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The difficulty to come: dating
I have to admit that, while settling Jane's affairs is top of my mind for the moment, part of me is keenly aware of an upcoming danger: I'm going to get lonely altogether too fast.

Those who know me well probably know that romance is quite remarkably important to my self-identity. Jane and I may not have been as cute in the past decade as we were for the first (I got brought up on charges at a Court of Love one year for excessive cute), but the little details of romance were still omnipresent in our lives, and we worked quite hard to keep it that way.

I've already gotten a few comments about not letting myself get pushed into it too quickly, but that kind of misses the point: I am a romantic to my core, and *not* having an SO of some sort is already starting to rankle very deeply.

The problem, of course, is going to be finding someone. I say "romance" quite deliberately: while sex is very important to my life, it's very secondary to romance. And while I fall in love fairly easily, I do have a type that isn't all that common -- smart, sexy, geeky, independent but not aggressive, beautiful in the idiosyncratic ways that I look for beauty. Above all, I fall for a lady's smile: there are some smiles that are just right, and which hook my heart quickly. And ideally, a good dancer. (You know the TV show Angel, and how Lorne could read someone's future just by hearing them sing? I read an amazing amount of personality just from dancing with a woman once -- it's sort of a specialized variant of my well-trained geekdar.)

And the thing is, there are lots of women who I find deeply crush-worthy, but almost all of them fall into two broad categories:
  • Happily married (or at least, happily attached), or

  • Much younger than me.
That's not surprising, of course -- the sorts of women I fall for tend to wind up in good marriages -- but it does leave me nervous about my prospects.

For the moment I'm indulging in a thousand distractions to keep my mind off this. And I can hope that my bad luck of the past couple of years will fade, that I can find that much-needed romance before it eats away at me too badly. But I have to say, of everything currently showing on the path ahead of me, this is the bit that most worries me...

totally impertinent question... are you monogamous?

I ask because I thought I was until after my marriage ended.... and I had an opportunity to find out that I'm not.... and must to my surprise - I'm not monogamous. Totally changed how I looked at dating and communication and love....

just a thought and feel free to not respond publicly or at all :)

It's a good question, and the honest answer is that I don't know. Jane quite firmly was, so it's never been a question that I could really explore. I suspect that the answer is no, albeit not a strong no -- that is, I suspect I'm comfortable with either monogamy or poly, so long as it's with the right people. But that's quite unproven at this point -- right now, the only part I'm sure about is that I don't have my identity vested in the answer.

(And to be strictly fair, I have only an outsider's view of poly, so I can't say that I can even answer the question in an informed way...)

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You always were my long time friend.

A sweet romantic that is...

Perhaps I'm a bit biased here, but I don't think an age gap is necessarily a bad thing.

Been there, done that (happily)

An age gap isn't necessarily a deal breaker but it does require extra attention; you have to watch out for the trap of parent-child behavior, even while acknowledging that we all DO need to be taken care of once in a while. It also means that the probability of shared cultural values and experiences is lower (though not zero), but offers new possibilities of cross-generational learning.

Age gaps are less of an issue for poly people because there isn't the same expectation that one partner will meet ALL your needs. In that situation a second love who ISN'T your age (or the age of your existing love or loves) may have a special appeal.

I totally understand!

I was in that space not so long ago; I spent a lot of Marian's final year in the throes of the primal fear of long lonely years ahead. I was fortunate; I had a friend who was interested in becoming something more. Now I'm busy dodging a different pitfall: falling into behavior patterns based on how things used to be with Marian. And I've been dealing with my OTHER primal fear that people will run away screaming if I reveal all of my true self; that's what this past week has been about.

Re: I totally understand!

Not running away. Shirley is very sweet and lovable.

I wish you luck and lots of fun romance when you're ready.

Oh that sounds so familiar... minus the dancing bit and throw in lots of angst over not repeating mistakes. Meanwhile I sit and wait for my divorce to finish.

Good luck to you!

Well, I'm well qualified to address your second broad category. Dorigen and I have a sixteen (count 'em, sixteen) year age gap. When we met, I was nineteen and he was thirty-five. At the time, that was a big deal. Now that I'm almost forty-two and he's fifty-eight, not so much. We have a two year old daughter. Was that wise? Perhaps not. Are we glad? Very much.

Are there issues? Of course. There are big things - issues of career, upcoming issues of when he's old and I'm not yet. There are little things - issues of music and shared cultural references, or lack thereof. He is deeply scarred by Vietnam. To me, it's a reference from history class. I can sing the songs from "Schoolhouse Rock," he didn't know what I was blathering on about. I take occasional unholy glee in pointing out how old I wasn't at the time when he references something.

This is his second marriage. The first broke down irrevocably after eighteen years. We're doing okay.

Don't dismiss someone just because of their age on paper. It's the age upstairs that matters.

If you want to chat about what we've encountered over the years, grab either of us. It's been an interesting ride, and if our insight can help - it's yours.

Oh, it's not likely that *I'm* going to dismiss anyone over this. But it's a reminder that my 20-year-old self-image doesn't match the grey in my beard.

Mind, this is synergizing a bit with the realization, over the past year or two, that I need to step back from SCA recruiting at colleges because I'm no longer a net positive in front of the activity fair table. This sort of sharpens that particular point. By and large, I am particularly fond of hanging out with a younger crowd than myself, but I'm acutely conscious of trying to not be "the creepy old guy"...

As a follow-on to what ladytat said: I expect you realize this, but in our circles, being happily married or attached doesn't necessarily mean monogamy.

Fair point. AFAIK, though, most of the women I'm most attracted to are monogamous...

Hmm. I understand what you mean, but I'd advise you to take the non-monogamy suggestions to heart right now. Even though you and I are both natural pair-bonders, I strongly suspect you're not ready for a serious relationship yet.

You and Jane have spent the last quarter-century growing around each other, like two trees planted close together. With her loss, a lot of open area has suddenly appeared around you. You're going to be developing in unaccustomed directions for a while, as you grow into the areas you subconsciously avoided. That process will probably be helped by light flirtation, but if you try to adapt too quickly to one new person, I think it might end badly for both of you. Give yourself time to figure out who you are as a single person first.... the last time you did that was a long time ago.

Ditto on this.
Even though I can't say that Emerson's and my relationship is romantic, there is a bond there. Now that he loves someone not in the SCA, I find myself a bit adrift. I'm exploring becoming a singular entity, and because I'm not good at being alone, I find that I reach out to more friends to spend time with than ever before.
I understand lonely, but friends are excellent solace, and taking it slow is resulting in new experiences. Scary at times, but kinda cool.

On a purely pragmatic numbers game, more men die early & a lot of marriages end in divorce in the 30s or 40s. Give it some time and explore/expand your social circles...

Someone said as much to me when I said I would only date unmarried, monogamous men. (I had gone through a scary divorce before returning to El Norte back in the early '90s.)

"You'll have to wait for the next round of divorces, then," was that friend's witty reply.

Don't rush yourself, in any case, but don't let anyone tell you when to start or not start looking, either.

For what it's worth, don't rush yourself, but please be careful of your heart. Sir Paul McCartney was a similar romantic soul, and we all saw how that turned out.

It has been a personal challenge to rediscover myself as a single individual. I finally (...finally!) achieved the balance I was seeking for: just enjoying myself and not wanting or needing to find Mr. Right.

I don't believe it's a coincidence when people find someone when they're not looking and just doing what they like and enjoying it... It shines through. And it's attractive. "Not needing" someone is also ...safer? for those who would like to approach, as they don't feel they could get clung onto.

I believe there's a small but significant shift between loneliness and solitude. One suffers from the former but is enriched by the later. Loneliness is not a choice, but solitude is. In my eyes, solitude is the time one takes to be of good company to themselves.

It feels odd to use words that sound so... technical, to explain what actually feels light-years away from being technical.

Age difference is a taboo we set ourselves. It has pitfalls, just like many things do. Being aware of them is not even a guarantee that we can avoid them. I am 14.5 years older than my fiance... We had to overcome our own prejudice before we could stop fighting off what we felt. Being the woman, it was even more a prejudice. It may come back later to bite us where the sun doesn't shine, but there are many things that are much stronger and deeper than skin. As for wisdom... Age and wisdom don't always walk hand in hand, nor do age and passion.

I wish you to keep looking out for beauty, seeking it in every corner, and even creating it if it fails to show up when you need it. Beauty heals, beauty regenerates, beauty nourishes, even it its simplest expression.

Bon courage, mon ami.

The last time I actively courted a woman, she said "no" in very clear terms. I backed off, and continued my individual life with equanimity (though tinged with loneliness). This so flummoxed her that it caused her to re-evaluate her position after a while. That was, coincidentally, 11 years ago today, and we've been happily married for most of them.

Your dilemma sounds much like mine was before Greg and I got together. And Greg was in the "too young for me" category when we first met, although in less than six months he was out of it. My sympathies. Of course, I might have been willing to be poly *if* I could start with a primary relationship and then find secondary ones, but all I was offered were secondary. I knew I needed a primary.

When you say "romance", does this include physical affection? Because you do have friends who would be happy to give platonic physical affection, if that helps, including me. My friends who did that for me while I was still looking helped save my sanity.

Agreed - "friends with benefits" may be a good, safe way to let off steam while you're still settling in to being single again. As a general rule it's a bad idea to get seriously involved with someone else too quickly. Sometimes it works (my current lord and I got together 8 months after Johan died, and we're doing ok though still in different cities), more often it does not (my father got hooked by a cougar who took emotional advantage of him shortly after my mother's death and it took him 18 months to get rid of her).

FWIW, you should also not be surprised if you run into sexual dysfunction for a while. After a long-term monogamous relationship it may just feel wrong without Jane. It should pass eventually.


Edited at 2011-02-11 03:25 pm (UTC)

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You recently said you didn't know who you were by yourself now, after so many years as being part of a pair. You said you had to find yourself.

If I may: the man who does not know himself is not doing a lady any favors in a romantic relationship. You need to know yourself in stillness before you can keep your balance in dynamics.

So, my advice is - slow down. You have time. Sucking the marrow out of life doesn't mean wolfing it down. It should be savored in fullness, and that takes time.

Having been that lady on more than one occasion, I concur. Specific examples can be given privately if needed, though I think you know me well enough to know?

If you're truly after romance more than anything else, you might try to suss out some consequence-free flirt partners (often easy to find in the SCA). I have a number of established flirt buddies that nothing would ever happen with, but it's fun to play the game.