I mentioned the other day that I started using a site that has free IM capacity. It's a lot of fun and totally addictive—sort of the way all other internet dating sites are addictive at the beginning. But this site is a little more random and freewheeling than others I've visited. People will IM you for the hell of it, from all over the world. I've gotten messages from Sweden, Cuba and Italy (from an American Serviceman who just wanted to talk to someone back home). Once, an African woman contacted me (that was odd). I feel no compunction about answering because I know they didn't spend an expensive credit to contact me. I've also struck up a few very interesting conversations and a few very annoying ones. I've been asked out twice and gone out once.
One of the first guys I met, the one from Georgia who wants to "mate" with me, took his profile down the day after we first chatted. We continued to chat, though, on regular, private IM. And, boy, were those conversations were weird. He pissed me off repeatedly and yet, I kept on with him. My patience finally wore thin, and I got bored, but I think I learned something from the encounter.
I'm tolerant, sometimes to a fault, of the bad behavior of boyfriends. (I'm also impatient and end relationships when I am sure they can't be saved.) I've observed myself to be tolerant of a complete stranger, over IM, with whom each encounter makes me angry. Why tolerate this? Do I like feeling angry?
I am not insane. I don't like to be angry. But what I do like is to be engaged. And I haven't been engaged with anyone, regularly, compellingly, for a while. I think friendships have this aspect, but I don't have enough close friendship to engage me regularly (I'm working on it). Really, there are few people in this world who can deal with interacting with this level of intensity regularly. Even I will start to withdraw if I go at it everyday. But I crave it. I crave connection. And if the only engagement I can get is negative, I'll take it.
There are two guys from the new site with whom I hit it off, intensely. (There are a couple of others with whom I have friendly, less intense, chats.) One lives here and I don't know if we'll meet or not. And the one who lives in Georgia. When I told a short version of the Tim (most recent separated-but-not-divorced boyfriend) story to Georgia he said, "He was a liar. Why do you go out with losers?" When I told the story to the local guy he said, "I feel sorry for that guy. It's good that you got out."
When I realized that negative engagement can satisfy my craving for connection, I thought, "No wonder I stayed with Tom for so long!" (Tom, my important grad school boyfriend.) Even when we were fighting, we were connected. In fact, I still feel connected to him—which is why I decided to stop calling him.
When Tom and I were friends, our conversations were amazing. We could talk about anything for hours. I could listen to him for hours. Just being around that voice and those gestures was enough to make me happy. Later, when we were romantically involved, it was more complicated. We started to fight. Our dating life was one big roller coaster ride. We fought about anything—yes there were particular sore spots we constantly returned to—but I always wondered why I hung on when things were so contentious. Sure, I loved him, and we had time in, and all those other reasons you stay when it's not quite right. I think I didn't stay for the fighting, I stayed because we were completely engaged, completely connected to each other. The fighting was just a different, though negative, way of showing it.
I would like to feel connected to someone without the fighting. I hate the fighting, but my parents fought. That's what they did, all the time, about who knows what. And I knew they loved each other, and me, and boy oh boy did it do a number on me. It's at such a deep, visceral level that I don't know if it's possible to change.
That's not to say that I've fought with every boyfriend. I haven't. Actually, it's less and less common. But I always knew it could happen again. Maybe now I have a better handle on why.
Grateful for: connecting.
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