Dealing with a Major Personal Crisis/New Directions
The personal account below is not posted in Main or Discussion directly but here because it contains personal details the author does not want to be directly trackable to himself via a trivial Google search. The author is aware that linking and Wiki functions allow to make this connection but assumes that this will more likely happen only by persons who know him and his story anyway. Please respect this wish and don't mention the authors name in a link to this page. You are free to cite parts of this as per this Wikis license. You may of course make typographical corrections or add/correct links and references.
During katharsis my goals were totally realigned. Some became even more important: My children. Some where basically erased - those related to the goals of my wife. But those centered on myself were less clear to myself. I had put my wishes and visions on hold for so long that now when many restraints were lifted or could be lifted it wasn't clear how to realize them. But they grew an flowered during the parting and pragmatic phase. This is the section where I will tell you how it developed and where I currently stand.
Very early even before katharsis the therapists recommended to think about wishes and goals of the relationship. The thoughts I collected actually started the diary and reflected my goals. There were three main areas:
- I want a large healthy family
- I want a harmonious long-term relationship
- I want to realize my ideas, projects, visions
These stayed rock-fast thru the crisis. How could they when the basis of the first seemingly removed and the object of the second goal just dropped out and leaving a hole? The pattern remained, the principles. Providing a safe and helthy environment for children was still the right thing. Maximizing 'utility' for all involved was still valid (although the weights did change).
As I write this a fourth goal or objective became slowly more present after the parting (due to the weight of my own interests (utility-wise) increasing:
- I want to be fit, healthy, pro-active and informed.
So when the first goal was secured and the second one going slow the third and fourth saw new opportunities.
Some of my skills had been underused for some time. These were direly in need of honing. Considering e.g. The Ten Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition I selected key projects an focused my energy on them.
In the first months after the break-up I felt a very strong urge to find someone for company. It was a complex desire. Part surely being loneliness. I was seldom really alone: The children were there almost every day and I had long phone calls. But I had nobody to share thoughts and feelings with. Sexual desire was a small part of it though I have always had the feeling that having your children around reduces that. I think the main component was the desire to have a partner again. The empty place left by her. Not to replace her or compensate for her not being there. It was not not coupled to her - at least not significantly so. But to really find somebody I'd like to fall for. Someone matching possibly better than her. Someone loving me back more. But where to look for?
One possibility was dating sites. Relatively early on I registered on okcupid after having looked at German dating sites, even tried one but being disappointed. Okcupids matching algorithm suited me. It promised really good matches not forcing choices on irrelevant topics. I didn't invest too much effort in it. Not wanting to add additional complications by another relationship before issues were resolved. Later-on I spent quite some time on it, first answering lots of questions and browsing profiles, then trying to get higher match scores by removing irrelevant but down-scoring answers (there is lots of advice on this; even a guy who wrote scripts to hack his score while still giving honest answers). But of the few chats I had none developed into a date. I guess it's partly because the Okcupid pool in Germany is relatively small and me being who I am.
I was aware of the need to actually speak to people to get anything going. I didn't want to hope for a strike of luck like the one that had been the start of my first relationship. I needed to improving my people-skills. In general a good idea, but in particular when actively looking for a partner. I considered MMSL/Athol Kay, How to Pick Your Life Partner, Neil Strauss and other sources. For example I assumed that the probability of finding a matching partner would be higher (per contact) in locations where more women of my kind 'hang out'. Beside dating sites and the traditional marriage market place 'university' I looked up occupations by IQ. One result was that I approach women reading books.
I was repeatedly told that I couldn't plan finding the right one. That I shouldn't force it. That it wouldn't improve things (probably assuming it would disappoint me). Instead that I should be open for random encounters. Now the last one isn't so far from what I reasoned. My idea was/is to look out for, create or make more likely situations where I'd have a notable chance to meet someone. I planned on Luck: Finding White Swans.
And I calibrated (crudely) my expectation of finding a partner. From miscellaneous sources (none really citable except dunbars number, but concrete numbers were 20, 57, 60) I derived a chance of between one in twenty and one in hundred per 'date' (any real-life contact of notable length, greater an hour).
I followed some advice - tailored to my needs - and actually made some progress. I can now quickly start a conversation with strangers e.g. on a long bus or train ride. I get email-addresses. This is evenly divided between talking to women and people in general. I have a small but growing repertoire of opener topics. I improved my stance and looks. I had no trouble to get in touch and participate in discussion with most of the participants of the LW Berlin Event (something that wouldn't have dared in this depth one year ago). I get some negative results but not many as I build this up slowly but continuously. This has advanced from simple rejection training/communication skills to first steps at networking. The next step here is to try some variant of speed dating.
Early on, liberated by the thought of freedom, feeling like a young student again I wanted to take up part-time study or visit university courses as a guest (which is cheap in Germany). The idea was twofold: A chance to pick up long-delayed interests and at the same time meeting people, possibly finding a girl-friend (reasoning that the chance of a smart nice one matching my interests would be higher there than elsewhere). I did attend a few courses. One relatively regularly: Mathematical theory of machine learning. It was interesting but it wasn't the real thing I had planned for. I was always in a hurry; there was little time for getting in touch with anybody. It was too early. Realizing this at the end of the semester I decided to either do this right or not at all and postponed further study until things got more stable. Nonetheless it allowed my to e.g. better follow at least one LW post http://lesswrong.com/lw/jne/a_fervent_defense_of_frequentist_statistics/
I had started following LW and HPMoR since a while before the crisis. I'm not quite clear on the effect it had on me. LW didn't make me more rational in my actions. But I think the community reminded me of my rational virtues, of keeping the balance, of taking the outside-view. LW also provided an environment that was a challenge. I did have enough social support but not enough constructive criticism. Not enough competition. LW gave me this environment (there is a post on these two aspects but I can't find it). So after the crisis when I considered specific projects to specialize in and reach a designated performance goal I chose to become a respected LW poster - one listed as top contributor - and to organize a local meetup. I figured this would ensure a consistent motivation, allow continuous improvement and open up chances for direly needed networking. I think I'm going strong on these. Being positively recognized at the Berlin event was a strong boost to my morale.
Realizing that I needed to take up sport again I considered what might suit me beside running which was recommended by my physician. Inspired by a book I had read I considered facing and surprise there was a fencing club relatively nearby. I'm now taking regular fencing lessons and it is interesting, challenging and fun. I now track all my physical activity again (was dropped during crisis). There are some additional things I did, do or plan to do for or related to health like gym (as part of everyday tasks), blood donation (done), weight training (planned). Other lifestyle interventions.
I started to alter my garden. Make it even more child-friendly, more easier to tend. Realize some ideas that were not opportune before. I did again take up my honorary work in school as a "friend of numbers and forms" which I had dropped during crisis. This is something that was very well received before and which gives me insights into school and also works as kind of networking because of the contact to other parents.
Free lancing took some unexpected turns and I also had some difficulty with procrastination but this is another story I will not tell it here. This is the end of the account of my major crisis. I hope you could learn something from it.