The Big Quarantine Lesson

Before anyone else says it, let me say it first – I should have learned this sooner and saved myself a whole lot of heartbreak.

I wrote that George and I played a question and answer game that forced deep conversation. It opened doors that normally would never be opened as quickly in any relationship. It exposed raw thoughts and feelings. It highlighted both the individual and couple strengths and weaknesses. It is not a game to be played with anyone you are no serious about having a relationship with.

George was serious. I was not. I was pretty sure George was going to pursue and I was going to flirt. I was initially in the position of power here.

Until the game highlighted things about George that reminded me why I loved Tony. That fucking game. But I can’t just blame the game, it’s the way I played it. That was my big mistake.

Now, it doesn’t matter whether or not I played the game right or wrong in terms of having a dating relationship with George. I know I played it wrong for having a dating relationship with ANYONE. And that’s where the life lesson was found.

There were multiple categories and questions within each category. Some were harmless, some serious, some sexy and some flirty. But some were deep, like really deep getting to know you stuff.

The questions and answers themselves don’t really matter. Nor does it matter what George and I said to one another or how it ended between us (spoiler alert: covid made the decision, not us). What matters was when George said this can’t go on and I realized how I was going to feel about that (because we had created a false sense of deep intimacy) I had to take a good hard look at myself and understand why I was feeling so anxious and depressed over a man I didn’t initially even want (I can still stare at his photo and wonder if I would be attracted and find myself guessing not) and had never met. I lie in bed for a good two days really feeling sorry for myself. Quarantine did not help this overwhelming sense of depression and rejection. I really took this rejection harder than I should have.

George did say if it wasn’t for covid and we had an opportunity to meet, he would want to start talking again with the hopes of potentially building something. On the other hand, he thinks he’s too needy for a long distance relationship so chances are it’s not the right relationship for him. He never said he didn’t want me, didn’t like me – none of that. I can say, in hindsight, that we are not compatible for many reasons which led to him needing to take a break from “us” anyway. He did the right thing I just had a hard time acknowledging it at the time. My vision has become much more clear with introspection.

So here’s what I did wrong when I played the game – I threw out careless answers to shock because I didn’t think I would ever be interested in George. For instance: what is something you would never do again? My answer: go to a swingers club.

Another one: is it ok to have sex on the first date? Me: Abso-fucking-lutely!!

Shocker. George is basically a prude. 😳😂 He could never quite get past those two answers. He did not like sexual banter in general and I had to pull back on this because it’s a go to for me when I don’t care where the conversation will lead.

Does it matter that I shocked George in particular? Nah. This is about what I learned for my long game. When I thought about what I did – I realized I need to keep my mouth shut. I do not need to shock anyone. I don’t even need to tell anyone any of my personal business so quickly. Especially sexual. I play all my cards early on. I run my mouth. I over-share. I want the man to know everything right away. Let’s jump into the deep end! That has to stop. Like immediately.

Even, perhaps, maybe never share some of the things I’ve done. Do we really need to tell the intimate details of our past? Is that a requirement? Jury’s out on this because I like the transparency but maybe it is the right move.

Ok, lesson one. Learned.

George is very polite. He doesn’t argue or disparage. He tries to understand and appreciate differences in people. He values shared activities with his partner. He values compatibility that isn’t solely based on that white hot chemistry. So much so he won’t have sex until the 3rd date night matter what.

How the game played out here – the question was “what is a bucket list item to do with your partner?” George’s answer was to visit every national park. My immediate reaction: I’m not doing that. Why? Why would I have to stomp on his bucket list item with my own opinion? Because I didn’t think I cared about a relationship with him, that’s why. But what it taught me is that I need to keep my mouth shut. Sure, that’s not up my alley. But a better reply would have been: tell me what interests you about doing that? It opens an opportunity to learn more about the person. I just shut him down and disappointed him. And I didn’t do it just once, I did it a few times with a few things. I think in my head I’m trying to be honest and open about my dislikes, but I realize I can accomplish the same by taking a different path. I could add it’s not something that ever interested me before so the jury would be out on if I would enjoy it or not but I was open to new experiences. Perhaps it doesn’t apply to everything, but it can certainly apply to many.

I also learned, through conversation related to the game questions, the types of activities he likes to do with a partner and I was very attracted to this. I realized it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve done anything shared with a man. I’ve literally had one active date ever since divorce. I don’t think my opinion has changed that a first date should not be a shared activity, I prefer a drink, but it made me realize how much I wanted someone to share activity with. When I thought about the men I’ve dated, it was a quality I had long been attracted to and not acted upon for one reason or the other. It made me realize that date 2 should be a shared activity. Of course quarantine compounds the feeling of needing to get out and be active.

Lesson two: learned.

George is by no means some perfect man I let slip through my fingers. He’s set in many of his own ways and was looking for me to fit that mold and ignoring some of the disparity in favor of the things he liked about me. But he is a kind man who was willing to talk about his feelings and share his thoughts. I know for sure I appreciate this in a man. He is communicative and open. He is funny. He is really smart. A dad. He’s working hard to lose weight and be toned and fit and he’s doing a great job. He checked a lot of boxes (like almost every single one) but at the end of the day, he really isn’t my type. The game highlighted this as well and made me think to go back to my list of requirements and evaluate how I actually interpret them because “on paper” George did check the boxes. In actuality, maybe those boxes don’t define what’s truly compatible for me.

Lesson three is an activity for me: go back and think differently about my requirements and how they really impact if someone will be compatible for me or not.

Bottom line, I learned I need to go into dating a little less aggressively. No one needs to know all my darkest dirtiest secrets right away. And when I do choose to reveal them, it shouldn’t be in throw away comments, ever. I need to be more open about a potential partners likes until it actually happens – again, it doesn’t need to be solved right away in the first few weeks. When I think about how I’ve dated, I’ve put my best physical foot forward: I look good, I laugh, I’m smart, I’m sexual etc – but I don’t think I’m actually playing enough of the dating game by keeping my cards close to my chest until the time is right. I don’t mean to create a false impression of myself, just a less obvious one. I need to hold back more, give less, and be less invested. I have always been an all-in person, every time. That’s how I’ve gotten hurt so many times.

Before I had any in-person dates, I put these words into action. I looked for the right kind of connection and tried to focus less on immediate physical chemistry (at least from text and phone). I focused on the persons background, similarities, lifestyle and all the things that would make us compatible. I listened more. I asked more questions and I offered up a whole lot less about myself. I edited information about my past relationships, health and career – not lying l, just not giving up all the details right from the start. For my career, I learned to say “I have had an amazing and robust career and I’m looking forward to the job market opening back up for my next opportunity ” instead of diving into why I’m not working and how I feel about it because EVERYONE thinks they have the answer for how I should be recreating myself and chasing what’s next. For my past relationships I learned to say “Ive had two longer relationships which I valued but the details are best saved for in person conversation.” And, most importantly, I entirely avoid the sexual flirt and innuendo. If a man goes down that path with a gentle innuendo I can give a gentle one back, but don’t allow any lines to be crossed. I can tell almost immediately when this frustrates a man and it shows me where his mind and probably his intentions fall (however some are better at this game and you can’t always tell).

While George and I were not meant to be more than friends, that game and our interaction (and my mind being so quiet during quarantine) really opened my eyes for how I want to show up go forward. It’s time I grow up and realize I’m looking to play a long game here – and need to find a man who can do that with me.

Author: Madeline Harper

My journey through divorce and an emotional and sexual reawakening. Love, laughter, friendships, family and heartbreak included. And there is sex, lots of it, so close your eyes and turn the page if that's not for you! While I started this blog as an endeavor to journal my thoughts and feelings in an attempt to better understand myself, it has become an amazing platform from which I have met some of the most interesting and wonderful people in my life. My path is often crooked, but I hope you will share in the journey with me.

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