Burying Yourself in Dating

Dating while still in the psychological Diet Coke of Denial can be a precarious endeavor, making it that much harder to unearth the truth.

A dear friend of mine recently got divorced. We are talking, recent as in the ink is still drying as I write this. Eighteen years of marriage, two of living together, two kids, two dogs and a house still needing to be sold.

“It wasn’t mutual,” she tells me each time we get together. “I was happy. When he wanted to go for couple’s counseling, I said sure. He kept saying he wasn’t happy.”

Halfway through our lunches, she’ll pull out her phone and ask me what I think of the men she is meeting that afternoon, that night, the next day, and the day after that one.

Before our waiter heads over with the bill, she will repeat those three words from the start of our lunch, “It wasn’t mutual.” No reintroduction to the topic needed; the pain verbally splattered all over her face and hunched shoulders.

“Why do you think he wanted out?” I ask.

“Probably because my ass could double as a pincushion now,” she laughs.

Her laughter is a forced sound that renders both of us uncomfortable. I let the sound fall between us and land with a thud. We both know her ex found her physically desirable and couldn’t have cared less about her weight.

“You know I made that big financial mistake, but I apologized. Geesh, move on,” she said, flipping through the latest Hinge profiles on her phone.

My friend has alluded to the “big financial mistake” for years now, but I still don’t know what exactly she did wrong that her ex can’t move past. We are close and yet this financial “mistake” remains a mystery only clear to her ex.

Ironically, my friend is a private investment banker. Her career is literally about helping affluent customers make sound fiscal decisions. 

My friend is in the Diet Coke Denial of the most sacred relationship: the one with herself. Deep down, she knows exactly why her ex can’t move past whatever she did or didn’t do fiscally. Deep down, she knows it was wrong to cover up whatever it is that she did. Deep down, she knows her self-degrading humor regarding her derriere reflects her self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Unfortunately, instead of getting real with herself, she buries the truth and the unspoken shame she feels. Instead of facing fears, she fabricates online filtered profiles of herself from 10 years ago, before her weight gain and financial deceit. She writes about the importance of honesty in a relationship and notes she is “looking for something casual.”

“I just want to have fun,” she tells me.

And then:

“It wasn’t mutual. I was happy.”

Until we get real with ourselves, how can we be ready to date? 

I think of the famous Sir Walter Scott quote:

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

My friend, in an effort to protect her already broken heart, is deceiving herself and, by extension, the men she is meeting. It’s a tangled mess only to be cleared up through the inner work she needs to do. Denial is the Chinese finger trap of healing: the more we fight to deny the truth, the harder it is to break free and live the life we are meant to live.

The Gift of Discomfort

            When we allow ourselves to experience pain, true healing and growth begins.

My friend *Camile cried to me over the phone this past weekend. She suspects that her new husband is cheating on her. If her fears are correct, this would be her second marriage strained, if not destroyed, by infidelity.

Fact: Camile husband keeps an extra cell phone for his work as a doctor. 

Fact: Camile is not allowed to know the number or have access to this additional phone.

Fact: The two haven’t been intimate since COVID began…

Flash back to three years ago when Camile discovered her first husband (now an ex) sexting with his nurse. Once Camile caught him red-handed, her ex said he “wanted out anyway.” 

It’s worth noting that for month’s prior to Camile’s sexting find, she’d wanted to confront her then husband. But each time, the mere idea of broaching the topic made her queasy with discomfort.

Within months of Camile’s split from her ex, before the divorce was even finalized, she started dating the man who is now her current husband.

Tonight, as Camile broke down to me, I could hear the familiar tinkle of a glass that had accompanied our talks back in 2017.

“What are you drinking?”

It was a rhetorical question. My dear friend’s imbibing companion was always the same: Riesling.  While she isn’t much of a drinker, she does become a fan of the white grape wine whenever heartache arises.

Camile chooses wine in lieu of facing her pain. I tend to go for the chips and ice cream. Some of us choose inedible comfort food when a challenge of the heart grows imminent: gambling, smoking pot, retail therapy.

The last time I heard Camile drinking her beloved Riesling was during her divorce proceedings. Once her current husband entered the picture, I can’t recall her enjoying the beverage.

To avoid pain and suffering is human nature, but sometimes, the very thing we are trying not to experience actually prolongs if not worsens it. Camile never truly mourned the end of her marriage, never honored her feelings of anger and betrayal. Tonight, those lessons are knocking on her door again. 

What lessons are knocking on your door? What pain and heartache do you run from and subsequently continue to experience?

There is a gift in acknowledging everything from discomfort to heartache. If we don’t pause long enough to accept the gift, we run the risk of repeating pain in merely a new guise.

 While it sounds counter-intuitive, when we allow ourselves to experience pain, true healing and growth begins.

Identifying Our Hunger

Decadent Chocolate S’mores Crepes

Back before our new normal, I LOVED going to Coco Crepes—you know, sitting down in an actual restaurant with actual in person contact. On one of those visits, my sister joined me. She was hankering for one of Coco Crepes’ (and decadently delicious) dessert classics: s’mores—replete with crushed graham crackers and toasted marshmallows.

We had finished our divine crepe dinners; I still desired something sweet, but the s’more crepe wasn’t going to do it for me. But my sister DID want the s’more crepe and wouldn’t get it unless I shared it with her.

So I did what any good sister would do, I agreed to her gustatory request. And while the calorie-high decision might seem innocuous, it demonstrates the inner workings of me. The crepe-I-didn’t-want-in-an-effort-to-please symbolized my relationship with big sis’.

What I was hungry for had nothing to do with the crepe and everything to do with pleasing my sister. 

And my sister’s hunger for the campfire reminiscent treat? She had just flown in from New Jersey on business. She was presenting something major to a huge crowd of medical professionals the next morning. It didn’t surprise me that her stress levels were working overtime, causing her to crave high levels of sugar. And there is nothing more psychologically comforting than the idea of slow-roasted marshmallows drenched in melted chocolate and crushed graham crackers to create a (albeit temporary) sense of carbohydrate calm from an adrenaline storm inside.

As we have the gift of time during our pandemic, consider the connection between your dietary choices and your emotional state. This is not an opportunity to judge, but a moment to consider and make choices that potentially serve you better. 

A friend recently had a fight with her spouse and, despite the lockdown order in her state, grabbed her three kids and went out for Baskin Robbins. “I couldn’t take it.” Again, there’s that connection between stress and the food choices we make. But was she really hungry for the frozen dairy dessert or was it a temporary salve to the underlying conflict in her marriage she wants nothing more than to avoid?

I encourage you to consider what your hunger is telling you. With my sister, despite the fact that we are grown women hovering around menopause, I’m still the little girl who craves her big sister’s approval and love. But the truth underneath, when I hit the coronavirus pause button: I know she loves me whether I join her in devouring a s’mores crepe or never touch one again!