When the Ex Wants You Back

I stopped dating a month or two ago when I realized I was too stressed out over work and fulltime parenting to enjoy it. Since then, my ex, J, has been able to be incrementally more involved in childcare. Her healing process from surgery has been very slow. Work has become a *little* less overwhelming. In general life has been okay. But I am not ready to jump in to dating again, yet.

The hard thing lately has been navigating my shifting relationship with J. She is no longer with the person she left me for, and she has said she regrets having left in the first place. The regret narrative is …predictable. I think J has done some growing up in the last year and I miss the way things were with us when our relationship was a happy one. But I think J is still not emotionally stable, and I don’t want to be in a situation where everything that is important to me is dismissed or barely tolerated by my partner. I don’t know that J would act that way again, but I dealt with it for long enough in our relationship that I am not keen to give us a chance. I also don’t know how to feel attracted to her anymore… I am not bisexual and her transition mtf was always going to be hard… Add the cheating on top of it and her year and a half relationship with someone else… I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a physical relationship anymore. Her touch isn’t a safe spot for me anymore. We are hanging out and talking a lot more lately, but while I know she wants to repair everything, I don’t think I want more than friendship. I honestly wish she was dating and only adding me to a mix of other friendships. It would feel okay for me to have moved on –better anyway — if I could see her happy and building her life again too. There is a part of me that does want to go back… We were so happy once… But the shared adventures of the past aren’t enough on their own.


‘Making it all fit’ as a single mom

I was watching Bridget Jones’s Diary this morning while making seed tape for my community garden. It was nice to have that quiet time to myself. My ex MIL is in town and she is helping my ex take care of the toddler for a few days. My ex, J, is still on the very long post-surgery road to recovery and can’t do much childcare on her own. She probably won’t be up for more than a handful of hours with kiddo a couple days a week for months yet… She has said she wants to take on more, but I don’t see how it is going to happen. I imagine it will be fall before I have much time to myself again. 

On the dating front this is extra difficult. I have managed to meet a few new people this year despite my full schedule, but on the last date I went on I was exhausted, felt rushed, and was generally not my best. The guy was nice and had a lot of outdoorsy interests, but he was in a whole different world in terms of personal freedom. We didn’t really connect on an individual level anyway, but even if we had, I can’t imagine how I could have kept up with him. I am physically capable of doing all the outdoorsy things I once did, but I am very schedule-impaired and don’t have the freedom to go on big adventures… Even the small ones are tough to arrange. I feel discouraged, because I am at core an outdoorsy person, and I am attracted to people who share that love of the outdoors. But I can’t keep up with these people who are childless.

I am still playing with Tinder, but for the next month at least I think I am going to focus more on posting Meetup events with the local hiking clubs. Online dating is fine if it feels fun, but my last couple dates felt stressful. Meetups are an easier commitment while still allowing me time to stretch my social muscles.

Me Time

Does anybody look into the future and picture a time when 45 minutes spent sitting in the Albertson’s parking lot before daycare pickup would become a semi-regular highlight of the day? In this space between work and daycare pickup I can breath in a way that I struggle to during the rest of my days and nights. Most of the time I walk around feeling half-drowned in a sea of shoulds. In that most of the time landscape I can work and work and wonder what I have accomplished. I can make time to meet a new person and go on a hike knowing that I will be working half the night later, and still be told, “There is no such thing as someday,” by a nice man who has no children, when I admit to him that I have not made it out with the running meetup group in a long time. But I invite this attitude from others when I shrug first and say, “I really have no excuse for not doing better.” It isn’t that there are no excuses; it’s just that the shoulds are so much bigger.

In my office there is a sheet of paper my predecessor left that says, “I am a nonprofit unicorn. Every day I try to make the world a better place. I am good at some things and I suck at some things. I can’t make everybody happy. Every day I do what I can.” I like that paper. It looks like the parking lot at Albertson’s – there are no shoulds in it. 

Quiet April

This is a thoughtful kind of April evening. I am babysitting at a friend’s house and both my kid and hers are sleeping. I am sitting by a dark window and have been watching hail gather on the sill outside. There has been no thunder, only a little wind and the sounds of the house.

My ex, J, came over to hang out at my place the other afternoon for an hour or so. That we can do this now is still a little amazing to me, but even with some recovery of friendship, the divorce is inevitably part of the atmosphere when we are together. It is part of why we hang out only occasionally.

More specifically, I often feel a little sad when I see J because she is so full of regret. I don’t think she would be happier if we were together now; I think she is just a regretful kind of person these days, and any decision made is an unhappy one because it means there are options that are closed as a result. I don’t think she was always so unhappy… But she has been for several years now. I just don’t see her daily moods anymore. I think and hope she has a *little* more positivity than when she left me.

J said something recently about how devoted I was to her when we were together, and …how did she put it.. Something about how she won’t have that in her life again and how I won’t be like that again with anybody else. She basically thinks she broke something in me by the way she acted at the end of our relationship. I don’t think so, though. 

I do still sometimes feel sad for what we lost, but that is not something that can be recovered again, and I don’t tell her when I have those kinds of feelings.

Mostly I think I am a more whole person because of our past relationship. There were many good years and J was there for me during a self-doubting time when it meant everything to have somebody telling me through all their actions, ‘I choose you.’ I wish I could help her feel whole the way she helped me, but I gave her everything I had, and it wasn’t enough. 

I think there is a risk of me jumping into something with another person simply because I 1) miss sex, and 2) miss the friendly intimacy of a relationship. But new relationships are risky by nature. Getting hurt is always a possibility. As long as I keep safety in mind and protect my kid from potential negatives that might come from me dating, it is all good.

Meeting somebody on Monday at a climbing meetup. This will be the 5th person I will have met via online dating, since I started back in December.

2017 Goals

Online dating definitely is not for those who mind getting bruised. I don’t mean that literally, but it is true that my ego has taken a few blows over the past months. 

I have some personal goals for the year now. I am trying to not have them be reflective of anything other than what I want for me. And I am also trying to remind myself that I am tough and awesome even as I am now, because seriously — raising a kid on your own is hard work. My ex is still recovering from surgery and is not able to help a lot. I have no local family. *Anything* I am able to accomplish in the way of personal goals is therefore automatically badass ×5. Even if outsiders don’t see that, I do.

Anyway. My goals:

1. Do the Bruneau Dunes race this year… Maybe 13 miles? 

2. Get my bike fixed and use it. Take my kiddo on the greenbelt and try some foothill trails.

3. Use my park pass. Visit Craters of the Moon, Grand Teton, Arches… At minimum.

4. Go camping at least 3 times this summer. This is sort of implied in the last item. But I want to make that normal again.

5. Survive my first year at a scary new job. It is scary now because I feel like I need to prove they made the right decision in hiring me. I am feeling a lot of internal pressure right now, and I just have to push through that for a while.

Heart and Brain

I love this comic. I hope you do, too, because it is awesome. 

My heart and brain are currently having the following discussion:

Heart: I miss the Backpacker. Maybe if I didn’t send him that angry text he would have apologized for cancelling our date last-minute by actually giving a reason. And maybe he would have gotten better at communication if I was clearer in my communication needs. And then we could have had great sex and also maybe become adventuring buddies.

Brain: He was a terrible communicator and he was not making an effort to see you.

Heart: He had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail! He knew about the 5 lb pancake challenge in Seiad Valley. He likes hiking off trail and he packrafts and has a beautiful, oversized dog he takes backpacking! He kissed my hand when he was holding it on our last hike. And he cupped my face in his hand when he kissed me. It was the best kiss ever.

Brain: You don’t need him. There are other guys out there who would treat you better.

Heart: But…

Brain: Here. Open up your Tinder app. See if there is somebody else you might like.

Heart: Hey, swiping is fun…

Heart: None of these guys seems as great as the Backpacker.

Brain: Oh, Heart… Come on. Let’s go get the laundry out of the dryer.

Heart: I have to get up? And shoes?

Brain: Yes. You will like it. 

Heart: I dunno… But can I eat some cheese from the fridge now? And oatmeal. Can I have some sugary oatmeal since we are out of interesting food?

Brain: *Sigh.* Go for it.

That’s the end of that

As I type I am sitting in the ER with my toddler, who had bad tummy pains last night. It turns out he has early stage pneumonia and will be kept for observation until at least tomorrow morning.

Writing about my dating life feels very superficial of me at this moment, but we are (updated) sitting in a room in pediatrics, watching tv and there is nothing else to do right now.

Last weekend I met the Backpacker for a short hike, and it was lovely. We also kissed and made out a little, which… You know, I have no idea what is fast or slow for most people, but I’m not going to be embarrassed about it. When we went our separate ways I said to him, ‘Why don’t you plan our next meetup.’ Because frankly, me planning everything has been driving me nuts. Before our second date I was getting such mixed messages from him that I had even backed off and said I understood if he wasn’t interested in getting together, and that I didn’t want to be pushing too hard …just, as a parent, pre planning is important for me. He assured me he was interested, which was a relief. I can handle rejection but vagueness is harder.

To his credit he nailed in a day to meet up for the third time fairly quickly. His texts also turned sexual and basically nothing but sexual. I can’t say I didn’t encourage it some, and when he asked if I wanted our next meetup to be active like hiking or more intimate, I said either. But although I participated a little in the intimate texting he was initiating, I was more reluctant. When it felt like too much I found ways to deflect or put him off… For example, sending a picture of my kitchen chair’s seat and legs instead of pictures of me. I am not so willing to have photos of myself out in the world like that… And Backpacker certainly wasn’t putting himself out there. After about his fourth mention of photos of my legs I decided to ask him for a basic head shot, and he sent a photo of himself outdoors wearing a balaclava (face covered). Huh. I had long since sent him photos of my face. Little things like that just felt off. Also, sexting is not something I am used to, and while I was willing to be somewhat openminded to the idea, I was not thrilled with the constant focus on the one theme. I found myself missing our earlier conversations about things like dogs and hiking and wildlife management.

The one thing the Backpacker did not nail down for our third date was a location. And really the exact times were up in the air a little, because I had given him my window of availability for Friday evening and that was where communication stood until Thursday. On Thursday I also texted him twice asking where we should meet up and he completely ignored the question both times, deflecting back to sexual talk. Friday morning I asked the question a third time, feeling annoyed but trying not to show it. When he responded, ‘Greenbelt?’ I asked him what part (it is well over 20 miles long), and he responded, ‘Where’s your favorite walking / getting teased part?’ Which was a big ol’ WTF on several levels. When I said I wasn’t comfortable with a lot of making out in a public space like that and asked (very nicely) if we could slow down on the sexy talk a bit, he said okay, and that he understood, and we would just do a walk (which section of Greenbelt was still unspecified). But his messages seemed a little more terse and a little less friendly. And the next thing he wrote, three and a half hours later and only two hours before I was scheduled to drop my kid at the sitter, was, “Sorry to do this pretty much last minute but some stuff came up and I’m going to have to cancel tonight.”

At the advice of my sister I simply wrote back, “Okay. What came up? Everything all right?” When there was no response over 20 hours later I finally told him what I really thought:

“There is probably no point in me writing this, but I’m just going to put it out there. Setting aside the way you cancelled on me yesterday, do you know how demeaning it is to be sexted at for a week solid and then to be told, at the absolute last minute, “Let’s go make out on the Greenbelt — you choose the location”? I say this as somebody who loves the Greenbelt! Even the obvious booty call invite of ‘Why don’t you come over to my place and we can watch some Netflix’ is more respectful, and more appealing.”

The honest truth is, I wouldn’t have minded a Netflix booty call invite, and given the tone and content of the Backpacker’s recent conversations, that is what I would have expected. To get an invite to the Greenbelt felt a lot like him saying, “I want to make out with you but I really don’t want you to know where I live.” Overthinking? Dunno. But shortly after starting my new job I had asked him if his work office was the one a few blocks away from mine, and as with so many of my direct questions, he never answered. Suspicion builds over time with crappy communication like that.

I did get one final message back from the guy: “This goes without saying but since I had a death in the family which I am now out of town for that definitely takes priority over you and since apparently according to you my actions had made it to where we both have lost a lot of respect for each other then I see no point in continuing talking. Best of luck to you.”

My ex and my sis have been following my progress with this guy a little more than anybody else in my life, and they had slightly different takes on the situation. My ex, who has a more jaded mindset, insists that the Backpacker was lying in his last message and says I was right to call him out on acting like a jerk. I too have my doubts about the family death story, but in the end I went with my sister’s more level-headed advice. I messaged the Backpacker one last time to say I was sorry to have sent an angry message when he was dealing with a loss. I explained how the combo of his sexting and lack of planning effort had made me uneasy, and that his cancelling our date felt like a direct reaction to when I said all the sexting was too much too fast. I apologized for misjudging him and said that it seemed anyway like our communication styles were incompatible. I also wished him the best, and in a nicer tone than he had written to me. And that was that.

I was sad for a while, but the combination of talking to other people, particularly my ex, and then writing this blog post has left me feeling a lot better. The Backpacker may potentially have been a decent guy with lazy communication and planning habits, but those habits made interacting with him a constant struggle. At worst, he was a secretive guy who was unwilling to be honest about who he was and what he was looking for. I am better off without him, even though he is a great kisser who shares my love of long distance hiking.

As one final thought, interactions like this make me less a fan of texting than before. Assuming Backpacker was the least offensive version of the person I have been trying to understand, talking on the phone would have minimized a lot of the frustrating aspects of our communications. And it would have eliminated a lot of misunderstandings when he cancelled on me. Which brings me to my final question – at a time when a lot of people dislike receiving and making phone calls and texting is the normal way to be in touch, how can I go against the trend without coming across as weird? Maybe it is just a matter of self confidence and discretionary use of calling on my part.

Oh. Also…. Another time, I am going to make a better effort, not to hide my frustration with another person, but to spell out my frustration in a less emotional way. My one regret about my conduct with the Backpacker is that I didn’t say to him, “You know, when you do / don’t do ____ I feel hurt because ____.” Had I sent that instead of my angry message, communication might have had a shot at improving. It would have been an invite to more open conversation. My actual message was a pretty solid communication shut-down.