I recently started reading the book If the Buddha Dated, per a recommendation from my friend, Susan. I love the line ‘Our path is not so much to find a lover as to be a good lover of life, of all people.’ This encapsulates one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the past two years. At a young age, we are taught to find ‘the one,’ get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. As a woman, it is very much about ‘capturing’ another person’s attention and heart in the hopes that they will notice you and, perhaps, one day move from dating you to proposing to you.
Captured by love, caged by contract
Funny enough, I wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed of her wedding, but I always found myself in a relationship. I love shared experiences, intimacy, and having a partner in crime. When I met my ex husband, however, I got so caught up in the rapture of the relationship early on that I lost myself in him, in his persona. I gave up who I was in the process of giving him what I thought he wanted, so that he wouldn’t leave, to the detriment of my own personal happiness and well being.
He checked all the boxes of what I wanted in a partner, and I couldn’t imagine meeting anyone more perfect. Indeed, I captured his attention and within ten months of meeting, he proposed out of the blue. At the time, we were deeply in love, and I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. I said yes on the spot, like a deer in headlights, without giving much thought to it.
I don’t regret getting married, but I also don’t regret getting divorced
The thing about getting engaged after ten months is that my ex and I didn’t know each other. We hadn’t lived together. We had barely met each other’s families. We hadn’t gone through any hardships together. We had not walked the well-worn path of time together to know if we truly complemented one another and brought out the best in one another. I was so wrapped up in making him happy that I didn’t pay attention to whether he was making me happy, outside of our intimacy. Did he really see and understand me, for all of my quirks and oddities? Did he see me better than I saw myself and encourage me to pursue my passions? Unfortunately, no. And I didn’t him.
We were both good spouses but we were not good partners to each other. Once the honeymoon period went away, there was little left, as we had never really formed a solid friendship to build our marriage off of. For my ex-husband, the idea of being married and bound to each other was more important than respecting, empathizing and knowing each other. That approach was ultimately what drove us apart.
Christina 1.0 versus Christina 2.0
I don’t blame my ex for our breakup. I blame myself for not asking the right questions upfront and giving the relationship enough time to move beyond the honeymoon phase. The difference between the old Christina and the new Christina is that I don’t need to have a partner. At this point, meeting someone who I share common interests with would be a huge, massive bonus. I currently love my life and am damn good at living it – exactly the way I want to be living it, and without having to do another person’s laundry, wait for their input on weekend plans, or hear complaints about whatever the concern of the day might be. I also don’t expect or demand meeting a partner at all and certainly not on any sort of timeline I’ve tried to set. I’ve learned to love myself this year, and I’m pretty awesome, if I may so so myself. I’m not being egotistical. I’m just listening to myself more than ever before and being honest with myself about what I want in a partner.
I’ve had amazing dates with myself this year. In fact, this whole year is one long love affair with myself and discovering new pockets of joy in every nook and cranny of my being. I’m taking better care of myself. I’m loving life. I’m feeling more confident than ever in who I am and what my purpose is. I’m no longer afraid of myself, of others, or challenges that will pop up along the way. I no longer need to find a partner to hide behind.
“Ego says ‘I want someone to fill me up.’ Spirit says ‘I’ll have someone to help me wake up, to challenge my blind spots and be a companion and playmate on the journey’.” – If the Buddha Dated
All that said, I still want a partner in life to go on adventures with and experience this amazing world with. I want to share breakfast in bed with someone. I want to have a nickname for someone and laugh at our inside jokes. I’m not sure if I’ll ever legally get married again, but I do want a partner.
Seeking harmony and joy in a relationship
In one of my sessions at the Ashram I recently visited in India, I was asked to share one of my fears. I told the Master whom I was sitting across from that my biggest fear is making the same mistake again – finding a partner, committing to them, and having it all end. His response surprised me and calmed me tremendously. Of course, there are no guarantees with any relationship, and people do change. You cannot expect to be with someone forever. What you are after is harmony and joy. You are two musical notes that, when brought together, create an even more beautiful song together.
If those feelings start to dissipate and you are no longer in harmony, you should either part ways agreeably or try to work through your issues. It’s not about failing or losing someone. It’s about being honest with yourself, your partner, and what both of your needs are. All honeymoon periods end. When the fiery part of your relationship starts to cool and you move towards friendship and deep love, that’s when you may want to commit to being together. But you should not make any commitments before you have let your relationship take seed and grow strong roots.
And even then, your relationship may end one day. After all, we arrive on this planet alone and leave the planet alone. So long as you learn to love yourself fully and deeply, comings and goings between other people on earth are natural. All things come to an end. If you are prepared for anything to happen, enjoy living in the present and enjoy being with your partner – well, that’s all that we can ask for and seek out.
Finding my person – it’s a messy, frustrating coal mine out there
I read somewhere that finding a true love partner is like being a coal miner. You have to go through a lot of coal to find your diamond. And guess what? There are a lot of diamonds out there but even more coal. Last summer, after I did a lot of deep, introspective work on myself, my relationship patterns, and my personal behaviors, I started opening up to the idea of dating again. And ever since then, I’ve gone on quite a few dates. Overall, the experience has been enlightening and fun. I’m someone who expands and grows as a person through relationships, and every interaction I’ve had with a date, lover, fling, you name it – they have all been part of my journey. I also have no regrets or guilty feelings for these experiences because I’m not willing to settle for anything less than what feels right. I’m confident there is someone out there for me, and that I’ll find my diamond.
But in the meantime, I’ve learned a few lessons in the past year about dating in your thirties, post divorce. These lessons are from my experiences in both San Francisco and dating internationally.
10 Lessons learned about dating internationally in your 30’s post divorce
1. Tinder has (mostly) opened up the possibility of dating at home and while traveling in a way that never existed before
When you are single and traveling, you are looking for adventure! And what girl hasn’t watched Before Midnight, Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset and dreams of meeting an incredible match on a train, in an airplane, or in a cafe? Well, let me tell you that is hard to do…especially in your thirties! Tinder has opened up a world of possibilities while traveling – to connect with other travelers or locals. The hardest part is matching with another traveler who you missed by a day because your itineraries are slightly off. Take note, Tinder! You should apply a travel filter. Tinder Social is also a wonderful way to meet other groups of single travelers while on the road. My friend and I used Tinder Social in Thailand and had an absolute blast meeting fellow travelers. There’s less pressure because it’s a group of people meeting and you can part ways if you don’t mesh.
One note of warning is for any lady friends traveling to India. I made the mistake of leaving my Tinder profile visible while traveling solo in India, and woah – that was a bit scary. First off, there were very few fellow international travelers on Tinder at the time, at least where I was going in India. Two, I had connected my Instagram account to my Tinder profile, which lists my last name. Within days of being in India, I had hundreds of new Instagram followers, tens of Facebook and Instagram personal messages being sent to me all hours of the day, and even LinkedIn requests from Indian men who wanted to meet me, be my personal tour guide in India, or just wrote they wanted to do unnameable things to me. Gah! Insanity but it was slightly amusing and, hey, if you want to grow your IG following – you know where to start 😉
It’s also possible to anger a local because you are traveling, and not living permanently in their city. This happened to me in Malaysia despite being very clear in my profile that I am traveling around the world for a year. We had a great little text conversation going when he ‘learned’ I was just there for one month. He wrote a few terrible things and that was the end of that. On the flip side, I went out on a date with a Greek rock musician traveling through San Francisco, when I was living there full time. I now have a new Greek friend out of it, and it was fun going on an adventure together in the city where I lived and seeing it through a visitor’s eyes.
“The objective of two lovers is almost always the same; to find meaning in their individual lives and in their life together.” – Paul Pearsall
2. Having an international vacation fling is probably just that, even if you’re told otherwise
After a few months on the road in Asia, three of my girlfriends and I were commiserating about not meeting any eligible men. During our transition day from Vietnam to Cambodia, we all decided to go dancing at the aptly named Club Love. I literally beelined it for a tall, good looking Jordanian who ended up being a Refugee Relief worker while my other two friends met their matches for the evening – one a businessman from the States and another a Peace Corps volunteer. Did it matter that they were many years younger than us?! Apparently not that evening! But it was just that – a fun evening for the books after a very long dry spell!
During a certain recent beach vacation I met a gorgeous Northern Scotsman (think David Beckham status) who I immediately connected with. Within an hour of meeting, intense fireworks were flying (at least on my end!) and let’s just say we had some crazy intimate adventures together! That aside, I didn’t actually expect much to come of it until we ended up exchanging and befriending each other on all sorts of social apps with promises to meet up somewhere in Europe and talks of moving to L.A.
I get it, you have all sorts of crazy ideas in the throes of passion but those things do stick with you. Needless to say, I was somewhat hopelessly obsessed with this individual for weeks after, only to be disappointed that our conversations were short, abrupt, nonlinear, and all over the place. Just because you had a crazy amazing connection in person doesn’t mean he’s that into you or will follow up on any promises….usually made after (literal) buckets of alcohol were consumed with sand in your toes and body paint covering parts of your body. Needless to say, I should have stuck with my gut instinct and called a fling a fling.
“Allowing yourself to be shaken to your roots is a source of a growing relationship. We reach between our illusions and realize it’s safe to talk about our feelings, make requests, sometimes say no. And most of all, it’s safe to say yes.” – If the Buddha Dated
3. Anyone who says they are ‘almost’ out of a relationship or marriage is lying to you
I met a wonderful guy from Latvia whom I grew very close with over the course of a two week period. He was slightly younger than me, but we bonded on so many levels. It was the first time I really felt a soul connection with someone with whom I was dating. I knew he was married but was told he was in the process of getting a divorce. Things were a bit complicated because he has a daughter. I didn’t ask or demand any of this information, I just took his word for it. As people do this day in age, we became Facebook and Instagram friends only to start seeing blissful images of he and his, supposedly, soon to be ex-wife all over my newsfeed. After a short text exchange where the individual reiterated he had not lied about anything, I told him he was lying to himself and that pictures speak 1,000 words. And even if he is miserable, who knows what his wife actually knows and thinks. Either way, he’s being deceptive and disrespectful to multiple parties. You can give me one million and one reasons under the sun for ‘why you still have to be in a relationship.’ No one is forcing you to do anything. If your choice is to stay, then stay but don’t string people along.
On a separate occasion, I met a charming Italian businessman who headed up a regional sales office for a major global tech firm. He spoiled me in ways I’ve never been spoiled before – extravagant lobster dinners, expensive champagne, weekend getaways to beautiful resorts in Napa, expensive jewelry. I was in pinch-me-is-this-life-real? scenario. The only problem is that he lived in Dubai, and I lived in San Francisco. He travelled to SF so much, though, that we saw each other consistently for four months in a row two to three times per month. He was very open about his life and past except about one thing – relationships. I could tell there was a lot of pain there but did not pry. After a few bottles of wine one night, it came to light that he had a girlfriend whom he was living with in Dubai. He claimed to be unhappy (clearly!) and that things were coming to an end, but I was still in disbelief. Ah – how blind love can be! So many people lie in relationships. Please, do not lie to yourself or others or hold information back. The truth always comes out.
“We need to present ourselves as we are and as we intend to be in a relationship. Only then can we avoid rebound problems.” – If the Buddha Date
4. If a guy tells you they broke up with their girlfriend six months ago but is still living with her, he’s still in a relationship and you’re lying to yourself
I dated a former Portuguese runway model turned real estate investor for a little over a week. During that time we went out three times. He was the perfect gentleman, picking me up before every date, always paying, saying the kindest things. We had a great connection and had a blast together. We couldn’t stop talking about everything under the sun. I couldn’t believe my lucky stars. On our third date, we went to his apartment. While washing my hands in the bathroom, I noticed a rack of women’s necklaces hanging on the wall. My eyes then went to the floor where I saw a hairdryer, still plugged into the wall. When I asked him about his necklace collection, he responded that while he had broken up with his girlfriend, they still lived together. Okay, I understand needing time to clear things out or even living together in separate quarters but living together, in the same room, in the same bed, with zero signs of anybody moving out anytime soon, you’re lying to yourself if you think they are telling you the truth.
“It’s not being free of imperfections that’s crucial to relationships. It’s being honest about our faults and mistakes. When we accept our humanness, we become able to apologize for having been dishonest or rude.” – If the Buddha Dated
5. Tinder has allowed people to become lazy, expectant and noncommittal, and we owe it to ourselves to hold people on the other end accountable
Last summer, I started dating a brilliant Google engineer from Brazil. I really liked his sweet demeanor, and we went on a lot of fun dates but I found it odd that he pretty much always wore sweat pants on our dates and would ghost for days. He would apologize profusely for going on a business trip or being sick but that doesn’t mean your wi-fi stopped working! We are all busy, People. If you are dating someone, give them the respect and respond to a text or phone call.
If a guy ‘forgets’ his wallet at home on more than one occasion, he is doing it on purpose. A lot of guys like to have their cake and eat it too. I was seeing a Lebanese guy for a while whom I had crazy chemistry with. We would usually meet at some fun bar in San Francisco but inevitably the bill would come around, and he would somehow have forgotten his wallet at home….despite having driven to the bar. I finally got the message and cut him off despite really liking him. Oh well!
Recently, I was messaging back and forth with a German guy who I was supposed to meet up with towards the end of a work week. We agreed on a time but hadn’t agreed on a place. Early in the day, I texted him telling him I was excited to meet and to name a place. He responded a bit strangely saying he would get back in touch with me and that it was going to be a surprise. Well, a ‘surprise’ location on a first date is never a good idea and quite odd. Then, fifteen minutes before our agreed upon meeting time, I still hadn’t heard from him. As a result, I decided to make dinner plans with friends and forget about the whole situation. When I texted him to say I made other plans he was furious and could not fathom why. Well, if you snooze, you lose. My time is important, and I’m not going to wait around for decisions to be made.
“When you say goodbye to someone or decide not to see them again, remember you are a moment in their story. Make it a story that doesn’t leave a scar.” – If the Buddha Dated
6. Online dating is time consuming, and there is an art to moving from a Tinder conversation to exchanging What’s App numbers to finally meeting face to face
After jumping through the hoops of sifting through endless photos and profiles and spending time swiping right on potential matches, the waiting game starts. I have a rule. I never write first. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that if a guy wants to meet me, he will reach out first. It’s as simple as that. I know Bumble has become a huge platform but, I’m sorry, it just feeds into the laziness factor in my opinion! That being said, there’s an entire art to the Tinder conversation. You try to be witty, say something different, or ask a unique question that shows you’ve actually read their profile – if they have one! Once a conversation starts flowing, you might agree to exchange What’s App numbers and move the conversation offline. Huge step! After that, there’s a whole song and dance about meeting up, selecting a location, day and time that work. If you can make it this far, you know you’re both in it to win it!
Once a guy takes initiative to reach out, I don’t have any issues with being the first one to suggest meeting. But take note, Ladies! All of this back and forth, speed of responding, substance of responses IS a sign of what you’ll come face to face with so if the conversation is blah to begin with…the date might turn out to be blah after.
“If I hold you with my emotions, you’ll become a wished for companion. If I hold you with my eyes, you’ll grow old and die. So I hold you where we both mix with the infinite.” – Rumi
7. There is no replacement for meeting someone face to face, and if you can’t make that happen he’s just not that into you
When I was living in Cambodia, I matched with a handsome Belgian guy who happened to be living in Cambodia as an expat. We had a fantastic, light hearted, fun exchange going and I looked forward to hearing from him. Given he worked deep in the jungle far away from Phnom Penh, he mentioned jumping on a plane and flying to see me. I was all for it! Yes, bring it on.
You never know if you’ll be a great match, and regardless it could turn out to be a great story either way. Needless to say, there was one excuse after another for why we couldn’t meet despite continued daily exchanges. I finally suggested a video chat because at least that would give me an indication if this is someone I would want to pursue. Again, excuses for why this wasn’t a great idea. Needless to say, we never met and our conversation eventually dwindled. My friends are convinced he is a catfish – someone who lures another person into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona. I’m not sure if he is or not but one thing is clear – he just wasn’t that into me and, therefore, I’m not interested.
“As we incorporate more levels of bonding, particularly the psychological, spiritual, and creative, we come closer to living out of our essence. Our masks fall away, fear subsides, and we dance lightly on our journey.” – If the Buddha Dated
9. Never, ever agree to meet someone for Sunday brunch on a first date
While still living in San Francisco, I decided to go on a date with a handsome guy from Costa Rica. Harvard educated, well travelled, and very communicative via text, I couldn’t wait to meet this guy. Friends had warned me to never commit to a date over a meal at first, but I really felt like I was getting to know this guy over SMS and that we were guaranteed to hit it off. He agreed to come to my neighborhood for Sunday brunch near Union Square in San Francisco. This was a huge mistake for a lot of reasons. First off, I had not factored in that we were going to have to stand in line for about thirty minutes before even being seated at our table. Within seconds of greeting him, I knew we weren’t gelling. He was significantly shorter than I had anticipated and was extremely socially awkward. Within minutes of chatting in line, it was very clear we had no common interests. Second, thirty minutes turned into an hour of waiting, and I’m pretty sure we were both starting to panic about now having to find things to talk about over brunch – the longest meal time out there! Needless to say, we both practically ran out of the restaurant at the end of the meal, grateful that the past few hours were finally over.
“Seek the special being who wants the same things as you do – to be understood, loved, and respected, to find purpose and to find themselves. Relationships are meant to be a celebration of love, creativity, joy and growth, not an endless experience of pain, unhappiness, and loneliness. Life hands us enough hard lessons for free.” – If the Buddha Dated
9. There is such a thing as friends with benefits
At this point in life, I pretty much know what I want. I have felt all the feels. I follow my gut instinct. I have a guy friend who I admire greatly, find extremely attractive, is funny, charming, flirtatious and an all around gentleman. I really, really like him. However, there is zero physical chemistry. It is the oddest thing! I can’t explain it. Nobody can explain it. We have hooked up a few times – perhaps thinking I might feel something during or after – but I never do!
And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either since our actions mirror each others. It’s somewhat frustrating but it is what it is, and I can’t argue that nothing is there if nothing is there. And now I know. So I’ll take it for what it is, and just go with the flow.
“The only sure path is to live consciously, moment to moment, as you let go of outcome.” – If the Buddha Dated
10. There are still some really great catches out there
Last year, I decided to do a month long 30 Dates in 30 Days challenge. It was slightly exhausting, but I had a lot of fun meeting men from all walks of life. I met several attractive, kind, and interesting men who I really enjoyed getting to know but for one reason or another simply were not a great match for me. During the time, I also met a fantastic, adventurous French guy who was way more into me than I him. He was ready to jump straight into a relationship whereas I was just getting my feet wet. Recently, I went on a date with a world famous British photographer in charge of photographing crises situations all over Europe. We had a great conversation over drinks, we just didn’t connect beyond friendship which is 100% okay. We parted ways amicably, and it gave me hope that there are plenty of great catches still available.
“If you feel discouraged, you can remember there is a mystery to life beyond our comprehension. Ultimately, lovers are a gift from the universe. There may be absolutely nothing wrong. It’s just not your time right now, for no particular reason. Your path is to find acceptance, to be at peace with yourself. You are the lover in your life. You are a child of the universe, a child of Spirit” – If the Buddha Dated
So what’s the difference between dating a Portuguese, Italian, French, British, Jordanian, Scottish, and Brazilian?
Everything and nothing. They are all totally unique and wonderful in their own right. We are more similar than we are different. But they are not right for me, right now. By the time you’re in your thirties, you most likely have a few relationship scars. That’s too be expected. At this point, I am simply looking for someone who is totally 100% comfortable in his own skin. Someone who is honest with himself and me. Someone who can clearly articulate what he is looking for. So often, people wear masks or hide certain aspects of themselves but the truth always, ALWAYS comes out. Yes, timing has something to do with it, and I get it. I’m traveling around the world for a year and am not exactly in a position to settle down. But that doesn’t mean I’m not open to meeting a magnificent human being who I can start getting to know and start building a relationship with. If there is a real soul connection there, both of you would figure out a way to make it work if it is right. And when it’s right, it will be obvious. Until that moment arrives, I will continue to explore the world and go on adventures and more dates. All I ask for is honesty, respect and equality.
Tell me what lessons you’ve learned along your dating journey or travels!
Header photo credit: Jay Harrison @Jay_Dred