Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tea for Two

I've admitted in past posts I am open to the idea of a relationship. I am also looking to develop a social circle of gay male friends. I see a potential for a lot of confusion. For me. Maybe for them.

In continuing my series of admissions, I am making one more. Though, this feels more like a confession. One I actually have to confess to myself.

But first, let's acknowledge there's a difference in being single, being alone, and being lonely. Single, to me, means not being in an intimate relationship. I am single, since I am divorced and not dating anyone. Alone means you are the only one present at the time, whether you are in a relationship or not. I live alone, except for my cat and she doesn't carry on conversations all that well. Lonely suggests a craving for attention, a need for affection or companionship, perhaps even a feeling of depression may accompany the loneliness.

It's like three degrees of separation, and there's nothing wrong with being single, alone, or lonely. There is, however, if you let one of them take over and control you. And one of them is chomping at the bit to do just that. If you let it.

Relationship experts say you should learn to be alone with yourself and enjoy it, so you learn not to choose someone simply out of the fear of being alone. Therefore, when the relationship ends, and it will, you have no fear of being alone again. Allegedly.

I realize that last sentence sounded melodramatic and fatalistic, but all relationships do come to an end, either through separation/divorce, or death. Unfortunately, that's life and unfortunately, I've experienced both.

And I've come to realize I've chosen both of the men in my long term relationships and stayed in them out of the fear of being alone.

I've now been single, and alone for three years.

But, I've been lonely for a lot longer.

I was lonely throughout my elementary and high school years as we moved every year and therefore I had few close friends. Until I went to college.

I was lonely within my family of origin where I had a different last name than the majority. The name plaque over the front door constantly reminded me I was not one of them.

I was lonely within the recently ended relationship because he took me for granted. He also never tried to truly understand me. Nor did the man in the relationship before him. And I had little in common with both of them; so, I never felt connected to either of them.

I've also realized, as I've been getting to know myself in this post-divorce stage of my life, I've been lonely within myself. I've never taken the time to truly get to know me, even those darker qualities I've tried to hide- both from other people, and from myself; the hurt from my parents' divorce, the affection seeker because of an absent father figure, the behaviors I tried to hide to avoid being taunted, the perfectionist due to an overbearing stepfather.

I've been lonely so long, I feel I'm steeped in loneliness. It has flavored me like tea leaves flavor water.

Maybe it was the fear of  loneliness that pushed me to choose those two men. And, also to stay when the relationships stopped working.

As new men have begun to enter my life, newer fears have begun to surface. Because I'm looking to see if we could be good friends or perhaps more, I'm trying to learn to gauge my instinct about them as well as about myself in order to separate the tea leaf from the tea dust. Do I sense we could be friends, good friends, or is there possibly more? And if we go down that 'is-there-possibly-more' path, what if there isn't? Is the friendship salvageable? Is it even worth risking? And above all, what do I want from this?

I'm afraid my loneliness will overpower me and cause me to move too fast too soon and scare off even potential friends. I am realizing I've been guilty of that in the past. I'm also realizing my loneliness has allowed me to develop unrealistic expectations towards developing new relationships, both platonic and romantic. 

I tend to return calls, emails, texts as soon as humanly possible. Like almost immediately, unless I'm teaching, asleep or otherwise occupied. I feel it's only considerate. And, I have come to expect that of others; yet, I often fail to take into account they have their own lives as well. They may not be able to reach their smartphone, laptop, or tablet at a moment's notice. And just because Mr. Potentially Wonderful doesn't answer my text immediately, doesn't necessarily mean he's rejected me. He may be driving and observing the hands-free law. Good man.

That immediate response to my text/email takes the sting of the loneliness away. Especially if it's from someone new in my life, either a new friend or possibly more. I feel validated. But, I need to learn to validate myself without those immediate responses so I can control my insecurities. If he hasn't returned my text within an hour, he must have found someone better or else he's dead.

The loneliness also causes me to raise my hopes, like a flag. We're chatting in some location, he asks for my number and I get his. We go out once and I don't hear from him in two days. So, I call, get voice mail and ask if he wants to go out again. Two more days go by. No response. Okay, so he's dead! Or banging away at some other guy because I wouldn't on the first date.

I'm also trying to learn to read his signals without the loneliness coloring my interpretation. Is he interested? That was a cheesy line he used, "Hey, you're such a good looking guy, we have to have met before!" (So, if you didn't think me so good looking, we wouldn't have met before?) That does signal an interest, but what do I feel? Is he someone I want to get to know? Would I go out with him on a line like that? Sure, why the hell not. Better than nothing. (Because I'm lonely.) What could I learn about myself on a date with him? (I'm thinking, "Wait for someone better.")

As I haven't dated since 1986 when I met my first partner and I settled for the first man who came along after his death, all this is new to me, and with the instant technology, it's so confusing.

I'm also learning to pay attention to signs from the Universe. Yet, I am also fearful of misinterpreting them as well. Several recent signs indicated a possible boyfriend was on the horizon. I thought they were indicating the next man I would meet. It turns out, we weren't boyfriend-compatible. After two dates, he said he didn't even feel enough of a connection with me even to be just hiking partners. Okay, lesson learned. The horizon may not be immediate, but still a ways off and there are many ships on the sea.

So he's still approaching.

Maybe by the time his ship docks, I'll have learned to own my loneliness, and not let it own me.


  1. Wow! How old were you when you had your first relationship? Do you think you were already lonely BEFORE that or may it be that being in a relationship for so long ended up turning you into a person who can't get used to being alone (single) anymore?

    1. Magno, I was 27 when I had my first same-sex relationship. I do not think the length of the relationships turned me into someone who can't get used to being single/alone anymore. On the contrary, for the first time in now 28 years, I am on my own and am enjoying my independence up to a point. However, I do miss the companionship and the conversations I could have with a partner.

      I firmly believe I had been lonely all along. I just didn't REALIZE or ACCEPT it until very recently.

      Thank you taking the time to read and to comment!!