…or “WTF just happened to my relationship?”
The seed material for this came from the same lady I reference on a previous blog entry. She had another fascinating female perspective on dating blog post (linked below) and as I am currently between jobs and high as a kite on percocet from an injury earlier today my initially brief blog comment got a bit, ahem, long.
A very good therapist once told me that everyone you date has a lot in common. This is because who you are attracted to has some baseline similarities, some bad and some good. The only way to avoid the bad characteristics that you are somehow attracted to is —simply put— to keep your eyes open during the dating process and listen to that little voice in your head when it goes “ahem…”
I was helped to to this startling conclusion a few years after breaking up with a woman I had been with for going on five years. We lived together for the last two-plus years and I was desperately, hopelessly in love. But neither of us could figure out how to make it work, so it ended. Soon thereafter I started dating again.
Of course it was too soon! But I am a guy. I was lonely. Men replace. So here I am totally unprepared or even able to sustain any kind of a relationship, but still trying to date. Fortunately I was still in therapy and on Prozac.
What did I do? I dated a series of women who were either separated or divorced from boyfriends or husbands who were alcoholics, abusive, neglectful, or just the typical self centered asshole.
Actually the place I worked made this easy. MacWarehouse (now just a part of CDW) had it’s primary telemarketing location in Lakewood NJ. Many of the telemarketers lived locally as it was a comparatively inexpensive place on the Jersey Shore to live. A fact that attracted a lot of recently single women, recently dumped into the job market with few marketable skills. As a tech support guy at MacWarehouse I got to help these (mostly) single women with technical questions they were not prepared or trained to answer. It was an integral part of my job. So the pickings, as they say, were pretty easy.
Up till this point in my life I had not done a lot of dating. Being socially introverted had made my dating life fairly sparse. My previous marriage and this relationship not withstanding. So my therapist encouraged me to get out there and date a bunch of women. Have fun, kick up your heels.
Of course I tried, but rather than “just date” I attempted a committed, intimate, relationship with every lady I met. With predictable results.
There was Judy, a fellow tech I had convinced both myself and her that I was in love with. Fortunately she lived at her parents home with her three small children. She had an ex husband who was an alcoholic and a current boyfriend who neglected her and was also (rumored to be) an alcoholic as well. So her plate was too full for the likes of me.
Then there was Carol. She was a telemarketer at MacWarehouse. This made getting a relationship started with her fairly easy. And breaking up. Ummm difficult. I seem to recall that Carol wasn’t actually divorced and still had some sort of ongoing drama with her soon-to-be ex husband. We broke up. Oddly enough it was my idea. So Carol was my first introduction to women who really objected to being dumped. She stalked me for a while till I sicked the cops on her.
There were other women less memorable but very similar in one important way. They were wounded from a relationship and still not completely over it. They needed help. And at that time in my life there was nothing quite so attractive to me than “helping” someone else. I seem to recall thinking I was being a Knight in Shining Armor. Bleech.
I suppose a therapist might call what I was doing transference or some such. Basically I was helping someone else so I didn’t have to deal with my own wounds.
Not to be too Captain Obvious about it but this is called “learning the hard way.” And with my therapist’s patient and understanding skills I eventually learned to see what was attracting me to these Wounded Women in enough time to walk away from more disasterous relationships in-the-making.
Learning this skill is of vital interest to single men and women alike. Sometimes you can learn this skill set by observing friends who are bum magnets. Admit it you know at least one guy who only dates bartenders or waitresses who are inappropriately young. Or women recently out of a bad relationship. Or one lady who always goes for the bad boy because they are so much fun. Forgetting that she bailed the last two bad boys out of jail and they promptly vanished. Carrying her credit cards, a bunch of her personal effects and her heart with them.
This is all well and good but how do you avoid these walking wounded? Honestly, you can’t. The older you get the more likely it is you will eventually run into someone who passes your “avoid at any cost” check list with flying colors.
These people seem nice. They say all the right things. They do all the right things. And as you get to know them everything you learn seems to indicate that they are indeed exactly what they seem: A Good Catch.
So having found your Good Catch you willingly set the hook in your own mouth and let yourself be reeled in. Enjoying every foot of line as it vanishes into the reel. And then, wham! Something happens. Something surprising and/or just plain weird. The hook rips out of your mouth destroying what was, up till now, a promising relationship filled with good times and the potential of some great sex.
What happened? How come I didn’t see that coming? I thought I had become an expert on recognizing people that were bad for me?
Good news. Assuming that you did not willing ignore a warning sign because they made you week in the knees, there is nothing wrong with you.
My theory is that you ran into someone who just realized, quite suddenly, that there was this thing about you that just didn’t work for them. And make no mistakes this is all on them. The bastard (or bitch) who just dumped your ass for a goddamn outright weird reason. You just encountered a syndrome I just made up a name for: The Decongestant Ad Graphic Decision. Bear with me here.
I may be getting some of the specifics of this story wrong but many years ago Jane Curtin was on Letterman promoting her new show or SNL (or something). Dave asked her about her first paid TV gig. Jane told this story.
She was in LA trying to break into show business and going on an endless series of casting calls. This one in particular was for a national nasal decongestant commercial.
Jane opens the door to the casting office and stops dead in her tracks. A small office with every sitting and standing surface occupied by gorgeous leggy blonde and brunette California girl-type supermodels. She almost left right then and there but decided that she would go through with the audition regardless of the overwhelming competition.
“It’s good experience.”
She does the audition and goes home. A half hour later her agent calls and tells an incredulous Jane that she got the job.
Utterly flabbergasted and not a little bit in a state of shock she asks her agent why she was chosen.
The agent tells her that in all the years he has been an agent there has never been a good outcome when someone found out why they were picked.
Jane persists and after much discussion, demanding, pleading and ignored advice the agent finally agrees to find out why she was chosen over any one of the Heidi Klum lookalikes who also auditioned for the ad.
What ad she was auditioning for? Trust me, it’s germane to the story and you’ll probably recognize it.
Typical cold sufferer is shown in discomfort due to stuffy nose. Kitchen sink is shown filled with dirty water, drain seems to be clogged. Cold sufferer applies the decongestant and the drain is shown superimposed over their face, this time draining quickly. Cold sufferer is no longer suffering and breathes freely.
After 30 minutes or so her agent calls her back and again advises her that she does not want to know why she was chosen. She is adamant and insists on knowing.
He tells her that hers was the only face that fit perfectly under the graphic of the emptying drain.
Jane tells Dave that she never asked why ever again.
How does DAGD apply here? Simple, only not.
Not simple in that human attraction, especially when you get older, is a pretty fragile thing. When you first meet there is that one thing that makes you attracted to that person. The first simple little attraction that flips that switch that says, “I want more.” It could be as simple as a little chest hair peeking out of the top of your shirt. Or it could be the crinkling of her eyes when she laughs. It could be almost anything but it is important that it is there. Without it attraction does not exist (duh!). And on that foundation the other things that attract you to them stack up like poker chips.
When we are younger attraction is simpler. We have not learned much about the opposite sex. Much of the fun and the attraction is in discovering. As we get older we have discovered a lot about what makes the opposite sex tick. We have discovered what we like and are attracted to. And through the process still known as The Hard Way we discover those things that don’t work for us. Turn-offs if you will.
Maybe these turn offs exist in your mind just because it was some innocent little thing an ex lover used to do. And since they hurt you, did you wrong, ran off with the bail money and your best friend these little harmless idiosyncrasies become little land mines in your next relationship.
So when the next budding relationship comes to a screeching halt you can thank Jane Curtin and her story about her first paid TV gig. And realize that you did nothing wrong. No you didn’t miss any signs. No you weren’t a willing thrall to the possibilities of finally getting the relationship to the next level. That next level could be anything that brings you closer together. Whether it is simply some mattress mambo [great line, Lisa] or a shared experience of another sort.
The thing that matters is that you tripped over someone’s old land mine. Unknowingly and unwillingly you bumbled into their stack of poker chips and knocked it over. Totally crashing their attraction and interest in you. Not. Your. Fault. Period.
You’ll never avoid it and you’ll never see it coming. You’ve done nothing wrong and missed no hint. So what do you do?
Well hopefully you had a good time up until it crashed and burned. Don’t get mad at them, it is not worth the energy. Chalk it up to experience. Blow off some steam by writing about it on your blog or over margaritas with a good friend.
Then get your ass back out there and try again.
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