"I promise to keep an open mind and an adventurous spirit." These were the opening words in the journal I kept the year I was going through divorce.
I made this promise to myself on the 11th March 2005 just fourteen days after I had moved out of my marital home.
My dating journey over the next year was vibrant, joyful, tearful, amazing. The promise I made to myself became my core principle for dating, as it did for all aspects of my life. And I needed it. I was on unknown terrain; my openness to adventure made the terrain sumptuous, even when I fell over and hurt myself.
Here are some of the things I learnt from my journey of dating that year.
The first thing I remember was dealing with judgements about what is appropriate behaviour for a divorcing woman - judgements from others as well as my own.
I had only just moved home and I had a couple of dates in my diary. I had said yes when they asked, feeling good about it. But it didn't take long for me to feel bad. Was it too soon? Interestingly though, when I examined this bad feeling, it wasn't about timing, it was about having the right to have fun while divorcing. Shouldn't I be feeling bad? Shouldn't I be a mess? The truth was that I was experiencing the biggest trauma of my adult life. But the truth was also that I had space, and time, and desire for fun. I learnt that the heart doesn't move on, it unfolds. It ducks and dives, leaps and shatters, is devastated and exhilarated at the same time. So, I had fun.
I didn't analyse other people's judgements, but my sense was they were bound up with ideas of propriety, and conviction that divorce was a failure. I could see the confusion in people's eyes that said, 'But why don't you feel like a failure? Why are you not ashamed?' So I treated my private life as just that - private. This had always been my natural style - from the time I first started dating. When I chose to discuss something I chose carefully with whom to discuss it.
As for the men I dated, I was very up front about saying that I was in the process of divorcing. It was important to me to let them know this - for clarity and fairness. I was also clear that I didn't want or need to discuss the details with them. That was my business. I fully expected some to be put off by that fact, and graciously excuse themselves. None did. To this day I remain mildly surprised by that fact, though I don't know why I'm surprised.
And how did I choose which dates to accept and which to decline? I learnt that an open mind and adventurous spirit bring great clarity. I was clear that I was interested in experiencing different masculinities. The only criterion I had that in choosing dates was, 'Do I want to date this man?' There was nothing else to consider. When intuitive desire is so clear, there's no need for logic.
My dating experiences that year gave me many gifts.
I learnt that there can be no fixed do's and don'ts about how to approach dating during divorce. What is better for me will not be right for you.The key is to keep asking 'What do I want now?' Divorce is a time of flux. What I wanted one week was not what I wanted the next. Having the guts to be true to that flux was possibly the most important and precious gift I got. It took guts, because we're brought up to think that changing your mind about what you want is a bad thing - you're all over the shop, or you've let someone down. If I hadn't been true to my changing mind and adventurous spirit, I would have been all over the shop, and I would have let myself down.
Meet the Passion Coach! Vena Ramphal will be exhibiting at the Starting Over Show in Farnham on the 11th November 2010. She will be hosting a Passion Cocoon, where you can reconnect with your senses and sensuality. For details visit the Starting Over Roadshow website.
To find out more about Dr. Vena Ramphal, visit her website