It’s official. I’m dating again.
I don’t mean dating anyone in particular – now that would be news – but rather I’m back in the dating pool, after some time spent sitting on the sidelines, wrapped up in a robe and flip-flops, looking on as the other swimmers splash around and not even daring to dip my toe in the water.
In November, I blogged that I had called off the search for a partner, husband and father to the children I still (yes still) hope to have. This was a conscious decision to take a leave of absence from the dating game, following a couple of brief relationships that had gone awry and had brought up lots of “issues”.
Well, I’ve done a little bit of exploring around those issues and I have some answers. I’ve identified some self-defeating patterns of behaviour that seem to throw a spanner in the works of any romantic relationship and I’m doing my best to understand them. Of course, I’ve no idea whether I’ll be able to put what I’ve learned into practice. But I won’t know unless I try. And I’m ready to try.
Of course, I might be wrong. I might not be ready. I might need more time to understand myself. But then will I ever be ready? And how will I know? This is a dilemma I explored in a recent blog on a hip new Canadian women’s lifestyle website JustCharlee: To Date Or Not To Date. After some pondering, I’ve concluded I’m going to try dating, slowly and gently. After all, I’m 41 and don’t want to be single forever. (I explored my age, my singleness and the feminism debate in an earlier JustCharlee blog post: 41 and single: Did We Get What We Want Or Forget What We Wanted?).
It seems my most obvious pattern and perhaps the one that’s contributed to my current single status more than any other is what’s referred to in psychological speak as ‘push-pull’ behaviour. This appears to be a common trait of people who fear abandonment, rejection, or being hurt by another, likely because of their own childhood experiences. Out of the Fog, an information site for those dealing with a loved one with a personality disorder, describes push-pull as “a chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason”. I also read a fair amount about the push-pull cycle in the He’s Scared, She’s Scared book (subtitled Understanding the Hidden Fears That Sabotage Your Relationships), which I mentioned on a previous post: Commitment and phobia.
In my case, the pattern seems to be that I draw people to me, allowing them a certain closeness, but then when they get too close, I push them away, sometimes by finding fault with them and magnifying those faults out of all proportion until they drive me completely crazy and I have to leave or force the other person to leave by behaving unbearably. Now I’m aware of the pattern, the key will be to recognise what I’m doing as I’m doing it and to try to suppress the urge to run when it grabs hold of me, at least long enough to give a relationship the chance to get off the ground.
So, that’s the challenge. And I’ve taken the plunge by signing up to the online dating website Guardian Soulmates for six months. In the past, when I’ve done online dating, I’ve only signed up for a month or two and haven’t ever taken it very seriously. I could never bring myself to spend very long online, trawling through those photographs and profiles and trying to find someone I felt like contacting. But I’ve given myself six months so I can take things at a leisurely pace, set some boundaries around how often I visit the site and actually take the time to move on from the email stage to the sitting down for a cup of coffee stage.
That said, I signed up a few weeks ago and have barely looked at the site. Nor have I felt moved to write to the men who’ve ‘liked’ me – a number of whom are in their 50s with grown-up children. I shouldn’t rule anyone out but it’s not exactly what I was hoping for. Of course, as is generally the way, the guys I’ve contacted haven’t written back. Although my page definitely needs a bit of work. It reads more like a job application than a dating profile. According to Guardian Soulmates, I’ve got 1,500 ‘matches’ on the site – men they deem to be compatible with me – so there must be someone I want to go for a coffee with. And if all else fails, I’ll have some good blog/book material (no names mentioned of course!).
Completely unrelated to my dating dilemmas – apart perhaps from the ‘Taking the Plunge’ swimming analogy – I just have to express my Olympic fever. It’s well and truly got me. London is all a buzz with Olympic events and millions of people from all over the world, and as long as I don’t have to make too many Tube journeys, it’s clear it’s going to be a great few weeks.
I blogged about my Olympic fever on the Huffington Post – From Scepticism to Excitement, Loving the Olympics and It’s Just Getting Started – but I have a new highlight to report since I wrote that post: the big red London double-decker bus that’s doing press-ups in Islington. I saw it this morning and became quite enamoured.
It’s got a pretty good physique, but then so would anyone if they did press-ups for eight hours a day over two weeks. It’s an installation by a Czech artist and it’s already started to draw the crowds.
For the full story, check out this news clip: