Wednesday, July 13, 2016

An amusing interlude...

A break from my unremitting tale of middle aged woe...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Life and Other Illusions...

I've just posted this over on The View From the Pond but it seemed to fit the bill so well here that I couldn't resist sharing it with all you fellow Prunes and Rosehips as it suits my present mood perfectly...

I've been making progress in my approach to my relationship with The Climber. It struck me today in a moment of tranquility that I am still really angry about being widowed and that somehow I expected The Climber to make it all better and then couldn't forgive him when he didn't.

For seven years I was in recovery mode after the death of my almost-childhood sweetheart. Then, when I decided that I was ready for a new relationship, I absolutely expected it to lead to marriage or, at least, living together in a committed way. I dated four men before The Climber and would have contemplated marriage with two of them. I don't know whether I had become cynical about true love (yes, I do know - I had) but I believed, and still do, that a good marriage doesn't have to be founded on thinking you've found your twin soul. When I set out on the internet dating circuit, I thought, "I will, in due course, find a man that excites me, makes me laugh, makes me feel safe and, if he finds that I tick his boxes, we'll grab a bit of happiness,  get married and stave off the loneliness of a solitary old age." And, with The Climber, I thought I'd found it. Three years later, I am at last beginning to realise that he does not find the idea of marriage as appealing as I do, and that there's nothing I can do to make it more appealing to him.

So I've found myself bouncing between the idea of trying to turn myself into a happy-go-lucky, independent girlfriend who's just in it for the fun, and splitting up with him and trying my luck again in the dating pool (or giving up on the idea of marriage completely and make the best single life I can for myself.)

A good friend gently suggested to me recently that instead of looking for a new man to lean on, I might try to become my own support. I dismissed her comment at the time but now I am beginning to get what she was saying. Maybe all these years after the death of The Golfer, I am still hurting, still grieving for the life I had and lost...and maybe the solution to this pain is not to try to go back to what I had with a new leading man but instead to move into a completely new room and genuinely, authentically live a good new life as a single person.

Only trouble is, I don't think I can do that without saying goodbye to this lovely man I've had in my life for the last three years.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Adapting To Reality

Photo credit: Phil Hearing @ Flickr
Love is a complicated business - that's for sure. I restarted writing here in January, having split up with The Climber, then rather quickly got back together with him. Since then things have variously been okay, bad, wonderful and routine. This is probably like most relationships though I have difficulty understanding why things can't always be wonderful if you will it so.

I am nearly fifty eight years old. Fifty eight! How can I not get my head round relationships at my age? It's true that I'm not very experienced in love - only one (very long) serious relationship before this one; my son is more experienced in relationships than I am...

We talked over the weekend, The Climber and I. I had steered our early-morning pillow talk around to living together and how people decided to start. I didn't have an agenda (at least, I don't think I did); I was genuinely curious about how people decided to move in together, what drives the decision and whose house/flat do they choose? But quickly we moved on to our own situation. We look as though we live together: we spend a couple of nights at my place then a couple at his. This has been the pattern since we met three years ago. At my insistence, we now have a couple of nights apart every week - more about that another time. So we look as though we're living together but we aren't. We've had the marriage talk a few times. He says he wants to marry me some time but not yet. I try to wrap my head round the logic of it but mainly just feel hurt that he doesn't love me enough to risk committing to me.

I feel as if I'm on trial with him - prove myself not to be unreliable, or a mad harpie, don't let myself go and he'll consider putting a ring on my finger at some point. Every time we fall out, every time I get emotional about something or seem to him unreasonable, I know that date is being pushed further and further back.

Am I painting him in a bad light? He isn't horrible at all. He's lovely, and fun, and laid-back and attentive. I know that the main reason he doesn't want to commit is because he's had (very) bad experiences with the women in his life before. Just before he met me, he found himself free for the first time in twenty years - it's no wonder he isn't keen to tie himself down again. As far as he is concerned, things are absolutely perfect as they are: he's got a gorgeous girlfriend (that's me) AND he's got the freedom to come and go as he pleases; he's got someone warm to hold at night and someone to do the cooking half of the time AND he has no responsibilities to that person. Why on earth would he change that arrangement?

So anyway, I decided to find out whether he had grown any closer to being ready to commit in any way. It was clear from his response that he had not. He loves me, he likes being with me, he just does not want to 'ruin' it all by formalising the arrangement. I was disappointed that his feelings had not altered at all since the last time this was discussed, quite a few months ago but what can I do? I can't make him want to marry me. I certainly don't want to bully or wheedle him into it - what would be the point of that? So, as I see it, I only have two options - end our relationship at some point, probably sooner rather than later, and find a man who wants to be married or accept our relationship for what it is - fun, loving, sexy - but give up investing my whole being in it - in other words, begin to build more of a life for myself rather than waiting to build a life with him.

And this is what I've decided to do. It's a choice made reluctantly. I've always been the marrying kind and since the death of my husband, all I've really wanted is to have that kind of bond with another man. It's just who I am. But I'm sure I could have a good life without the safety net of marriage. It might even be better - the idea of no responsibilities and lots of freedom works for me too - so what I'm going to do is to start to do more things on my own, make my own plans instead of waiting to see if they fit in with him, do some courses and career development, maybe even go on holiday on my own to places that I want to go to, doing things that I want to do.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Existential Dilemma

We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. " Hunter S. Thompson

Well, The Climber has gone away for three weeks, doing his own thing with a friend, so I'm back to being on my own for a while and it's got me pondering.

My personal experience of life has left me with the certain feeling that I am essentially alone in the world. I have a few friends, a couple of family members left, and lots of people who know me but, even though I have now been in a relationship with The Climber for almost three years, I still feel alone. And I hate it.

Even without him buggering off on trips like this, I feel essentially alone. I've blamed him for this most of the time but I'm wondering now if I have been so damaged by losing almost everyone I care about in my life that I actually do not dare to give myself fully to another man.

This only occurred to me recently when, one day, he was away climbing in snowy, somewhat dangerous conditions and I worried about him. And I found myself thinking/feeling "I do not want to, I cannot, go through losing the man in my life again. I cannot go through the pain of losing half of me and of feeling like an outsider again." It was then that it occurred to me that I might be holding back from full emotional commitment to him as much or maybe even more than he is holding back from me.

I definitely protect myself from the pain caused by other people. This started in childhood, when my adored father sexually abused me. It turned me overnight into a little girl who knew she could never again rely on another human being, never again absolutely trust another human being. Then The Golfer came along. And he was nothing like my father. He was big and safe and trustworthy. And for almost all of our marriage, he never did let me down. After he died, I had to go back to being my own protector.

I wonder if one of the things that attracted The Climber and me to each other is that we are both avoiding commitment - he has had a lifetime of everything coming second to climbing (a very common trait in climbers, apparently) and I can't bear the risk of being hurt again. So we keep it light. We play house. We have great fun. I'm so glad we keep making up after we break up and I'm so glad he's in my life but...


Is it an inevitable part of getting older? Not necessarily. I look at friends who are the same age as me, still married to their childhood sweethearts, parents still alive, surrounded by siblings and grandkids and wonder when was the last time they were alone even for an hour, when was the last time they had to do something for themselves instead of calling for husband, brother, dad to do it for them. I think for people lucky enough not to have had much death in their lives, being lonely in the existential, absolute way I've been lonely , is a totally alien concept. Even though I love my boyfriend very much, I still have pangs of envy every time I go to married friends' houses and am reminded of the life I used to have. And maybe that isn't so much to do with his lack of desire to settle down with me as with my own demons from the past - demons that I will never be free of, that I can only try to learn to live with.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Independent Woman

I promised myself I wouldn't talk too much about an active relationship here out of fairness to the other party in it but I think I can talk in general terms about life and new love in middle age so here goes...

I'm constantly trying to make sense of this new chapter in my life. It's weird. I was married for so long that being married feels like the natural, normal state to be in. Then I was alone for seven years, absolutely certain that I would never find love again. And now I am in a relationship and it's great. But it isn't a marriage and isn't likely to be one. So the thing I have to make sense of is what is it I'm after in this new chapter?

The marriage was mainly good but, more than that, it was certain and safe. As far as I know, The Golfer never thought about us not being together and the marriage felt rock-solid. He was a very safe pair of hands. Losing him meant also losing all that solidity, all that certainty. And it took me seven years of living on my own after his death to begin to be a properly independent adult for the first time in my life. (We had got together before I was eighteen so I never did the living in a flat, dating lots of people thing) Being an independent single adult was SCARY. But also exhilarating. It was wonderful to do things without having to compromise with someone else - buy stuff, go places, move house - and even the tiny freedoms were new and exciting - choose what to eat and when, stay up till 3 a.m. and lie in till 9 if I wanted. I didn't even realise how hemmed in I had been in my marriage until my husband was dead and the marriage over. (I'm sure he felt hemmed in too - it's in the nature of marriage, I think).

But I was so lonely it made me ill. So I started dating. And got together with The Climber. And it's wonderful, much of the time - when we're not walking out or splitting up... When we first got together he moved in with me because he was temporarily between houses. I was so happy to have a man in my life, my house and my bed again that I fooled myself into thinking that we were living together and that within six months we'd probably be married. But he never saw it like that - a much more pragmatic person, my man is. Once he'd found a house, he moved out. And ever since, until recently, we have spent a few nights at his place together, then a few at mine, also together. Now, this might sound like living together but it isn't. And it certainly isn't being married.

After our most recent breakup, I said that things would have to change - that we needed to spend more time on our own individual lives. So that's what we're trying now. We spend a couple of nights together, then a couple apart, living our own lives. It's been great. We are both doing new things, picking up old interests that have been neglected for nearly three years while we played house. And yet, and yet...if I had my choice I'd still be married...I think, though I'm honestly not sure if it would be to The Climber (but that's another story.) Marriage still feels like the thing I'm made for - the natural state. But perhaps I just haven't got used to being not-married yet. I was married a lot longer than I've been not-married.

I wonder how others in my situation have found it. Did you honestly prefer being single and independent, even if you were in a new relationship? I'm trying to be very modern and grown-up about this relationship, and not just not minding that he does not want to get married or even live together properly, but actively choosing to keep my own independence too. But it goes against my natural instincts NOT to share everything with my man and not to expect him to be there for me all the time...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Back On the Bike

And the pendulum swings back again...

The Climber and I are good again. We are both willing to learn and adapt (at the moment anyway!) and that seems to save our relationship every time.

As I said at the beginning of the reboot of this blog, I don't want to talk about my current relationship too much or too personally - not fair to the the man. So what I'll do, I think, as I'm loving being back, is recount some of my adventures in the land of internet dating before The Climber and I got together, and then move out into more general thoughts about love, life and getting time...