Dating again (and some religion)

Pardon the absence from posting for a couple weeks. I’ve been busy.

Life, for the most part, has improved from what I’ve written about in my previous blogs. I no longer have anxiety attacks on a daily (or really, a near-consant) basis. They still happen, but not nearly as regularly.

I’ve started dating, which presented a whole new kind of anxiety, an almost welcome one. I’ve had to distance myself from the teenage mindset of dating- “will she like me? I have to agree with everything she says! If she doesn’t text me back within 10 minutes, does that mean she’s not happy with me anymore???” While this mode of thinking was most likely with me my entire life- I remember my first couple girlfriends in high school, and how I felt I had to do EVERYTHING in my power to please them, lest be left in the dust- this certain type of anxiety subsided while I was married. In those 10 years, I became complacent. We hardly ever fought, but when we did, we always ended with, “I’m not going to divorce you over this, I just want things to change…” Until we did divorce each other over those things. And there was a pervasive fear of failing a woman again that kept me resigned to being single. But once I was given that opportunity, and when I was ready to seize the opportunity, the fear came back and pounded my brain like a jackhammer.

I was fearful of not getting texts, but I was fearful of getting them. If she didn’t text me, was I rejected? How do I cope? If she did text me, how do I respond?

I was a complete idiot with the first two and a half girlfriends I had. Just like in high school, I combed through every word written. Was there a double meaning? Was there a hidden message I’m too dense to understand? When the first one asked suddenly about my religious affiliation- I fumbled. Like those personality tests in magazines or online, I am most like a Golden Retriever. I naturally try to please everyone and make everyone my friend. My greatest fear in life is pissing someone off. At the same time, my closest friends told me to BE MYSELF. Ironically, despite the fact that I found sudden freedom and time to be myself after the divorce, I just couldn’t be myself around women that I was sexually interested in. There was too much pressure, and I didn’t want to repeat my past.

None of my thoughts made sense. I couldn’t take my own advice and just proudly be who I was, because I wasn’t proud. I was ashamed of my failed marriage. I was ashamed of the situation with my house. I was ashamed that I had pretty much return to my pre-teen years as a result of all I had been through. The events that had changed me so suddenly could not have been reversed. In fact, I knew they were over and I had to move on. But part of the result was that my mental security blanket was burned enveloping the fires of what had happened. My marriage ended because she was tired of my insecurity, and now my insecurity had reached astronomic heights. Again, this is something I’ve always had with me, as I’d learn through therapy. But losing so much in such a short time doesn’t help. Being told by bosses to “try being happier” or “shit happens” doesn’t help. Nor did immersing myself in liquor. Either way, my insecurity was back with a vengeance, like a pissed off bully that was ready to degrade every action I made toward improvement. I didn’t need anyone to tell me I sucked, my own brain was very efficient at reminding me.

The euphoria of meeting a dating interest again was accompanied with the nervousness of never living up to the man this lady wants. I was confused about what it is that a woman would want, and why any woman would want to give me a chance. But still, there was a euphoria. I got a hold of that insecure bully and shook it, screaming: “this is my chance! She is giving me a chance! You’re not going to F it up!” And through this, and the help of confiding in my friends, I was able to date again.

So, the lady asked me one night: do you go to church? Do you believe in God? As I mentioned before, I was terrified of saying anything that would cause her to walk away. In the past, I would have lied just to save the relationship for a few days. But logically I knew- I had to tell her what I thought, or the purpose of dating is moot. I had to be myself. I had to take advantage of my new sexual freedom, and BE MYSELF.

So, I told her how I felt: I don’t go to church. I have some moral conflicts about gathering at a church to worship an entity that imposes a moral code on us that conflicts with the lives of those in attendance. How can we possibly know what God wants and loves? How can we possibly know what God hates? Why would God give us the ability to behave in ways he despises? And why is it that nearly every religion preached the same core values- be nice to each other, give up worldly possessions, etc.- but we allow it to influence our politics to the point where we fight wars over the Gods we don’t really know?

No, I don’t go to church, but I don’t NOT believe in God. Well, at least not in the sense that is explained in any book. In my opinion, there is a reason why we are here, and a power that allowed us to “enjoy” this life. The sheer complexity of our lives and how we treat each other and complicate the lives of everyone and every animal we touch in ways we don’t even intend- there is a cosmic riddle to this. But we are far from understanding it. It is unknowable. And those who proclaim they know what is right and what is wrong, what “God” wants, are either lying or committing self-promotion (which could be seen as a sin from the Bible).

I waited for the lady’s response shaking in nervousness and regret, but…I did it. I said what I believed. I had to. I put my phone down and continued to watch TV, pretending her reaction was of no importance to me. But when I heard the “DING!” of the text notification, I dropped everything I had to pick up the phone.

She laughed. I exhaled. She wrote a long-ish lighthearted essay about how she understands how I felt, but she does go to church, and she is a devout Christian, and she can’t live without God in her life. And she admonished me for not seeing that people do live in hypocrisy all the time, and this is why religion is comforting to some. But the relationship didn’t end…

There. It did end about a month later, when she told me she couldn’t see me anymore, but wanted to be friends. Me, being the people-pleaser I always have been, just accepted it. What is the point in asking why? There is no answer that would help my bruised ego. We would be friends, I answered, of course. See you soon.

The following day, after avoiding social media for a half day and focusing on my daily tasks at work, I checked Facebook during my lunch. The very first post on my news feed was her, proudly announcing she’s in a relationship and in love.

It took some time for those wounds to heal, but they eventually did. I moved on to date other women, and occasionally I would wake up to a barrage of text from this woman at 2 am. “Dating isn’t going so well for me, he treats me like…” I certainly entertained the idea of reconnecting with her, but I knew in my heart we would just end up exactly where we were then. Just like in my divorce: we both thought of calling it off and giving marriage a second chance, but we knew the end was inevitable for us. Sometimes it just is. And we have to learn to not be ashamed of that, like we were taught in church.

I am pleased to write that I am finally in a long-term relationship. It’s been nearly a year as of the publishing of this post. Most of my issues with anxiety are well into remission. I’m in a happy place. We agree on the issue of religion. In fact, we agree on many things- not all. And we’ve learned that we don’t have to agree on everything to be great partners. That is a reminder the world sorely needs now.

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