Before I was divorced, I used to raise an eyebrow over a close friend’s dating habits. She was a stunning and charismatic woman in her 30s with two young children, an ex she couldn’t stand, and a social life that seemed to give new meaning to “don’t get mad – get even.”
She was smart, sassy, confident, and beautiful. She was a Man Magnet, and fell in like, in lust, and in love a few times a year. Her household (to some degree) reflected the revolving door that characterized her social life.
What bothered me at the time was the way she inducted the Most Recent Great Man into her family sphere, and then he would be removed from the picture when she grew disenchanted. Another might take his place a month or two later, in yet one more relationship that was doomed to end.
I like to think I had no issue with her dating life per se. Who was I to comment on a single mom’s sex life? If anything, I was in awe – even more so when a few years later I found myself divorced (in my forties), with two young children, and wondering what would come next.
Love, Sex, Relationships, and Judgment
Her whirlwind affairs? Was that the source of my disapproval?
Was it their number, their speedy shelf-life, or was it genuine concern for her kids and the fact that her short-lived amours weren’t conducted more privately?
Was it seeing her ultimately repeating unfortunate patterns, since she expressed a desire to remarry? Or was I jealous of what appeared to be a glamorous social life – which resembled nothing in my real life – ever?
This morning, an article on entering relationships that are unlikely to last popped up in my reader. First, I thought of my divorced friend from those years ago. Then I thought of another friend whose post-divorce dating life was also something of a dizzying series of escapades.
Sex and the Double Standard
Most of the divorced men I’ve known openly admit – usually with a rakish grin – to a significant number of partners. These liaisons are classified as fun, filler, “temporarily serious” – and occasionally longer term relationships. In my experience, guys generally have no issue with saying they were involved with four or (or more) women over the course of a year.
I also know men who have had one or two relationships a year, and that arithmetic yields a less lip-pursing response.
But what about the women? What if they fess up to four or six affairs a year? Do they state their dating norms with such candor or aplomb?
Not the women I know. They keep these mentions private. I might add that the women I know – particularly as they get older – are more interested in a relationship than a fling, in part because of aging bodies. (I can’t tell you how many times women friends have said they couldn’t imagine getting naked in front of a casual acquaintance; it’s tough enough to do so with someone you love.)
Leaving that last statement aside for the moment (a different matter), does the old dating double standard still exist when it comes to women? And what about the fact that it takes two to tango?
Falling in Love, in a Flash
The article on these relationships with no future describes two very different women with varying approaches to socializing, that nonetheless yield the same result: these women enter relationships that fizzle in a few months.
The first adores those sizzling sparks of early romance, her flame burns ardently but burns out quickly; the second woman is equally enamored of beginnings, but she expects every relationship to potentially lead to Happily Ever After. Less impetuous in her choices, she nonetheless repeats a pattern with the same outcome.
Are we to assume these women don’t know what they’re doing – or are they moving through a necessary (and pleasurable) discovery process – for them, as individuals?
When it comes to dating after divorce, I think of my friends. The first, whose beauty and verve enabled her to live life to the fullest while juggling work and kids, and a second friend from years before, whose story was seemingly different.
Also divorced, but after a Starter Marriage, she fell hard, fast, and often – and was the classic example of a woman who was in love with love, confusing passion and romantic gestures for commitment. Incidentally, this is a pattern she eventually grew out of.
And Now, For Something (Not) Completely Different
Yesterday’s discussion of dating after divorce – and taking care as to the effects on our children – brought an interesting remark from Sassy Queenpin Mama.
I love that you wrote about experiencing more than one relationship, because I am feeling a little guilty about that. I don’t have many single mama role models and sometimes I feel like to be a mother I should either be single or just choose one already.
You may or may not agree with my response to her experience – (have fun, be safe) – but I fully understand what she is feeling. It’s as though the world is looking on and saying “choose one, already” – not only because there is an expectation that we should all (want to) remarry, but a double standard still exists when it comes to women and their sexuality.
And I suspect I may have turned a bit of that same critical eye toward both my friends in the past. I’d like to think my concern was for their well-being, and also the well-being of the children involved.
But was it more than that? My own carryover of the dating double-standard?