Mailbag: On dating an alcoholic Buddhist, happy beginnings, and how online dating is like crack

So it looks like some of you have been going out on dates! Fabulous news. Let’s see what’s going on:

“Hi Dr Ali — I got divorced last year. Had been married for 8 years. We were not a match. Met a man 5 months ago. Beautiful soul. Strong connection. He adores me. I am very attracted.

He is the most mature man I’ve ever met. Open and loves to discuss everything. He has been very successful professionally and we understand each other well – both from the same industry. He is proud of my success (my ex was very resentful). He says repeatedly that I have the power to make him a better man.

Sadly, he has had a lot of pain in his life and found (temporary) relief in alcohol etc. When he hit rock bottom a few years ago, he discovered Buddhism. Hasn’t had a drink in years, but it’s not easy. Buddhism is now a big part of his life. He practices. Spends 1 week every 6 months in a monastery and some weekends away.

Reason I’m writing you is: I am very versatile and open minded. And I know instinctively that Buddhism is very peaceful. Somehow though, I feel restless… I don’t understand enough. The thought of his long absences has me uneasy. And I’m not the one who chases him; he really wants me in his life.

What can I do to find peace? I don’t want to rule anyone’s life. I don’t want to work hard at any relationship. I have options. But I’m drawn to him and feel that we are good for each other.

What do you advise I do? Read something? Try his practice? (He invited me to join him in his monastery sometime. I am not sure I’m ready…) Or do my own stuff and stop thinking about it completely? This one won’t be easy. Your thoughts much appreciated. — Charisse”

Thanks for a great letter, Charisse!

One of my teachers once said: if you want it to be easy, it’ll be easy. If you want it to be hard, it’ll be hard. Which one do you choose?

Sounds to me like you’ve done a lot of overthinking in fear of something bad that hasn’t even happened yet, instead of letting the relationship unfold on its own to see if you’re a good fit.

There’s a great book by Eckhart Tolle called The Power of Now. And it’s all about centering yourself in the now. So why don’t we try a little exercise:

How do you feel right now? Are you wearing dry clothes? Is there a roof over your head? Are you fed? Is your heart beating spontaneously? Are you lungs exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide? Is there any problem right here in this very moment?

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, there are no real problems in this moment right now. Sure, maybe you could be making more money or could stand to be more fit, but things are basically okay.

Now extend that moment of okayness to the next moment. And the next. And so on, to the end of the hour, the day, the week, the month, the year. With some mindfulness, you can spend your whole life like this.

As the Tao Te Ching said, “Stop thinking, and solve all your problems.” Sure, smart people like to think. That’s how we solve problems. But it’s this ruminating on the future and past that really doesn’t do anyone any good.

Your man seems like a decent fellow. So in the interest of enjoying this relationship, consider taking it one day at a time. I would encourage you to release attachment to outcome and just see how you are together. If you end up liking the Buddhist stuff, great. If you don’t, great. If you hate it when he goes away for a week, great. If you end up liking it ’cause it gives you some personal time, great.

If you like the version of you that you are when you spend time with him (assuming he stays dry), then spend time with him. That’s a pretty good start and the rest you can’t control anyway. And when things change, by residing in the present moment you can be aware of that change and act accordingly.

All of that said, if he relapses, you’re in for some serious turmoil, so keep your eyes open. For most alcoholics, staying sober is a daily practice.

And here’s a heartwarming follow-up email from Rosie, whose story you heard a couple of months ago:

Dear Dr. Binazir, 

It’s me again, Rosie. I just wanted to say how happy I am that your article featuring my email has struck a chord with so many women – it both cheers and saddens me that I’m not the only woman who has felt so powerless when it comes to love. It is nice to know others understand what I’m going through, but it is also hard because I know the pain and I don’t want anyone else having to deal with that.

I also wanted to say thank you again for your wake-up call. I needed it. And it’s a good thing that you did it when you did because…I’m now seeing someone.

It’s only been 10 days or so since I met him (our mutual friends set us up), so we are still getting to know each other. But the connection is unbelievable – we’ve already had three dates, one lasting a whole day, and we’re seeing each other again this Friday (he wanted to see me sooner if possible). He picks me up from my house, he texts me, he pays for my meals or cooks for me. He is so smart, handsome, and wonderful. We can talk for hours. When he kisses me, my toes curl. I know it’s early and we’re not even exclusive yet, but I just have a good feeling about it.

I honestly would not have been ready for him if not for you smacking some sense into me. I still have weak moments and I still have a lot of unlearning I need to do. But you were the one who really forced me to step outside my comfort zone and take action and if not for you, I’d would have never had met this man and had the opportunity and courage to see where this goes.

Thank you for everything.

Sincerely, Rosie

PS: What you said about eye contact is so powerfully true. I made sure I made eye contact with him a lot on our first date and all I can say is “wow.”

Smart! Handsome! Toe-curling kisses! Pays for meals! Sounds like a fabulous start, Rosie. Now make sure you have fun with it. Appreciate one another and enjoy each other’s company. No overthinking allowed.

In other news, I’ve also been receiving many letters of the “omigod I met someone online who seemed perfect and then for some strange reason things went terribly wrong omigod what happened please explain please please” variety. It’s like I’ve been telling you for years not to smoke crack, and then you come and say:

So doc, last night I was smoking crack, and my crack pipe started to malfunction and instead of blowing the hot smoke up my nose it went straight into my eyes. It hurt so bad! What should I do?

Well, you should stop smoking crack, that’s what you should do. Online dating is the problem. Think about it this way: Ever been to a bar? Know people who hooked up with or even married someone they met at a bar? I mean, hey, friends don’t let friends do that kinda thing, but it happens. Still, it doesn’t exactly make bars Soulmate Central.

Now let’s take that bar and make it 10,000 times bigger, so it’s even more of a zoo. Let’s put lifts in all the guys’ shoes and put fake money in their pockets. Let’s give all the women fake IDs that say they’re 5 years younger. Everyone only says things that they’ve rehearsed before, so they sound sooo smooooth. And let’s make everyone 100 times ruder and more dismissive than they are in real life. Welcome to online dating. Are you sure you sure this is where you want to find a mate?

In short: happy to answer your questions, but not if it’s about fixing your crack pipe. Go find a better hobby already.

All the best

Dr Ali

Categories: Dating for Women

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