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Archive for the ‘dating drama’ Category

In Mike’s last post, he questioned whether love was really love if it went unreturned.  It’s a question I’ve heard debated many times, but I think it’s a silly one.  Love isn’t dependent on getting what you want; love is the opposite of “what’s in it for me?”

I think this question is a reflection of the sad fact that we’ve largely twisted the definition of love to mean something like “something that makes me feel good”.  Of course, love can make us feel good, but there’s much more to it than that.

If my adult child decides that she hates me and huffs off to never speak to me again, will I love her any less?  When my beloved grandmother’s senility eroded her brain to the point that she didn’t recognize me, did I stop loving her?  Of course not.  So why would the standard be different for love that included an element of romance or sexual desire?

The important question that seems to be raised in Mike’s post is a different one altogether:  “Should I continue this relationship?”

The answer to that question is probably crystal clear, but it’s not dependent on what that other person might or might not feel.  It’s dependent on what you need to be satisfied with the relationship and whether or not you’re getting it.

You’re not going to bring him around.  You’re not going to wear him down.  He’s not going to learn to love you if you just stick around long enough.  He’s not going to see the light and realize that you’ve always been the best thing that ever happened to him like some teenager in a John Hughes movie.   It is what it is and it’s up to you to take it or leave it AS IS.

I’ve discussed this issue with a lot of people, and there seems to be a general assumption that “take it or leave it?” in this context is somewhat rhetorical, that if you truly accept that you’re not going to get what you want, walking away is the only thing that makes sense.  I don’t necessarily think that’s true.  In fact, sticking around has worked very well for me.

For years, I had an on-again/off-again relationship with a man who loved me far less than I loved him.  For the first six months or so, it was painful, and it might have seemed the wise thing to just walk away, but I made a different decision. I decided instead to embrace reality.  What we had together was wonderful.  It wasn’t what I’d originally hoped for and never would be, but when I removed my goals from the mix and looked at the situation as it really was, it was all good.  We learned from one another, supported one another, played well together, thought well together and really, truly enjoyed each other’s company.

“So what was the problem?” you might be asking.  I certainly asked that in the beginning.  But I quickly recognized that it was the wrong question and abandoned it.  The idea that there was a problem was born entirely of the fact that things weren’t proceeding according to my original goals.  In other words, that I hadn’t been able to bend him to my will.   The reality was simple:  there were things about our relationship that really worked, but he wasn’t ever going to marry me.  He wasn’t ever even going to be my boyfriend.

If having someone in my life full-time had been important to me at that stage, then it would have made a lot of sense to walk away.  If you know what you want and it’s clear that you’re never going to get it, there’s little to be gained by hanging around beating your head against the wall and hoping that at some point it will stop hurting.  But that wasn’t how it was for me.  I was happy with where I was in life and he added to that; he wasn’t standing in the way of anything I especially wanted or needed.  In that context, it made sense to simply take it for what it was–and what it was was good for a long time.

But you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t play at accepting the way things are but secretly keep hoping that they’re going to change.  You can’t say “friends is better than nothing” when you really mean “friends leaves me in a position to keep hoping things will change”.  Reality is.  Start there, and it won’t matter in the least whether you decide to name it “love” or not.

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No, I’m not talking about the “right place, right time” sort of timing. I’m talking about realistic expectations about the development of a relationship. Mike’s written two posts recently that contained passing references to time frames that twisted my brain into knots. One was his attempt at getting inside a woman’s head with a recitation of the things she might have wanted to consider before giving up and moving on.

I disagreed with almost everything Mike said in that post, but one thing that really jumped out at me was that he was talking about a woman giving up on a relationship because she wasn’t getting the level of serious response she wanted after three weeks.  And I just kept thinking, “didn’t give her his heart”?  In three weeks?  Really?   I’d be a lot more concerned about a guy who thought he WAS “giving me his heart” in three weeks.  I could flip a coin, maybe:  Liar?  Or just an immature guy who has no idea what love is?  Either way, he’s not stellar relationship material.

I had the same reaction when I read Mike’s post about introducing women to his daughter, and learned that some women felt it was unreasonable that he didn’t want to make it a family affair in the first few weeks. In my mind, the “couple of months” Mike mentioned was wildly ambitious.  Of course every situation is different, but in my mind the reasonable point to start thinking about introducing someone to my daughter is between six months and a year.

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I read a discussion in an online forum in which it seemed that a large number of people thought that if there hadn’t been sex by the third date, something was missing and you’d better just move on.

I can’t help but think these accelerated time-frames are part of the reason that endings are so accelerated as well.  False intimacy is created when we say “I love you” after two weeks, to someone we barely know.  False intimacy is created when we have sex with someone we’ve been dating for a month (and think that’s “waiting”, because so many people would have done it the first night).  False intimacy is created when we drag someone we barely know into the tableau of our family and try to create not just one relationship on a foundation of sand, but many.  And when that false intimacy doesn’t hold up, we break up, move out, get divorced, move on and start the whole thing over again.

Maybe, if we’d all slow down in the beginning, the ending wouldn’t come upon us quite so quickly.

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Okay, Mike, let’s say for a minute that I buy your rationale.  I don’t–I think that the vast majority of the time the reason a man (or woman) holds back is that he (or she) doesn’t want to commit.  Maybe that’s because of where he/she is in life and maybe it’s the specific person in question, but for the most part I think that people do what they want to do.  But I’m going to go with it, for the sake of argument, because I think that your theory has a fatal flaw even if you’re right. Because any relationship founded on machinations is doomed to fail, and that’s what you’re describing.

Anyone who is trying to guess the right thing to do to “get her to like him” or to keep her interested or send the right message isn’t being genuine–and I think that any relationship not based in honesty is completely pointless.  I kind of think you believe that, too.

So in the scenario you describe, we have a person who isn’t willing to be himself, isn’t willing to act naturally, isn’t willing to take a risk, yet really does want a relationship.  But any healthy grown-up knows that you can’t form a relationship by playing people and manipulating them, by showing what they want to see instead of who you are.  So that only leaves us with two possibilities for the guy who is attempting that guessing game, doesn’t it?  He’s either not a healthy grown-up, or he knows what he’s doing can’t possibly lead to a meaningful relationship and he’s doing it anyway.

So it seems that you’re suggesting that we gals should cut a guy some slack when he acts distant and disinterested because really he might be a great guy who just doesn’t want to show it because he doesn’t know how to act, is trying to guess how to get the reaction he wants from us, and is getting bad advice from his friends.

But, geez…I almost think intentionally distant is better than what you’re describing.  The last thing in the world I want is to be with a guy who doesn’t trust his own judgment, isn’t willing to take a risk, and consistently goes to the wrong people for advice.

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Oh, please, Mike.  It’s true that most women don’t ask the questions you mention, but it isn’t because they’re too quick to write a guy off.  It’s because they’re too quick to make excuses for him.  There’s a reason that He’s Just Not That Into You was the literary version of a shot heard ’round the world: “It’s hopeless” is the absolute last possibility that most women entertain.

We don’t have to ask you whether you’re hesitant because you’ve been hurt before–most of us ASSUME that if a man doesn’t say “I love you” it’s because he’s frightened or had a bad experience in the past or thinks it shows weakness or…almost anything except the almost-absurdly-obviously “maybe he doesn’t love me”.

The failure to ask those questions, in most cases, isn’t because a woman doesn’t entertain those possibilities, but because she’s entirely confident in them.  The poor baby.  He’s really a great guy, but he’s been compelled to act like a jerk or withhold himself or fear commitment or any of a hundred other flaws because of his last girlfriend or his family or because he’s really stressed out at work or he’s having a mid-life crisis or his left knee sort of hurts today.

The truth–and on some level we all know it–is that a guy who wants to call…calls.  A guy who wants to be close opens himself up.  And in those rare cases where a guy really wants to open himself up and just can’t because of all this baggage from some past damage, he needs to do some serious internal work before he tries to get close to you anyway, so he’s not a candidate for a serious relationship.

The last thing we need is one more way for women to explain away the truth and justifying the endless wait for something that is never going to happen.

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I met this guy who was funny and charming and cute. He made me laugh and smile and I just felt comfortable around him. His thick outer shell and edgy sense of humor made it hard for me to get close to him as quickly as I would have liked so I moved on after a few weeks.

I never bothered to ask why he was funny. Was it because he simply wasn’t serious and didn’t care about anything? Maybe it was because…deep down…he was hurt, damaged by women who he had trusted…loved. Maybe humor was his way of hiding that pain and deflecting the possibility of more pain.

I never bothered to ask if I had made any progress in getting what I wanted…him. I assumed that he wouldn’t give me his heart because he felt I didn’t deserve it. Or maybe he was an insensitive jerk who was incapable of love. It didn’t occur to me that he couldn’t give me his heart because he didn’t have it at the moment…it was broken and still being repaired.

I never bothered to ask if he had given up forever or was simply on vacation. Maybe he was simply cautious. Maybe, if I was more patient, I could have shown him that it is okay to love again…to trust…to be vulnerable. If I had that kind of time, I might have shown him that it was safe to let people in again…to care and allow someone to care about you. I may have shown him that he is safe with me and not all women are out to hurt him. Maybe, if I had that kind of time.

I never bothered to ask if I was going to reinforce his belief that love hurts…That caring for someone is simply not worth the risk. It had already been three weeks and my time was up, if he really wanted to be with me he wouldn’t have been so guarded. Did he really want to be with me? I never bothered to ask.
Read Tiffany’s Response:  Feeding the Relationship Delusion

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Being polite by lying

I’ll never forget the day that I tried (in vain) to explain to a man that things are not always as they appear. It was a Saturday morning and I was on my way to the park with my kids when my phone rang. The caller was a young man who had simply dialed the wrong number. At least, that’s what he thought. To this day, I am still convinced that he dialed the right number.

Upon answering the phone the caller asked, “Is Glitter there?” I politely informed him that he must have miss dialed. I was about to hang up when it occurred to me that he wasn’t joking. “I’m sorry, who?”, I asked.

He clarified that he was calling my phone in search of a woman named “Glitter” who he had met the night before. They shared a moment, it would seem, that left quite an impression on him. It was real, he informed me, the bond that formed as they made a connection over drinks in a bar. She seemed to be so into him, laughing at his jokes and touching him ever so slightly when she spoke.

It was real for him but was it real for her? I pointed out to him that “Glitter” is a very uncommon name and the fact that he dialed the wrong number (the number that she gave him) might indicate that he had been lied to. Maybe all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. He was very hesitant to embrace the possibility that this woman might not be sitting by her phone at this exact moment awaiting his call. Certainly, she must have felt what he felt on that unforgettable evening.

Sometimes people lie to be polite, to not hurt your feelings. Or, in this case, to not have to watch as they hurt your feelings. Would it have been so wrong for her to say, “I had some fun but you’re just not what I am looking for”? That seems better than allowing this man to go home feeling a bond that isn’t real and anxiously waiting for a chance to see her again. He had built this up, in his mind, to a level that far surpassed whatever moment they had shared because she must have felt it too if she gave him her number. But she didn’t give him her number, she gave him MY number. That doesn’t seem polite, it seems downright cruel.

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I did it again, I recognize that its a pattern but I just cant seem to find a way or the willpower to stick to my guns. My biggest weakness is that I’m just not that strong, I remember saying that to you and (at the time) it wasn’t a joke.

I get myself into these situations where I am first dating someone, doing everything right. I take my time, try to get to know them before I get too invested emotionally. But as the red flags start to fly, I find myself crossing out rules, tearing entire pages from the rulebook and finally just throwing the whole book away.

This doesn’t come from desperation or loneliness, it just comes from an overwhelming feeling that there has to be someone out there who is right for me. I caution women about NOT passing up Mr. Right in their quest to find Mr. Perfect so I try to take my own advice and give people a chance.

I had a rule about not dating women who are recently separated and there is a good reason for that. I just don’t think that they are on the same page. I think that they are looking for someone to replace what they recently had. They are in the comparing phase where everything seems to be, “My ex used to do this…” and pointing out how I am similar or different.

Until you have been on your own long enough, you can’t know what it is that you truly want because you don’t know who you truly are. I honestly believe that. I think that when you get into a relationship you make compromises, you have someone making up for your weaknesses and filling your needs and insecurities. So, it’s almost impossible to know who you would be without that person. What your weaknesses and insecurities and needs are. It takes time on your own to figure this out before you try to mold yourself around someone else who is molding themselves around you.

The problem that I have with this theory is that I may have gone to the point of no return. I may have been single too long to mold myself around someone else. I may have found other ways to fix or pacify my weaknesses and insecurities. This makes me think that people who are recently separated should only date people who are in the same boat and the same goes for people who have been single for years.

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