Living life with eyes wide open
The dating world is, and always has been, a tough world to be in. But when you reach your sixties, it sometimes feels impossible.
After my divorce in 2001, I tried dating online. Now, if you’ve ever tried to date this way you know how difficult it is. People aren’t always what they describe themselves to be, and I don’t just mean age, physique, or interests. God knows I’ve had my fair share of men being shorter than their profile indicated, balding rather than the thick mane of hair in their photo, and porkier than the image of twenty years ago. But it’s the mental health of an individual that lays low—until it just can’t anymore.
I met some doozies in my online dating days. I also met some nice men who became friends. But in 2003, I took a nine-year hiatus because I was caring for my blind and crippled father after my mom’s death. Let’s face it—changing adult diapers is never a sexy conversation, nor a situation most people would want to get involved with. I tried to get back into the game a year after he passed. It wasn’t long before I met the man that would take up a year and half of my life.
Unlike most of the men I dated, he was extremely handsome with snow white hair, had a good job, a house, nice car, and was raising his son from a second marriage all by himself. Solid, right? But you don’t know about someone until you do.
At first, it was lovely. He treated me like a princess, told me how much he adored me, and was very generous with his time and money. He had no friends except his Golden Retriever, and no relationship with his only sister, and at first this lack of commitments seemed amazing because it meant more time could be spent with me. I made excuses for him: He had no friends because he was caring for his son (what a good, devoted father). He didn’t have a relationship with his brother because families can be hard. I, too, have a brother I haven’t spoken to in years. But when he told me about his three kids from his first marriage, and how he had no relationship with them or their children, I went “Hmmm.” Who doesn’t speak to their kids at least once in a while? Still, I let it pass.
It was when he started telling me how to think, what to say, how to dress, and his obsession with having me only to himself (and not letting me spend time with my kids) that I finally thought, “I want out.” But it was at this time he developed stage 3 lung cancer. How do you break up with a guy with cancer?
I walked on eggshells around him, never sure what mood he’d be in. I accepted his fears of abandonment as childhood wounds and tried to make his life sweeter by working hard to be the “good girlfriend.” I hung in there until one weekend I took my three girls on a trip only to come back and find him enraged. So enraged he broke up with me. Whew! But then it became not so whew…
What I didn’t know was I was dealing with a tortured soul with a borderline personality disorder. (There’s a good article in Loveengineer.com about what dating someone with a personality disorder looks like:
After the breakup came cyber bullying: constant phone calls and texts, one right after another. At first, I responded to his vitriol, but finally I got professional help to deal with the situation. I learned that in this case, it’s best to disengage and not respond at all.
A month later, it was still nonstop until I got the email. He told me he was killing himself and it was all my fault.
He didn’t die that night; he just wanted me back. He also stopped taking his meds and seeking psychiatric help, and we all know if we don’t take care of ourselves no one can do it for us.
It’s been several years since that episode in my life. You learn a lot with space. The main thing I learned was to never negate my inner voice, no matter what the situation. The signs with him were there early on, but I ignored them. My intuition was screaming at me, but I shut it off. Why? Because I was tired of being alone.
One day I hope to date again, for I’m a woman created for relationships. But until then, I’m learning to love my solitude and living life on my own terms. I’m also learning to live my life awake. If something, or someone, doesn’t feel right, I’m exiting stage left.
Thank you Jackie for this heart warming story of your resilience! Several
Or is we’re just talking about you over the weekend. We talked about all the fun we had doing that flash mob dance at the stanford shopping center. You are an inspiration for me and my girls. (Can u believe that they are both in high school now?!). I admire you for speaking up about the desire to connect with others and not feel along, not settle for someone just because they were “nice”, be brave enough to get help when things got tough and not be afraid to vulnerable and stay true to yourself. Thank you for this wonderful story