Online Dating for the Unconventional Woman

One of the results of the Internet age is that for my generation, we have experienced dating both pre-dating apps and post-dating apps. We are among the few who are able to attest to watching that shift and comparing the differences. When I was first dating, boys would make me mix tapes (or later mix CDs if they were from the nicer side of the tracks), hand write me notes, have to talk to my dad when he called my house, and possess enough courage to ask me out on a date in-person. For me at that time, I would have given him printed photos of myself (as any narcissistic teenager would), try to pry information out of his sister to find out if he likes me, and fight my siblings for the phone line to talk to said-boy into wee hours of the night.

Fast forward to 2017. Now I can Google search my date before we even meet to find out what he does for a living, where he grew up, if we have any mutual friends, what his hobbies are and if he checks off my list of boxes before going on a date. I can get someone’s number from a dating app and have hours of conversations before even meeting face-to-face. Romance is practically dead. Next to no one picks me up at my house. Gifts are rare. I have had a few men make me meals, but that usually comes after my consistent hints of how much I like food. When we go out, I’m never really sure if the man will pay until I get to the end of the date. I have even had times where his card was declined and I ended up paying for the date. There are no such things as grand romantic gestures. (Ok, there are a few, but they are nearly extinct). Then again, there aren’t those traditional games. You pretty much know what you’re getting within the first 20 minutes of a date. Red flags are more apparent. It’s a far more efficient way to date rather than the rigmarole of courting someone.

I’ve been dating in the Internet age for over three  years now and the number of guys that I have gone out on a date with from “real life” vs “online dating” is about 1/20. I spend most of my time swiping past people who I would never dream of going on a date with, then the majority of the rest of the time chatting/texting with the handful of ones that seem interesting enough, trying to figure out if this guy is really worth my time for a date. With the final fraction of my time, I MIGHT go on a date with the guy, but even if I do, it is not likely to end up in a second date.

I’ve gone on a LOT of dates in the past few years. Think about the math for a second. Let’s say I swipe left past 100 guys for every 1 that I talk to. Then I go on a date with maybe 1 out of 5 of the ones who I chat/text. The number of those dates that turn into a second date is probably half. Out of those, the men that I’ve “dated” for more than a few dates is probably around 10. And of those, I’ve only have one turn into a relationship longer than a month. Seems like a lot of freaking work for very little ROI. But I comfort myself by viewing it as a numbers game. I have to go on x amount of dates to find someone I’m interested in, so just keep going on dates.

Keep in mind, those numbers are all based on a dating app like Tinder where you have to match with someone in oder for them to be allowed to message you. Don’t get me started on the ones where just anyone can message you. You know in the spring time when you see a flock of about 45 male ducks all going after just one poor female duck who is hurriedly trying to swim away in the opposite direction? You feel so bad for her, but it’s like a train wreck and you can’t look away. Multiply that by about 15 and you’ve got Ok Cupid.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a post about how terrible it is to be single and how everyone should feel bad for me. In fact, I really love my life. When I look around me, there are less than a handful of long-term committed relationships that I admire for their richness and compatibility. For the most part, I see broken relationships where neither one of the people is happy and certainly aren’t bringing the best out in each other. I don’t want a mediocre relationship, so I will gladly wait for the person who will bring out the best in me, be compatible to all of my weaknesses and flaws and enjoy and rich and fulfilling life together.

For the same reason, I don’t view the past relationships that ended as failures either. By the time I got divorced, it had been nearly ten years since I had dated, so I had a long learning curve ahead of me. I’ve been slowly figuring out what I want in a partner and frankly, what I want out of life. I am still discovering who I am, where I want to be and what I want to do, so to think about how another person would fit into that, shouldn’t be a rushed process. A relationship is a bonus. I have made huge sacrifices to build a life that I want and am proud out, and I can truly say that I am living out my dream. I am truly grateful for all of the experiences I’ve been gifted, so adding someone who would enjoy that beauty with me would really just be gravy.

Sorry, got distracted there for a minute. So what else makes online dating different than traditional dating? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard that online dating profiles can be deceptive. That is 100% true. I never really believe anything I read in someone’s online profile until it’s proven in real life. For example, men LOVE to talk about how much they enjoy adventure, camping, hiking, traveling, working out and being outdoors in their profiles. I guess it makes them sound more like a badass. Or something. So often times my first question to him will be, “what was your last great adventure?” I promise you I am not exaggerating when I say that 90% of the time the guy will answer something like, “well, I went on a camping trip with some buddies like five years ago…”

…. [insert annoyed emoji here]….

The other thing that happens with online dating is that you might see the person out in real life before your date. Especially if you live in a smallish city. Or even better, you’ll mention to one of your friends, she asks to see a picture and responds, “Oh yeah. We went out once. Super clingy. Watch out for that.”

Again…. [insert annoyed emoji here]….

This next one definitely crosses the line for me. Since I have an unusual first name, it’s not that difficult to find me on Facebook or through a Google search, so far more often than I would like, men will message me on Facebook or Instagram and say something like, “I saw you on Tinder and accidentally swiped left, but luckily I found you on Facebook! Wanna grab a drink sometime?” No. I can guarantee you that he did not “accidentally swipe left,” I was the one who swiped left and this was his desperate attempt to try to get my attention. Nope. Just nope.

So going back to how it’s pretty common for me and my friends to match similar people on online dating apps. Well, fellas, I hate to break it to you, but girls talk. Remember the guy from a few blog posts ago who told me that I looked like Alyssa Milano, but she is way hotter? Well, same dude happened to match one of my friends on another online dating site. She recognized him because I had shown her his pictures and told her the whole story of how rude he was to me during the entire date. So naturally, as any decent human would, I suggested that we start messing with him. So she started telling him about how she is so sick of rude men can be on dates by insulting a woman’s appearance and scarf and oh, she hates it when men don’t like travel… basically our entire date verbatim. Long story short, I think he learned his lesson in crossing the line from sarcasm into insults when on a date.

The most awkward part of online dating is when you see someone you thought your friend was dating on a dating app. Questions start rolling through your head such as, “Did they just have a fight and this was his way of getting back at her?” “Are they in an open relationship?” “Is he cheating on her?” “Does she know he’s on this app?” “Doesn’t he realize that someone is going to see this and tell her?” Remember how I said that girls talk? Well, that’s still true in this paragraph, just like it was in the other one. How could I not tell a friend if I saw her partner on a dating app? Girls gotta have each other’s backs, y’all. So inevitably I disclose the info and they guy is always on the defensive. Come on guys. You seriously thought that you could get away with that?

One of the best questions that I get from people I meet online is “You’re so pretty, why are you single?” Oh, the infamous question. If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me, I would be living happily on my own private island in the Gulf of Mexico.

[Steps onto soap box]

This could be news to some of you, so you might want to sit down for this one. Not being single doesn’t mean “I’ve won.” Being single isn’t punishment or purgatory until you get to the “heaven” of a relationship. In fact, last time I checked, relationships are really hard. It’s hard to get to know someone, it’s hard to be vulnerable and open, it’s hard to figure out how to communicate with your partner, i it’s hard to trust someone fully, it’s hard to share your life and learn how to coexist together, it’s hard to adapt to each other’s eating habits. And you do all of that work knowing that on any given day, that person could break your heart. Not that those things aren’t worth it for the right relationship, but let me reassure you that being single really is pretty easy. No one tells me when to wake up or go to bed, I can eat whatever shameful meal of peanut butter/oats/almonds/honey mixed up into one giant glob and call it a meal, I can sit in complete silence for hours and not be disturbed, I don’t have to go to anyone else’s company outings or family dinners, I don’t get in fights, no one is around to eat the leftovers I was saving, I can change my plans last minute and no one else will be affected or annoyed, all of my disposable income is truly my own, and the list goes on.

I’m not trying to bash relationships. My point is that being single can also be pretty great, so please, let’s stop shaming those who aren’t married by wondering how could it possibly be that no one loves them, or wondering what’s wrong with them, or encouraging them that, “don’t worry, you’ll find someone.”

Maybe when someone says they are single we should start by high-fiving them. And then ask them about the rest of their fucking awesome life.

Ok, off of my pedestal (for now, at least). At the end of the day, I view online dating as a great source of entertainment. I would much rather open up an app and hear someone else’s funny life stories than turn on a TV show. I would gladly spend an hour at dinner listening to what brings another human joy in life. I have made several dear friends through online dating apps and I am grateful for those people in my life. As for my faith in online dating’s ability to produce a life-long partner? Jury is still out on that one. Maybe I was just born in the wrong era?

Dating Advice for Women

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about dating tips for men, so I thought it would only be fair to write a follow up post of advice for women. Some of this advice is based on my own personal experience and some is based on things I have heard from my male friends. Enjoy.

#1. Don’t Talk Politics on the First Date

I typically don’t like to talk about controversial topics until at least the 3rd or 4th date when I’m sure that I really like someone. Well, I broke that rule once. I went out on a date with this guy who I knew was trouble even before we met. There was just something about him where I knew that we wouldn’t get along, but he was attractive and liked outdoorsy things, so I thought, why not give it a shot. Is nothing else, it could be a good story, right? Well, it was.

We met for tea because he didn’t drink alcohol and we made small talk about our hobbies and swapped stories about our dogs. He told me about his Snapchat account where he gives little fun facts about history every day and has a pretty big following. I like when someone has a passion project, so that was a plus. I honestly am not sure what happened from there, but before I knew it, everything went downhill. He made some passing comment about how we need more money to invest into our military and I stopped him dead in his tracks. “Pardon me? More money for our military? The organization that we spend trillions of dollars on? Do you know what would happen if we even took a fraction of that money and invested into something like our school system?”

After that, he tried to be polite for about another 15 minutes of the conversation. Then all hell broke loose. We went back and forth about the role of government and how money should be spent. He kept arguing for bigger military so that we can patrol the world, because apparently someone has to do it, he thought it should be the U.S. — at the expense of the quality of life of our children and thus our future as a nation. Then finally at some point I made the statement, “Well, maybe we should just raise taxes. We have the lowest taxes of any developed country, so it’s about time we caught up with the rest of the world, right? Then we’ll have enough money for everything.”

He looked me straight in the face and had an expression like I just killed his dog. He literally got up from his chair and walked out of the cafe.

I think that means I won, right?

#2. Initiate the First Kiss

Listen up, ladies. It’s a sign of a confident woman when you initiate the first kiss. And any time I’ve done this, I’m always met with surprise and delight. I think I can safely say that as women, we know when the date is going well. We’ve got some pretty solid intuition in our brains, so when you know he’s into you and you’re into him — keep him on his toes, do the unexpected.

#3. Give Him Grace

I’ve had more than one man tell me that I should try to give every date a second date, no matter what. The rationale is that men get nervous and often times aren’t really themselves on the first date. Although I don’t always follow that policy, I do like the sentiment of giving the man some grace every now and again. Especially as we get older, I think women can start to formulate this long list of deal breakers and may be ruling out some pretty great guys. Especially when you are first getting to know someone, give the poor man some slack.

For example, he might not always say the right things. I’ve been told that my teeth are crooked, the hair too short or too long, my legs are “thick” or that I’m fat, that I’m too crass for a woman, or too abrasive, or how I’ve ranked in attractiveness compared to other women he’s dated… the list goes on and for completely inappropriate comments that I’ve gotten from men. As much as it doesn’t feel good to be told something like that (and this is not an excuse for men to keep doing it), but I try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t trying to be malicious. So I guess this point is advice for both women and men – ladies, try to be patient and recognize that he might mess up sometimes and men – lay off the insults. Yes, they are insults and just don’t do it.

#4. Don’t Make the Date an Interview

I’ve heard this time and time again from both male friends and men I have been on dates with: don’t sit down on the first date and just start interviewing the poor man. I know that your time is limited and you probably don’t want to bullshit around. But you’re talking to a human, not an applicant. Even if he’s not your future partner, treat him with a little bit of respect. No matter what his interests are or baggage or job status, I bet that if you just decided to listen like you would listen to any of your close friends, you’ll learn something.

I used to get really nervous when I would go on first dates because I worried that I wouldn’t like him or he wouldn’t like me. Or what if it was awkward, what if I just wanted to leave. But the thing that I would always say to myself is that, everyone has an interesting story. And every person is different than me and could have something to share that I might learn from. So even if we don’t have a lot in common, chances are that if I just view him as another person and not as a potential partner, I will enjoy hearing about whatever experiences he has had.

#5. Be Spontaneous

Men have a tough job – they have to come up with ways to impress you without even really knowing you. Men are usually the ones to plan the first few dates and the woman gets to decide if he’s worth her time. So if something pops up out of the blue that would be super fun to do with that person — take the chance and do it!

One of my (few) actual relationships was with a guy who had been planning a month long trip to southeast Asia, which happens to be one of my favorite places on earth. We hadn’t been dating that long and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to take off much time from work, but I figured, when will be the next time that I am going to have an opportunity to travel with someone else to southeast Asia? It’s hard enough as it is to find people to travel with, let alone across the world with, so I jumped on the opportunity. Within a few weeks, I had a plane ticket to Indonesia and swung my work schedule so that most of my time away was over Christmas and News Years and was able to take just a few days off of work. And let me tell you, it was the trip of a lifetime. I had no idea how beautiful that country is and was blown away at every turn. And since he planned everything, every new adventure was a grand surprise (I love surprises). It was definitely a stretch financially and I had to sacrifice being with my family over the holidays, but truly the adventure of a life time and something that I will never ever forget.

So go ahead, say yes to that crazy adventure. You won’t regret it.

#6. Challenge Him to Try New Things

One of my biggest complaints about men is when they have nothing that they are passionate about. If I ask you what you do with your free time and your response is, “I don’t know, I watch Netflix and sports,” I can guarantee you that you will need to move along. Or worse, if you list off a bunch of hobbies that you did five years ago and it I later find out that all you do is Netflix and sports… you’ll have hell to pay.

There’s little that is more attractive than when a man gets super geeked out over something and pours his heart and soul into it. I’ll speak for myself, but I think a lot of women can relate to the idea that yes, we want to be adored, but we also don’t want to be the center of your universe. Something besides your woman should make you light up in life.

I’ve heard from a lot of men that the same goes for women; sometimes women are just boring. So in order to curb that potential danger, challenge your man to do something new. It doesn’t have to be something crazy like traveling to a different country, but surely you have parts of your life that he hasn’t experienced that you can share with him. Take him to an art museum. Or make him a traditional family meal that you grew up on. Or find a secret spot for a perfect little picnic. Or find the most beautiful location in the city to watch a sunset.

#7. Say Thank You

Even though I believe men and women are equal, I do still like good old fashioned chivalry. But this is a two-sided coin, ladies. When he picks up the tab, say thank you. When he opens the door, say thank you. When he offers to pick you up, before accusing him of being creepy, just take it as a kind gesture (even if you don’t end up taking him up on it). If you’re going to expect to be treated in old fashioned ways, then you better respond with old fashioned politeness. I think as women we sometimes believe we deserve or are owed something from men. Don’t be a pretentious diva. If you want him to be a gentleman, then be a lady.

Post-Divorce Reflections Year Two

As with many of us, I went through a divorce. Last year I wrote a post with my reflections on what I learned through the process. But what I am realizing now is that the process never really ends. I just keep processing a little bit differently each year. It’s an evolution and I’m not sure where it will take me next. I guess that’s just how painful experiences work. The pain never really goes away, we just get to choose to ignore it or keep learning from it.

So I thought I would write a follow-up post about some of the things that I’ve learned 2 years post-divorce.

  1. Sometimes I have to go through hard things alone.

I appreciated so much the way that my friends and family bonded around me when I was going through my divorce. It is a real test of friendship to see who stuck around when I was at my worst. With that said, once I was out of the life or death phase, there were many more subtle ups and downs that I experienced where I had to face some really hard stuff by myself.

This is most likely self-imposed, but there was also this sense that I used up a lot of my friendship capital and needed to give back for a while before cashing in again. Whether or not that was really true, I still tried to take the opportunity to teach myself to wrestle with my ghosts on my own. That is not to say at all that I do not need people. I desperately need my people. But there is something healthy about wrestling with your own thoughts and demons and coming to peace with a situation on your own. It’s a good habit to practice.

  1. I still miss the people I lost in the casualties.

This one digs deep. Not a day goes by where I do not miss my in-laws, my nieces, friends, pets that were lost in the divorce. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but this particular pain has not dulled. Maybe it never will. It’s one thing to have to give up a future with one other person, but to also have to give up a future with an entire family and community… it feels so unfair. All of those memories that I was planning on making. All of the things I wanted to teach my nieces. All of the things we were going to build. All of the camping, the nature, the conversations. The art, the travel, the holidays, the cooking, the laughing… Two years later, these thoughts don’t hurt any less than day 1.

  1. The more self-sufficient I become, the harder it is to fit someone else in.

I’ve been on a lot of dates. I wouldn’t say that I’ve “dated” a lot of people and part of the reason for that is because, I really like my life. I have a routine, I enjoy my work, I am healthy, I am a creature of habit, I travel a lot. So I end up going on a lot of dates, but have a really hard time committing to someone to be in my life on a more permanent basis because I don’t want to give up the beautiful things that I enjoy now. For example, sometimes I am spontaneous and might decide to take off at 4pm on a Saturday to camp somewhere three hours away. (P.S. Simone never complains.)

As much as I want a partner to share my life with, it becomes harder as I get older to fit two people who have very set ways of life and awkwardly try to mesh them together. Neither one wants to give up the freedoms and luxuries of single life. Compromise becomes more challenging the more settled you are into the beautiful adventures that you get to experience every day.

I also had a wise friend once tell me that I didn’t go through the pain of a divorce to settle. So I am not planning to.

  1. I am happy.

I hesitated to put this point in here, because I do not want to give the impression that I was unhappy in my marriage. That just wouldn’t be true. Every marriage has ups and downs, but my memories of mine are mostly positive. With that said, there were several very difficult years at the end where I felt like I was in a cloud of fog, desperately trying to merely exist.

I remember very vividly a couple of months after the divorce where I literally woke up one morning and realized for the first time in years that I was happy. I hadn’t felt that feeling for so long that I had almost forgotten it existed. It caught me completely by surprise. I thought for sure that I would end up an old jaded divorcée. But no. The world was bright and beautiful and once I came out of that fog to see it, there was nothing more magical in the world than that feeling.

  1. When I want to do something, I can just do it.

The freedoms of being single are pretty awesome. I eventually do want in partner in life, but until then… man, I’m going to have no problem enjoying this. As mentioned earlier, I can be very spontaneous, and single life allows for that to be completely acceptable.

I bought tickets to Guatemala on a lunch break. I went to China to visit my parents. Sometimes I fly to Minnesota for a weekend. I often take off to camp randomly, even if it’s wayyyyy too cold to camp. (Simone rolls with it.) If it’s snowing outside, I immediately go play in it. I stay out late. Or go to bed at 8pm. Or eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Or forget to eat at all because I’m climbing a fucking mountain. And then run the whole way down because it’s fun and it feels like you are skiing on the sand and no, I don’t have to wait for anyone else to catch up.

It is a great feeling to not have to report to another person and literally just do whatever your heart desires. I plan on eating that up for a while.

Note: relationships are beautiful in a different way, I am in no way bashing them.

  1. I still feel like life cheated me.

I am so grateful for who I am and how I have grown over the last several years. I am so much more at peace and have become a softer and a more loving person. Yet, every once and a while, I still get this pain that this is not what I signed up for. This is not the life I chose. It is not out of a dislike of my current life, I am actually incredibly grateful for where I am. But it’s the fact that I lost control, that I lost my power and this was what happened. I’m sure this is an emotion that I will continue to grapple with as the years go on.

  1. I am a better person.

As I said in the above paragraph, I really am a better person. It’s unfortunate that this is how it is, but pain makes me better. There is nothing that will refine like fire. Sometimes I hope that my divorce was the most painful thing that I will have to ever go through and now it’s done and out of the way. But in reality, it probably isn’t the most painful thing. And that also means that I will probably become an ever better person after the next painful thing I experience. I hate the pain, but I also welcome it, because I’ve seen the results.

Dating Advice for Men

Donkey

I’ve been back in the dating marketing for several years now and let me tell you, it is a jungle out there. I’ve gone out with men who are everything from financial advisors to scientists to private investigators to chefs to engineers, you name it. I have found that people are often entertained by the wild stories that I share, so I thought, why not write about it. For your reading pleasure, may I present to you the first of many blogs on my dating life:

6 Dating Tips for Men

#1 Don’t Go to Jail on Your First Date

I was a newly single woman in her late 20s and I had decided to download Tinder. It was a welcomed distraction as I was still healing from my divorce and like many people who have just come out of a long relationship, I wanted to prove to myself that I still “got it.” So I started talking to a few guys and one of them seemed really interested in me and we had a lot in common, so we finally decided to meet for drinks. This was so early on and I had no idea what the dating etiquette was anymore, so I was nervous to say the least. We were going to meet on Wednesday after work, so around noon that day I texted him to see if we were still on. I heard nothing. 4pm rolled around and I texted again. Silence.

Why would you pretend to be into someone just to blow them off at the last minute? And he didn’t even have the balls to cancel? If he didn’t want to meet up, he should have just told me instead of choosing the passive aggressive approach of not even texting back. So childish. This is why I hate dating, I hate these games, why can’t people just be honest.

Wednesday came and went and I still heard nothing.

But then… one week later, I got a text. He started off my telling me that he thought about lying, but wanted to be honest with me in hopes of mending some of the mess. He said that he was sorry he stood me up last week, but…you guess it.

I got stood up on the first date because the man was in jail.

He told me some jumbled confusing story about how he had all these outstanding tickets and got pulled over and went to jail, yada yada… but the best part was that after the long text chain of explanations, he asked if we could still go out sometime.

No, sweetheart. We won’t be going out.

#2 Don’t Say Anything Negative about Her Appearance

This seems like a no brainer, right? I mean, come on. Everyone knows that the last thing a girl wants to hear is something bad about the way she looks. Even if you are joking, just don’t do it.

I was on a second date. The first one had gone well. He had taken me to brunch at Three Sisters Café, which is one of my favorite spots. Now we were at Iozzo’s, a romantic little Italian restaurant just south of downtown in Indy. He was doing well so far – cracking jokes, asking good questions, listening. He had beautiful icy blue eyes. I found out that he was really into film so we were talking about actors and actresses and I happened to mention that sometimes people said that I looked like Alyssa Milano. He was quick to respond, “Ohhhhh… well… yeah, but she is way hotter.”

It gets better.

So then he continues into a monologue about his past girlfriends and how I rank in appearance against all of them. Supposedly the last girl he dated was not as hot as I was. She was also a brunette. But the girl who he dated in Florida, who was a Disney princess at Disney World and was blonde – she was definitely hotter than me. “Now that I think of it, she’s probably the only person I’ve dated who is hotter than you. But you’re definitely the hottest girl I’ve seen on Tinder.”

Face palm.

There was no third date.

#3 Don’t Steal Someone Else’s Identity

There are certain people who ask me out where there’s something in my gut telling me not to go on a dinner date with them. I realize now that this is a sign that I should not go on any date with them, but at the time, I thought that this gut check just meant I should grab drinks and scope him out before committing to a full meal.

So I went out with this man, we sit down, order our drinks and start talking. The first pause in the conversation he says to me, “Some people are intimidated by my size. I mean… I’m so big and tall. I hope that doesn’t bother you.”

Really?

I ignored the comment and change the topic of conversation by asking what he did for a living. He told me that he is a financial advisor and is making six figures working for himself and also travels all over the country doing so. He doesn’t usually stay in one place for very long, so this may be the only time we get to hang out.

Oh brother.

I end the date prematurely and texted a mutual friend to give her an update on how it went. He’s kinda creepy right? Yeah, a little bit more than kinda creepy. Three weeks later this mutual friend texts me and says, “Hey, so remember that guy you went out with? Yeah so… he went to jail for identity theft. I knew something was off about him. Guess you dodged a bullet on that one.”

WHAT IS IT WITH ME ATTRACTING CRIMINALS??

#4 Do Share Your Horrible Date Stories

There’s nothing that lightens the mood better than swapping terrible date stories with your new fling. That’s a sure way to make me laugh and it’s a fantastic ice breaker. It’s also a way to remember that everyone else is also trying to navigate this crazy thing we called love.

One of the guys that I went out with told me a story of his very first date after his divorce. Understandably, he was nervous about the date, just getting out there for the first time in a long time, but they had been texting a while and he was interested in her. They sit down at dinner, enjoy some small talk, then… out of the blue… she says, “hey, so I’m pregnant.”

The guy puts down his fork. Pauses. Leans in. Looks her in the eye and asks… “Is it mine?”

At this point in the story I’m pretty sure I snotted beer out of my nose because I was laughing so hard. I guess she didn’t think it was as funny as I did.

#5 Do Bring Her a Present

I know I’m speaking for more than just myself when I say that women like presents. It might feel old fashioned or seem like you are trying too hard, but I am telling you – the odds are in your favor. If you bring a present and she is mad about it, I’ll reimburse you.

One of the best presents that I received on a first date was flowers. Not fully bloomed flowers, but flower seeds to plant in my tiny garden boxes on my deck. It was spring and such a thoughtful present. Despite my lack of a green thumb, I love plants and flowers and greenery. Extra points for creativity. It came with this note:

Image 1

I LOVE notes. I find them so enchanting and like they are little piece of your heart that you are sharing with the other person. It is created with your words, original thoughts, and meant to be just for one person. If that doesn’t make a girl feel special, I am not sure what does.

#6 Don’t Fall Apart If Things Don’t Work Out After the First Date

Le sigh… I’m just going to put this out there. If you are in love with someone after the first date, there’s probably something wrong with you. I’m sorry to burst all of the “love at first sight” bubbles, but movies aren’t real life.

We were at a restaurant sitting in a booth. I started to be concerned when he asked if he could sit on the same side of the booth as me. Warning bells went off. He was a nice guy, but a little too handsy and a little too much talk about when he can come over to my place to “see my artwork.” There just wasn’t any chemistry and it ddin’t feel right. So we texted a bit the next day and I explained to him that I didn’t think it was going to work out.

He FLIPPED out.

He told me that I wasn’t being fair, that I hadn’t even given him a chance. How could I do this to him? Can’t we meet just one more time? Talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking. Stop ignoring my texts. This can work. We’re a great match. What do you need me to do? I’ll do anything! Lara. Lara. Lara. LARA. LARAAAAAAAAA.

Oh boy.

That’s not romance, fellas. That’s just bat shit crazy.

What I Learned from Divorce

Ford-Truck

I originally wrote this post a long time ago, but it wasn’t until now that I felt ready to post it. Last year, I went through a divorce. Regardless of the details, divorce is and always will be one of the hardest things that anyone could ever go through. Both people will hurt. Both people will experience a great loss. Both people will take a long, long time to heal. Both people will not know when the pain will end or when life will feel normal again.

But I’ve always believed that a part of being human is sharing our personal experiences in hopes that it resonates with someone else. Even though going through a divorce was by far the most difficult thing I have ever experienced, it was also one of the most growing times of my life. I learned a lot about myself and about other people. And do you know what the best part about going through something so incredibly painful like that is? You get to choose who you want to be on the other side. You get to decide to be more empathetic and more loving and give more grace to those around you. This was the best thing that I could say to the pain throughout the whole process; I won’t let you win. Love is still going to win.

So whether or not you are going through a divorce or something else that is incredibly painful, I hope that one or two of these thoughts connects with you and maybe encourages you along the way.

1. Family will be there.

I have spent most of my adult life making excuses for why I was not close to my family. We lived in different cities. I had different interests and political views. I had different values. My pets were my children. They didn’t understand me. But you know what? As soon as I decided to simply just start asking for my family to be there and started sharing my heart with them, they shocked and amazed me.

I have never been closer to my family than I am now. That is largely due to going through a divorce. When someone so significant who filled so many parts of my life was gone, I started to realize how much I need other people. My family was nothing but wonderful through the entire process, which was not short or easy (and in a lot of ways will continue for a long, long time). There were months and months of phone calls where all I would do is cry about the same things that I cried about last phone call. In turn, my siblings, my parents, my grandparents, started to become more vulnerable with me and shared some of their own experiences with pain in relationships. Love and heartbreak is very private, but when they saw that side of me, it brought us so much closer. It’s scary to open up to anyone, let alone your family, but my advice would be to not hold back from your family when you are hurting. Whether you like it or not, they are kind of there forever. You might be surprised by how they react. These are the people who have to be on your side, so take advantage of that.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Being married creates this habit where anytime you need something, you default to calling your spouse. When you’re sick, they go to the store and buy you cold medicine. When you have to stay late at work, they let the dog out. When you can’t make it to the dry cleaner before they close, they pick it up. The only time you might ask someone else is when your spouse is not available or they don’t have the skill set to do what you need. Once that was gone, I stubbornly defaulted to the “pull myself up by the bootstraps” approach and to be as independent as possible. But the truth is that switching from being married to being single is a hard process and I had to rely on my friends a lot more than I would have liked to admit.

I remember one night where I was so emotionally distraught, I was sitting at the dining room table sobbing, it wasn’t about anything specific but I was just hurting and I need a hug. I remember vividly staring at my phone and wanting to text someone, but I didn’t know who I should contact. I didn’t want anyone to see me like that. I did that thing where I would pick up my phone and set it back down, then pick it up again… set it down… it was so so hard for me to text a friend and ask her to come over. Finally, I typed out a message and closed my eyes to force myself to press send and sure enough, when I asked, that friend came. She could only stay for 15 minutes, but those 15 minutes meant the world to me. All I needed was to know that someone else in the universe cared that I was hurting.

Beyond the emotional support, I’ve also learned to rely on my friends for silly little things, like “who is going to target this week and can pick up tennis balls for Simone?” Or “I am rock climbing today, who wants to be my emergency contact?” Or “I am going through the ‘sell-all-of-your-possession’ stage of grief, so who wants to come over and have a dance party in my empty living room?”

When you are going through something hard, people want to know what they can do to help. But you gotta tell them.

3. Being alone isn’t as terrifying as I thought.

Those first few months of living alone were horrible. Most nights I would just watch hours of crappy TV just to get through the evening. There were even times where if no one could hang out or do anything with me I just felt completed defeated and depressed and that no one love me. I know that sounds dramatic, but when you are that raw, every sense is heightened and you feel things much stronger than you normally would. I didn’t like being alone with myself. I didn’t like myself, period. At the end of my marriage, things were really rough and I regretted a lot of what I had said and done, which made me feel like a terrible person. It takes time to forgive yourself after that experience. It takes time to learn how to be alone with yourself, reconnect with the things that you really love to do, and heal enough to tap into what you love in life.

One thing that I started doing to fill my evenings was house projects. I re-painted, replaced old furniture, built a coffee table, added a steel clothes rack to my bedroom, and on and on. It was very cathartic to be moving and changing things and it helped me feel like I was at least in control of something. But it was certainly a learning process to be ok with being alone. But it is also true that time heals all wounds and slow but surly, each day it got a little bit easier.

4. It’s ok to be extra sensitive and needy.

I think I spent a good eight months being “The Needy Friend.” And I admitted that often, because I hated it. I would say things like, “I’m tired of being the needy friend! Someone else should go through a life crisis!” I’m sure there were days where my friends were frustrated with me and tired of hearing the same rants and having the same conversations that always ended in “it just takes time.” Which of course being a type-A personality, just pissed me off. There were also times where I just couldn’t be there for them in the way that they were there for me because I did not have the emotional capacity to be strong. But, just like they said, that phase eventually ended. And it made me more empathetic to everyone else around me on the other side. I have experienced a level of pain that I never had before, which I believe will play to my advantage in the long run. Life is a bitch, but if something good is going to come out of pain, it is empathy for others.

5. Write, write, write.

As I processed my marriage, what happened, what went wrong, what could I have done differently, why did this happen to me, what is going to happen to my life now, etc. my head continued to spin in circles at a million miles an hour, 24 hours a day. I had countless sleepless nights and many evenings where I could do nothing but write down all of those swirling thoughts. Whatever I wanted to write, whatever I was thinking in that moment, I wrote it down. Even if it was the same thing that I wrote the night before, I wrote it again. Verbally processing is good, but the benefit of writing things down was that I was able to watch my process. I saw the stages of grief emerge. But I also saw progress. Now going back and rereading the worst months, I realize how far I have come from that point. It feels good to have that perspective and to know that I am in a much better place.

6. Just feel it.

This ties to the previous point, but don’t suppress your emotions. It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to cry a lot. It’s ok to be super angry one moment, back in love the next moment, and completely terrified the next. My emotions were all over the place for nearly a year and not only was I trying to process what happened, but I was also so unsure of where my life was headed. I had to completely rethink my future. All of this was incredibly overwhelming and I went through so many ups and downs with feeling excited and terrified, sometimes both at the same time. The majority of the time were downs in that process. It was not pleasant and it really, really hurts. But you have to just let yourself feel it and know that every day the pain will be a tiny bit less. Maybe even some day the pain will be a memory.

7. It’s ok to say no to events.

As someone who normally would be at every event, supporting my community, volunteering, going to birthday parties, hitting all the swanky places to be, going to concerts… I eventually had to just give myself permission to say that I didn’t have to go to anything if I didn’t want to. That phase probably lasted 5 months or so, but I don’t regret it at all. I needed that time and space, and you know what? I didn’t lose my network of people by taking that time off. Those events and people will still be there on the other side, so don’t stress about it. There was a point where I knew I had to slowly start getting back into things and even at that point I gave myself permission to go to an event for one hour and then I could leave if I wanted to. That was all I could handle at that time. Then eventually, I wanted to spend more time at events and grew into the social butterfly that I was before.

8. Your “normal self” will come back.

I think one of the most frustrating parts of the whole process was being mad that I couldn’t be happy or do the things that made me happy. I was lethargic and emotional and my life looked completely different than what I was used to. I tried to do things that would normally bring me a lot of joy and it would barely do anything for my mood. I was just in a negative and dark place and unfortunately I had to stay there for a while. It’s all a part of the process. On the other side, not only do I have my personality and joy for life back, but I believe I am a better person as well. I appreciate so many of the little details of life that I may have glossed over before. You would think that going through a divorce would make one more jaded, but there are so many examples of where I see the world a little brighter now. It’s sort of like getting back an old friend once I settled back into myself. I missed that person. It turns out that person is a little bit better than what she was when I left her.

9. Single life is great.

As someone who got married really young (wait until your at least 30, kids), I didn’t have the time that I needed to discover who I was and what I wanted out of life before jumping into marriage. Yes, I had my own hobbies and own career path and own friends. But there is something significantly different about your 20s and your 30s and there is a reason that people tell you to wait to get marriage. It’s not that you don’t know who you are in your 20s (I hate to say that because it sounds so degrading), but you are still sifting through a lot of different experiences as you try to find out what really makes you tick. Let that process happen and run its course. If you become a person that you love and are tapping into your passions, the right partner will emerge.

Sometimes it is overwhelming to be single, but for the most part, it is very freeing. I’ve created a beautiful and peaceful living space that I am in love with and have developed some really great habits that I know I can stick to. I am also able to do what I need in the moment without having to plan my schedule around someone else.

I’ve also learned to take care of myself better. If I wake up on a Saturday and I know that I need to just chill out and do nothing for the day, I can do that. If I wake up on a Saturday and want to bike 20 miles, run 6 miles, and go to a Pilates class, I can do that too. I’ve been able to listen to myself and learn what I need to be a healthy person. And when I am able to take care of myself, I can then take care of other people (which happens to be one of my favorite things).

10. I don’t need a man.

I have been awed and amazed by the friends who stepped up to support me. There were many, many of them who have helped me at various points throughout the process. From being a should to cry on, to helping me move, to killing centipedes for me, to making me dinner, and so much more, I’ve realized that a lot of those holes that I thought couldn’t be filled are being filled with many friends instead of one. There are so many incredible and inspiring people out there and if there’s one good thing that has happened after my divorce, it is that I have gotten closer to a lot of them. I have a great job, a beautiful apartment, two loving pets, amazing friends, a supportive community, I am confident in myself and what I want out of life, and have an incredibly family who I know will always have my back.