We’ve Met, from Her Point of View

Do you know how it feels to have a sequence of more than 10 years of trying and trying and trying to build a relationship as you would like it? And always ending by feeling that you make too many compromises to keep it alive? Dozens of beginnings and endings, with the feeling that there is something wrong with you?

I lived that. I’ve met men – always in the “real”, tangible world, never online. Sometimes, I felt like I was in love. Sometimes, I felt like “he seems a decent guy, let’s give it a chance”. But I always felt like something was missing. Sometimes I felt needy, attached. There were times when, even if I was not happy, I was still too afraid of being alone again, so I stayed.

Deep inside I was wondering where my life was going. Having a decent but unfulfilling job, I was looking for a man “to change my life”, to give a sense to my day by day living.

People around me got together, sometimes split, sometimes had children… I was always the divorced woman, either in a fresh relationship, or in between, with trials of a few months, or longer, trials that went on and off.

It was not like that at the beginning, but after two long term relationships that ended in tears, before the age of 33, somehow deep inside, I had a conclusion that it was not worth it anymore to believe in love.

Then for more than 10 years I made compromises. Smaller or bigger, I made them and I did not acknowledge that in fact I wanted a different life in a couple. Acknowledging that would have meant accepting that I need to change firstly something inside myself, in my way of thinking, in my attitude.

Crisis after crisis, finally I started looking for what to change in order to bring more joy in my life. Workshop after workshop, retreat after retreat, book after book, there were few years of digging inside, cleaning, healing, transforming.

I was single for more than a year when I met a woman in a course I was attending. She seemed to be very happy, glowing while expecting her second child. A few months after the course, I saw a post from her on Facebook. She was sharing how happy she was about meeting her husband 5 years ago … on Tinder.

My brain screamed “What…?! Online ?!”

It was that moment when I realized how much resistance I had against online dating. In a world that works a lot based on digital functionalities, a world which is more and more global, I was still limiting my dating options to a local area. On top of that, I had already left the corporate world and started freelancing, mostly from home. So I had even fewer people to interact with face to face.

Luckily I already had few years of personal development, so I was conscious that a big resistance, once observed and overcome, opens the door for new ways of doing things.

There were layers of fears there. What if only weirdos write to me? What if opening an account will be just a waste of time ? What if there will be some nice guy, but living too far away? I took every objection, one by one. I said to myself that if I am about to open an account, then somewhere close enough, there must be a like-minded guy doing the same. I said to myself that mistakes could be done both face to face or online. I said to myself that what really matters is how self-conscious and centered I am, not what channel I use to get in contact with a man.

I opened my Tinder account in the next fifteen minutes, to avoid postponing. I simply wrote in the description how I would like to live with a life partner: trips, reading, laughing, being open and respectful about our needs and wishes, meeting friends, sharing common activities and also having each one of us a private time to do things that we like on our own.

There were several guys with whom I exchanged a few messages. It was a short and insightful experience.

Short because in a couple of weeks, David wrote me, in a very simple way that I felt was authentic. Like his look in his profile photo: genuine, authentic, straight. In his description, there was nothing “salesy”, no “write to impress” kind of approach.

Luckily we lived in the same city. He quickly said that he was not a “chat guy” and would prefer to meet me in person. I liked that he was not hiding behind a monitor, but eager to experience real life, face to face.

By that time I already had a date with another guy ten years younger, athletic … and very boring in conversation. He talked most of the time, mostly about his apartment, his dog and how other people want something from him. After the first thirty minutes it was a “no go” for me.

The date with David started very genuinely, with him protecting me while crossing the street, picking a cozy bistro on a calm little street. He seemed a reliable guy from the first gestures and words. I thought I would spend at most one hour when I first met him. We ended up by spending several hours talking, sharing ideas and perspectives, listening to each other. I felt more and more interested, he seemed to have read a lot, he had a rich work experience, it seemed that we have a lot of values in common.

It was a flow, and it all felt very authentic, natural, with no attempt to fake anything.

There are moments in life when we simply know that we are in the right place, with the right people, doing the right thing. I think that sensation of flow it’s our soul’s way of saying what is deeply true for us.

That’s how I felt spending time with David. His blue eyes seemed in some moments to be clear and genuine like a child’s eyes, opening windows to his heart.

We’ve shared our challenges, our confusions, our fears, our dreams, our vulnerabilities and decisions. I had no fear to share openly where I felt I was in my life. I felt no need to protect myself from “that stranger”.

Authenticity became our number one value, even before love. We’ve both chosen to be true with ourselves and with each other.

Maybe that’s what I was missing in my past attempts, this decision to put authenticity before anything else that at that time I used to call love.

I could say that I’ve wasted so many years and so many resources before reaching this point. But deep inside I feel that I am where I am due to all the experiences from the past.

What if, instead of blaming ourselves for the so-called (by whom, by the way?!) “mistakes” and “failures”, we would be grateful for the lessons we’ve learned through them, and for who we became through those lessons?

We don’t know where our story will go, for me and David. We just decided how we want to live it: by being, as much as we can, authentic and honest, with ourselves and with each other. That’s what I wish for you, too.

 

We’ve Met, from His Point of View

Welcome to Tinder

I divorced in November 2019, after about 18 months of separation. I was 51 years old, living alone in a city where I still barely spoke the language. It was my second divorce, at the end of a short and very difficult marriage. I was in therapy to figure out how I got into this situation and how to avoid it in the future.
Even though the divorce was recent, I had been living on my own for well over a year, and I thought I was ready to start dating again. I was determined that my next relationship be a “no compromise” relationship, one where both of us were completely free to be ourselves. Other than that, I was open minded, not looking for any particular “type”. Sure, smart and pretty, but there lots of ways to be both of those things.
I was involved in some social activities where I was meeting people with common interests, but new introductions were slow and most of the women who really caught my attention were already in couples. I thought about trying Tinder,  but it mostly had a reputation as a hook-up app. I wasn’t looking for hook-ups, so I was reluctant to create a profile. But I was visiting old friends over the holidays and when we talked about my dating situation and their attitude was, “Just try Tinder. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Good point.

Those Women

And so I opened my Tinder account, made a profile, and started swiping. Any straight man who has used Tinder knows the female profile types. (It’s topic for a whole post on it’s own, but I will skip that rant for now, rich as it may be.)
Once you get past the profile, you start trying to talk to them, but it is not easy. There are racists and nationalists, who probably should not have swiped right on a foreigner. There are single mothers who can’t (or won’t) make time for a relationship, and why they are on Tinder, I do not know. There are women who assume you are a serial killer or scam artist looking for his next victim. Over 40, there are women who have lost interest in sex but for whatever reason just want a man around. There are women who just want to chat and have some online fantasy relationship and not meet in person. There are women who think that you will be the perfect man, once they change everything about you. And finally, there are smart and pretty women who you can have great conversations with and still not feel that romantic spark.
But I then hit gold, a lot sooner than I was expecting.

The Hit

In June 2020, I saw a new profile. A single picture of a women jumping up and reaching for the sky. Eva. Her face wasn’t visible, but the pose had a playfulness  and positive energy that got my attention. I swiped right and hoped. And a few days later, we were a match. We chatted a little, but agreed to meet in person very quickly. This being Summer 2020, takeout coffee and take a walk in a park seemed like a realistic plan.
I got to the meeting point, a street corner near the park, a few minutes early, just in time to get a message from her saying she would be late. Honestly, I always expect a woman to be late, but it was very decent of her to warn me. A good start already. She said she was wearing “a big red shirt”. I double checked that my clothes matched my description, that I was standing in the right place. I waited.
After a few minutes, I looked up the street and saw a woman approaching in a dark pink linen blouse, one with a large collar that exposed most of her shoulders. She was a little shorter than me, slender, with clear olive skin, and very curly hair, almost like an afro. My first though was, “God, I hope that is her.” I waved to her. She waved back. This beautiful, elegant woman was Eva, my date. I was thrilled.
I had a plan to get coffee at a place on the same corner, and then walk into the park. But Eva suggested it would be better to sit down at a table. With the city still in a semi-lockdown, the nearest option was probably 200 meters away, at a restaurant with some tables on the sidewalk. The excitement of meeting her still had me disoriented, and it took effort to stay focused while I sorted out the new plan and navigated down the street. At one point, I actually said aloud, “Just what am I doing now, anyway?”
We got the restaurant. We got a table on the sidewalk. We checked the menu. The only coffee on the menu was served cold. Hot coffee was not an option. We were both surprised, but Eva took it in stride, joking that cold coffee was still coffee, and that coffee is what she needed. We started talking first about our careers. It turned out that we had worked in the same industry for a long time, on different sides of the world. We talked about her recent career change, how she was still finding her feet in a new professional life. We talked about my company, which was having some trouble at the time. I wanted her in my life, so there was no point in bullshitting, especially when she asked direct questions. If she rejects me for my problems, she may as well do it early. But she didn’t reject me. We had our coffee and our walk in the park while discussing all of this. At the end, we finally looked each other in the eyes, really, for the first time. I felt something “click” and I got the sense that she did, too. I told her that she had beautiful eyes and a beautiful smile and that I would like to see her again. She agreed, but warned me that she was about to leave town for two weeks. We set another date, three weekends later, and on that date we had our first kiss, and became a couple. Three months later we were living together.
In our short time together so far, Eva lost her mother, I am completely rebuilding my company, the lockdowns come and go, and sometimes money is tight. We have seen each other in stress and despair, and we still start every morning grateful to be in each other’s arms. There has not been a harsh world between us, and it really is the “no-compromise” relationship that both of us were looking for.