Calling off the search

It’s official. The search is over. After spending much of my life looking for a husband and father to my future children (often without even realising I was doing it), I’ve decided to stop. I’m not sure how long this will last but I’ve been experimenting with it for the last few days and it’s kind of fun. No more checking out every man who crosses my path – at least not for more than a few seconds, enough for an appreciative glance!

I'm putting away the binoculars

No more drifting off into fantasy land at the sight of a handsome bloke. No more imagining that the cute fella on the tube, bus or bicycle would make a great partner and Dad to my kids. And no more trying to make relationships work until I’ve managed to achieve a good degree of surrender over the hopes and dreams I have for my future. As I wrote in my last post, Essential maintenance, it’s time I let go of my attachment to the outcome.

So I’m off the market. Not forever – that would be a little foolish. But at least until further notice! Now, this may sound like a nutty thing to do for someone who’s forty-and-two-thirds-years-old and who’d like a child of her own (or at least thinks she would). But I’ve realised over the past few weeks that I’ve spent most of my life chasing after an idea of someone or something I think will make me happy. And I’ve spent a similar amount of time running away from that same person or thing. All that chasing and running – no wonder I’m exhausted!

As I’ve written before, I seem to be one of those women who craves intimacy and affection with a man but is so scared of it that she chooses people who aren’t up for it or ready for it or she sabotages relationships with anyone who is. This pattern seems to be common with women of “absent” fathers, as I blogged about in my Commitment and phobia post in September. Back then, I quoted from an article in the Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine that said: “as adults, women with absent fathers are often torn between longing for a committed, loving relationship and a fear of having one in case the man they love abandons them as their father did. It is only when they realise what they are doing that they can move on and have a healthy relationship.”

I guess I’m at that stage of realisation. As you’ll know if you’ve read my last few posts, I’d been dating someone for the last seven weeks or so but that ended a few days back. Whether or not it was right for me, I couldn’t move forward. I couldn’t get over the indecision and anxiety over whether it would work out. I couldn’t put both feet in and I couldn’t go with the flow. Or should I say I wasn’t willing to? Something was stopping me. Of course, you might be thinking that it must be a simple case of the wrong guy or the wrong relationship but, as I get to know myself, I’m realising it’s much less to do with him and much more to do with me.

Looking back at my dating history, I can see how I’ve generally tried to keep one foot out of any relationship – and that foot has been firmly placed in the door, keeping it ajar so I had a means of escape. This kind of thinking is a form of self-protection but it’s also a bar to intimacy. It’s difficult to get close to someone if you’re constantly wondering whether you want to be with him or not and you’ve got one eye permanently fixed on the exit. I’ve also got a bit of a pattern of choosing men who, in one way or another, aren’t available. That, I’m realising, is a deliberate strategy. It means I’m never faced with the prospect of having to commit. It keeps me a safe distance away from intimacy.

I’ve resolved, therefore, to take some time out. Of course, I’ve taken time out before – there have been long periods of singleness in my life. In fact, I feel like I’ve been single most of my life. That’s not true at all – rather it’s a result of how I approach relationships, of my one-foot-in, one-foot-out strategy. But I’ve never deliberately taken a break. I’ve never stopped looking. I’ve never stopped wondering whether the next party, trip or work event would be the one where I’d meet someone.

And what am I going to do during this time out? Well, for a start, I’m going to keep my eyes focused as much as possible on what I’m doing rather than on who might be standing next to me. Every time I’m tempted to spend too long checking out a man, I’m going to remind myself gently to stop drifting off into fantasy land. And I’m going to focus on me. A friend of mine said recently that she’d managed to become someone she wanted to go on a date with. She’d created a full life, replete with activities, social engagements and a sense of purpose. She’d got to a place where she considered herself quite a catch. That’s my aim for the next few months, to become someone I’d want to go on a date with – not because I’m looking for a date but because – excuse the cliché – I’m worth it! I deserve to give my head and heart a break from the constant distraction of men and obsession with my romantic future. This isn’t about becoming perfect before I’m ready to date again. It’s simply about creating a stronger sense of self and becoming more whole.

So as I head off to Mozambique next week on a work assignment, there’ll be no more scanning the queue at the check-in counter to see if there are any adventurous, globe-trotting, good-looking men on my flight. And there’ll be no more hoping that the man sat next to me on the plane will, by chance, look a little like George Clooney, be single, and fall for me.

The search is off!

 

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8 Responses to Calling off the search

  1. Jodykat says:

    Hi Katherine
    I love the idea of “becoming someone I’d want to go on a date with”! So positive!
    Since I ‘called off the search’ almost 3 years ago, I’ve just got happier and happier. I’ve blossomed. Some days, I even look like I’m in love. And I am: with my life.
    I do wonder if being ‘obsessed with a romantic future’ isn’t just another way of avoiding ‘what is’, ie: ourselves. I admire your tenacity in clearing away all the things that don’t work for you anymore.
    All I would say is this: don’t forget that you’re perfect just as you are. We all are.
    Huge admiration & hugs
    Jody x
    http://www.gateway-women.com

  2. Hey Jody,
    Thanks for your support – as always! You’re a great cheerleader. And a great role model. I’m looking forward to having more space for myself – first stop, singing lessons! Thanks for the reminder on the perfectionism too. I was thinking about that again today – how nothing is ever quite good enough. Hope to change my thinking around that also.
    Katherine

  3. Norma Dawn says:

    When I quit looking is when my to be husband suddenly appeared in my life. We were simple friends online initially, and our relationship grew over time, until we finally met in person Dec of 2002. We got married in May of 2004, and neither of us had been married before. He was 50 and I was 43. We have been married 7 years now, and I think that is because I got to know him as a friend, and wasn’t checking him out as a potential mate. He is not what I would have thought was my type before I met him. I think sometimes we can’t see what is right in front of us because of what we think we want! Just wanted to share my story and thoughts with you. My life is better than I ever thought it could be and feel extremely fortunate that I opened myself up to see outside of what I thought would be my ideal man! I am married to the most caring, gentle, kind, compassionate man, and I almost didn’t see who he really was because of my mind-set! :o)

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Norma. And I agree that we often get so fixated on what we think we want that we overlook what’s right in front of us. I think this thing about ‘type’ is a bit of a red herring. Best to keep an open mind. I also agree that friendship is a great foundation for a relationship/marriage. Congratulations are finding what you thought you weren’t looking for!
    Best wishes,
    Katherine

  5. Sherry says:

    I found what you wrote very thought provoking. I really appreciate what you wrote today. I accidentally stumbled upon this from a link in FB. And it is exactly what I needed to hear and be reminded of at this moment. I have been up all night unable to sleep because of situation I am currently battling with in my life. Trying to let go of someone who isn’t ready for commitment (despite actions indicating otherwise). Because I am worth more! Nothing wrong with not being ready and vice versa. It just doesn’t work well when you have one of each.

    It sounds so much like my own life and relationships. And I also haven’t had a father growing up. The one I had adopted me and when my mother and he split he didn’t put any effort into persuing a relationship with me. My biological father I have never met. So in away I have always thought there must be something wrong with me, especially if I cannot keep not one but two different dads. I longed for a father my whole life. I have no clue what a healthy relationship looks or feels like.

    So what is it about not having a dad growing up that makes us run from the very thing we want. I know you say fear of abandonment. Which I agree but along with that I know for myself I have always been the one to end things, I would pick men that I felt wouldn’t abandon me and when I thought they might I would run as fast as I could and NEVER give them the chance to do it to me first. Not that it didn’t still hurt…

    I love the idea of being in love with me. I don’t need a man to feel okay, or to validate that I am good enough. I am already, but need to work on convincing myself that on a daily sometimes hourly basis.

    I apologize for writing so much, I didn’t mean to get carried away. I appreciate you letting me share and most of all for sharing with us. As I said before I needed to read this, and it has helped me re-gain much needed perspective.

    Thank you

  6. Hi Sherry,
    Thank you so much for everything you wrote and for your honesty. I’m sorry for the delay in responding. I was away in Africa for a couple of weeks. You raised a question and I’ll try to answer it but also point you in the direction of other sources that might be more qualified to answer it. I’m not sure if you saw my post on Commitment and Phobia (https://fromfortywithlove.com/2011/09/21/commitment-and-phobia/) on Sept 21. I mentioned a few books in that post that probably do a better job than me of explaining things. The logic goes that we yearn and constantly pursue intimate, deep, committed relationships with men because that’s what we lacked with our fathers. But we sabotage ourselves – either by choosing men who aren’t ready for commitment or who aren’t able to commit or, as you mentioned, by leaving the relationship before intimacy happens – because we’re terrified that if we get what we want (love, intimacy, commitment), it’ll be taken away from us like it was when we were younger. And that’s going to hurt! So our subconscious does what it can to avoid that pain by, as I mentioned, choosing men who can’t commit or running from intimacy ourselves. I’m not sure if that makes sense to you or if I’m just repeating what I wrote in the blog. Perhaps some of those books I mentioned in the Commitment and Phobia post might help.
    I’m pleased my blog helped you gain more perspective and I hope you can hold on to that as you move forward. Many thanks once again for reading and commenting.
    Best wishes, Katherine

  7. Rosiewill says:

    I’ve just stumbled across you via the daily mail femail site and what a joy it is to have found this blog, in particular this post. After the recent failure of yet another relationship with a great guy who just wasnt perfect enough( as I have just turned 39), i am forced to question what is really going on here for me and how much my need to have it work out the way I always assumed it would be, is sabotaging the success of otherwise potentially rewarding and fulfilling relationships.

    Thank you for being brave enough to share your journey, your hopes, your fears. Whilst I’m not brave enough/ ready to give up the search at the moment, I admire your decision to do so. My gut feeling says its probably the right thing to do when we know we are too attached to the outcome as I suspect many of us in our position are.

    • Hi Rosie, and welcome to my site! I’m glad you found it and that you found the ‘calling off the search’ post helpful. I didn’t quite manage to get across everything I wanted to in the Mail piece but I’m pleased you can read me here also. I do believe that by letting go of our fixed ideas about outcomes, we can find some peace and perhaps, eventually, find an outcome that we can be happy with – even if it isn’t the one we imagined. The seeking perfection thing is a hard one, I can really relate to that. I seek it in myself and I look for it in the people I get close to – but I’ve discovered it’s not the path to happiness! Thank you for reading and sharing.
      Best wishes, Katherine

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