Stepping Out Of The Box

BY JENNIFER

The moment of truth came while my husband and I were sitting in a hot tub with a group of friends at the end of a night of partying. I was relaxed from the alcohol, the warmth of the water rippling across my limbs, and the night air cooling my face, but anxiety nagged at me under the surface. My husband had been drinking way too much lately, as well as taking drugs, and I had no idea what to do about it. Our friend Dan, who was staying with us for a week, had recently had a car accident while drinking and driving. 

Dan, who knew that I paid the bills and that the cars were in my name, turned to me and asked, “Jennifer, do you mind if I take your car to go see my friend Vicki? She wants me to drive downtown and hang out with her.” 

Stunned, I said, “No, you can't. You just wrecked your car, you don't have a license any more, and you've been partying all night. No way can you drive our car.”

No one spoke for a few minutes. I listened to the crickets and the muffled beat of the water pump. Then my husband said, “It's okay, Dan, you can take the car.” I felt so embarrassed that my friends witnessed my partner overriding my decision without discussing it with me. 

Even though I could say no to Dan, I didn't have a strong enough voice to stand up to my husband with my friends right there. I didn't say a word. I told myself, Wow, he doesn't respect me.

That was the moment I decided to leave our eleven-year marriage.

At 31, I plunged back into the dating scene. I went out with lots of men, but I couldn't seem to attract the kind of guy I really wanted. The relationships ranged from spending a few months together to one-night stands. Nothing lasted, conversations were superficial, and I just wasn't getting enough depth in my life.

Looking back, I can see that I wasn't asking for what I wanted. I spent many evenings lying in bed in my pajamas after work, swiping through the dating app. I waited for messages or reached out to guys and got responses like, “Hey baby, come on over.” It was so much about sex, when what I really wanted was a connection with a partner. I wanted someone who understands that relationship takes work. It's not easy, it's not always fun, and it's not always comfortable. It takes waking up every morning and looking across the room and choosing that person for all their strengths and weaknesses, for the days when they're depressed as well as the days when they're happy. But I wasn't sending out my desires in a confident way, and I wasn't willing to say no to what I didn't want. I was lonely, so I settled for attention.

Back then, I was using my body to attract people because that's what I thought you needed. On the app, I'd post pictures of myself in swimsuits. My profile didn't describe who I really am, a nurse, an intelligent woman with many interests. Instead I tried to be flirty and witty, fitting myself into a little box of what would get someone's attention. It worked in terms of getting me dates, but I was still frustrated and sad.

As I was coming through a horrible breakup, a friend called to tell me about OM, which she had just tried. She talked about it for two and a half hours and convinced me to try it.

My first OM actually felt natural and smooth. I was a little uncomfortable just because I was feeling my way through a new experience. But I felt grounded and tremendously supported by my partner. It was startling to have an experience with someone who happened to be a man, and yet there was no romance involved. For me, romance was always a factor. Even on line to buy coffee, if a man chatted with me, I'd wonder if he was going to ask for my number, and if he didn't, I'd worry I wasn't pretty enough for him. So it was liberating to show up for myself, having this experience where there were no expectations. 

In the practice, you want the stroker to be on the spot of greatest sensation. When the finger goes off the spot, you can feel that's not where the highest sensation is. But my voice was so caged, I didn't feel comfortable asking for an adjustment in how my partner was stroking. At first I thought, I can't tell him he's doing something wrong. I don't want to embarrass him or be bossy.  

But at the same time, there was another train of thought, going, I don't want to deceive him and make him think he's on the spot when he's absolutely not. That's not the kind of woman I want to be. So finally I said, “Could you move your finger to the left? Could you stroke a little bit higher? Can I have a lighter stroke?” A series of simple, direct requests. Not only do I not want to put myself on a path of deception and pretense, but I don't want to direct others down a path like that either. We're here for each other. We're supposed to inspire each other and help each other grow.

OM taught me to stop giving men mixed signals and start being true to myself. Now my profile on the dating app describes my background as an army brat, my job as a nurse, the people who have influenced me in the personal growth movement. The pictures are all of my face. I've spent too much of my life trying to put myself in that little box, and I'm done with it.

I had a brief relationship recently with a guy I met on the app. I showed up to the first date without any expectations. I just wanted to get back out there and know that I can meet attractive men, and they'll find me attractive. It was a feel-good date, but I actually ended up really liking him. We had a lot of similar interests, and our conversation was great. We decided to keep seeing each other.

The following week, he started to pull back a little bit. I noticed it, but I was trying to be patient, because I could tell he was the kind of guy who takes time to get comfortable and share his feelings. It was good practice for me, because OM had so attuned my attention that I could sense the backing away, but I still felt grounded in myself. I didn't get mad at him. I didn't feel unworthy.

A week later, he said we should talk. We agreed that maybe we were trying to force something because we both want to partner so bad. We all want love and want to be loved, but something between us wasn't quite right. Now we're friends. 

The experience made me see how OM has changed my attitude toward dating. I can be attentive to the subtleties between myself and another, and then be willing to look at the reality of what's happening between us. I can agree to end a romance and be perfectly okay with it because I’m out of that little box.