- 8 months ago
It’s been awhile since I posted, but found your perspective so helpful while going through my breakup last October, and wanted to share in the event that those who have successfully dated and started new relationships after the breakdown of a serious relationship may have some insight.
In a nutshell, I was engaged and in a 5-year relationship which I thought was “the one” when my ex, whom I had supported through some serious personal issues and encouraged to apply to med school, promptly (and in a pretty heartless way) dropped me and our two dogs upon arriving. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, and I’ve done a lot of work on myself and therapy to recover. Ultimately, I re-invested my energy in myself, learned healthy communication and boundaries, and that my relationship was in fact not healthy, but codependent and one-sided. I recently turned my ex down a second time at his request to see me, and I’m fulfilled and happy. I only date men who are whole on their own and capable of an equal relationship, and if they cross my boundaries or don’t add value to my life, I’m just as happy without them. I derive immense satisfaction from my female friendships and career and generally feel whole and happy.
I have casually dated and generally been unenthused, but recently met someone who shook things up. I was fully prepared to be disappointed, but on our first date, two things stood out to me.
The first was that we were open about what we were looking for (me: kindness, integrity, emotional availability, and someone capable of appreciating something real and meaningful. Him: a partner, and specifically healthy communication/willingness to grow) – and given the work I‘d done building my communication skills I asked his reason. He hesitated and explained not many people know this about him but there was something different about me so he wanted to tell me the answer to my question; he’d had a cancer diagnosis during his residency. He grew up being ‘macho’ and would drive himself to the ER, but learned the value of asking for and receiving help. This really struck me. I’ve seen my share of ploys, but truly feel this was sincere. I also find this experience allows him to really appreciate the simple things, like he will just pause and say “what a beautiful summer evening”, which I love, and also to know who he is and what he wants, and not to waste time.
The second was the first thing he did upon completing school was plan a trip, I presumed with friends – but upon asking follow up questions, found out he surprised his family with a trip to California, as they had been there for him both financially and emotionally during school and particularly when he was sick. He said this nonchalantly, as if it was nothing, and that resonated with me as I’m also very close with my family.
These aspects of his personality resulted in me accepting one of very few second dates, and he has continued to plan thoughtful outings to restaurants he thinks I will like, to show sincere interest in me as a person, and most importantly to me, to be incredibly receptive and warm, but still honest, in communicating with me about our feelings. He tells me his favourite things about me (on our first date was when I got very excited drinking bubble tea which I haven’t had in years and “let my walls down” and he really enjoyed that). He is physically affectionate, appreciative of me and respectful, and we have chatted casually about kids and future plans. We are constantly making each other laugh and being dorks, which I love. Just enjoying the moment.
On my end, ironically I feel I’m using all of the skills I learned over the last year after my devastating break up, and building a foundation for something real. I’m working hard despite what has happened to me to be brave and honest with him about my feelings, I set healthy boundaries and communicate about what I like and don’t like, and I take responsibility for myself when I do something wrong (when my ex reached out last week a wall went up where I thought I was just going to get hurt; I apologized for being dismissive of him and told him I would communicate effectively in the future. He acknowledged my distance but also told me how much he appreciated how insightful I am and me verbalizing what had happened). Of course his profession (psychiatry) helps in the communication department, but I‘m doing my part as well. We have told each other that we like each other, we know that we are both looking for a relationship, and things are going well. I have not been physical with him because I don’t feel that something I’m emotionally ready for.
I’m here because I wasn’t at all expecting this, and I suppose I’ve surprised myself a bit with the sincerity of my feelings after the break up, which I thought I would never have again, and I want to make sure I do things right – both for myself and for the relationship. I know it sounds cliché but it just feels very natural and right this time, and I feel like I’m at liberty to be completely myself and that he can handle it, both at my worst and at my best. I know there are no guarantees, but I would love to hear input from anyone who has been down this road after a serious long-term relationship dissolving.
At this point in time it is too early for me to say that I want a relationship, but I guess beyond just going with the flow I want to know if there are any suggestions as to things I should be doing or not doing, or to be aware of. I’m also a little bit nervous as it has been just over a month and because we are very emotionally available and communicative I suppose it has become a bit deeper more quickly than a casual dating type scenario, and I want to make sure that the pace is healthy and that I set appropriate boundaries going forward. Coming out of a five-year relationship I’m accustomed to a certain level of comfort with someone else and I don’t want to fall into that without being aware.
I am still asked out often but while I chat have not been going on other dates as I really like this guy – maybe this is premature, but just kind of how I have felt. At some point soon I would like to know if we are both interested in focussing on each other and being monogamous, as I know myself and that being physically intimate with someone makes me become very emotionally invested, and I don’t want to sacrifice my emotional well-being or my relationship with myself for a relationship with someone else. I am very attracted to him though and definitely do want the relationship to progress, on every level. So just looking for a little bit of guidance at this beginning phase of getting to know him and ultimately where things will go next.
If you have made it this far, thank you so much just for listening — I’m aware that I sound a little bit nervous and that’s because I am, but I genuinely like this guy a lot and would like to make sure I put my best foot forward, and advice from those of you who have been down this road would really help. Thanks so much.