11/05/2014 08:44 am ET Updated Jan 05, 2015

Haunted By My Past While Online Dating


On Halloween night, I was haunted by a ghost. I had turned on my phone, which had been recharging after taking a zillion photos of the SF Giants' Parade from the window of a downtown art gallery. Box seats from eight floors up was a fun place for viewing these third-time-in-five-year-winners of baseball's World Series.

My cell phone buzzed to life, filling the screen with a vaguely familiar, nice-looking man. Momentarily confused, I soon realized it was the news eed from the Facebook page of an old friend. I looked again at the photo. Recognition dawned as I realized it was one of his old friends and my old husband!

For an existential detective of my own relationship patterns, a ghost from my early twenties was a clue. It was the second time in two weeks that my past reappeared. I recently reconnected with a dear friend I had lost contact with decades ago. She asked if I wanted to hear of the brothers we had dated when we were like sisters. Remembering them, I was immediately transported back in time.

She had married and divorced hers. I had left mine abandoned in my West Village apartment on Christopher Street. One night I just didn't come home. No explanation, no communication at all. I simply never returned; impulsively moving in with another man who later became my husband.

Back then, I was run by a dysfunctional part of myself that didn't realize I had the power to say no. If a man was interested in me, I said yes. I habitually focused on the needs and desires of others. I had little access to my own. Nowadays, the fulcrum has swung in the opposite direction. My habit of responding with an automatic no to men who wanted to meet me was brought home by several conversations with men from the dating site.

One was with the man who wanted to be walked as described in "(Live) Man Walking." He'd asked if I went on a lot of dates. I told him that, over time, I had, but wasn't attracted to any of the men. I'd assumed this was due to finding men my age far less interesting and developed than the women. I hadn't thought it odd until I heard him gasp, "no one?!"

Another conversation was with a man my daughter's age. He'd commented on my profile photos, saying that I must have a line of interested men that went around the block. My flirty reply was, "Yes, but, it's a fast-moving line."

Reflecting, I now wonder if my quick rejection is connected to my younger self's inability to say no. Have I developed a new, but equally unhealthy pattern of just saying no before learning who the other is? Or maybe, as my wise father remarks I really don't want a relationship. Could my consistent elimination of the men who seek me out be due to an internal obstacle to romance rather than not meeting compatible men?

If true, do I need to complete the past on a deeper level; forgiving the younger version of myself for not knowing she had choices? After my Jewish new year ritual found in "I'm Stuck Plateaus in Online Dating," I thought I had completed my forgiveness process. Confused, I sat quietly with my noisy thoughts, listening for an answer.

When my inner guidance informed me of the need to go further, I found my old boyfriend through a circuitous route on Facebook. Decades later, I covertly viewed his video clip of the ALS ice bucket challenge. Same voice. Still funny. I remembered the good times, but primarily how we played out villain and victim. I played the latter until, trying on his role, I uncharacteristically delivered the surprise ending.

Suddenly, in the midst of my reverie, I felt the pain I caused him. Payback is indeed a female dog. And what goes around did come around a few years later in the form of a painful divorce from the man I left him for.

Back in the present, where I am fully able to live despite and because of the inner work I do, I continue to listen to my inner guidance. It encourages me to write a letter to him, one that doesn't need sending, asking forgiveness. I am also holding my younger self with compassion for acting out from suppressed feelings. The underlying rage went much further back than the man I left unable to eat or sleep in my Christopher Street apartment.

Having released one more interior barrier to romance, my intention to create a healthy and creative relationship with a life partner feels strengthened. I immediately applied my insights saying yes to a second date with an interesting man. Wish me luck.