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I love dating. I am not only using it as a tool to find my next boyfriend but also to learn more about myself. I am still very much on a journey of self-discovery.

I especially love dating as a 40-something divorced woman with kids. Since I am no longer looking for someone to mate with, all pressure is off. Been there, done that. Dating simply for fun has brought freedom.

I feel bad for the 20-somethings and 30-somethings looking for the fathers & mothers of their future children because I remember the pressure. I remember the calculations and assessments, and even the ultimatums. I’m making it sound a lot more clinical than it really was… but it truly was a different way of thinking about the process.

It’s an entirely different experience now. Dating back then was about mate selection. Dating now is about companionship and, in simplest terms, finding someone I like spending time with who doesn’t annoy me. Ultimately, dating is about finding love.

I enjoy getting to know new people. I love taking my time assessing our compatibility. I feel like I’m conducting a experiment. Who will I like and what qualities will they have? Who will eventually rise to the top? Who will win my heart?

I love what I am unearthing from my psyche in the process.

Bone&silver recently posted about intimacy. I had told her I wasn’t sure I’d ever experienced true intimacy, but then rescinded when I realized that I had once before, long ago with a platonic male friend. Interestingly, I have never experienced true intimacy with a lover.

I believe this is a combination of my childhood experiences in addition to my perception that maybe I’d be too vulnerable if I was emotionally intimate with a lover. Maybe there’s too much at stake. More probing into the recesses of my mind is necessary to figure this out.

I have a very high sex drive. A romantic monogamous relationship is best for me because it means the hottest, most satisfying, and most frequent sex. Second best is a consistent FWB (friend with benefits), which I currently enjoy with Hayden. This is ideal outside of a relationship because we truly care about each other and the sex is passionate. There are varying levels of lesser good from there but the worst option would be to be single, not have a FWB, and not date. I can barely tolerate that depressing thought.

As I’ve said many times before, divorce has changed my perception of relationships. My belief is that relationships are finite; they have a shelf life. Although I would love to find a relationship that lasts the rest of my life, I realize it’s unlikely. I don’t want to settle. I want awesome. Even more challenging, I want awesome for the rest of my life.

I love deeply for as long as it’s good, then let go.

Once my head realizes someone isn’t good for me, my heart follows. This is why I can still love Hayden but not want a relationship with him. A relationship with him would mean I’m settling. I wouldn’t get what I ultimately want and need.

I think: if only he didn’t have anxiety, if only he didn’t self-medicate, if only he could better handle his stress.

The same was true of Tex: if only he wasn’t jealous, if only he wasn’t moody and gave me the silent treatment for no apparent reason, if only he was more easy-going and engaging, if only he could effectively resolve conflict.

And the same was true of Professor Luke: if only he didn’t talk crazy, if only he didn’t abuse LSD, if only he was already divorced.

If only never translates to a good relationship. If only is a major red flag. Don’t think about the what-ifs. Assess what is.

I’m not talking about perfection. There will always be things you don’t like about someone, but they should be manageable. There should be no deal-breakers. There should be no major red flags.

And sometimes, even without the if onlies, deal-breakers, and red flags, it still doesn’t work out. Life is unpredictable.

I am a hopeless romantic and have undying hope that my next boyfriend is just around the corner. In the meantime, I am enjoying the process.