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!
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!