Category Archives: internet dating

the heart wants what it wants (or why love doesn’t always make sense)

I had a conversation with a friend recently about how the heart seems to have a mind of its own.  It yields when we want it to remain strong and resolute, clings when our brain is clamoring that there is no hope, and refuses admittance to some people who seem to be a really good fit.  For centuries, poets and balladeers have struggled to make sense of the unpredictability of the heart, while psychologists and social scientists have attempted to explain and understand its irrationality.  But I don’t think anyone has figured it out yet.

When “Pete” and I broke up last month, he (and other, well-meaning, male friends) attempted to convince me of the reasons why we belonged together.  These reasons consisted primarily of apparent similarities in our present lives, family structures, and goals.  They were concrete, they were rational, and they were the kinds of similarities on which online dating algorithms rely heavily.  I listened quietly to Pete (and those friends), and noticed that how I felt did not seem to enter into the equation.  The fact that my feelings toward Pete had changed as a result of the natural evolution of learning more about him and us seemed almost irrelevant.  The facts and evidence of our suitability were there and acknowledged and so, it seemed, should trump any reservations my heart was expressing.  In fact, at one point I even said to Pete, “Love is a matter of the heart, not the mind.”  To which he replied, “I don’t think that’s always true.”

I had a more visceral and emotionally aggressive reaction to his words than many people probably would, because, for me, that was an important and clear demonstration of how differently we approach relationships and think about love.  I do not expect love to be practical.  I do not expect love to be a matter of adding a column of numbers and reaching an immutable conclusion.   I see dating as gathering qualitative, not just quantitative, data about how we fit (or don’t).  The greatest loves of my life were amazing qualitative fits and seemed completely wrong for me quantitatively.

I think of quantitative similarities as the kinds of things you might find on someone’s “life resume” — cultural upbringing, religious background, education, relationship experience, socio-economic status, parenting style, geographic proximity, level of professional attainment, etc.  Qualitative elements might include outlook on life, values, dreams, physical attraction, curiosity about the other person or the broader world, or a sense of relating to someone on a “soul” level instead of or in addition to an intellectual level, etc.  When couples share quantitative similarities, they seem to line up and “fit” in ways that are obvious and identifiable to almost anyone.  These couples make sense to us.  Successful couples who do not share quantitative similarities are often considered “opposites” and we lump them into the “Opposites Attract” adage.  I would argue that they are likely not true opposites, but that they share commonalities that are not as easily perceived to outsiders.

But the heart doesn’t always make sense, and I would argue that no one falls in love –truly, madly, deeply in love — with their partner’s quantitative traits.  I do understand that most people are attracted to people who are similar to themselves in these ways, but I don’t think those similarities alone constitute love.  They contribute to comfort, companionship, understanding, and ease.  But you can have all those things and still not have love.   I think that people who have both similar life resumes and a deep and abiding love often point to the quantitative data to show their compatibility because that is more easily explained and understood, even though it is actually the qualitative elements that bind them so tightly.

But regardless of what is true for others, my heart knows what it wants, and I have learned the hard way that to allow my brain veto power over my heart is disastrous for all involved.

I have met many, many men in my life whom I’ve wished I’d felt more for.  Men who were good, practical, honest men but whom I absolutely did not want to wake up next to every morning forever.  Sometimes, my heart will play along for a while, seeming to appreciate or warm to a guy who appears to be a good fit on paper.  And my brain cheers and crows victoriously.  But soon enough, my heart sheepishly admits that it simply isn’t real, and my brain rages at the heart’s apparent unwillingness to get with the general program.  But my heart persists, unfazed by my brain’s tantrums.

I’ve also spent many sad moments begging my heart to relinquish its attachment to men with whom a future is not possible.  As I’ve written before, it took me 4 years to get over Parker… to stop using him as the measure for every other man I dated.  Four long and mostly lonely years when my heart whimpered and pouted and cried out for him, even as my brain forced us on lots of dates and through a couple of meaningless relationships.

I guess I simply do not believe that we can force ourselves to love someone anymore than we can force ourselves to stop loving someone.  We love who we love, whether we should or not.

I think, to a very large extent, this is true for most of us.  Our heart wants what it wants, and then we cite the quantitative data to support that decision so that it feels more rational and right to us.  I also think that, for many people, the quantitative data lines up more neatly and more consistently than it does for me.  For instance, I was a lawyer.  A lot of lawyers enjoy relationships with similarly educated and/or employed mates.  I’m sure this is because most of the people who choose my profession are somewhat similar in nature.  But here’s the kick for me — not one of my close friends from law school is married to anyone remotely similar to them in profession.  In fact, my two best friends from law school are married to a Broadway producer and a sales manager, respectively.  This is not surprising to us because we three were very dissimilar from most of our law school classmates.  We were slightly odd, slightly different.  And it is those differences that speak loudly in relationship contexts, I think.  On the flip side, I have friends who are much more representative of their chosen fields of endeavor and they do seem to select people who quantitatively match them.

So, when someone argues with me over why I should or should not love someone, I find it pretty perplexing.  Am I not an intelligent, emotionally-aware woman capable of understanding and expressing my feelings and desires?  I am not particularly impulsive, nor overly judgmental of minor faults, but I do know what I value, what my dealbreakers are, and how I want to feel in a relationship.  Are those not a good enough basis to make a decision without facing an appeal that is, to be honest, a bit patronizing? And furthermore, I would absolutely, positively never want to be with someone that I had to convince to be with me.  Sure, it’s tempting to make those arguments, but if you persevere, what have you really won?  Reluctant love? Love by forfeit?  Don’t we all deserve more than that?

And what of our friends who are still aching for a love that is no more?  Why do we expect them to simply “get over it”?  Why do we value the ability to forget so easily what we once thought so special? Maybe we, as outsiders, don’t value their love as they do, but does that even matter?

Time and experience are great teachers.  They have the power to guide us gently and tenderly into great love, and they have the power to eventually guide us out, as well.  They alone influence our hearts, I believe.  Not our minds, not our friends, not our life resumes.  They abide by no rules or algorithms.  They follow no trend or dictate.  And if it were any other way, love would be far less special, far less rare, and far less magical.

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dating as research, pt. 2 (or ten things I’ve learned along the way)

My first post ever (on this or any other blog) was “dating as research,” and in it I laid out my theory that dating after divorce is a useful way to really get to know yourself again — who you are in a relationship, what you seek from it, what you can or cannot abide in another person.  I still believe the words in that post, and I am grateful for each and every man along the way who has taught me a little bit about myself, no matter how short our interaction.

I have a couple of good friends who are wading into the dating pool after their divorces for the first time in many years.  Listening to their first, tentative successes and failures, hopes and dreams, has inspired me to contemplate what, if anything, I’ve learned over the last 3 1/2 years since my separation.  And I discovered that I’ve actually learned quite a lot.  So I’m going to share my observations with them, and with you.

1.  Not every relationship is supposed to be The One.

Not every relationship is meant to result in a love story that rivals Scarlett and Rhett or Napoleon and Josephine.  Some are meant to teach us things, reinforce things we already know, or even correct a course that isn’t working for us.  Most of the time, I think it’s hard to know what a relationship was supposed to be until you look back on it from a distance, but sometimes it’s apparent quickly.  Either way, it still has value to me.

In America, we equate divorce and breaking-up with failure — why couldn’t we make it work?  what was wrong with that relationship?  But not every culture sees things this way.  Lots of people are able to see the bigger picture… the idea that people (and the relationships we form with them) come into our lives for a period or time or for a particular reason, and then leave in the same fashion.  The fact that they left does not in any way diminish their impact or value to our lives; it simply means that life has other plans that don’t include them anymore.

So don’t force it.  Let it be what it’s supposed to be and be grateful for whatever it gives you.  Then move on.

2.  Don’t assume anything.

No matter what they tell you or how they act or what you think you know, none of us can truly know what another person is feeling.  What one person means when he says “I love you” may be a very different feeling from what another person means.  Sometimes we assume (or believe) things that lead us to think we are involved in a Hollywood-worthy love affair, when in actuality our mate doesn’t feel particularly deeply about us at all.  Other times we assume (or believe) that our partner’s feelings are relatively superficial, only to discover that they are stronger and more persistent than we had suspected. Our brains can’t know, and our hearts are blind; only our intuition can accurately detect the truth in any given moment.  And, more often than not, that intuition is drowned out by a host of other feelings, wishes, and expectations.  Ask questions, listen closely, and don’t get defensive with what your intuition is telling you. Deep down you know the answers.

3.  Almost everybody seems great for the first month or two.  Only time and experience will tell you what you need to know about a relationship. 

Lots of dating has helped me discern when I’m feeling infatuated, really “in like,” or truly in love.  I’m not often confused, and I’m not in a hurry to cross the Love Finish Line.  Because the truth is that you can be infatuated with lots of people, but only time and bumping past some rough spots will give you a real sense of what kind of emotional connection you have with a given partner.   Neither one alone is going to show you everything you need you know.  And if you find yourself “falling in love” with everyone you date, it might be time to take a big step back, spend some time by yourself, and really evaluate what you know about love and how you define it.

4.  Relationship envy is a waste of time.  Appearances are deceiving, and love is more than window-dressing.

You’d think that after spending so long in a marriage that looked picture-perfect from the outside, I wouldn’t have had to re-learn this one, but I did.  Repeatedly, in the last three years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve observed new couples who have all the appearances of the “perfect couple,” and yet there was a vague sense of something being off…. like they’re going through the expected motions, but without any real depth.  They do and say all the right things, but something feels…. a little forced, a little false…  Like I’m watching a show more than witnessing a love affair.   Sometimes it has made me second-guess my own choices; after all ease and perfection can be very seductive.  But then I snap out of it and realize that I’d prefer deep and messy over shallow and placid any day of the week.  And usually, when those “perfect” couples break up, you see pretty quickly how imperfect the relationship really was.

5.  Figure out what you want in a relationship and don’t let anybody talk you out of it.

Nobody has to live your life but you.  Period.  You, and you alone, have to live with the full force of the consequences of your actions.  You are responsible for the repercussions, be they good or bad, and recognizing that is the first step toward something that really suits you and your life.  Opinions and advice of friends and family, however well-intentioned, are only opinions and advice.  Don’t let anybody tell you what’s right for you.  Only you can decide that.

6.  It’s good to date lots of different people.  

I sat down and counted recently:  since my separation I have been on dates ( at least first dates) with 28 different men.  I have dated men of various colors, shapes, and sizes.  Some have been brilliant and some dumb as a box of bricks.  Some have been mouth-wateringly handsome and others not so much.  But they all have a story, and they all have a perspective, and I learned a little bit more each and every time.  When I date people who haven’t dated much, I can immediately sense the chasm of experience between us.  The world is home to billions of people.  Meet lots of them.  It’s good for you.

7.  You cannot control other people, their feelings, or your own.

Control is a big thing for a lot of us.  By the time you’re in your 40’s, you’re likely running a family, a career, a household, and any number of other responsibilities, obligations or commitments.  It gives us a false sense of being able to set our own destiny, exactly how we want it, exactly when we want it.  Of course, in our brains, we know this isn’t true, but accepting it in our hearts is another matter entirely.  Relinquishing that control, learning to sit with patience and without holding too tightly to outcomes is an enormous challenge.   But it’s important.  Maybe the most important relationship lesson we have the opportunity to learn as an adult….

8.  When considering past hurts, you usually have a choice of being righteous or being happy.  Not both.

It’s very easy to get stuck.  To decide that you simply cannot get past some pain that you’ve endured due to a relationship ending.  It’s easy to cling to it and feel that you are entitled to your pain and to your injuries and to expect the world around you to bend and accommodate and account for what you’ve endured.  But in my experience, that posture is a lonely one.  Friends and family quickly tire of propping up a victim who appears unwilling to move forward.  New people will always be aghast at your tale, but then they, too, will grow weary of it and move on to those who inspire and motivate them.  Being happy is a choice.  I don’t happen to believe that it’s an overnight choice or as simple as a pithy poster, but I do think that it’s about making choices that lead you to your best and highest self. And I’m pretty sure that no one’s best and highest self includes bitterness, rage, or vindictiveness.

9.   Dating — searching for that “just right” relationship — should be a side dish at your life’s table, not the main course.

I know of a woman who, when she is single, attacks dating like a part-time job.  She goes out almost every night, she attends a wide variety of functions, and she devotes countless hours to online dating. And you know what?  She’s never single for very long.  But you know what else?  She doesn’t have much of a life outside of her relationship and her work and familial obligations.  She never really took the time to develop one after her divorce, despite the fact that her lack of an individual life was one of her primary complaints in her marriage.  Now, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I would suspect that this doesn’t bode well for her 5 or 10 years down the road in a long-term relationship.  See, it seems to me that the people who maintain the longest and best relationships are ones who are partners in life, not conjoined twins. So start right now, when you’re first dating after your separation, to build the life that you want to have.  Fill it with people and hobbies and experiences that feed your soul.  The rest, including a great relationship, will likely follow.  And if it doesn’t?  Well, at least you’ll have that great life you made for yourself!

10.  Love is not a race.

I remember when my girls were babies, and some of the moms were hyper-competitive about when their children had hit various milestones — sitting up, crawling, walking, talking.  Around that time, I saw a movie in which one of the characters pointed out that none of that mattered because none of us as adults still wears diapers or drinks from a bottle.  Everybody gets there at their own pace, but they do eventually get there.  And simply doing it first doesn’t mean you do it best.  I’m pretty certain this applies to relationships, too.

Bonus Tip:  You will be okay.

There have been many moments in the last few years during which I have quite seriously contemplated how many times a single heart can break.  The answer? Infinitely.  But no matter how many disappointments we might suffer or tears we might shed, somewhere on the other side there is a place called “Okay,” and we’ll all get there someday.  All we have to do is want to.

So I guess I’ve learned to just slow down, smell the rose bushes, drink the pinot grigio, and learn as much as I can from this journey.  Because while I can manipulate the variables and control for some factors, the outcome of the dating experiment is beyond my control.

And yours.

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Filed under dating, divorce, internet dating, love, personal growth, relationships, single mom

thomas murray: the bad penny who always turns up

In the midst of a weekend of unexpected encounters, this appeared on my blog comment list for my post thomas murray:  a cautionary tale:

“honestly, you are a c*nt… most of us can’t belive you since you are lostin the landscape and he hasn’t mentioned you, so be gone you fucking c*nt of a human. HE knows who you work for and he ruins lives…so just wait… he knows everything..do you really want him giving up you secrets?? No worries they are close. so many people are regulated and on top of who you are. The man you chose to make words with, isn’t just any man.

JKR”

[Blogger’s note:  I left in the misspellings and bad grammer.  Just for fun.}

Oh, Thomas. Surely you give me more credit than this? Surely you realize that I am smarter than you, and that anything you attempt to do to me will only come down on you tenfold? Yes, you know where I work, but no, you don’t actually know my secrets. You know what you think are my secrets, but again, please don’t discount my intelligence. Did it ever occur to you that I shared “secrets” with you to test your mettle? To see your responses and determine your strength as a man and integrity as a person? Are you so certain — even now — that you were not played, discovered and discarded?

And be careful, dear Thomas, whom you threaten. I have far too many people who love me in positions of power beyond your imagination who could make you seriously regret even threatening to harm me. Do not forget where I was born and raised, nor whom I grew up alongside. Always understand that my goodness has, and always will, trump your evil, and that even people with little conscience and too much power value goodness. So please, put the keyboard down and back away slowly before you or someone who used to love you gets hurt anymore. I know exactly who I’m dealing with and have made all the necessary accommodations. Unlike you, I am not impulsive or sloppy. I have been waiting for you to make a threat such as this — and do you realize that using the internet to do so makes it an interstate crime and therefore under federal jurisdiction? 🙂 Oh, Thomas, you really are the idiot I took you for. It’s almost entertaining.

I am further disappointed, my narcissistic friend, to see that you have not reconsidered your excessive drinking and associated behaviors. I would have thought that your Puerto Rican exploits might have given you pause to perhaps limit your imbibing of your precious rum.  But alas, your hubris once again outweighs your common sense.  What a pity.

For those of you who are relatively new to the fun game of Thomas pretending to be someone else, I know this is Thomas for several reasons… many of which I will not reveal, but here’s a fun little tidbit: After Thomas’ ill-conceived and even worse-executed jaunt to Puerto Rico with Jenni, a little searching uncovered a blog he’d been writing for www.usedboatyard.com. (Okay, so maybe he didn’t exactly own all those yachts; maybe he was simply the hired help with grandiose ideas of his own importance…) Particularly telling was this post, in which he even references his trip to Puerto Rico and the “unforeseen issues” that arose on that trip (those being, presumably, Jenni’s drugging, subsequent abuse, and his carefully constructed house of cards collapsing around him). As you’ll see, the writer is none other than the writer of this lovely comment.  However, the writer of usedboatyard post was previously identified as “T.” and used the same IP address as Thomas did for his infamous (and fake) blog, “Morning Wood,” as well as other past and current blogs. After the Puerto Rico debacle was revealed, he pulled down the blogs he’d been writing at the time and changed the blogger name on the usedboatyard site to DD. I expect now he’ll change it to something else and assume that we are all too stupid or unaware to connect the dots.

Thomas also attempted to post a comment on my post there’s no place like home, to gallantly warn Pete that I am “c*nty.” I’m not sure that’s even a word, or just Thomas’ poor vocabulary waving at us again.   Also, am I the only one to have noticed that, for a man who preached excessively about the importance of “being a gentleman,” he has routinely shown himself to be anything but?  I’m fairly certain that most gentleman don’t publicly describe anything or anyone as “c*nty.”  And I don’t know about you, my readers, but I find Thomas’ predilection for referring to himself in the third person exceptionally tiresome. Really, Thomas, would you please just humor us all and refrain from that particular sin? It’s really quite annoying, and an immediate indicator of a simple mind.

Anyway, in continuing fulfillment of my promise to keep writing as long as he keeps preying, I add this post to the growing category of “Thomas Murray,” and I will no longer hope aloud that he goes away. I have given up on his reformation and so only hope now for word to spread to the extent that he is always thwarted. So, ladies be warned and be vigilant. Remind your friends to approach men they meet on the internet – and all men who seem too good to be true – with a heavy amount of skepticism. It’s not because they are not amazing women deserving of something too good to be true; it’s because men of that ilk are ridiculous and, worse, potentially dangerous. Don’t be fooled and don’t be taken in. Our best protection is each other.

P.S. — One last thing:  It was a delightful source of giggles that Thomas has finally adopted a moniker that suits him — “JKR,” which one can only assume is a shortened version of JOKER.  Yes, I believe that is about right.  Of the Batman/Jack Nicholoson, ridiculous-mutation-of-a-human-variety.  If others of you have additional ideas as to what JKR might stand for, I await those with bated breath!

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Filed under dating, internet dating, relationships, single mom, thomas murray

welcome back, thomas murray… or shall I call you “TJ” now?

Nothing would make me happier than to never mention his name again.

But he leaves me no choice.

Thomas Murray has resurfaced.  A few days ago, I received this comment on the post “thomas murray, epilogue“:

Well, it was June 21st that I met “T.J.” Pennsylvania. He was very friendly and then overly friendly. Something uncomfortable about him so I googled him and found your very valuable information. He said he works for PPL in Allentown. Be careful and keep this info coming to protect our sisters out there.

Then, this morning, this appeared, from a different reader:

I thought you would like to know that he has surfaced in Pennsylvania outside of Allentown. He joined my singles social group (I am the leader) and immediately tried to charm some of the female members. We had a “funny” feeling about him, did some research and found your blog. I kicked [him] out of the group and warned the other groups he is a member of. Thanks for sharing this!

As the title of my epilogue post suggests, I had hoped that would be my last installment in the pathetic tale that is Thomas J. Murray.  But apparently, it is not to be….

It would seem that Tommy has been a very busy boy.  A few months ago, I received several emails from a couple of different women in the Virgin Islands.  The first was a woman who was involved with him and sickened by reading the blogs about his escapades.  I heard from her only once and have no idea if she continued the relationship.  The second woman had a friend who was involved with him and she (the writer) was suspicious and nervous about him, and somewhat frightened for her friend.   Sadly, the blogs that Jenni and I have written confirmed her suspicions, and her friend broke off the relationship, heartbroken.  The women appear to be separate incidences of Tommy mayhem (based on details provided in their emails).  Both asked that I not write about them at that time or in any detail.  So I didn’t.

But I wondered….

And now this.

So Tommy has relocated to Pennsylvania (What?!  No chateau in the French countryside as he promised me???).  I am a huge fan of Pennsylvania, as my family roots are there and I attended college there, but, let’s be honest, isn’t Allentown a little bourgeois for an international financier and renowned playboy?  I can only wonder what his new persona is.  Who is this “TJ” person?  What story is he selling the probably lovely and smart women he is romancing?  How long before he snaps?

He is apparently employed at PPL Corporation in Allentown, PA.  Hmmm… but what about his glamorous job ferrying around multi-millionaires vacationing at his “complex” in the Virgin Islands?  PPL is a respectable and reputable company — how in the world will he fuel his rum habit there?  Something tells me the salt of the earth folks in Allentown won’t be as impressed with his “I run with the bulls at Pamplona” schtick as the silicon bimbos vacationing in the Virgin Islands.

Oh Thomas, I can only hope that you will hit rock bottom soon.  That your wife discovered not only your transgressions but your true nature and booted you out of paradise.  That you will someday realize that you are not the smartest person in the room and women are not on this earth for your use and disposal.  That you will somehow become a good person, doing good deeds, and contributing in a productive manner to society.  And I hope that these things happen before you snap and become the monster of which I fear you are capable.

I have no idea why, after only two short weeks of correspondence, I was lucky enough to have discovered you and cut you out of my life. But I have thanked my angels many, many times, and prayed for the women less fortunate than myself who risked their hearts (and in some cases, their bodies) on loving you.  The only thing I can figure is that you came into my life just enough for me to become invested in the outcome of this story.  Because I am invested now.  I will keep writing, as long as you keep behaving this way.  Call it Catholic guilt. Call it the public servant in me.  Call it my sense of solidarity with other women.  Call it whatever you want.  You’re there and I’m here and I’ll keep writing.

Time to take a hard look in the mirror, my dear Thomas, and get some real help.  Put down the false personas and overblown stories.  Learn to be honest and authentic and real.

Please.

I would like nothing more than to never write another Thomas Murray blog post.

So stop giving me reasons.

“TJ” Murray

P.S. — If you arrived here looking for more information on Thomas, “TJ”, or Tommy Murray, please use the search function on my site and search Thomas Murray.  Good luck to you.

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the relationship we all want

My friend Katrina has a new boyfriend.  He is polite and well-mannered.  Easy-going and easy on the eyes.  Masculine, strong, and self-reliant.  Attentive and sweet and funny.  But — you knew there was a catch, didn’t you? — he’s also “country,” and that’s causing some mild hesitation on her part.

Being “country” is something of a Southern phenomenon.  In Katrina’s part of the world, being country means being a little rough around the edges, a little less polished, and in possession of an accent that offers living, breathing proof that the word drawl actually does have three syllables.  Country people not only use the ubiquitous Southern-ism of “y’all” but take it one step further with words like “yonder.”  Who still says “yonder” you ask?  Southern country folk, that’s who.

Tim and Katrina first met online, and Katrina went on their first date with the  “oh why the hell not” attitude, where you’re pretty fed up with the whole dating scene but you might as well go out as sit through another episode of Sex In the City. Tim surprised her. He caught her off-guard. She wasn’t prepared to like him, but she did. A whole lot.

As they began spending more time together, I could sense that she was holding back, intentionally down-playing their relationship. When I confronted her about it, she admitted that she was feeling a little bit nervous about introducing Tim to her friends. What if they didn’t like him? What if they thought he was too country for her and therefore wrong somehow?

Okay, so some of you are reading this and scoffing or judging her, but let’s remember where Katrina came from: We grew up together outside Washington, DC, in a leafy suburb of accentless upper-middle class families. Everyone we knew went to college, as had their parents before them, and many attended Ivy League universities. Ours was not a town of conspicuous wealth, but upward mobility was expected and usually attained. There were no “country people.” Anywhere. The men of our acquaintance wore well-tailored suits and ties to work with shiny shoes and brief cases. They drove sedans, played golf, and many of them had photos of themselves with the President on their study walls. Grammar and spelling and manners were non-negotiables.

Like most children, we didn’t realize until we were nearly adults that the expectations and mannerisms of our childhood were not universal. But unlike most children (and certainly most children in our neighborhood), we began bucking them early. In fact, our first loves were small town boys from a working class steel town 5 hours away. They smoked and drank and drove muscle cars. We giggled at their accents and they teased us about our prissiness. It was a mutual fascination that proved how strongly opposites can attract – at any age.

But in the pre-internet, pre-cell phone age, those relationships existed in the incubator of that small town we visited whenever we could. Rarely did the boys come to DC to see us. Our lives intersected, but did not integrate. So, we never really had to face the question of how to create a life with a person so distinctly different from us. And when we got older and began the earnest search for a husband, the expectations of our childhood came back in full force and guided us strongly toward the successful, well-educated, acceptable men we married…. and later divorced.

The lessons of our earlier years and the outcome of our marital decisions are not lost on Katrina. She recognizes Tim’s value and the ephemeral “rightness” of her earlier choices. But she is still struggling with how to integrate someone so different from her life into her life. What will her friends say? God forbid, what will her mother say??

But then I reminded her of something: Most of us don’t value the relationships we see around us based on the individuals in them, but based on the quality of the relationship those individuals create and share. In other words, at this age, when we think of the relationships that we envy, it isn’t because he’s so this or she’s so that, it’s because of how great they are together – how they treat one another, the energy exchanged between them, the love that is obviously shared. In my life, I am surrounded by several relationships that I admire and not one of them is in that category because I would want to be with that particular guy. No, they captured that status because I value relationship qualities that they demonstrate as a couple.

So, my point to Katrina was that, when her friends meet Tim, see how he looks at her and treats her and values her, and see how she relaxes with him and can so freely be herself and adore and be adored, they won’t see his pick-up truck or hear his accent. They’ll be too busy cheering that she’s finally found an awesome guy who is worthy of her. And any “friend” that is focused on his country-ness probably has enough relationship problems of her own that Katrina should steer clear of that individual’s opinion anyway.

Who knows where Tim and Katrina will end up. Maybe the novelty of the attraction will wear off and they will discover that they are truly opposites, without much in common. Or maybe they’ll find that the surface differences conceal a deeper understanding and a shared value structure that will enable them to go the distance. Either way, whatever happens between them yonder in the future will likely have nothing to do with his twang.  And everything to do with whether they have the stuff that makes the kind of relationship we all want.

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thomas murray, epilogue

I have been waiting to write this post until the sad missives stopped arriving, and I believe that day has finally come.  The stream of emails to my inbox from hurt or deceived women has ceased.  Jenni is healing and has moved on.  Our blogging community proved itself capable of surrounding and protecting our own.  Thomas Murray, and all his ridiculous, self-aggrandizing attempts at dazzling (and possibly victimizing) women searching for their heart’s love, is a pathetic chapter I will be glad to close.

But not without some final words.

Sometime ago I received an email from a woman I will call “Kay.”  I am choosing to relate her story here because it demonstrates that Thomas’ approaches and avenues are varied and adaptable.  Kay, like a lot of women, found my Thomas Murray posts through a Facebook friend who had also had dealings with Thomas at some point in the past. (Is it just me or are there an exhausting number of such women?!  How in God’s name does he keep track? I’m envisioning a massive Excel spreadsheet…)

But I digress.

Thomas contacted Kay via Yahoo Personals sometime in 2006, using an alias of “Noah.”  She was living in Texas; he in Oklahoma.  She had no idea he was married, and they began “a whirlwind romance.”  She shared some of his loving and romantic phrases with me, and they were easily recognizable as his trademark “love bombing” technique.  (One of my commentators coined that term and, frankly, I freaking love it.  Makes me smile every time….)  According to Noah/Thomas, he was divorced, with two sons, and his ex-wife worked for his mother in their family-owned cosmetic import/export business dealing with high-end department store cosmetic brands. [Note to liars:  pick something you know something about.  There is no import/export business for department store cosmetics.]

Fortunately for Kay, the “in-person” portion of their romance was abruptly interrupted when he told her that his company was relocating him to the Middle East to “stop bad people from doing bad things.”  (Btw, I’m laughing so hard right now I can barely type.  Oh, Thomas, you are nothing if not entertaining!)  They tried to stay in touch, but Kay decided that the relationship didn’t have enough to keep it going.  They agreed to be friends and that seemed to be the end of it.

Reality check:  Sometime in late 2006 or early 2007, Thomas and his family relocated to the Virgin Islands, where they purchased the small resort building that they currently own and manage.  So, unless the Iraqis surreptitiously invaded St. Thomas without the U.S. press or government noticing, it’s a pretty sure bet that he moved to paradise and not a war zone.  But more on his war zone activities later…

Fast forward to 2011: Kay and Thomas stayed occasional email friends over the years, until last spring, when their emails increased in frequency.  Kay reports that Thomas had dramatically changed in the years since she’d really known him, becoming more aggressive and bossy and critical.  She relates how he immediately began offering her “advice” concerning the improvements she needed to make in order to be worthy of him (for those of you keeping track of red flags, this is a big one).  She also noted that he had lost a great deal of weight, which he attributed to the injuries he’d suffered from being ambushed in the Middle East and taking on shrapnel.  Once again, I’m chuckling so hard typing is difficult… Thomas never was one to waste a perfectly good lie.  Might as well get as much mileage as possible out of it, I guess!  As a side note, Kay surmises that he actually had lap-band surgery in the intervening years, as his diet was consistent with the post-surgical maintenance recommended for that procedure.  I find this small point particularly hilarious, given Thomas’ brutal assault on others’ lack of self-discipline….  Guess we all need a little help once in a while, eh, Thomas?  It was also during this time that Thomas began pressuring Kay to meet him in….. <drumroll, please>….  beautiful, sunny Puerto Rico!  She declined, telling me that his “life coaching” had turned her off and she simply stopped communicating with him.

Lucky, lucky woman, no?

Kay, as well as others I heard from, commended Thomas’ excellent taste in women as his one redeeming quality.  I would like to second that sentiment.  Loudly.  I have heard from some very articulate, intelligent women whose email signatures suggest impressive professional achievements.  At least he has that going for him.  What a shame he’ll never be worthy of any of those women.

A final reminder:  Ladies, be careful.  Noah/The T/Thomas/Tommy… a chameleon changes his colors, but not his nature.  I don’t care what his name is, if he’s love bombing you and he’s never met you, proceed with extreme caution.  If he really thinks you’re amazing, you “feel like home” to him, and he’s never met anyone like you, he’s going to be willing to hang tough while he earns your trust. We’re grown-ups now; we have to take care of ourselves and each other.  The Thomases of this world are the “bad guys doing bad things.”  And, in a dogfight with those “bad guys,” my money is on the smart, determined woman every. single. time.

And on that note, I close the book on Thomas Murray.  Good riddance to bad rubbish.

The End.

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call me crazy

Go ahead.  Call me crazy.  It’s likely you won’t be the only one….

I spent last evening — Valentine’s Day — with Mr. Airplane.  And it was — much as I expected — perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

I’d never been to his home before but he wanted to cook for me.  When I arrived, he busied himself opening a bottle of my favorite wine, while I wandered through his home, admiring it.  He has a truly beautiful home, full of dark woods, rich textiles, and beautiful art.  Everything was tasteful and well-appointed, impressive for a divorced man who’d moved in with nearly nothing.  Over our wine, he presented me with a beautiful blooming pink cyclamen and a sweet but funny Valentine.  Then, after a toast, it was on to dinner:  seared tuna sashimi with sticky rice, homemade spring rolls, and garnishes of avocado and strawberries, along with an Asian-inspired side salad with orange sesame dressing.  And if the food hadn’t won me over, the presentation would have:

Now, I don’t know about you, but my cooking never looks like this, special occasion or not.  Once again, I have managed to find a man whose culinary skills far outpace my own.  But that’s okay, I’m supposed to be learning to let someone take care of me and be nice to me, right?

But I digress….

After a candlelit dinner and some nice conversation, we cleaned up the dishes together and then settled in front of the fire to watch a surprisingly endearing romantic comedy, share some more wine, and snuggle.  When the movie ended, it was getting late, but he walked me to his grand piano and played for me.  He is a classically-trained pianist who plays entirely by ear and improvisation.  I sat in awe as his fingers moved deftly over the keys, easing from them songs of his own composition, classical favorites, and contemporary pop songs that we sung along to.  With me yawning and still getting over my vicious cold, we decided to call it a night.  He walked me to my car, gave me a sweet kiss, and made me promise to text him when I got home safely.

Yes, it was perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

Let’s sum up, shall we?  Here is a man who is smart, successful, funny, friendly, confident, accomplished, emotionally-healthy, artistic, generous, attentive, kind, affectionate, and a good father.  He wants to bring me chicken soup when I’m sick, shovel my driveway when it snows, and fly me to another state for dinner sometime just because he can.   He’s tall and broad-shouldered and nice looking. And he likes me.  He really, really likes me.

So, sometime very soon, I need to figure out how to break up with him.

Because for all these wonderful things that he is, there is one wonderful thing he is not:  right for me.  Something is missing.  Some intangible nuance, some chemical attraction, some soul connection is not there.  It’s as if the universe created the perfect checklist of a man for me and forgot to include the heart connection.  I kiss him, and I feel nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  He touches me and, rather than press into him, I shift ever so slightly away.  When I hear from him, I am glad, but when I don’t, I don’t really notice.  I admire and respect and like him.  Under different circumstances, we could likely be great friends.  But right now, my heart and soul and body are not interested in anything more.  My brain would love to convince them otherwise, but they aren’t having it.  They’ve been fooled before and have some divorce papers to show for it.

So, because he really, really likes me, I have to break up with him.  He is a good man. A really good man.  He deserves a woman who tingles when he touches her and gets butterflies at the sound of his voice.  A woman who can’t wait to get his next text and share the rich and full life he has to offer.  He doesn’t deserve to fall in love with someone who will never truly love him back.  I’ve done that to men before and it was wrong.  And I’ve been in his shoes and it sucks even worse.

And so I have to break up with him.

Sigh.

Go ahead.  Call me crazy.  It’s likely you won’t be the only one….

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second date decisions

Second dates are like the ugly step-child of the dating world.  First dates get all the butterflies, and third dates get the naughty fun, but second dates… well they’re kind of just a placeholder it seems.

Except for me.

Second dates are a big deal to me.  I’m the Queen of First Dates.  Not many guys get to the second date stage.  And if you get to a third date with me, you’re almost assured of some kind of a continuing relationship.   I don’t do this on purpose, exactly.  In fact, I didn’t realize that I did it until a guy friend pointed it out to me after my divorce.  It just seems to take me roughly two dates to decide how I feel about someone.

My friends will attest that it’s not because I’m an overly harsh judge of people; I just know fairly quickly if I connect with someone.  Remember the scene from “When Harry Met Sally” in which the old lady explains that she “just knew” that her husband was The One, “the way you know about a good melon”?  Well, that’s me.  I pick my men like I pick my melons.

The second date tends to be the tipping point for me.  This is definitely not a hard-and-fast rule, but usually after the second date I have a pretty good idea of whether there’s enough of something there to continue exploring.  The times that I have felt “No, I don’t think so” and have persisted anyway have usually blown up in my face in spectacular fashion.  So, I’ve learned to trust that instinct.

I have two second dates in the next week.  Both Mr. Marathon and Mr. Airplane made it past the first date.  Both have my attention enough to warrant a second date, but not enough to issue a verdict.  Both are clearly interested thus far.  Both are nice and interesting and successful and smart and seem (as best I can tell on initial inspection) to be good melons.  But is there that special “something”?  That elusive something that sets one man apart from all the others of your acquaintance?  That something that makes you want to know everything about this person, inside and out?  That something that makes you wonder if, just maybe, this melon is The One?

I don’t know yet.  But I’ll bet I do a week from now.

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first date jitters

Well.

Here I sit.  Scrubbed, exfoliated, shaved, polished, curled, perfumed, clothed and accessorized a full 40 minutes ahead of when I need to be ready for my date with Mr. Airplane.  Me, who cannot be on time for her own party, is ready early.

I remember now why I don’t like being ready early.

Jitters.

I have done all the first date prerequisites, including primping of lots of areas that he will absolutely not see this afternoon.  But I can’t help it.  I always do this before a first date.  Remember, I grew up with a single mom.  Watching her paint her long, red nails moments before her date arrived, fanning her hands through the air frantically to dry the polish as he knocked at door… this is what I know of dating.  So I primp.  Always.

(The exception to this rule is when someone catches me off-guard with a spontaneous date request.  James did this — “Wanna go get a burger?” — when I was in running shorts and an old t-shirt.  So, no primping then.  I’m not so much of a primper that I’d turn down a good date just because I hadn’t applied my favorite lipstick yet.)

How much time I put into the primping process is directly correlated to how many butterflies the man in question has prompted prior to the date.  I had another first date last week, with Mr. Marathon.  He received moderate primping levels, and will likely not generate more primping action for our second date this week.  Mr. Airplane, on the other hand, is getting much higher levels of attention because he definitely has arrested my interest, at least so far.

And so I sit here, all feminined-out, with the first date nerves mounting.

The ridiculous thing about first date jitters for me is that I am typically not particularly invested in the outcome.  I think I approach first dates like a guy, because I can be really psyched for them, and when they don’t pan out, I’m totally okay with that, too.  I know for a fact that if I return home this evening after meeting Mr. Airplane, with absolutely certain knowledge that there will not be another date, I’ll simply crawl into my jammies, grab a glass of wine, and laugh along with Carrie and the Sex and the City girls.  No biggie.

So why the jitters???

Because…. you just never know, do you?  You just never know if this guy, on this day, will be the next guy to change your life.   We he be your next great love?  Will you look back someday on this afternoon as the one that changed everything?

Some first dates are just doomed to failure.  The first date I went on after Mike had stomped on my heart was one such casualty.  It had all the makings of a great story — he was a fireman who approached me in the bagged salad section of the local Safeway and asked me out.  He looked awful hunky in his fireman gear and he was ever so polite.  I said yes, did my primping, and off we went.  We spent four very nice hours together, talking about all sorts of things.  He told me I was amazing, he told me he’d never met anyone he felt so comfortable talking with, he told me how glad he was that he’d worked up the nerve to approach me in the produce aisle.  Me?  I went home from that date and cried — no, sobbed — for hours.  All it did was make me miss Mike terribly.  My head knew better, but my heart ruled the show that night and that was the end of Mr. Fireman.

Other first dates start with low expectations and shatter your previous ceiling of greatness.  My first date with Parker was like that.  We met very late in the evening because I’d had to work, and I’d had a really difficult night at work (I was a cocktail waitress and the businessmen had a hard time keeping their hands to themselves….).  We went to a club to hear a band that turned out to be tone deaf and possessed sadistically loud amps for their guitars.  And then we couldn’t get a cab home and had to walk in the freezing rain for miles.  That date should have sucked, but instead we laughed the entire way through it, playing in the rain, and falling completely in love.  So, you never know.

Who knows that will happen with Mr. Airplane.  Will it be butterflies and love songs tonight when I return home?  Or jammies and TV?

Stay tuned….

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airplanes, marathons, and the albino crocodile

Here’s a news flash for you:  Life with a broken heart is no fun.

It’s like walking around with a dead weight in my chest.  I swear to God, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that my poor heart had congealed into a solid mass of brittle glass.

But nonetheless, somehow life is beginning to return to normal.  I have started going out again with friends, joking around with co-workers, and my patience with my children has returned to pre-break-up levels.  These are all very good signs.

Next step:  dating.

(I actually held my breath typing that last word.  Geesh.)

I know that I am not a fit partner for anyone right now.  I’m not so daft as to believe that, a few weeks on, I’m all good and it’s all past.  Nope.  I’m definitely not good and it’s definitely not past.  But I’m trying.  Honestly.

Here’s another newsflash:  I’m a picky dater.  A really, really picky dater.  I’m the queen of the “Thanks, but I’m not interested” button on match.com (although I’ve gotten better at using it since this fiasco).  I signed up and was perfectly content to just window shop for weeks before I even started a dialogue with anybody.

But again, life laughs at me.

So, instead, it has delivered two men who interest me quite a bit, even in my crippled emotional state.  Indeed, they interest me enough that I have even agreed to meet with each of them.

It’s crazy, I know.  But it’s also incredibly rare for someone to capture my attention beyond an email or two.

I considered telling them both no, that I was simply not ready to date (ahem, never mind that match.com subscription), and quietly sitting out my grieving period in the metaphorical shadows. But then this little voice in my head said:

“Have you completely lost your mind?  Maybe other people have neat little lives where they meet people when it’s tidy and convenient, but you don’t.  You’re the girl who fell in love with a man literally two days before he moved to the other side of the Earth for two years.  Get over yourself.  Go.  Have a nice time.  See what happens.”

And so I will.

Should something develop with either of these men, I will certainly be honest with them about my emotional situation.  I simply can’t be anyone other than exactly who I am right now or where I am right now, nor would I want to pretend otherwise.  And it should be their choice whether to wade into a relationship with me, when I’m still bruised from my last lap around the pool.  But that’s supposing that either of them still interests me after one date, which is, if we’re being frank, pretty unusual.

On the other hand, I’ve noticed that this might actually be great time to meet me.  I’m all softness and sweetness and sincerity right now.  I don’t have any energy for walls or barriers or games or overanalyzing anything.  I’m too numb to be needy and too hurt to be overeager.  I might well be perfect first date material right about now.  And now might be the perfect time for some great guy to swoop in and win me over with some small, gentle kindness, because, honestly, I’m on the lookout for small, gentle kindnesses these days.

As I’ve said before, one of the things that I actually like about online dating (I know, I know, it’s so unfashionable to admit to liking it!) is that I meet people completely outside my galaxy of experience.  One of the men who asked me out flies his own planes.  The other is a professional running coach (Googling him was a wee bit intimidating).  These are not men that I would ever have bumped into in my circles in town.  But now, at the very least, I’ll get to share a glass of wine with each of them and learn something I probably didn’t know before.  And what’s not cool about that, right?

Match.com also has its share (or more) of oddballs and creeps and garden-variety players.  My profile is currently being stalked by a man I went on one date with about two years ago.  He’s a former pro hockey player who spent the entire date talking about his “glory days” (his phrase, not mine) in the NHL and the minor leagues and how awesome the groupies were (just what every potential girlfriend wants to hear, no?).  Thirty minutes into the date, while I was planning my early exit, he put his hand up my skirt.  No kidding.  He emailed me tonight and told me he has a “fondness for me” and would like to make me dinner.  Something tells me that I’ll be expected to bring dessert in my panties…. Umm, no, thank  you.

Then there is the Eternal Graduate Student.  I went out with him once, and Annie actually did, too, a year later.  Sadly for him, we shared a single opinion (although, I think sweet Annie was even harder on him than I was!).  No subject is nearly as compelling to him as his own life and accomplishments.  And, to be honest, we live in a town of over-achievers.  He’s not all that special, and he’s definitely all that pompous.  But yes, he keeps winking at me.  Clue to Mr. PhD:  if you wink once and I don’t respond, I’m not interested.  Winking another time (or 3) isn’t going to change my mind.

But my favorite this week has to be the Wyoming rancher who has tried every means possible to communicate with me.  He’s a recent widower, and not a bad-looking guy at all.  But in his profile picture he is holding an albino crocodile.  I showed the picture to a friend, and she shot Diet Pepsi out her nose.  “I thought you were kidding!” she coughed.  Nope.  Not kidding.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.

But even the oddballs, creeps, and garden-variety players are still entertaining, when viewed from a safe distance.   And right now, I need all the entertainment I can muster.

So here I go.  Wish me luck.

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