A friend posted a meme to my Facebook wall, which said we are biologically programmed to seek love. This could be true because, six years after my divorce, I had begun daydreaming about finding love again. Usually I snapped myself out of these thoughts because part of my heart had died with my divorce and I still couldn’t understand how that happened. Following through with some research, I found that 42% of Australian marriages end in divorce – I wondered what happened to them? Researchers found that the 58% of those who last the distance have open communication styles, mutual respect, common interests and a close friendship (even when those intense early days fade).
Knowing about the lucky fifty-eight percent gave me something to hold on to, something to aim for and a bit of courage to proceed. Using the checklist of the successful 58% would practically ensure I’d find Mr Right and I wrote it down.
THE 58% CHECKLIST:
- Open communication style;
- Mutual respect;
- Common interests;
- Close friendship; and
- Expectation that intense early days will fade.
Of course there were some extra items that a divorced 48 year old woman with two teenage children naturally tacks on to the end of the list:
- Must genuinely like my children.
Following this were more values which are important to me:
- No discrimination or hate talk of any kind;
- No violence;
- No put downs;
- No illegal drugs or alcohol;
- Can maintain a healthy conversation during any disagreements;
- Somebody who likes holding hands and physical touch;
- No insane jealousies; and
- No passive aggressive behaviours.
My checklist seemed impossibly long but I liked it because surely a long list would keep me safe from making bad decisions! It’s not like I planned to whip out a clipboard and force men to submit to an interview – this was more a way of getting to know the type of qualities that were important to me.
Spending those six years alone felt important because, although I’d spent days, weeks and months alone while my husband was away with his work, I’d never been emotionally alone. And, yes, there was a huge difference.
Emotional companionship consists of reassuring words when you feel uncertain; a hug when you want to cry; a word of understanding when you feel misunderstood; a cuddle at midnight and trust that this one person has your back. My six years were spent learning how to find my own reassuring words, to self-soothe and to cry it out alone. It was a scary journey that I should have made between childhood and mariage, but there was no point in looking back.
There was one problem, I actually had no idea how to meet single men and I began to joke about Googling ‘How To Catch A Man’. According to my daughters I’d already met plenty of single men who were interested in me but I hadn’t noticed their social cues. I always thought they were just being friendly! Again, there is no point looking back!
I decided that I was a
good … no I was a GREAT catch! However, I had married my first boyfriend at the tender age of nineteen years and I had no idea of where to begin. My teenage daughter had more dating experience than me!
Online dating was the first logical option. Before attempting to write my own profile I read many others, noticing shallow clichés, bad humour, photos taken 20 years earlier (leaving me to wonder what they might look like now) and curiously macho comments in very boring write ups. My concept of dating was to find love, as I did with my first boyfriend all those years ago, but this turned out to be such a naive place to begin.
In the end, my profile was as lame as everybody else’s. An awkward advertisement of the self including height, suburb, education and what I was looking for in a man accompanied with four photographs taken within the past six months. My profile hit everything on the 58% of successful marriages checklist and many aspects of my additions to that list.
I have a happy disposition and enjoy photography, kayaking, cycling, swimming, short walks, picnics, conversation, going to the movies and all the usual casual pass times. I value openness, honesty, emotional intelligence and a sense of humour and offer the same in return. I’m patient, empathetic, expressive and affectionate. I am looking for a man who understands that ‘love’ means equality, monogamy, respect, freedom, trust, passion laughter and open communication. I hope to meet someone I can respect as an equal and who feels the same towards me. A best friend who feels butterflies when I walk into the room – and for that to happen to me when he walks in. We will feel a sense of safety and freedom to be ourselves when we are together and a natural trust when we are apart.
My first date was… well, painful. Of course I realised that I wouldn’t find success on my first date, so decided to call this a practice run. Jacob was a 49 year old computer technician working for a huge firm in Melbourne. He had no children and has never been married. After several phone calls we arranged to meet for lunch at a large restaurant, which I chose for its security cameras more than the food. Jacob’s dating profile was a little mysterious with very few words and only one photo. He moved toward me in a slow and careful manner which made him seem very gentle. His voice sounded kind and undemanding, and his small talk was intelligent. I was happy to be out at lunch with this man.
Jacob picked up the menu and shook his head in disbelief. He said he had decided to order the soup for $9 because “the prices here are ridiculous”. I ordered Thai beef salad for a very reasonable $18. While we obviously disagreed about what constituted ‘ridiculous’ menu prices – this glitch wasn’t a big one. Hardly taking a breath, he talked about his sister, her husband and their two children. He complained that the husband has little time for the wife and children. It wasn’t the sort of relationship Jacob wants, which was reassuring.
He went on to tell me about the type of marriage he is seeking. He started with finances saying, “I’m proud of the values my father gave to me – I am exceptionally good at saving money. My budget covers everything right down to how many sheets of toilet paper I use at each sitting.” My mind boggled at the idea that he sits counting squares of toilet paper before tearing them off the roll.
I suggested his dad’s values might have come from living through the great depression and Jacob agreed enthusiastically, “Yes! There’s no need to buy a new piece of furniture if the old one still works – you can cover a tear with a blanket. There’s no need to use a whole scoop of washing powder, it’s wasteful. And, you can make one meal last for two, three or four meals if you’re smart about it.”
I didn’t see Jacob again but I had broken the curse of being alone. I left that afternoon realising Jacob knew nothing about me or how many sheets of toilet paper I might like to use per day – but that was beside the point. I had finally stepped into the world of men and I handled myself really well. The anticipation of days ahead was exciting and I have many other stories to share.