When I went public in October about my impending divorce, I got all kinds of messages (public and private) from all kinds of people. They ran the gamut from encouragement to congratulations to sympathy. One in particular was very kind and gave me the most unexpected response:
"Welcome to the best part of divorce: the post-divorce SEX!"
Let's be honest: failing marriages aren't typically filled with crazy nights of amazing sex. As Tiff has said to me a hundred times, great sex can mask a lot of flaws in a relationship, but if the sex isn't there, well, you're pretty much doomed.
This is not to say that sex with DH was bad. Far from it. But it had ended long before we made the announcement or told the children or the families or most of our friends that we were separating.
(DISCLAIMER: This is not a post about my sex life with my ex-husband. But I've written about it before in other venues, and there's no reason to dance around what was a natural part of a twenty-year relationship. I will not go into lurid details of that aspect of our marriage, especially not like this.)
When he left, I was pretty convinced that I would never have sex again. It seemed implausible that I would manage to meet someone in my active life as a suburban mom, even if only to sleep with them. Honestly, I've had this thought a lot in those months. Every time I've felt the most dejected, that's just when someone new has come into my life, even if only for a brief encounter. Some have captured my attention for longer than others, but none of them has been "the one"—a totally ridiculous notion in my mind anyway.
I've written a lot lately about what I don't want in a relationship going forward—addiction, distance, unavailability. Even when my marriage was crumbling, there was a lot of talk about what either or neither of us did not want to have happen, if we were to move forward. There was very little discussion about what we did want, especially what we wanted collectively.
So I've been thinking a lot over the last few days about what I want, when the day comes. And I know it will come. I will fall in love again—it's what I do. I don't know with whom or when or where, but my history says I'm likely to be struck by lightning. It's happened twice before, though maybe it's arrogant to think that it could happen again. My gut says, very confidently, that it's just a matter of time.
First and foremost, I want healthy attention. I am really very attentive and loyal to my partners, at least until I've been battered and bruised so much that it hurts to keep going back, and I expect the same in return. I don't need to be the constant center of attention, but I want to be seen, regularly. I want someone to message me in the middle of the day and ask how I am, just because they were thinking about me. I want the quality conversation—in person, in email, by phone—that gives us each the other's undivided attention and lets us really connect cerebrally.
Second, I want affection. I want random, unexpected kisses in the kitchen or while I'm putting the laundry away. I want someone to hold my hand while we're driving to dinner. I want someone to pause on the way into the restaurant and kiss that special spot on my neck, just because they know it will stop me blissfully in my tracks for twenty seconds.
Third, I want to feel special. Everyone has their own hierarchy of love. Your partner, your kids, your parents, your friends, your family, God... they all fall into some ladder of who means more to you, though that can be relative to your point in time. I want to know that I'm at (or at least very near) the top of that list at any given time.
Fourth, I want sex. I am a sexual being, and I am open and willing and adventurous. My sexual partners need to be similarly-styled. I recognize that we all come from different places of experience and experiment and inhibition. I'm not opposed to taking someone else down a new road, nor am I afraid to be lead in new and exciting directions. But there has to be equitable balance in those couplings. Sex with a love partner is unquestionably the most extraordinary, bringing two people together in the most intimate of ways and as an expression of that exact moment of love—slow and sweet, sweaty and heady, quick and angry. I need a partner who is willing to be as exploratory as I am, whether it's physical or emotional.
Fifth, I want love. I want to feel the other person feeling me back. I want active expression of emotion, not passive murmurings and protestations on the way out the door. I want love as a verb, not as a noun. And I want to be able to reciprocate in kind.
Maybe this is a lot to ask for. In my mind, it's completely reasonable. I've been in all kinds of relationships—DH was by no means my first and only—and I've become very pragmatic about what I'm willing to accept. I think, for me, it's a combination of both my age (and the natural history of experience and maturation that comes with that) and the demise of my longest and most-intimate relationship. I haven't lowered my standards; if anything, they're higher than they ever were when I was 20. I'm just ready to cut out the bullshit and get on with my life.
I don't know when the next right person will come along. I'm not actively looking for them; I fully expect that it will happen when I least expect it. I'll still be out living my life, flexing my muchness, and having all of the meaningless and meaningful experiences that are awaiting me. But I am ready for those encounters, whatever they bring. If it's some random person who doesn't interest me for more than five minutes, I'll move on. If it's someone who turns out to be nothing more than a great friend, I'm happy to welcome a worthy person into the inner circle. And if it's love, well, that's when I'll be most attentive, both to me and to them. It's what we'll both deserve.