My dilemma

Do you think I'm not finding a boyfriend because I'm divorced with four kids or because I'm not looking hard enough?

Published March 17, 2003 8:32PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I am 43 and have been divorced for seven years. I have four kids -- two of them are 18 and are recently out on their own, and the other two live with me, a 15-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl. I am well-adjusted, attractive (though a bit overweight), successful in my parenting and career, and happy. I spend my free time pursuing my love of painting and if I became an overnight millionaire, I would quit my job to paint full-time.

Here is my dilemma. I was married at 22 to a wonderful guy who ended up going crazy. If you saw "A Beautiful Mind," it was a lot like that, only he demonized me and for right now he is only mildly schizophrenic, but not dangerous. We are not close and he spends a minimal amount of time with the kids, so I have full custody of them. Since our divorce, which was rather strenuous and long, I have fought and survived breast cancer (but that really only lasted about 18 months). I haven't dated any guy more than once, and I've only had about four dates.

I am not voraciously interested in finding another husband or partner, but I have many good friends, mostly women, and I do love to socialize, though I am on the shy side about meeting new people. I have done the personal ads, asked friends to introduce me to someone who might be a good match, been on the lookout at work, in the grocery store, at museums, but I just haven't met anyone, and the few men I have met for coffee never call me back. I am beginning to wonder what is wrong with me. All my single friends date or have gotten married. All the women I knew who went through divorces are all happily (and quickly) remarried, or at least dating wonderful guys.

What is my problem? Is it because I have kids? Is it that I'm not really looking? Am I intimidating to men because I can/do take care of myself (one guy told me I wasn't needy enough!)? I do want someone wonderful in my life, but I'm not interested in moving parenting, career or my art pursuits to the back burners to "work the plan" to find Mr. Right. And, some part of me doesn't believe that working the plan, playing the numbers game, is the right (spiritual) way to find a partner. I am happy, but sometimes lonely, especially when it comes to the lack of sex and a physical relationship. I am not interested in just a physical relationship without love and commitment.

My life is a koan -- it is a difficult place I find myself in. Should I just give up on ever being in a relationship again? That thought makes tears come to my eyes.

Difficult Place

Dear Difficult,

I really enjoyed hearing from you, but I must say that you don't really have a problem that I can see. You just have a life. Loneliness is part of your life, as is desire. Pain and sadness are also part of your life. Those are not really problems. Those are just flavors of consciousness. They would be problems if you believed you had to blot them out by taking drugs or acting against your principles, but you seem to be a person of not inconsiderable understanding and faith. As it is, it just sounds to me like you have a very rich life but you don't have a boyfriend right now. You have allotted the amount of time and energy to finding a man that you deem appropriate, given all the roles you play, and the results you have had seem commensurate with the energy and effort you have been willing to put in. If you were willing to put more energy into it, you might have different results. You could lose weight and get a makeover and dress up in sexy outfits and more men would probably want to take you home, if not to become your soul mate at least to be your playmate. But that's up to you.

Sometimes I sense when someone asks me a question, she's really just saying, This is how I feel right now. As in: I really feel like just giving up on ever being in a relationship again. Which I totally get. Sometimes I feel like giving up on ever writing another sentence again. I might even ask, Should I just give up on ever writing another sentence? And some wiseass might say, Yep, you probably should just give up. As if that were possible.

There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to why we get the million dollars or the book contract or the boyfriend; it doesn't seem to be based on which prize we really want the most. That's why I think there is some other force at work, bigger than us, fate or randomness or God. But if it is a god it is basically a stupid or overworked god, like an overwrought parent handing out gifts: How can she not know that we wanted the microscope and not the bicycle? Even though we told her, she forgot, or couldn't afford the microscope, or the store was out of microscopes. So we get the bicycle. And then we ride the bicycle to the store and look through their microscope that's on display.

We all just keep riding our bikes. So if you don't mind, I'll just keep riding right alongside you for a ways. We'll get there eventually.

By Cary Tennis

MORE FROM Cary Tennis

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Love And Sex Sex Since You Asked