90 Day Rules - Part I
One of my closest friends just broke up with her partner of five years.
Five years is a substantial length of time to spend with someone. But it’s not always about the amount of time a relationship lasts, it’s far more a factor of the intensity of shared emotions and the depth of the bond that impacts the ending. T. and B. had five years of intense shared emotions and a very deep bond. Double whammy. Pow. Pow. Yowzah that hurts. Ya. You know. You’ve been there.
It did not end well. He’s seeing someone else, which in my opinion, is a good thing, because it takes his focus off of hating on her. But oh man, does that hurt. And he may have been seeing the other woman before it ended with T. Another gut punch.
The last couple years, he didn’t cherish, honor, or treat her well. I not only know this from what she’s said, but also from watching them interact while staying with them. He wasn’t abusive, well, some might see that differently. There was nothing physical. I trust she would have told me. And I saw no evidence of that in person. And I didn't witness any heavy-duty psychological stuff. But there was the niggling.
Niggling will destroy a relationship. Once the niggling starts, actually once it becomes a pattern, if you really want to stay together, get couples counseling. Imperative. Or watch your relationship stagnate like dirty water in a clogged sink, until finally, drip by drip, the sink empties and there’s nothing left but a series of mildewed rings marking the really ugly events of the relationship's demise.
The "rip the band aid off" thing isn’t usually how it ends, particularly when we’re older. It’s usually that slow, crushing, horrifying, tedious, soul-wrenching demise. And then, all of a sudden, an explosion of an ending that is as surprising as it was predictable. Oh man, you can tell I’ve been through this a few times…
Mind your communications, my partnered friends! Do you sense there are issues? Like do you sense it in your gut? Because you can always trust your gut. If you sense there are issues, address them! Do it for you. You teach people how to treat you. Remember that. Be your own best advocate. Because your friends can’t step in and fix the communication issues in your relationship for you. It’s all on you, girlfriend.
I know T. tried, desperately, and I’m sure B. tried, too, to work it through. They made concerted efforts to work it out, air resentments, find common ground, build solutions, change behaviors, and get back to honoring one another. Honor. One of my favorite words. I use it so much. The crux of it all is honoring one another.
Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, all efforts to revive the loving feelings and happy connection of their first three years were unsuccessful. Sometimes, well, often, that’s the course a relationship takes. It’s very sad. It’s sad to experience and it’s sad to watch. My heart breaks for my friend.
OK. So now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about getting back out there! T. went and got herself on Tinder. YAY FOR HER!!!! You know how I feel about Tinder. It’s my place. BUT I’M STILL FUCKING BANNED! Alas… My allegiance remains true.
She’s chatting with some matches. She has (hopefully hopefully cross your fingers) actually read the chapter from my book, Empowered Online Dating, about how to create a list of qualifying questions to identify fakes, and the dead giveaways in a fake’s profile description. That's the really important stuff when you venture onto an online dating site.
90 Day Rules
I realized when T. started telling me about some of the conversations she’s having with her matches, how critical it is to define how she wants her Tinder connections to play out during those first 90 days following the breakup. There are some critical questions she needs to ask herself, and she needs to get really really clear on what she wants FOR THE NEXT 90 DAYS.
It’s critical she stick to those decisions for 90 days, unless she has some very compelling reason not to give herself that time to learn who she is without B., and begin the process of redefining the direction of her life as a single person. Really, the only compelling reason to break the 90 day rules is if Prince Charming comes riding up on a white horse – haha – like, let’s get real, that’s not going to happen. Therefore, I’ll say it again, she needs to get really really clear on what she wants FOR THE NEXT 90 DAYS.
Here's a list of considerations that will form the basis of her 90 day rules:
“How do I feel about having sex with a Tinder match?”
That question should prompt her to dig deeper into the stuff she really needs to dig deep into right now. There’s a whole chapter about this in my book. Here’s an excerpt:
What are your beliefs about sex? What is the source of those beliefs? Are your beliefs a reflection of how you were raised? Are your beliefs an expression of your religious faith? There is nothing wrong if this is the source of your beliefs. But it’s important to ask yourself the question “What are MY beliefs about sex?”
Knowing T. as I do, I’ve learned her beliefs are largely based on negative experiences she had during her marriage. Her husband was unfaithful, and it devastated her. I understand how that happens. Our beliefs are always heavily influenced by the negative experiences of our past.
But T. is all grown up now, and that marriage has been over for a very long time. It’s time for T. to recalibrate and figure out what SHE wants. It's not healthy to hold onto beliefs about sex that are driven by negative past experiences. Instead she must decide what kind of sexual expression she wants for herself for the rest of her life. Whoops. Not the rest of her life! She has the rest of her life to figure that all out and it will change as she moves through the different phases of her life.
She only needs to figure out what kind of sexual expression she wants for herself FOR THE NEXT 90 DAYS.
Frankly, knowing T., I’d have to recommend 90 days of abstinence. Booooo! Ya, I know. That wouldn’t be one of my 90 day rules. But it’s critical T. forego any perceived short-term benefits in order to protect her long-term mental health.
Another important consideration is how much time she wants to devote to communicating with her matches online and in real life. This is a time where it’s critical she maintain her routine, continue to devote the same amount of time and energy to her work, her hobbies, and her interests. But, most importantly, her friendships. It’s very important she reserve even more time to connect with friends. She’s in a women’s group, so she has a great support network already.
Although she’s usually in the role of supporting her friends and not asking for support, now is the time to make a change. It's important she reach out to her friends and ask for support, as much as she needs, as often as she needs, regardless of time of day or night. Pulling in, staying closed off, believing her issues are trivial, that she’s a bother, that she’s tiresome, that no one wants to deal with helping her process through her pain, that is a total lie.
By the way, I know this, because worrying about being a bother is what keeps me from reaching out when I need to reach out most. But I’m over that bullshit. When I’m in crisis, I start texting and I start calling. No matter what time of day or night. And guess what! There’s someone, somewhere, that texts back or answers the phone and talks to me for ten minutes. And most of the time, at that magical ten-minute mark, the intensity of the crisis has passed. I thank them and let them get back to sleep. The pain remains, the suffering persists, but I’m over the danger hump. If I’m not over the danger hump, I call 911, or my friend calls for me. And that has happened. Indeed it has.
If you need help, ASK FOR IT. Get your needs met. It may well be a matter of life or death.
Another important thing to decide is how many times she’s going to let a match push on a boundary. If she decides she doesn’t want the conversation to be heavily sexual, and her date goes there, AND SHE TELLS HIM TO STOP, and the conversation continues, and he comes back around to the subject, will she give him another chance? Two chances? Three chances?
I vote no chances. If a man doesn’t respect me when I have explicitly requested we not touch on a particular topic, like the Covid vaccine! Or whether or not Trump lost the election!!! If he comes round on that topic again, I block him. If we’re on a date, I get up and walk out. And that has happened. Indeed it has. I’ve walked out on two different men because they were rude to the waitstaff. I'll always fall on the sword over that one.
OK. So, this is getting long, and I am getting tired. I've covered the most important stuff, so I’ll shelve this topic for now. More to come!
(Initial publication date: 3/23/2022)