Graduating from Rebuilding, but taking these friends with me…

[written by Steve Melio; posted by JZ]

Women do it with their best friends. Men do it with their buddies. But talking openly and honestly about relationships and S-E-X is not all that common in mixed crowds. When it’s attempted, it’s often very superficial. Or worse yet, it’s alcohol-fueled and over the top.

The mature middle ground is hard to find. My final two Rebuilding sessions had ample middle ground. What a treasure to engage in a serious exploration of the mysterious terrain that lies between men and women.

Week Nine was devoted to our panels on Relationships. The men and women in the class met separately outside of class and prepared questions to ask the other gender. There was no lack of questions, so prioritizing them became the challenge. Which ones best captured the underlying issues we were after? How do we phrase them to elicit the broadest and most revealing insights?

In the end, our questions weren’t that noteworthy — but the answers were. On both sides of the gender fence, those answers were thoughtful, direct and personal in a way that can only come from people who have bonded and grown together over an intensive 10-week period. We trusted each other, and it showed.

The lighter-weight questions included “Is it really okay for us to call you?” (the women) to “How long should we keep trying when you don’t respond to our messages?” (the men).

The more involved discussions were over issues like “the Games Men and Women Play,” “What is ‘Chemistry’?” and when and how to introduce expectations and intimacy into a dating relationship.

(The answers to these and other questions are printed upside-down at the bottom of this page. Just rotate your computer monitor 180 degrees for our revealed truth!!! Just kidding!)

Week Ten took us to the topic of Sex and the Newly Single. For a lot of us, we hadn’t dated or had new sexual partners in decades, and BOY have things changed! Anymore, birth control is a relatively minor issue compared to nasty STDs and life-threatening viruses like AIDS. Condoms are for survival these days, not just sexual variety.

Against this grim background, you’ve got a room of middle-aged people who have forgotten everything about the dating game, have been badly singed in their last long-term relationship, and are not too keen about taking their clothes off with the lights on. The prognosis is not good…

Again, the amazing trust we’ve built up over 10 weeks comes to the rescue. We talk about what’s really on our minds — the fear and the fumbling, the horrible questions that must be asked, who should pull out the condoms — and we get past it. We share, we practice our questions and responses, we even find that bananas look charming in French Ticklers.

The real world won’t be this easy, but it’s a start. These are the best friends you could have when tackling the Single Life after years and years. We know that, and we’re going to stay connected even after the class formally concludes. These folks are special friends, part lifesavers and part courage-makers.

As I left that last night of class, I felt surprisingly steady and resolute. Sure, there are plenty of speed bumps ahead, but how far I’ve come in 10 weeks! I came in a basket case and am leaving with about 500% more self-worth and a big ol’ support network. My pre- and post-FDAS test scores show it, and I feel it. There is life after heartbreak.

What’s next for me? I’m not sure. First, Christmas. Then a really great New Years celebration. 2007 has been the worst year of my life and I can’t wait to kick its ass into the sunset!

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