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After I left the father of my child, I deliberately broke a pattern of moving swiftly from relationship to relationship, with often no more than a breath between.
I took the time to look within and figure out what was driving me in relationships. The dalliances I did have gave me an opportunity to road test some of the skills I was learning. Whereas once those dalliances might have spun out into a long-term relationship until collapsing like a house of cards, this time my new-found skills meant the endings were honest in their arrival.
I’d ceased attempting to hold on to relationship at all cost—most spectacularly, the cost to myself.
It took some serious work over two or so years to tease out all the threads of the psyche and trace them back to deep unconscious fears and beliefs. I even deliberately chose to live with my Mum for three months to better understand our relationship because I’d intuited that understanding the Mother Relationship was vital to understanding my romantic relationships.
I shall spare you, and my mother, all the insights and understandings I gathered in this three month period. Suffice to say it was challenging and illuminating in equal parts and culminated in some serious emotional release and a sense of being set free.
In short, I got it.
I got why I was the way I was.
I got why the way I was created the relationships I experienced.
And I got what I needed to do to make it different.
Eventually though, I came to a point when I needed to put all my relationship learnings into practice. Two and a half years of being by myself had brought me to a place I’d never been before. I adored my life, I adored my self and I adored life itself. I needed for nothing.
And that seemed like a great foundation on which to build a solid relationship.
The problem is, at the time I was living at the end of the road at the end of the world—literally. If you’ve seen The Hobbit, you’ve seen the mountains outside my window. I was living in Glenorchy, population 400. The only place the road goes after there is Paradise—and that’s a dirt road. (Yes, Paradise is a place, and it is—paradise, that is.)
Add in single-parentdom and a home-based business, and you had a recipe for spinsterhood—if one was a victim to circumstances that is, and I am not. No, I assessed the possibilities for action, weighed up the time and energy required, and came up with the perfect solution.
I could do it from home. I could use messages, email, Skype and phone. And eventually, if I established an interesting connection with someone worthy, I’d know it’s worth my while to make arrangements to meet in person.
It still took me a few weeks to actually take the plunge and put up a profile though. The idea percolated around and around in my head. I wondered if I even had time to consider a relationship, what with my son, and the book I was publishing.
Then an email arrived in my inbox from Tara Gentile, proponent of the You Economy and one of my favourite insightful, intelligent, super-smart women. Tara rarely uses personal anecdotes in her work, and I was amused to read of her experience with internet dating. Yes, as I considered taking this step, a woman I greatly admire surprisingly shared her experience.
Something in the way she wrote cinched the deal for me.
A lightbulb went on. I’d been feeling slightly ashamed at the idea of resorting to internet dating, as if it were desperate. Yet I realised that as a strategy, it was smart. A quick assessment of my situation revealed it was the most likely way I could meet a number of men and find one who might be compatible. I could do it at home while my son slept. Plus the nature of online dating lends itself to honesty.
Yes, online dating lends itself to honesty. Some might suggest the opposite—that it’s easier to lie about who we are online and in messages. And that’s likely true. But I can be honest about who I am and what I want.
I took the plunge.
Writing my profile was fun! Imagine that… I delighted in sharing all my quirks in an interesting and engaging way. Some of this is likely because I am a communicator at heart, and a writer by passion. I could write endlessly about all manner of things. But it was also a test to attempt to portray myself in an honest, full spectrum way.
Reading men’s profiles became another exercise in discernment.
I learned that it’s impossible to tell anything from one photo. A selection is crucial to get a feel for a man’s personality. Bearing that in mind, I didn’t put too much stock in profile photos. I was more interested in the way men communicated—what they revealed and didn’t reveal. The cadence of their typed responses and the language they used.
I was also interested in observing my responses—was I being direct and honest, lighthearted and playful? Was I being me? Was I trying to be something I’m not in order to attain something? Could I be forthright and compassionate? Could I delicately say no while asserting my boundaries?
Online dating gave me a field in which to observe my new relating style—the new me after I’d done all this work. It was like being in a lab. It was appropriate that my “one-liner” on my profile is “Infinitely curious about the process of life.”
It also signalled how much I’d shifted and changed—I was no longer focused on achieving a result or attaining anything, instead I was fascinated by the process. Staying attuned to process means I was more likely to see what is, rather than fantasising about what I thought I wanted.
However, in the midst of this experiment, a funny thing happened. I discovered that there is a giant flaw in online dating.
It’s impossible to tell if I’m actually interested in someone until I’ve met them in person, regardless of how well we might get on in messages or the phone.
It’s their presence that counts.
I could message merrily away, I could chitter-chat on the phone, but I still had no idea if there was that intangible thing required… call it chemistry if you will, or maybe desire, until I saw the person in real life.
Party that’s because men often put up their very best photos that don’t actually look much like them at all. And partly it’s because I’m laid-back and easy-going and can be sociable and engaging with most anyone. It turns out it’s not so easy to discern actual interest via messages and phone calls.
One promising connection—we’d had long, engaging messages back and forth on all kinds of fascinating topics—lived about 90 minutes away. I decided to take the plunge and make the drive just to see.
And see I did.
I spied the gentleman in question down at the lakefront, sitting with his back to me and I knew. In that split second, I knew. This wasn’t some judgment of how he looked—there was nothing wrong with the way he looked.
This was something deeper, like the essence of my self just…knew. This man was not the man for me.
Of course, after driving some 90 minutes, I could hardly walk away before he saw me and send a text to cancel. So I went ahead, and we hung out for a couple of hours at the beach. We got along fine. We had great conversation. We laughed a lot. In other circumstances we would have been friends. But friends was not was I was looking for.
I realised at that point that online dating was going to take far more time investment than I wanted to put in. First, meticulously study profiles. Then establish a connection through messaging. Finally, make time for a few phone calls. And then arrange a date. Wherein I would know within five seconds whether there was any real interest or not.
In the real world, I’d see the man first and know whether I wanted to pursue anything. It was all backwards.
Plus I had no way of knowing if the way I chose profiles was helping or hindering me. I could be by-passing a wonderful man because I ruled him out based on how much TV he watched. Online dating was too much mind and not enough heart.
At best, on-line dating promised only a distraction—on those late Friday nights when I was done with work, cruising through profiles felt like a poor substitute for being out in a bar sharing a laugh with an actual real person.
And then something funny happened. A friend in Queenstown invited me to a party at his house. My flatmate offered to babysit and encouraged me to go. So despite the fact it meant a 45 minute drive each way, I went—my one night out of the house in Queenstown in months and months.
Wouldn’t you know. A sexy, intelligent, witty man sat down beside me. Something sparked. And I knew, in that moment. Or at least I thought I knew. I was also wary of old relationship patterns…and in fact, meeting this sexy, intelligent and witty man did trigger a very old deep pattern so I did what I do best and wrote about it. In the writing, I was back in the process of dismantling yet more relationship patterns. I wasn’t even thinking about being in relationship anymore. So I let that old and deep pattern go—just as I let go of the idea of this very sexy, intelligent and witty man and I getting together.
In fact, I thought he wasn’t interested in me at all.
Last weekend—four or so weeks after we first met—I found out how wrong I was.
It turns out he was very interested in me.
It turns out it is possible to met a sexy, intelligent and witty man when you live in a tiny town at the end of the road.
And it had nothing at all to do with online dating. Even more interesting is the fact that if I had seen this man’s profile online, I would’ve glossed over it because he was shorter than me. Every time I searched for a match, every time I looked at a man’s profile, I automatically only clicked on those men who were at least 5’10” (I’m 5’7″).
Using my mind to discriminate, thinking I knew what I wanted…it didn’t work.
Yet using my body and heart to discriminate, feeling what I wanted…I knew.
Despite the giant flaw in online dating, my experience with it was not a mistake for me, nor was it a failure.
Those early tentative steps back into the world of dating clarified things for me.
It gave me a chance to practice non-attachment and surrender.
It gave me an opportunity to practice just being me—not trying to impress, or manipulate, or control. Just being.
It was that way of being I brought into my first encounters with this sexy, intelligent and witty man.
I wasn’t trying to impress him, or win him, or seduce him even. I was just being me, and enjoying his company. Quite possibly, it was the first relationship I’ve ever stepped into from that frame of reference.
Online dating may not have directly served up a winning combination, but it did give me an opportunity to test out my new relationship style and that was a huge win.
Author: Kara-Leah Grant
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: ElbridgeGerry/Wikimedia CC