Have you ever had that conversation in a relationship where it dawns on you that you shouldn’t really even be having the conversation? Or, to put it differently, you’re having a conversation, the very existence of which, should show that something is very wrong with the relationship. Yep, just had one of those. And, remember what I said in my last post? The part about breaking the rules? Well, I broke a big dating rule and I believe the Universe is now calling me out on it.
Enough about me, it is what it is, let’s talk about another dating rule. It just so happens that this rule is a rule only based on which dating rules book you read or depending upon which side of the dating bed you are on. Yep, it’s the ole to-shack-up-before-marriage-or-not dilemma. Some say yes, some say no. Before my recent experience, I was in the no camp. I’m now even further in the no camp. My take especially now is, “DON’T DO IT!”
I understand the rationale offered in favor of such an arrangement: economics, really discovering if you are compatible, you’re getting married anyway, and so on. But seriously, after having tried it, I have to wonder, did I really learn anything new about the person after living with this him or her for a year? I suspect not. I do know what the problems are going to be in this relationship and I also know that these are problems that aren’t likely to be tidied up any time soon if ever. So, while I’m dealing with what is most likely the most compatible and sustainable relationship I will ever be involved with in my entire life, I’m regretting in a big way the decision to move in and live together.
When you are dating a guy and not living together, if you arrive at that moment in time when it dawns on you that you are simply being used to fill a slot in the guy’s life, that almost everything and everyone is more important than you, and that spending time with you is not a real big priority to him, that you’re kind of just there as a convenience and not because you’re really anything special, you can easily just make the relationship disappear. You can say, “This really isn’t working for me anymore.” You can go on your merry way, sadder but wiser. In fact, if you’re not living together, you can simply stop picking up the phone and stop seeing the guy. Chances are good, if you dialed into the situation accurately, there won’t even be a discussion. The guy will simply evaporate, because if he’s really not that into you, it is likely he hasn’t noticed you much lately and he won’t notice your absence until one day that slot you filled in his life becomes apparently void. This could take eons for the guy to wake up to, if he ever does, and by that time you’ll be on to your Happily Ever After. But when you live together, you can’t simply make that person sitting across the breakfast table from you disappear.
Of course, there’s the obvious problem of dealing with splitting up possessions and figuring out who will be the one to move out. This becomes even more complicated if the guy is really into the convenience you provide for him but not into you. That’s a tricky situation to discern, because it looks like love, but it really isn’t love. It is made worse by the fact that he may even believe it is love, but it is a love of convenience not real love on his part. How I figured it out was through having a conversation with the guy when, had he really been into me, the conversation would never need to occur.
Let’s face it: as adults we have only so much time in a day or week. If you’re a guy, with past marital baggage, part of your packing up has to do with getting and staying employed so that you can pay child support. If you lose your job, getting another job can be tough so you take what you can get even if it means working some evenings. Nobody can fault a guy for that. So, let’s say, after two years of work you finally land a decent job (two of them in fact) which will help you get caught up on the back child support and help pay some of your living expenses. You’re not going to be flush, but you’re at least not going to be going backward financially any longer. You’ll still be dead before you ever dig out from under the financial disaster, but now you can begin contributing something even if it is just a little bit. Problem: Your new job is going to wreak havoc on your social life because now you have to work five nights a week. You are involved in volunteer community activities that occur only during the evenings, you have kids who live out-of-state two and a half hours away and you’d like to see them on occasion. You live with your girlfriend who has supported you for the last year. You have two evenings a week, how will you fit everyone else in on two nights a week? Obviously, the job take priority, right? How are you going to rank kids, volunteering and your girlfriend so that you can spend time in each of these areas or will you have to drop something off the list of activities?
I don’t know about you, but I only have a limited amount of time and energy. There are loads of things I would love to do and be part of that I am simply unable to do because I have to work, I have to take care of my kids, I have to pay bills and manage a household, and I have to keep myself in shape and I’ve chosen to be in a relationship with another human being. There isn’t a lot of time or energy left over after that to do anything more with any consistency or to do it well. My significant other does not see it this way. He thinks he can do it all in two nights a week. The practical reality is, he cannot. I know this, because if he tries to fit all the other demands in to two nights a week, without dropping something that means, I get no priority time. Yep. Here’s how he prioritized that list:
1. Job (so far, no problem)
2. Community volunteer activities
He is now out of any extra time because this community involvement requires time out several evenings a week. Does anyone else see a problem here?
Most adults would recognize that time is a lot like money. Unless you have unlimited amounts of it (which most of us don’t) you’ve got to make choices as to how you spend it. The choice to spend your time or money on one thing, is the same choice against spending it on another.
In the conversation yesterday, it was clear that he’d chosen the volunteering with his discretionary time, therefore, he chose not to be with me. I don’t think this is accidental on his part. I think he’s telling me loudly and clearly exactly how important I am to him. He’s basically written me out of the schedule of his life. The truth is if I want to go and do things, I’m going and doing these things alone. He made that choice.
It was during this conversation that I realized once again, that living together before marriage, is just not for me. As I sat there, listening to him babble on with his excuses, trying again to back pedal and undo something that can’t be undone, I realized that if we weren’t living together this would be an easy fix. I would just tell him, “This isn’t working for me.” I would hang up the phone and then never see or talk to him again.
Here’s how I view it:
Look, if I’m going to be alone, then I really want to be alone. I’m not afraid of being alone and I don’t need someone in my life filling space or pretending to play a part. If he’s not going to be around to do the things that people in relationship do, he needs to go. I don’t need a roommate and I don’t want another child. He’s behaving like both. He’s certainly not behaving like a boyfriend or a partner and clearly I’m not his “significant” other. I’m just his other. He needs to quit taking up space in my life for his convenience and allow someone else who might really want to spend that kind of time with me to enter my life. If he’s unwilling to participate with me, he doesn’t get to live with me and benefit from that arrangement.”
Like I said, if we didn’t live together, it would be easy to make this thing just disappear. As it is, it’s going to be difficult to make this go away. So, lesson learned for me. The living together thing was more trouble than it was worth. I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.
You’ve heard of the Third-Date Rule, the Schedule-By-Wednesday rule and the If-It-Smells-Like-Cologne-Leave-It-Alone Rule. There is a plethora of information out there about “The Rules” of dating. The Guys have their rules. And the The Gals have their rules too. I, personally, happen to hate rules, but I recognize a need for their existence, in most areas of life. I do appreciate the fact that there is a rule against someone breaking into my home and helping themselves to the crap in my humble abode which I had to scrimp and save for in order to buy something to sit on off Craigslist. I do appreciate the rule that says cars can’t do 55 on the street outside my home where my kids walk to school. When it comes to dating, it took me a long time and a great deal of disappointment and pain to realize that possibly there is some merit to “The Rules” even if I don’t really like them.
When it comes to dating, every time I broke a “Rule”, it didn’t go well. That’s my experience. I realize it might not be everyone’s experience. That’s okay. I just know that I tend to be one of those who, by some freakish will of the Universe, is not allowed to get away with breaking or bending the rules without getting a big emotional hand slap. If you can break the rules and get away with it in your dating life, then more power to you. You are, I suspect, one of the lucky few.
In her post about Dutch Dating, “Over 50 and Single”, a bloggy friend of mine suggests we all break the “He Pays” rule and try going dutch when dating. She offers up some great reasons in favor of going dutch on dates. These are decent valid reasons, and they make a great deal of sense, but I’d like to suggest that there is another side to consider when going dutch.
Let me begin with saying, I personally, am not in favor of splitting the bill on a first date, or even the second, or third or even later. I’m not saying I’d never split the tab or pick it up completely, but I’m certainly, as the female, not going to start there. My rationale is only partly based in some traditional gender bias, but mostly my rationale has to do with what it communicates to both parties when this happens along with the basic economics of the situation. Remember, I’m coming from the perspective that when it comes to dating, I hate that rules exist, but I grudgingly have to acknowledge that, where I’m concerned, these rules seem to work when I follow them and disaster results when I don’t.
For starters, let’s make some assumptions. Let’s assume we’re talking about a first date. It can be a blind date, it can be an online meet up; it can be a coffee date or a full-on expensive meal. Those really don’t come to bear here. It’s a first date, the guy’s decent, you might consider dating him again. You might even consider a second or third or more date with him. You don’t want to blow this, because you’d like to see where this one will go and you want to give it every possible chance of working out. If these are the beginning premises, then don’t offer to split the tab. Here’s why.
Let’s consider what this simple act communicates. Women believe, or like to believe, that this is a magnanimous gesture on their part. Men, on the other hand, do not see it this way. Instead, they see this as a slight to their manhood or as a gesture of competitive feminism. Much as I hate to admit this dark side of the male psyche, men do have a sense of entitlement. As my friend at Over 50 and Single surmises, men do equate paying for dinner as a ticket to ride, if you know what I mean. They also moderate this expectation with their awareness of the 3-Date Rule so they accept that it might be at least three meals before they are riding anything. The crazy American male also equates his manhood, or lack thereof and size thereof, with his ability to pay for the date. In short, a guy feels good about himself if he has the earning potential to pay for a date and not worry about how he’s going to put gas in his car. And the fancier the date, the more manly he perceives himself. This isn’t about you, Ladies, it’s about him. He’s sees himself as a “Big Guy” regardless of the reality, if he can throw some money around to show Pretty Lady a good time. And society only furthers this. Face it, we all feel great about being able to pay without worry, especially if we are divorced and over 40, but guys do have the added societal pressure to deal with which women do not experience.
So, consider how the guy might perceive the situation when you offer to rob him of a socially accepted manner of him proving his manhood to you, when hopping into the sack is not yet a viable option. Yes, Ladies, when you offer to split the bill on the first date, you have essentially without saying anything at all told the guy, “I just want to be friends.” At minimum, you’ve created the question in the guy’s mind of your availability for anything other than friendship and you may have set up a point of competition. You’ve certainly deflated something and robbed him of feeling like a man. Sure, you might earn more than he does. You might be a competent, self-motivated, successful woman with your own career and you might be capable of paying for the meal or date ten times over without batting a false eyelash, but none of that matters to the guy. What matters to the guy is how he feels when he’s with you. If you offer to split the tab, you run the risk of premature emasculation. It’s not a great way to start a relationship.
Beyond the impact that offering to split the tab has on the fragile male psyche, let’s consider the economic implications of the situation. This is a case of some simple mathematics. A guy pays for a date. On the high end, where I live that might top out at $125 if you include drinks and dinner only. If you add to that tickets to the theatre, we might push $200, add a little in for gas and a viagra prescription he won’t use but hopes to (remember the 3rd date rule?) and the date might cost around $250-$300 on the very high end and that is probably not the norm. Most first dates are going to be coffee or a dinner ranging from maybe $10 to $90 including tips. (For the record, if a guy is spending upwards of this on a first date, it’s a yellow flag. He’s desperate or going to insist rudely on some sort of payback. Don’t accept the date. I’m not going to discuss this here as it’s enough topic for it’s own post later. Just trust me on this one.) Given that this date is in the realm of normal propriety, you’re worth every dime of that and you should not be expected to pay one cent, not even to cover the tip. This is not a business lunch. We’re not two friends out to catch up on old times. We are two people of the opposite sex considering something that might become a romantic involvement. The woman deserves to be treated very well. She’s worth it. If you don’t believe that, you don’t need to be dating. Okay, maybe it sounds harsh and spoiled to expect a guy to foot the bill for all of that just because she’s female and worth it, but let’s discuss what the woman has to pay out to go on the same exact date.
First off, for the woman to look like a woman, instead of one of the guys, she has to pay and she has to pay big even before the date transpires. Removing the unibrow and prepubescent teen boy peach fuzz costs money. It cost money on an ongoing basis because it isn’t just a one-time event. Further, we all know that men are attracted to women who are independent and capable of taking care of themselves, but they don’t want to be reminded of her skills in the garden by seeing evidence of it under her fingernails at dinner. Grubby hands detract from that little black number she had to purchase for this date. Manicures to remove this grime and keep those hands looking pretty add up to hundreds. Keeping those pretty toes in the pink ready for the open-toed shoes that go with the little black number also costs some serious moohlah. And, there is of course the cost of hair color, cut and make up. Of course, let’s not forget to figure the cost of the little black number we are wearing and the cute open-toe stilletoes along with the darling clutch to match. If she’s headed out for a coffee date, the cute jeans she’s wearing will along exceed the cost of the date; add to this the shoes, blouse and cost of personal maintenance that still must occur to prevent her from looking like him. Even if you shop at discount stores, the cost a woman incurs so a man can have the privilege of dating someone who looks feminine and smells pretty far exceeds what most men will pay even in three dates. Whether or not he gets to ride, the expense of one date is already stacked more heavily on the woman’s side, before she’s even gotten the invite. She should be able to enjoy being pampered and treated to a nice meal, even if it is just a coffee or drink date without having to feel pressure to offer to pay half or put out. Men understand this and most of them don’t have a problem with it. It’s the women that do. I think, when we as women forget to consider how much we invest financially in dates even before we go on the date, we devalue ourselves and diminish him. I don’t like that this is the dynamic, but it happens. Every time, I’ve offered or split the bill, there never was a second date. I often ended up being “just friends” with the person. Once you are placed in the “friends” category, it’s pretty tough to move to the romance category with that person. Ask the guys; they know this is the case. I don’t want a serial dating experience; I want a relationship. I won’t split or offer to split on the first date, and if the guy suggests it, he won’t get a second date with me. I’m just sayin’.
There is, however, one exception to every rule. I’d break this Don’t-Go-Dutch rule in a heartbeat under one circumstance and one circumstance only. If I’m seriously not ever going to go out with the guy again. If I wanted to make very sure he never called me again, I would offer to pay half or all of the bill on the first date. I would start there only if I wanted to send a very clear message to the guy that he just did not even come remotely close to getting considered for that rare and precious opportunity to be considered as the one and only bell ringer in my life.
Let’s start with a quick quiz, shall we?
- Have you purchased a storage container for an item you did not yet have? “My new baskets will be perfect for those cashmere throws….I aspire to own one day.”
- Do you need a mild sedative upon entering/leaving The Container Store?
- Do you have a visceral reaction when you see those catalog pictures of well-stocked, organized pantries?
Just had to share this new blog. I think she’s going to be a lot of fun to read. I’m not 50 and Single…yet…but I kind of don’t think that matters much. Her experiences parallel my own very closely. I hope you’ll go check her out. No matter what your age or marital status, you’ll be amused and entertained.
Have you ever been so convinced about something, so certain you were right about something, that you’d stake your life on it? Ever felt so passionately about your convictions only to realize after some time had passed that what you were so insistent upon really doesn’t even register on your radar anymore? I suspect this is part of the maturing process. I used to think that I could reach a certain age and suddenly I’d just be mature. Life experience tells me, instead, that the process of maturing, growing up, never really ends. At least, I hope this is true…or else I’m in big trouble!
The things that really twisted my diaper into knots in those few years immediately following my divorce, no longer phase me now. In fact, the reverse is true. The situations that I was so opposed to back then, are ones, which I relish now, because they really give beneficial information to the shrewd dater. Early in my travels through the Divorced and Dating District of Planet Post-40, so many things bothered me. Not everything bothered me; just certain things; like when guys would respond to your profile with a single word, “Hey” or more commonly ‘hey’. Those situations, as annoying as they were at the time, were really minor irritations. I learned quickly to roll my eyes and use the delete key. Eventually, I didn’t even bother to roll my eyes.
Looking back now, though, I find it almost humorous how angry I became when someone would dump me via email or text. These Digital Dumps or Dismissals, came in two forms. The first was the one where I met up once with the guy. He apparently wasn’t feeling it, but still had the decency to email me and thank me for my time. Then he told me he didn’t think it was a fit. Those instances were rare. They were, however, impressive. You have to admire a guy who treats you thoughtfully and respectfully that way, when it would have been easy and acceptable to not ever call back. No, these kind of dismissals didn’t irk me at all.
The Digital Dump I’m talking about came after you dated the guy regularly for a month or two; maybe even developed some semblance of intimacy with the guy or even introduced him to the kids. Then, out of the blue (it’s really never out of the blue, but it does seem that way at times), you’re reading a good-bye text or email. Worse; he just goes silent. I hate to admit that early in my dating days (daze?) I allowed these kinds of scenarios to waste a great deal of my time and energy. Admittedly, I felt caught off guard, hurt, disappointed, and deeply offended that people were so disrespectful. I felt I deserved better treatment. I felt all of humanity deserved better treatment, by God.
Fast forward nearly 5 years, many digital dumps later, and my perspective is very different. First, I’m much better at recognizing the signals that a Digital Dump is on the way. Guys are really not that complicated to figure out. When they are crazy about a woman, they know it, the world knows it, and, surprise, the girl knows it. Next, I’m less willing to waste time in a mediocre relationship, when a really fantastic one is out there. I’ve always really felt this way, the problem is, I couldn’t exactly distinguish mediocre from fantastic. I know that sounds crazy. It probably is crazy. I just know that the process of dating and getting dumped, help me clarify what didn’t work for me. This was essential to developing my ability to recognize something fantastic when it finally came along. Finally, I stopped taking everything that happened to me so darn personally. I learned that it wasn’t all about me. I’m still learning that lesson, but, truthfully when someone else dumped me, it reflected more poorly on them than on me. I did feel rejected at times. That hurt. More often, as time wore on, it became clear to both of us that it was just the smartest thing for us to do. I no longer anticipated the disaster with dread. In fact, I no longer viewed it as disaster. When I recognized the signs, I took on a totally different perspective. When I began realizing that things were not right, for whatever reason, I didn’t waste time analyzing it, I simply took the hints as great information, saved myself some time and energy and moved on. This change in attitude was most notable with the last guy I dated.
I met him through Match.com. I’d long ago given up the free sites. eHarmony had been a complete waste of time and financial resources. I’d just been digitally dumped by a guy who’d spent the better part of the year getting my attention and, having acquired it, spent the better part of his income trying to impress me. I was nearly done with dating. I decided to sign up for one month and give it one last go, before resigning myself to a life of happy, carefree spinsterhood. As usual, the emails clogged my inbox. After hitting delete on all the candidates who couldn’t spell, only winked, or simply said, “hey”, I was left with about three decent candidates. I met them all and he was the last one. We met up casually after work for drinks one day at a popular and trendy bar in the downtown district. Drinks turned into dinner. One date turned into 4. And then next thing you know he’s talking about making whatever it was we had an exclusive relationship. Everything seemed like a go, until I agreed that an exclusive relationship was a good idea. At that point, our times together radically diminished to the point where it was a twice a month (if that) event. By this time, I knew the signs. Clearly, he wasn’t really into me. He just wanted convenience. He just wanted me there when he felt like it. A dump or a dismissal was on the way. Instead of waiting for it with dread, I faced the reality. The current situation was not acceptable to me. Exclusivity ended. I stopped returning his calls. I went on with my life. We did end up having one last phone conversation eventually, at his insistence. I refused to allocate any more of my life to him than that. He disclosed, as guys do when women finally let them talk, that he was just not that into me. Not enough to want to see me more than a couple of times a month. Not enough to want to move the relationship forward. Not enough to do anything more than keep me from seeing others, but available for him at his convenience. Of course, he didn’t use those exact words, but by just listening to him calmly, he made it very clear what he was hoping to have. I could only respond with words that I’ve heard so many times before, “You know, that’s just not going to work for me. I think we should move on.”
Gone was my frustration at being treated disrespectfully. Gone was the disappointment that it hadn’t worked out into something really cool. Gone was the fear that I’d be spending my time alone for the rest of my life and, most importantly, gone was the feeling that I had somehow failed; that I was the one rejected. Instead, I felt good. I felt relieved. I felt empowered. It struck me that the frightened, angry, insecure person that I was a few years ago had changed. Maybe, it meant that, finally, in my 40′s… I was growing up.
One of the strange alien lifeforms existing on Planet Post-40 I soon discovered in the Dating District of this new world is the life form that feels no need to divorce before they begin dating. For some, the act of simply moving out of the house is reason enough to start dating others. These peculiar dating-but-not-divorced beings create problems for the divorced person who has their past baggage fairly well packed with no claim tickets at hand. I bumped into several of them while visiting the Divorce District of Planet Post-40, and each time the experience was not unlike being blindfolded at a haunted house and sticking your hand into some slimy, gooey slop. My instant reaction was to jerk my hand back, scream “Ewww!,” throw off the blindfold, and beat feet out of the place.
The first incident was the very first person I ended up dating after my divorce. We dated for just over a month before he decided to dump me via email, something that intensely aggravated me back then, and which now would merely garner the response, “Eh, good to know.” He was attractive, employed, owned his home, and had custody of his children. He was even fairly honest with me about his marital status. He was separated, and his divorce was in progress. This was four years ago, and I’m betting his divorce is still in progress today, never mind that since parting ways, I’ve seen him around with at least one other person that was not his wife. This man was just not emotionally ready to leave his wife. It came out in the way he talked about her…angrily…resentfully…bitterly…and all.the.time. Naive as I was, I didn’t see this as a problem early enough to do something about it…like end the situation. The inevitable happened; I experienced another strange reality to this World: digital dismissal of relationship.
The most bizarre and humorous incident was the guy who I met through friends from work. I did not meet him online. I never exchanged an email with him. This alien appeared completely out of the Face-to-Face (F2F) quadrant of Planet Post-40. Each year one of my friends hosts an elaborate Christmas party where nearly a hundred people end up attending her beautiful craftsman home tucked cozily away in the beautiful hills surrounding this valley where I live. This was an invitation only event. I met this man the second year I attended this party.
He was attractive, employed, intelligent, and exceptionally courteous. He was, as many of these aliens are, the stereotypical feminine ideal for a perspective first date. He’d noticed me the year before at the same party, but was unable to find a way to introduce himself to me before he discovered I left. The next year, he watched and the minute he saw me preparing to leave, he pounced. He offered to escort me to my car. It was -as he pointed out to his strategic advantage- snowing outside; I took the bait.
We ended up dating for about two months. Then my hand was figuratively dumped into goo, and I threw off the proverbial blindfold and saw the light.
I was introduced to the GOYA club.
It was now after Valentine’s Day, and we’d all met up at a small little pub to listen and dance to a fun band the hosts of the elite party knew. The band was good, the libations delish, and the ambiance of the place was warm as it glowed with a soft light that only happens in quirky little dive pubs in winter. It was all very romantic. As people tend to do when the situation is such, the talk and laughter became much more open than it might have otherwise. It was at this time that my friend brought up the topic of The GOYA Club.
“The what?” I asked, thinking I must be showing my supreme ignorance for not knowing what this club was they were talking about.
“The GOYA Club, “ they repeated laughing hysterically, “The Get Off Your Ass and file the papers club.”
And that’s how I learned that my date was separated (not divorced), had been for two years, but was nowhere near filing the divorce papers even though he had good income and was financially able. Then came that feeling again – slimy relational goo… me screaming, “Ew!” in a mixture of shock and anger…suddenly the blindfold is off and I’m running for the nearest exit. Well, that’s what the inner me did.
Very calmly and with a completely straight face I turned to him and said, “I’d like to go home now.” I hear that three months later he divorced his wife and less than six months after that he remarried. Bizarre. Guess he just wasn’t that into me. Better her than me.