This arrived today as a comment, but it's too good to be hidden away like that. It's written by a regular blog reader who calls herself Roodle. It made my day, and I think it will give a lot of hope and wisdom to others hoping to get married.
Hi again, Patty.
I'm dying to tell you about something that's happened in my life, largely due to your blog.
I'm in my mid-40's and still single, and I've been trying to figure out what I can do differently so that I have an easier time getting into a healthy, happy relationship and keeping it that way.
A couple of years ago, I decided to stop banging my head against a wall (also known as dating) until I felt confident that I could do things differently. I read a lot, attended a few personal-growth workshops, and practiced new ways of interacting with friends and family. All of this helped, and your blog has been one of the most important sources of new perspectives for me.
I could tell I was developing great new skills, and I knew that I needed practice at a higher difficulty level: with a man I was interested in. I was afraid, though, that I would be so invested in the future of the relationship that I wouldn't feel free to play around with my new skills. What to do?
A few months ago, I met a man I was very attracted to. He wasn't ready for a Relationship (meaning commitment and physical intimacy), because he's getting over the breakup of a long marriage. But he clearly liked me a lot.
Voila! A practice ground! We openly shared our goals. His: female companionship & distraction from his troubles. Mine: male companionship and practicing my new skills without worrying about our future together. We made only one commitment to each other: to stay in communication.
I could write so much about what I've learned! Here are some highlights.
While I can't exactly assume love, I can assume "like" and good intentions, and it's truly transformative. I've found that sleeping on things when I'm upset makes me much better at coming up with alternative ideas about why he did something.
Sometimes, what's going on is that he doesn't understand how important something is to me, so I let him know. Sometimes, what's going on is that he's just living his life and not thinking about me at that moment. That's reasonable. Sometimes, he's confused about his own wants and feelings. Those three probably cover most of the toughest situations!
As you've said in your posts, often it's not important to find out what was really going on. Just to think of innocuous or caring possibilities is enough.
I've always done a lot of ruminating about my relationships, but now it's productive. Either I think of enough positive possibilities that I reach peace, or I realize I can't think my way to peace and I decide to act. Either way, I can stop thinking about it -- aah.
I've learned that talking to my friends when I'm upset at him isn't necessarily helpful. Perhaps I can train them to help me think in the new ways, but for now, most of them do what I used to want them to: lay blame at his feet.
I've realized that, if he does something I don't like and does it only once, I can often just let it go. If it turns out to be a one-off, I'll be glad I didn't waste emotional energy on it. If it happens again, I can deal with it then.
Also, I've gotten plenty of evidence throughout my life that I stink at guessing what's going on with a guy. So I made a new rule: if I'm wondering, ASK. (Obvious, no? But really, I used to brood for a long time and get myself good and ticked off before I would talk to the guy. Great start to a conversation!)
I found that a good way to start a delicate conversation is to lay out the overall goal. In this situation, I said, "We both want to spend time together and enjoy it lot, right?" In a marriage, it might be, "We both want to have a rich connection and enjoy each other as much as we possibly can, right?" That reassures the other person that, even if the conversation gets tense, no one is looking for an out.
Every single time I've gathered my courage and asked him a question or broached a delicate topic, this particular man's response has been "I'm so glad you brought that up," or "Yes, that's important; let's talk about it." I know I can't expect that level of responsiveness from everyone, but it's great to have the reinforcement. And it's got to be in great part because of my more constructive approach.
I've also realized how important it is to accept reality, rather than engage in wishful thinking or avoid looking at the truth. It was freeing and relaxing to get clear about how small a space there is for me in his life. I was confused because he's so very happy to have me in his life. But once I sorted out his feelings from his availability to me, I could focus on how to be happy in light of that reality. I worked on filling my schedule with activities I enjoy; strengthening my connections with friends; and thinking about whether I might be ready for "real" dating again.
I am starting to feel ready to apply these new skills to a relationship with a potential future. It'll still be scary, but I really believe in the new approaches, and I really want a loving relationship.
I'm not sure what this man and I will become to one another if/when we stop being each other's boy- and girl-friend substitutes, and I'm not sure how each of us will feel about the transition, but it's just about time to find out. Staying true to my new approach as I talk with him about it will make it a rich and as-positive-as-possible experience.
Thank you for your generous sharing of your experience and wisdom, which has played such a big part in my growth!
And who else wants to join me in wishing Roodle the very best with her wonderful new skills?