dating as research

After I was separated and had spent a few months getting my bearings, I threw myself into dating.  For nearly 18 months, I dated.  A lot.  A whole lot, actually.

Not everyone around me was comfortable with this.  Well-meaning friends suggested that I “take some time and get to know myself first.”  This truly bewildered me, because I learn more about myself through my interactions with others than I could ever discover sitting at home with a book or a movie.  Only recently has the source of their discomfort dawned on me:  they thought that I was dating to avoid being alone, that I was simply afraid of not having a man in my life.  They were wrong, but it is only in hindsight that I see clearly what I was actually doing.

I was doing research.  Serious, focused research.

Coming out of my marriage, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want THAT anymore.  But what did I want?  What did it look like, feel like?  What did he — this mythical soul mate that I had left my marriage to discover — look like, sound like, act like?  I dated all kinds of men.  I went through a period of younger men, and a period of former pro-athletes, and a period of very tall men.  Some of them had doctorates, some had diplomas.  Some had private jets, others lived like college students. I tried them on (most only metaphorically), and I made copious mental notes of what felt good and right and what did not.  And slowly a sense of what I want in a man emerged….

But one of the worst parts of my marriage was who I became within it.  So I had work to do there, too.  Who did I want to be in a relationship?  What parts of myself did I value, did I want to nurture and grow and share with someone?  What parts of myself did I never want to see again?  Each new man taught me something about myself.  I discovered whole new parts of myself that I had never known before and made instant friends with!  I slowly came to realize which kinds of men brought out which parts of me and how I responded to the various situations and challenges that dating presents over and over and over again.

My laboratory work is over, and I have stopped dating.  This is not a permanent situation, but every scientist needs a chance to quietly and completely examine the results of her multiple experiments before synthesizing the results into a statement of discovered fact.  And that’s where I am.  I think I know who the best version of myself is, and I know that I want to be her.  I think I know roughly what I’m seeking in a mate, and I want to meet him.  And that will most likely require more dating.  But my friends can relax.

For now.

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6 Comments

Filed under relationships

6 responses to “dating as research

  1. Self-awareness and self-worth are two excellent qualities to have for when you are ready to date again!
    The world of dating will still be there when you are ready to rejoin!
    Until then, enjoy the ride!
    ~ abbie ~

  2. Thanks, Abbie. Certainly seems that way…. 🙂

  3. I get this all the time too. Common sentiment was that I needed to find myself and in order to do so I had to be alone. Never mind that for the past decade I WAS alone for all practical purposes. I’m at the 18 month mark and now feel like I know what I want and how much I can safely give in a relationship. Would not have been able to do that if I sat around alone. Also really wanted sex. With men. Also hard to do by yourself!

    • So true… I only seem to be able to learn about what I want in a relationship by dating. I can learn about me by being alone, but it doesn’t help in the relationship part. I think that what people are worried about when they give that advice is the very frequent tendency to rush into dating to avoid grieving, grab the first person you see, and call it good. But I’ve never been like that, and I wasn’t this time, either. It took me over a year to start dating the man I’m with now and another year before I committed to him completely. I wouldn’t trade all that “research” for anything! 🙂

  4. Pingback: the birth of a blog… and rebirth of a woman | that precarious gait

  5. Pingback: dating as research, pt. 2 (or ten things I’ve learned along the way) | that precarious gait

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