The Allure of Attention After a Divorce

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I’m not quite sure what to title this post. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m drowning in attention from guys, because nothing could be farther from the truth. When I go out with Hildy, I get 1-3 phone number requests per night, but I believe this is related to the particular venues we choose (bars, often with dancing), not because I’m some wildly desirable woman (I’m not). I also don’t believe these requests to be specific to me – they often feel like they are coming from men who will turn around and ask the very next women they see. Not terribly flattering.

With that out of the way, I’ll tell you my shameful story of hanging out with a guy who was all wrong for me for almost a month. Yes, that would be Tiger, the man almost 7 years younger than me, the man I knew would have no interest in seriously dating me, the older woman with kids. I tried to talk him out of asking me out, he persisted, I went out with him, and then I saw him many more times. I thought I was safe because, on paper, he’s not someone I’d be interested in. I assumed I could just keep things casual (because I keep reading on blogs now that real dating has been replaced with casual dating, which I interpret to mean people just hang out with a bunch of single people of the opposite sex without any desire to commit to any one of them, like, ever) because there were things about him I didn’t like, didn’t understand and a few that probably should have freaked me out at least a bit.

But a strange thing happened – along the way, I started to feel like I liked him. I did that rationalizing thing I was known to do back in college – “Oh, but he’s so cute, and we have fun together. It’s not like I’m attached to him or anything. I can walk away at any time, no problem.” I’d send Hildy Facebook messages every day with some variation of, “I’m seeing him tonight, but it’s the last time, I swear! I mean he has this, this and this about him that are just so wrong.” And I’d list all the reasons I wasn’t supposed to like him. But the more I saw him, the more I felt like, awww, he is kind of sweet and oh, he did say that nice thing to me at dinner, and more dumb girly crap.

I knew as soon as that ridiculousness started I had to stop seeing him. This guy is young, has no interest in seriously dating me, and I knew that, truth be told, I had no serious interest in dating him, either. The problem was… there was no actual problem yet. We enjoyed spending time together, it was lighthearted and, yes, casual. What reason did I have to end things just yet?

Yet the attention he doled out started to draw me in. I felt a little giddy when he’d text (which was often). I’d hear from him several times a day, sometimes just checking in about what I was doing, asking me about work or my plan for the night, or how he was looking forward to seeing me in X amount of days. I hate to quote Ke$ha, but to paraphrase and twist her lyrics a bit, his attention was like a drug to me. And not one of the safe, over-the-counter ones.

After living in a marriage where attention from my husband was typically of the negative variety, then going through the divorce and simply being happy to finally be free and alone, it appears that now getting even a small amount of positive attention from a man (even the wrong one!) is too intoxicating. I wanted to see Tiger more often even though all logical thought told me I had no good reason to keep up even a casual affair with him.

Last week I finally told him I couldn’t see him. “I can’t do a casual relationship,” I explained. “I’ll trick myself into thinking there’s more there than there is.”

He seemed surprised, but since he wasn’t looking for a relationship at all he didn’t argue with me. We barely knew each other, after all, though we’d gone out about three times a week since we met.

I messaged Hildy when I got home, proud of myself for walking away from a situation that I predicted would only end in confusion if it continued. I patted myself on the back for my detached emotions guiding me out of potential harm’s way.

Then Tiger continued to text me for three more days, asking me to see him again. I wrote back each time saying, “No, that’s not a good idea,” or else we just texted about random things and I ignored his requests, but let me tell you, it was hard to resist seeing him again. I wanted a hug, I wanted him to want to keep texting me – now that I’d had a taste of male attention again, I just wanted more and more and more, and I seemed not to care that it came from someone I’d never have a true relationship with.

I saw him two nights ago because I had to return something he’d left in my car. He asked me if I missed him (note he didn’t say he missed me, ha!) and I admitted I did, but that didn’t change my mind. As much as I knew I was making the right decision to walk away, part of me secretly hoped he’d beg me to see him again. It’s a good thing he didn’t (he did ask, but it wasn’t anywhere near begging; because it was just a little casual fling, he certainly wasn’t invested in me) because I can’t be certain I would have said no again.

I suppose this is a common predicament for people who come out of unhappy relationships, or who haven’t been in a relationship for a long time. There’s something comforting and downright enjoyable to have a person kiss you goodbye and look forward to seeing you again. Feeling wanted is an addicting sensation, and it’s something I’m going to have to be careful with going forward, now that I’ve recognized how easily I tried to talk myself into liking the wrong guy/wrong situation just for more hits of the attention he gave me.

This talk of casual dating I’m reading about freaks me out in a huge way – I am scared of getting attached too quickly to a man who is simply keeping his options open, biding his time with me until something more real/younger/prettier comes along.

Have I mentioned I am not sure if I’m ready to start dating for real yet? At the same time, I feel like I need practice dealing with men in the modern world.

And I want more attention, both to give and to get.

Looking for a hot mess? You’ve found her.


Image of drugs I can’t identify used under creative commons license from Tanjila Ahmed.



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5 thoughts on “The Allure of Attention After a Divorce

  1. Don’t beat yourself up! I think you played this right. Got yourself a little “hit” of attention, and got yourself out before you invested too much time. I think it also makes total sense that you needed to appreciate that alone time first before dating seemed like something you wanted to do. And now . . . you get to sample what’s out there! (Within reason!)

  2. Pingback: Extrovert Seeks Other Single Female Friends | A State of Motion

  3. Pingback: I’m Not Cut Out for Casual Dating | A State of Motion

  4. Pingback: Proof of Detachment | A State of Motion

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