“Just Say No.”
Ahh, that famous anti-drug slogan from the 80s and 90s. Three simple words. But, oh, so powerful. How they can potentially impact our lives, change them for the better, should we only choose to listen.
Back in the day, long before the age when technology began dictating our lives, and men courted women by dating, not by hanging out, meeting up, or hooking up, when a relationship was over, it was actually over. Done. Finished. There was no checking up. No cyber stalking our former love interest on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. And, certainly, no weak attempts at re-infiltrating via a quick email or text at 4 am when loneliness set in. Unless a person was willing to pick up a phone and call, or physically travel to someone’s house or place of business to watch their subject’s every move, out of sight eventually meant out of mind. Yes, surveillance occurred. But it wasn’t easy. It required effort on the would-be stalker’s part. And, most likely, was probably not worth the energy for the half-sane person.
Today, the dating landscape is different. With the advent of the internet, and our resultant obsession with social media, email, and texting, it’s so much easier to remain connected to someone we once dated, even when logic tells us the relationship should be terminated, once and for all. Saying goodbye no longer holds the weight it once did, and, as a result, the ability to form new, more valuable relationships suffers while we keep one foot tenuously in the past, or allow someone from our past to keep one foot tenuously in our future.
When I first began dating after my separation, I was under the misguided assumption that when either my love interest or I realized we were incompatible, our ties would be permanently severed. After all, if our relational goals weren’t aligned or, more simply, the chemistry was absent, why would we want to revisit a relationship that wasn’t mutually satisfying? The answer lies in temptation. Because it’s so easy to reconnect again, we are able to quickly dispel our paranoia that somehow we let “The One” carelessly slip through our sticky little fingers, those same fingers that capriciously prance about our computer keyboards as we go in search of the next best thing.
The marriage of technology and dating is a double-edged sword. Technology has enabled us to meet more people than ever before. But, with that union, comes an endless supply of possibilities, not all of them realistic, either. In other words, the problem with dating today is too much choice. Or, I should say, the appearance of too much choice. Internet dating has made finding a potential match so easy that we can literally sit in the comfort of our own home while perusing screen after screen of headshots and profiles to find a potential soul mate. Because of the vast array of opportunity, at the slightest hint of dissatisfaction with a date, we are, as they say in baseball, outta there. Too often, what we wind up with is a lot of dates, few relationships, even fewer good relationships, and, basically, a whole lot of nothing.
So we question. We wonder. We doubt. Did we give that relationship the old college try? Did we bolt too soon when a new prospect came along? To ease our curiosity, we circle back just to make sure, hoping, praying, that, perhaps, our first inclination was mistaken.
I am no innocent in the game of never-ending relationships. I have been well aware that a situation was not right for me, but knowingly and willingly accepted bait when I was either bored, lonely, or feeling falsely empowered, as though I could now handle a situation I was unable to before.
I am also guilty of being too nice, to my own detriment. Very recently, I received an email from someone I dated. The relationship did not end on good terms, and it became necessary to cut all contact in order to stop his unwelcome texts, emails, and calls. After staying silent for nearly three months, I answered an apology text last fall, in an effort to offer forgiveness and, hopefully, some closure. My thanks? Last week, five months later, I received an email out of the blue with an update about his life, which, coincidentally, served as a stark reminder why I ultimately left the relationship in the first place.
In the wake of my divorce, I am decisive. Clear about my relationship goals. Better able to recognize when a man can’t or won’t give me what I want and need. So now, when an ex reappears, I keep him locked away in my past, exactly where he belongs.
Today, I don’t “Just Say No.” I say nothing. And I leave that old door closed so a new one may open.