Love happens, or from casual to committed: Trying it all again

10 years ago

Okay, so there was a period of time—maybe a few years—where I was convinced I’d never meet someone I’d want to spend a large chunk of my life with. In love or not, paired or single, the possibility of connecting with someone I’d both want to live with and plan a future with seemed just really, uh, remote. After all, hadn’t I already been married for 10,000 years and been through all the bonding and the compromises? Why on earth would I ever want to go through the trouble of trying to do that again?

As I dated, my reluctance get serious beyond a certain point was frustrating to my boyfriends. And their frustration was difficult for me. Although I understood that a wonderful 50-something man willing to commit right here and now was something to treasure, I found myself just not able to go there. In fact, the more interested/serious the boyfriends got, the more I backed off from what we already had (and yes, this led to some very sad partings).

Then, that all changed.

Somehow, without my planning on it, my relationship with A progressed from friendship to dating and then to falling in love. And somehow, this time around, falling in love progressed to wanting to spend more time together. And then spending time together evolved into wanting to see what it would be like if we lived together. So, five weeks ago, A moved in. (Even though most of his stuff stayed in the East Bay, the suitcaseful of clothes, three boxes of books , huge bag of spices and complete set of chef’s knives he lugged to my place made it abundantly clear this experiment was going to involve far more sharing than anything that had gone before.)

So now, nine months from that first dinner date, we’re talking about bringing our lives together, planning a future and getting our own shared place to live (a statement I can’t make, even to myself, with my face getting a big smile on it.) Every time I think about it, I feel a sense of amazement, and yet, it totally feels right.

So, my Blogher friends, the question of the moment is How did I manage to go from casual to committed without trying to get there? Why did things click with A, and what changed in me to make me willing to consider living with someone once again?

And what lessons might there be in this relationship that can help inform other peoples’ efforts to find Mr.--or Ms.—Right—And/or to make the most of the relationships they have?

Some of the things that made it easier for our connection to evolve:

No expectations, fewer fears

One of the big differences in my dating A, I think, was that I had no expectations about how this relationship was going to evolve, or where it might end up. Not only was I not looking for a serious relationship, I was completely open about what sort of relationship we might create—in fact, looking at A’s past partners, I doubted that we would truly, deeply click. This meant that my expectations were zero-based along the way.

My logic was more along the lines of since I doubted we’d get really serious, why not just enjoy what we could share and let that be enough? In other words, fears of blowing it, of doing the wrong thing, of making a mistake so A wouldn’t like me, well, they just never kicked in.

Letting things evolve at their own pace

Another plus, this time around, was that neither one of us was in a rush to make our relationship go anywhere. We focused a lot on getting to know one another, spending time together and talking, but neither one of us was in a hurry to get serious. In fact, A was the opposite; he had whole sets of criteria and perspectives on what it would take for him to truly accept a partner that had as much to do with life style and political values as it did with basic compatibility.

Given that I didn’t feel any need to please anyone but myself, the fact I probably wasn’t going to pass A’s tests didn’t seem to much matter( and then, when it came down to it, it turned out our lifestyles and values were a lot more compatible that we might have thought—but that was much later.)

Going for honest disclosure

Since we didn’t have big agendas, A and I agreed to be as honest as possible with one another. This meant a lot of tough questions, shared feelings, and uncomfortable moments. It also meant talking a bout—and accepting—much of the baggage we each carried from past relationships and old hurts. Somehow, it didn’t seem as hard to be truthful with someone else who’d also endured traumatic loss. The sharing we did created an understanding and acceptance of one another that was a powerful basis for growing closer…and admitting some faults, early on, made it easier to be real with one another (at least it did for me.)

Acknowledging the baggage (and dealing with it)

As A and I got closer, the number of issues from the past that came up for me seemed staggering. It was painful to confront my own reluctance to truly be a partner with someone and share decision making, and to see how cautious I was about making commitments (I don’t regret that, I just acknowledge it). There was also the legacy of feelings about past partners—because we each could accept that we’d had great loves and strong feelings about other people, it meant we were both able to understand that those past relationships didn’t have to get in the way of deepening what we were growing together.

On another note, A and I were also about to talk about some areas where we felt amazingly apart—and face the fact that if we didn’t agree, our relationship might not work out or go further. But both of us were able to want to have those discussions –and the hard taking we did went a long way towards reassuring me that perhaps, after all, A and I could communicate around things that were difficult—and, in this case, reach some agreement.

Valuing one another

A is not only am amazing person, he’s a good fit. Smart, complex, and open-minded, A is an intellectual equal with a shared passion for poetry, cooking, and working out. Equally importantly, his weaknesses don’t drive me crazy (presumably, this is mutual). Although I acknowledge—and am sometimes irritated—by his faults, they’re nothing I can’t live with. And his honesty and passion for social change are both compelling and good influences on me.

For A, I’m a prize, someone who shares many of his political and social concerns, but who is also an intellectual equal. Like me, he’s had his share of loss, and my understanding of how his past relationships—both the successes and the failures—have contributed to who he is today comes off, I think, as deeply comforting. And of course, my energy and general outgoingness are deeply appreciated by A, who, at heart, enjoys people, but is more likely to end up sitting at home with a book than going out.

Where this is headed (or not)

At the same time that I am so deeply thrilled to have found and fallen in love with A, I’m still marveling that I’ve come to this place, that I’m actually seeing someone I with whom I can see a longer future. I just didn’t expect I was going to feel this way three years out of my long marriage; I thought I’d want to live alone and be single a whole lot longer, like perhaps the rest of my life.

What this means is that my newfound feelings of love and commitment have the quality of being a bonus, an unexpected gift, something that came along and is quite delightful, but is not in any scenario I was planning for.

So unexpected, these feelings of commitment are meant to be treasured; like small flames in a windy fire, I want to block them from the wind and blow gently till the flame roars large, bright and snapping against the wood as they roar into power. Similarly, I want to nurture and celebrate the love I feel with A, helping what we have deepen so it takes us beyond the good place we are right now, and into an even better place, once where we can see ourselves together and happy for years to come.

Readers, does anyone have words of wisdom to share or stories about how their relationship went from casual to committed? If yes, post here.

Noteworthy relationship posts:

Valley Girl
“As I sat down at my hotel's bar for dinner and a drink the first night I arrived in DC, I overheard two women around my age talking about relationships.
"You know what my worst fear is?" The blonde asked the brunette. "Settling."
I immediately wanted to run over and hug her, tell her that I worried about the same thing, too.”

Atlantic Monthly, Lori Gottlieb.. Marry Him! The case for Mr Good Enough
“By the time 35th-birthday-brunch celebrations roll around for still-single women, serious, irreversible life issues masquerading as “jokes” creep into public conversation: Well, I don’t feel old, but my eggs sure do! or Maybe this year I’ll marry Todd. I’m not getting any younger! The birthday girl smiles a bit too widely as she delivers these lines, and everyone laughs a little too hard for a little too long, not because we find these sentiments funny, but because we’re awkwardly acknowledging how unfunny they are. At their core, they pose one of the most complicated, painful, and pervasive dilemmas many single women are forced to grapple with nowadays: Is it better to be alone, or to settle?”

Young @Heart in San Diego, He's Gone
“It’s tragic how the little things in a relationship that you tend to take for granted are, once gone, able to rip your heart out at the mere mention of a word or two. Not yet ready or able to curl up into a ball in my bed with my sorrow, I feel a need to keep busy and delay the desolation that I know will come crashing around me like waves soon enough. Out for a walk and then later getting a pedicure at the nail salon, I run into acquaintances I haven’t seen for months. Phrases like, “I’m going to my boyfriend’s for dinner” or “How is your man these days?” choke me up and I barely manage to mumble some pathetic pleasantry while blinking back tears and feeling like I’ve been punched in the solar plexus.I am as of yet unable to utter the truth to anyone: He's gone.”

Single + Cats =Sat
“And since I have been allowing LDX free reign to treat me like his on-call concubine, I've been solely attracting different versions of him left and right. From Preposterous to Non-Monogamy Boy, from Hollywood to New York, all of these guys have one thing in common -- they don't deserve me.”

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