I've Learned More About Myself In 2 Years Of Dating Than I Did In Almost A Decade Of Marriage

by Amy B. Chesler
Originally Published: 

I never wanted to be divorced.

I just never wanted to be unhappily married. And as much as I loved dating at one point in my life, I never wanted to hit the dating scene again either.

But I got married very young, and after a whole lot of trauma. I spent my childhood years as a victim of abuse, and had only gotten to know one version of myself amidst the process. That version was accustomed to being whatever my environment required me to be (most often a fulcrum), instead of who I really was. And once I hit my twenties, instead of spending my time finding out who I was, I got married to someone who was very resolute in who he was.

Perhaps I was attracted to that fixedness I didn’t feel internally; his knowing himself so well gave me the buffer of not really having to get to know myself or what I needed to keep me happy. I also now know that I was seeking someone (anyone, really) to make me feel loved, when I should have been spending the time learning to love myself and seeking someone who supplemented that.

So, of course, as my husband and I grew up and got to know each other better (as well as ourselves), we realized what an ill fit we were. And as I continued to grow, my husband realized he didn’t enjoy who I was becoming either. My chosen path of public healing often made him feel very uncomfortable. As the fights increased, we realized how detrimental our terrible communication was for our children to witness. We attempted therapy several times to improve our situation, but it was beyond us. So, we got a divorce.

I wasn’t immediately ready to date though. I didn’t want to rush things a second time. It seemed to me that hurrying the process was what propelled me down this path of divorce to begin with, and I didn’t really trust my proverbial brakes to work well enough. I also knew I needed to spend some time getting to know myself in the comfort of self-love and in the discomfort of healing my traumas.

Courtesy of Amy Chelser

Within a few weeks of moving out though, a girlfriend forced me on Bumble. I admit, the thrill of it all was enticing; I adore meeting new people. I was also drawn to the idea of some light flirting, I think. It had been a while for me, after all. But when my ex-husband’s was the third profile I matched with, and I read his “Looking for someone exactly like me” headline, I realized I was not looking for a human reduced to a two-dimensional dating profile. In that moment, I also knew I was not looking for an age range, height, and philosophy on religion. I am looking for a complex human that adds even more depth to my own personal intricacy, and celebrates my own.

I’ll admit it took me many more embarrassing dating app experiences to come to terms with the fact that online courtship is not for me. I love getting to know people, their flaws and dreams, their energy and vibe. I have no type and very few pre-determined parameters I place on my partners. But today’s online dating is good for getting to know a very curated version of people. I’ve learned I don’t want that, and I won’t settle.

But in these ‘unsuccessful dates’ (and others), I learned I want something real. I want something raw. I want someone that will force me to stretch as an individual and a partner. I desire someone with the same political, social, and professional convictions as me. I want someone who wants space to be themselves as much as I want room to do the same. I want a meet-cute that’d make Harry and Sally jealous.

And soon as I took the time to identify and honor these things about myself and my future partner, I found it/him. Quite a few times. Relatedly, with each new connection I form with someone, I find that it is closer and closer to my ideal relationship. Every date is more successful than the last simply because I know myself and what I want. But even more importantly, I am resolute in what I deserve, and I ask for it.

By the way, it has been two years and I am not remarried, nor am I even in a committed, long-term relationship. At one point in my life I might have seen this as a failure, but I have since learned that to truly love and accept myself means I am already a success.

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