It's Rod talking about himself some more! His favorite subject. Flora's favorite part is our duet on "Last Christmas."
This episode was produced and edited by Flora Folgar, and mixed by Rod, featuring outro music from Aiden Folgar.
Here's the transcript:
Rod: (con’t from Part 1) I thought if I continued to build my life back up again maybe someday there would be something there, but I didn’t think I’d be in a relationship, and I didn’t think anybody would love me.
Flora: So what happened?
Rod: I had a friend who… I met her through a mutual friend, and we kind of clicked as far as we would go do stuff with our kids together. We’d go hiking, or you know, we’d go play at the playground or whatever, and she and I became friends that way. And then over time, she was going through a divorce. At the point when my ex-wife said she wanted a divorce, this is the friend that I went to talk to about it, and so our friendship became stronger during that period. And when I moved out, had my own apartment, a couple of months later, she, against her better judgment, made a pass at me and we started dating. And I say against her better judgment because she also had that idea that you really shouldn’t date so soon after ending a major long term relationship, that it was just a bad idea, and it wouldn’t work. It was a complete shock to me that anybody was attracted to me. That helped begin to change my image of myself. I do remember that we were getting more and more flirty, and that being just a real pleasant surprise. I didn’t want to mess up the friendship and all that, and so I was reluctant to start something, and then she did it for me. I went along. How could I say no? She called me one night. Oh, there was a song, Thompson Square, “Are you gonna kiss me or not? Are we gonna do this or what?” Well she had been somewhere kind of drunk listening to that song and called me up and was like, “Are we gonna do this or not?” And I was like, “What?” And I was like, “Well OK, come on over!” And she’s like, “No, I don’t want you to see me all drunk like this. Some other time.” So like the next night, she came over, and she started something, and I remember that whole night going, “Are you kidding me? Like, is this for real?” I kept saying it, and she kept laughing at me, because I was like, “Is this real?” Partly I was shocked that she was interested, but I was really shocked that anyone was interested, because I just felt so beat down from the end of the marriage, and so… Like, I didn’t have anything to offer anybody, and she didn’t see it that way. And her not seeing it that way started making me see it differently too.
Flora: How was that relationship different from your marriage, your ex-wife?
My ex-wife liked routine and schedule and predictability. So if we went out to eat, she wanted to go to the same restaurants and order the same food. And with that new girlfriend, we went places that I’d never been. We ate things I hadn’t eaten. We talked a lot and laughed a lot, and… I don’t want to make it sound like everything about my marriage was repressive or, you know, held me back in some way. A lot of what held me back was my own fear and my own self-esteem issues. Maybe as much as the personality of this new person being different than that of my ex-wife, it was also just a new situation which gave me the freedom and the permission to be a new person myself. And I think at the time, I put a lot of that on my new girlfriend, and she was this amazing person that was so different from my ex-wife, but I think it had more to do with I was walking through a new door into a new space, a new time in my life and had the freedom to become a new person, to become someone that I wanted to be instead of someone that I’d always been because that fit well with my ex-wife.
Flora: Who did you want to be?
Rod: I wanted to be… It’s funny, because every time I describe the women that I’ve found attractive, the women that I’ve dated, my first impression of these women that I’m drawn to is always that they are strong and confident, that they give the impression of being sure of themselves, and that’s appealing to me because that’s not who I was, and that’s who I wanted to be. And that’s who I’m becoming now. I’m a lot more comfortable with myself, both in like my physical body and in my personality, and in my willingness to do things that I’ve never allowed myself to do because I wasn’t good enough at them, like dancing, and writing, and public speaking, and stuff like that.
Flora: All right, so you’ve mentioned that your ex-girlfriend suggested you date other people and start an open relationship, because you didn’t have enough experience after the divorce, and you got into a relationship with her really soon, so you started an open relationship. Give me some details. What was that like? Give me some experiences dating other women during the time that you were with your girlfriend.
Rod: Because I was in this new time in my life where I thought the things that I was afraid of were the things that I should be doing, I jumped into it and thought, “Yeah, this is very uncomfortable, and I am very afraid of it, so I should do it.” And looking back now, it just, it was not something that fit me very well. I didn’t enjoy it all that much. I did enjoy that feeling of freedom. I had never dated, really. Like, I had a girlfriend in high school, but I hadn’t dated more than her, and then I didn’t date anybody before getting together with my future ex-wife, and I didn’t date anybody after that before getting into a relationship with my ex-girlfriend. So I’d never dated, so it was a new experience. And it was kind of fun, and it was kind of exciting, and I was proud of myself that I was able to be really open and comfortable talking about myself, talking with these women, relating, you know, relating to women in that way that I never had before.
Flora: Can you give a specific example? Talk about a site that you used and a date. Tell me about a date.
Rod: I was using OK Cupid, and then I used Tinder later. I liked OK Cupid better because it had profiles. To read a profile and in a message to that person respond to it and you know, comment on things that were in it. And be funny. That was my other go-to. I was funny. Smart and funny. There was one date where I thought it was going really well. That’s kind of how the theme went, I guess, is I always kind of thought it was going pretty well until it wasn’t. I got rejected. That was one where I was like, “I’m going to go for the goodnight kiss.” You know, we got to the car, and I was going to kiss her goodbye, and I chickened out. And then I texted her after that and was like, “Yeah, I was going to go for the kiss.” And she was like, “Yeah, good thing you didn’t, because it wouldn’t have happened.” So that one didn’t turn into a second date. Did I reject anybody? Not after a first date. Later, after I’d been dating for awhile, I kind of changed my approach. I was just doing it for the fun, you know. I wasn’t trying to find a relationship by that point. I just was, you know, turning on the app when I’m like, “It’s a Saturday night, and I got nothing to do. Maybe I can get a date.” And I got a date. She seemed to be really into me. And I thought, “Aha! This is my chance to go for casual sex,” because I hadn’t really done casual sex, so it seemed like I was pretty guaranteed that if I tried, I could see what casual sex was like. So we went on the first date, and she was very aggressive on the kiss at the end. And then we, the second date, we went to a movie, and she was all over me in the movie theater. And so the third date, I was going to cook her dinner, and so she was coming over to my place, and I was sure that third date was the charm, and I was going to make my move, but I realized that there was no chemistry. I wasn’t really… I wasn’t into her in any kind of way. And because of that, my desire for the casual sex was really low. I just didn’t want to. I wasn’t very physically attracted to her, I wasn’t attracted to her personality, and I thought, “Well, why am I doing this?” And I canceled that third date before she came over.
Flora: OK. So this open relationship thing, did it become a problem eventually in your relationship? Were these women aware that you were in an open relationship?
Rod: Yeah, I put it in the profile.
Flora: So how did your ex-girlfriend take it? How did you guys… Were there jealousy issues?
Rod: I thought she was real blase about it. On a philosophical level, I kept telling myself like, jealousy is fear. Jealousy is fear of loss. So it was a good thing to push those boundaries and you know, to learn to not be afraid. She had more jealousy over the whole thing than I would have guessed or that I could tell from looking at her until you know, she told me later that that was an issue for her.
Flora: And you were jealous too?
Rod: Yeah, jealousy was worse for me. Well, I don’t know about worse, but I definitely had an issue with jealousy. She asked me to put one of those “Find My Friends” apps on my phone so I’d know where she was. You know, just like as a safety thing, she wanted me to have this app, when I knew she was out with a guy, I found myself checking it and seeing where they were, and it was not healthy. You know, it was like, “Oh look, they’re out at the lake.” You know. It was not good. And it was super uncomfortable for me. I didn’t like it at all, and I thought that’s, well, I should just, I should push those boundaries and learn to adapt to it. But I think in the end what I learned was that I just am not built for that. I don’t want to split my time like that. I don’t want to split my attention. I like really diving in and getting to know to someone and investing time and energy, and it just seemed hard to do that with more than one person at a time. It wasn’t for me.
Flora: Who decided to end the open relationship?
Rod: I did. I told her I wasn’t doing that anymore. I told her if she wanted to keep doing it, she could, but I wasn’t going to do it anymore.
Flora: How long were you guys doing it for?
Rod: 3 months, maybe. 3 months. Maybe 4 months.
Flora: And so, when you said you didn’t want to do it anymore, what happened?
Rod: By that time we were pretty close to the end of our relationship anyway. Things were pretty rocky between us. She kept dating. Then I broke up with her, and then I changed my mind and said I didn’t want to do that, and she agreed. And then she went out of town for awhile. She said you know, we would have this cooling off period, and we would think about it, and then we’d try again when she got back. And then when she got back, she dumped me. And that was the end of it.
Flora: How long did the relationship last?
Rod: 10 months. 10 months, and probably 4 months of being pretty good. And the rest of it being red flags all over the place that I just kept turning my head away from and going, “I don’t see you.”
Flora: How was that breakup? How did that breakup feel after pretty much a year after your breakup with your ex-wife? Were there similarities and differences?
Rod: I took it pretty hard. I was kind of angry a little bit. I felt a little bit betrayed, because she said while she was gone that… Or she said when she got back, we would try again. And we didn’t try again. It was like the very next day after she got back that she said she was done. And she put it in terms of she was going to focus on her kids, and she wasn’t going to date anybody right now, and you know, I think she tried to make it that whole “it’s not you, it’s me” thing. And you know, that never feels good I guess. Well, I think in both cases, I decided it was all my fault, and if I could just do the right thing, it would be OK. You know, that the relationship would work. And it took a little while for me to realize that there are ways I just can’t change myself. I am who I am, and there are people that I cannot be. And that was a good thing. Figuring that out. I think there’s a lot of value to compromise in relationships and you know, trying to value what the other person wants and everything, but at a certain point, you just can’t be somebody else. You can’t be who you’re not in order to keep somebody in your life. It doesn’t work. I’ve tried it. Twice.
Flora: What did you learn about yourself from that relationship?
Rod: I learned that I was repeating similar patterns, putting myself second, thinking that to save the relationship all I had to do was change myself. If only I could be a good enough, strong enough person to make the changes necessary to make the relationship work, then it would be OK. There were ways that we were absolutely not compatible in the same way that my ex-wife and I were not compatible, and I went through the same thing of going, “No, that’s not true. This is a good thing, and I should do everything I can to make it work.” Instead of having learned from the marriage. No, there’s basic ways that people don’t work well together. And I went right back into, “All I gotta do is change myself, and it’ll be fine.”
Flora: And after that relationship ended, did you wait a year until the next one?
Rod: Nope! By that point, my opinion had changed on that. From the time that my marriage ended and I moved out, I had changed so much, had changed the way I saw myself so much, and a lot of that change had come through dating. And my change in my understanding of what was possible for me, all of that change seemed to come through relationships, so by the time the relationship with her ended, and I decided open relationships were definitely not for me, I wanted to keep on dating and learning how I relate to different people. I think that was probably the wisest thing that she said to me when she wanted me to start doing open relationships was that I really needed to learn how I related to different people and to see a wide variety of people so that I could find out what it was I liked and what I didn’t like. And so I wanted to keep doing that after that relationship ended.
Flora: So how long after your last relationship did your next relationship begin?
Rod: 2 months.
Flora: So usually, like you said before, people would say take 6 months, take a year between relationships, but you feel like you’ve learned more and you’ve grown more through relationships. So it doesn’t really matter the period of time between relationships. Yeah?
Rod: Yeah, I think I had a harder time getting over my last relationship than I thought I would. So in retrospect, I shouldn’t have jumped in with both feet the way I did as quickly as I did. I should’ve kept on with the casual dating attitude, and you know, not been exclusive quite so quickly and taken more time to really get over that relationship after my ex-wife. I had gone into it not thinking that I would ever be in love again, and then was in love again and was trying to make it something long term, and got rejected, and was more hurt by that and more… I was still holding on to it when I got into the next relationship, and I should’ve taken more time to really let that end before I did it again.
Flora: Why did you get into another relationship?
Rod: I wasn’t really trying to, I just was taken by surprise the ways I connected with her and clicked with her in ways that I didn’t before. It was like, “Oh! You can be in a relationship with somebody that you have the same outlook, like the things that we wanted were the same. I had been through those 2 relationships where openness and communication were not highly valued by the other person and was beginning to realize that that’s one of the things that I really wanted. Openness, honesty, communication, talk about everything, have an attitude of growth. And I had realized that part of what had destroyed the previous relationships was I did not like silence. I liked talking about feelings. I wanted to say what I thought and felt, and I wanted to hear what the other person thought and felt, and I did not get that from either of the previous relationships. And all of a sudden I was in a relationship with somebody who wanted the same things that I did. And we very quickly got very close. And so it just seemed right, and it seemed natural that I should put my efforts into that. I asked her to be exclusive with me pretty quickly because the idea of dating other people, I thought it felt like I was splitting my attention, splitting my time, which I didn’t have all that much of to begin with. You know, every other week, I had my son full time, and I had found someone that felt so right, that I should be committing those time and resources to really exploring that and not messing around with other women and seeing if there was something else.
Flora: Now you’re in a new relationship. How long have you been with your current girlfriend?
Rod: Almost 16 months.
Flora: And how has your current relationship changed you?
Rod: I am so much more relaxed now, and I think that comes from being in a relationship with someone that I’m not trying to make it work by being somebody else. I am being myself all the time, and she still loves me. We’re just, I don’t know, we are a good fit. my current girlfriend, I absolutely love that she and I both just really crave that personal intimacy. I mean, we talk about everything. There aren’t limits set to what’s possible between the 2 of us. We talk about anything, and she has a sense of adventure that goes beyond going and doing stuff. I always, I never want to stagnate the way I did for so many years in my marriage where my life is about drinking and watching TV. I don’t want to do that. I want a life of growth and learning and exploration and change, and my current girlfriend absolutely syncs up with that beautifully in ways that neither of those other relationships did.
Flora: What are you doing differently in your current relationship than you did in your marital relationship or the other relationships?
Rod: Openness, honesty, and communication. Those are the 3 magic words for me right now, and not just in my relationship, but in life in general is just… I think I went through the other 2 relationships and especially my marriage trying to figure out what was going on in her mind. And frequently being completely wrong. But if there’s not that communication, it’s hard to know what’s really going on. Even when it’s hard and when it’s painful, or it’s embarrassing, or whatever, just be open, honest, direct, talk about everything, talk honestly about everything, and discover that doing that leads to a level of connection that’s really beautiful. And physical contact too. Like we hold hands and touch in small non-sexual ways all the time, and that means a lot to me.
Rod: There are no limits placed on my relationship now. There’s no limits on what we can explore, what we can do, what we can try, where we can try it. There were frameworks in place for both of my previous relationships. There were limitations. We can go this far, but no farther. We can do this, but we’re not going to that. And there isn’t any of that in my current relationship. She gives me the space to explore what I’m capable of. In our relationship, in our emotional intimacy, and in our sex life, and in me pushing the boundaries of what I can do and what I’ve never done before. I have never danced. My ex-wife loved to dance. We went dancing a couple of times very early on, went to clubs to go dance. And I was really really uncomfortable. I could not get out of my head the image of myself as a terrible dancer. I’d been made fun of trying to dance when I first went off to college, my roommate made fun of me dancing, and every time I tried to dance, I would see him imitating me and laughing, and it just stopped me from doing it. And I thought, “I just can’t dance.” And so I could not give that to my ex-wife. My ex-girlfriend wasn’t into dancing. My current girlfriend is a beautiful dancer. I didn’t want to hold her back from that. I didn’t want her to not be able to do it because I wouldn’t go do it with her. And I always wanted to be that comfortable in my body and that confident. And so I went dancing with her, and I took the risk of her laughing at me, and she never did. And that was a great gift, and I don’t think it was that she thought I looked ridiculous and just didn’t laugh at me. She just accepted in the same way that she accepts who I am, she accepted how I moved. And I don’t think she really understood how uncomfortable and awkward I felt. And the more we did it, the less awkward and uncomfortable I felt until I actually started enjoying going dancing with her. And that’s a great metaphor for so much of what our relationship is, is there’s just… There’s not this layer of judgment or anger or disappointment. It’s just the 2 of us being who we are, comfortably, together, and enjoying each other in a very natural, honest way that I’ve never had before. And it’s amazing.
Flora: Was there, because a lot of people when they come out of divorce, and then... not the second relationship after… the first relationship after the divorce doesn’t work out, they tend to be bitter. But you don’t seem to be bitter. You seem to be hopeful and open to love. Is that true?
Rod: Yeah. I think in a lot of ways I, less so now, but early on after the divorce I was very bitter towards my ex-wife, but I don’t think that ever translated for me into bitter towards relationships or bitter towards women or bitter towards the idea of long term monogamy. So I don’t think I was ever, like… although I did, a couple of times I did say, “Fuck that. I’m never doing that again.”
Flora: Do you think you’ll ever get married again? Why or why not?
Rod: Yeah, I think it’s still part of my makeup that that’s what long term monogamous relationship means to me. And I don’t really know why, like I don’t know that the legal tie together is important, you know. And maybe it’s not the legal part. Maybe it’s symbolic of saying it. “We’re together forever.” I think I would like to get married when my son is grown, and the divorce decree, the custody aspects of the divorce decree don’t apply anymore, and I don’t have to worry about dragging him out of his school or away from his friends, or you know, I think when all of that is over, I would jump right back into living with and being married to the woman that I love.
Flora: Do you think marriages should be lifelong commitment? Why or why not?
Rod: Well, yeah, that’s what marriage is. Marriage is a promise to stay together for the rest of your lives no matter what, through thick and thin. That’s what marriage is.
Flora: Do you think divorce is a good thing? Why or why not?
Rod: Of all the ways that I am angry or bitter towards my ex-wife, through all of that, I can remember that she gave me the greatest gift of my life which was setting me free from that relationship that was so hard. There was so much tension and friction between us. It was incompatibility caused us both a lot of pain and stress and anxiety. And she set me free from that. She set me free to find out who I am, to find out what other kinds of relationships I could find. She set me free to find happiness in a way that i was unlikely to ever find in a relationship with her. I was never going to prioritize myself and my health and my creative growth or any of that, none of that. All of the things I am doing now, I would not, probably, would never have been able to do inside the framework of that marriage, that relationship.
Flora: So if you say marriage should be a lifelong commitment, but divorce is a good thing, isn’t that a contradiction?
Rod: I don’t think so, because I was 20 when I proposed. I didn’t know shit about who I was. I didn’t know shit about who she was. There was no way that I could have known that she and I would relate in the way we did at the moment that I was 20 and proposed to her. I was 20 and said, “Those people don’t know us. Those people don’t know what kind of magic we got. We’re a fairy tale. This is special.” And then spent 20 years trying to hold on to that idea that it was true. Despite everything. Despite the pain. Despite the difficulties. Despite the resentment.