So I’ve been trying to get into the dating scene, off and on, since my divorce. A particular metaphor keeps recurring when I try to understand just what it is I’m doing there, and I think this metaphor helps explain a lot of what I’m feeling just now.
It seems to me that dating is a lot like playing poker. You come to the table with a certain amount to bet with. You can play conservatively, and only put a little of yourself on the line, or you can lay it all out there and play for the highest stakes. Some people just enjoy the game, and some people are playing to win. It’s not a perfect metaphor, by any means. For example, each table has somewhat different rules, you can have several hands going at once, and of course, ideally, there are two winners in the end, but you can lose without someone else necessarily winning. All the same, everyone has their tells, and a lot depends on chance, though some people do stack the deck to get exactly what they want without being in danger of giving up any of themselves.
So that’s my extended metaphor and here’s how it applies to me, something of a roman à clef, for those of you who have put up with my rambling en route. (You are wonderful, patient, loving, and supportive people. You know who you are, and I owe you so much.)
Since my divorce, I’ve tried to date casually. Wander around a few tables, put a reasonable amount down, and play a hand or two to see where it goes. But I find I don’t really enjoy playing that way. I don’t have much love for the game itself. I’m so shy that when I’m betting conservatively, my bids probably aren’t enough to really profit me any. I don’t really lose. If things don’t really seem likely to go anywhere, I’ll just fold and move on. A very few times I’ve won modestly and made a friend. Even one good friend that I never would have if I hadn’t wandered into the game.
But like I said, I don’t really enjoy playing this way. I’ve done it, and it feels like losing bits of myself in dribs and drabs without much enjoyment. I’m the sort of person that likes to find a game that seems right, and then play for high stakes. I’m the sort of person who plays to win, and will bet it all when I think my hand is strong, because I’m a believer, an optimist, and maybe a little bit arrogant. But I know what I want when I see it, and I know that what I bring to the table is incredibly valuable.
There have been a number of times now that I’ve taken some big risks. I’ve put a lot out there in hopes of winning a lot in return. And so far I’ve lost every time. I’m not really sure why. Things just aren’t in the cards, I suppose. I’m apparently really bad at judging tells, though, because so many times I was so sure I could win.
Each time, it takes a certain amount of rebuilding before I can really get back in the game. Losing is hard for me, because I risk so much of myself, but I know I won’t win what I want by playing it safe. I’ve been lucky not to lose more. I’m still really good friends with many of them. Disappointing but still positive.
There was one game, though, that I played for quite a while. It seemed promising when I sat down, but I’m not sure I wasn’t being hustled. Looking back, it seems like at the very beginning, I was dealt an amazing hand. I mean, it’s like I was dealt a royal flush in spades. No way to lose. And after, being the sort of person I am, I’d staked almost everything I had, only then did I learn that there were jokers in the deck.
I probably should have walked away at that point, but I felt like I had to keep fighting and hang in there. To play the game on it’s own terms instead of mine, at least for just long enough to walk away with something. I’m not really sure when that game actually ended. Or if any real game ever started. I might have just been pouring myself into a black hole. At some point I’ll probably be able to really assess things, and find that I did win something, just not what I was playing for. But right now it feels like I put my entire self out on that table. And I lost.
At first I tried to scrape some things together, maybe take a little on credit, and find a safer game to play. One seemed like it had potential, but I promptly went bust there too, and now I feel like I have nothing left.
So I’m officially completely on break from this dating thing. It’s not that I don’t have faith in my ability to play and win. I’m just completely out of anything to wager. I feel completely spent. It will just take time to recoup from my losses. It takes so much energy, optimism, confidence, and giving for me to play any game worth playing, and right now, those things are exactly what I don’t have. They’ve all been used up.
I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know when I’ll be ready again. I feel very empty and very tired. So I’ve told myself, just as an arbitrary milestone, that maybe it would be a good idea to wait until my annulment goes through. The divorce marked one sort of freedom. If the Catholic Church grants us this annulment, it will be for me a freedom of a less tangible, subtler sort (since I’m not anticipating marriage any time soon). The effects might not be immediately visible, but I know that in some way, a weight will be off my shoulders.
Annulments take a long time, and don’t move to any predetermined schedule. So I don’t really see this working as a hard fast goal. It just gives me a sense of having plenty of wonderful time to rest. If I feel ready sooner, that’s fine. If I suddenly find buried treasure, fantastic. I definitely won’t lose any promising opportunity that my heart leads me to pursue.
But for now, I feel like I’ve gone all in, and I’m finally just all out.