to get together or showing up late. While I had no desire to connect with a clingy guy who needed my constant attention, catching up to talk or text a few times during the week would've been appreciated. Someone who would continue to make the effort to know me and to demonstrate a willingness to go out of his way for me even after getting me in bed would've been nice, too. I was bound and determined to find better.
What I've Discovered
As recent events have shown, I obviously haven't gotten past my pattern of attracting emotionally unavailable men. I really did lose four romantic connections in the span of this past week. I'll start with the scenario that actually isn't all that bad. It was with the man I've known the longest. I've always know that he is not fully available to me, and we do have that genuine emotionally connection I crave. He simply decided that he would like to focus on our friendship, and that makes sense to me. Sexual involvement does kind of complicate friendship. So that one is my best-case scenario. He's still in my life and has proven the ability to communicate and the desire to put forth effort on my behalf.
Two men simply dropped off the face of the earth with their texts. I was ghosted, and that really pisses me off. To simply not respond to a direct question in a text, as one man did, is rude and demonstrates the lack of respect he had for me. It was also a clear indicator of the kind of treatment I could expect in the future. That's why I confronted him. I had been absolutely clear with this man that I expected more than a physical relationship and that communication was important to me. He assured me he understood. Apparently, he was mistaken. Upon confronting him, he did apologize. He also gave me some bullshit about being busy. In the past, I would've allowed it. I would have agreed that sometimes I get busy. That's life. It happens. However, I've learned. I've learned that those who truly want to find time for you will do so. It takes less than a minute to respond to a text and let someone know you'll be pretty occupied for the next week or so and to set up a time to touch base later. He didn't take that less than a minute, and his lack of action spoke volumes. After the confrontation, I had agonizing moments of doubt, thinking maybe I overreacted, as this redhead is prone to do. I didn't overreact. I stood up for myself, and I didn't compromise. I'm sad for the loss of the potential I envisioned, but I'm so very proud of myself for taking that stand. After that confrontation, I was too worn out to bother with the other guy who disappeared. Pick your battles, right?
Finally, there's the fourth man to leave my life. I think my Facebook friends may just be more disappointed about this one than I was. Yep, it's my steady local date. The one who brought the assortment of chocolate when I had PMS. The one who gave me the grocery store gift card for no reason. The one who often showed up bearing wine. The one I had the most incredible sexual connection with. That one, who also happens to be the one who never shared anything personal or vulnerable with me about himself, but would regularly say to me, "What do you want to know? I'll answer anything." Except he seemed to answer in rather roundabout ways or would choose to answer a question with a question. He was expert at it. He also never took me to his home. These things make you think he's hiding something, I know. I did an exhaustive search and don't feel that he was hiding anything beyond his true self. That's why I continued to accept it. I rationalized his behavior away because he did do nice things for me, and we did go out and have fun together. It wasn't just about the sex. It was casual. Isn't casual what I wanted, too? Besides you can't make someone open up to you. No, you can't make anyone do anything, but you sure as hell can decide what you will accept. And I finally decided that it wasn't fair for me to be an open book and to go beyond my comfort zone in ways he asked me to when he was so unwilling to do the same. I told him as much, and we were to get together to talk. That very day, he let me know he decided to take some time to focus on other areas of his life and wouldn't be seeing me. I told him goodbye.
So do I have regrets? Of course, I do. In some ways, I really do feel used and taken advantage of. On the other hand, every experience offers more insight and allows me to be clearer about my needs. I've given it a great deal of thought over the past few days, and I've done some real soul searching. It's quite possible that I was sending mixed signals in the fact that I didn't want an exclusive relationship, but I expected emotional connection. Some men may not be able to separate the two and likely fear that emotional intimacy equals commitment. In many ways, it does. Being committed to someone doesn't necessitate exclusivity, though. I think that may be difficult for some people to grasp. Regardless, I believe I made myself clear in every instance regarding what I needed. When you don't get what you need, it's probably best to move on. Was there definitely malicious intent on the part of these men? There probably wasn't, actually. That doesn't mean their behavior was acceptable or that I needed to tolerate it. Did I learn why I so frequently attract emotionaly unavailable men? Nope. I'll probably never really know. What I have learned and what I do know is that I need to put myself first and that doing so isn't selfish.