mistakes women make when dating


Top Love Stories No 3

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Conversations with this and that family member over the last few days has prompted me to once again expound on relationships of the intimate variety. If I was only allowed to give one bit of advice on the subject, it would be this:

If you cannot love someone for who he/she is right now, the odds of his/her ever being anything other than a constant source of vexation and disappointment is close to nil.

Yep, the odds are that bad.

Here’s the reality. When we meet and feel attracted there is little by way of actual fact on which to base our warming feelings for this new person. We assess our attraction, add this to what little we glean through the rather stilted courting phase and then we make up the rest to suit our own needs. In short, we invent them.

For a while, our projection of who we think our new love is works fairly well for us. They accommodate by donning their best faces and putting on their formal dinner party manners and all is truly well. But the inevitable day will arrive when something goes wrong. In these less than perfect instances our mortal, non-super hero/model personae are exposed, and depending on the magnitude of the shock to our new relationship, we’re toast. Or we live to impress another day, and another day after that until we find ourselves living with, married to and possibly breeding with someone who isn’t at all what we’d hoped they were and who stubbornly resists all our attempts to cajole/shame/nag them into being the person we wanted them to be.

Disillusionment. Betrayal. Woe.

Well, this sucks, you think. How dare this person I love not be exactly who I thought he/she could be. And they had such potential too.

And here lies the problem. You never really loved the real person at all.  As Yoda might have said, “Never your mind on where you were. What you were doing.”

It’s not your fault. We are taught to believe that even the most unsuitable for us partners have “potential”. That guy who drinks too much? He’s just young. Give him a few years, a mortgage and a kid and he’ll settle down. Little Miss Negativity? She just needs positive affirmation. Mr. Proud to have Never Read a book in his life? Exposure to the classics is the answer. And on and on the excuses roll in and pile up like Tribbles until they spill out of the closets and we are wading through them.

Some people do indeed grow into their potential, but it’s usually not a future that someone else dreamed for them. These are folks who have goals and hopes of their own, and who don’t believe that tiny fairies  and luck are responsible for dreams coming true.

It’s a disservice to the person you love to not love them for who they are right now. Certainly, encourage him/her to grow and achieve – that’s part of what couples do for each other – but don’t fault him/her in the future if he/she hasn’t fulfilled the ambitious template you created out of thin air, your childish fantasies and some Disney princess movie you saw once upon a time ago.

And never forget that not living up to one’s potential is a two-way street.

*In case you missed my BlogHer post today. Here it is.


The exterior of a typical SuperTarget in Salt ...

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You remember the guy. He ran hot and hell freezing over cold. Called you in the middle of the night, wanting to stop by after a night out at the titty bars with his equally douchey buddies. Hinted around that his commitment “issues” were the result of emotional abuse at the hands of a heartless hag, who couldn’t hold a candle to you because “if I could be with anyone seriously, Baby, it would be you.”

He was cute in the way of the decade. Hair and dress just so. Gainfully employed with prospects. Everyone but your best friend liked him.

Yeah, I dated that guy. On and more off for about four years. Wasted time I can never get back as hindsight helpfully reminds me from my vantage point in advancing middle age. I thought that if I just loved him enough, he would change. And by “change”, I mean stop treating me like rest stop between his relationships with women he treated better (I am assuming here) than he did me.

I won’t bore you with the sad details, but the “relationship” ended when the clue bolt struck me one evening – hours after he had promised to show up for a date. I called him and let him have it. The conversation ended with him asking if we could be friends.

“We were never friends, ” I told him. And interestingly, that out of the blue self-revelation had never occurred to me before that moment.

He was never my friend. He was dull to the point where I had to spoon feed conversation topics to him. He didn’t read. He didn’t write. He didn’t think.

“I never want to hear from you again.”

And that was the end.

Well, not quite. I moved to another apartment in the same building shortly after and one evening, I heard him stumbling about in the hallway, looking for me. It was summer and the windows were open, so I clearly overheard the conversation he had with whatever friend he’d dragged along with him.

“She’s not here, man,” the friend said.

“She was just here a couple of months ago,” he replied.

“Her car’s not here even,” was the reply (I’d traded it in for a Chevy not long before). “Face it. She’s moved.”

Car doors slammed and I could hear them drive away. I never saw him again though I wondered from time to time what became of him.

Fast forward past a marriage, baby and another marriage and I find myself shopping at the SuperTarget near the neighborhood where Dee and I lived in West Des Moines. We were on our way from the KOA in Adel, where we’d camped the night before with BFF and her family, to Sis’s farm just past the east side of Des Moines. Rob originally planned no shopping time into the Des Moines leg of our recent holiday down south, but he knows how much I love Target and we were finding things to be so stunningly cheap in the States that even he couldn’t resist a quick pit-stop.

Douche was a teacher when I knew him. He lost his job for reasons I can only speculate about but which I think were mostly related to the fact that he really couldn’t read or write well because he was severely dsylexic.* You just can’t be dumber than the kids you are teaching even if they are special ed.

He went on to hold numerous jobs and the last I heard, he was in sales.

At one point during the SuperTarget experience, I went to check out with Dee and Rob wandered off, telling us he would catch up. She and I waited by the check out lanes. And waited. And finally I spotted him a long way across the store in electronics.

“Go see what is keeping your Dad,” I told Dee and she ran off to query him … didn’t return either as they had both been sucked into the dvd vortex.

Boredom eventually sent me in pursuit and as I approached the dvd aisles, I spotted a kid in a red Target shirt and a much older security guard in animated conversation. The kid was barely out of his teens and the guard sported one of those obvious dye jobs which painfully accented the monkish bald spot and contrasted sharply with the wrinkled jowls. I mentally noted that retail security and service work seemed to be the new future for the too young to retire but too old to be working entry-level jobs set in America, when it struck me that I knew this guy.

A discreet double-take confirmed my suspicion and I conducted a quick memory scan to determine where he fit in my past.

Of course, it was Douche.

You always think about it, right? Running into the biggest asshole you ever dated and being more awesome than he could possibly have imagined you could ever be and then rubbing his nose in it like a puppy who’s diddled on the living room carpet. But I just smiled and continued to look for Rob.

Douche is a security guard at Target. He’s in his early fifties with a tummy that folds over his belt and wobbles when he walks. Later, I spied him gathering shopping carts in the parking lot, wearing one of those flourescent vests to keep the customers from running him over because who pays attention to the guy who gathers up the carts?

Sure, it would have been poetically just to catch his attention and have that awkward for him conversation while Rob and Dee looked on. I didn’t bother to check his ring finger, but something tells me that it was as naked as his current reality is obvious.

But what would have been the point? I knew everything I needed to know about him 28 years ago when I realized that we weren’t even friends. I could have easily predicted this outcome for both of us had I been just a bit more self-aware and honest with myself.

Women, more than men, incline themselves toward excusing the obvious. We buy into ridiculous Cosmo notions that our behavior is what drives relationships. That we can fix people by being more perfect and accommodating when the reality is that people who treat us badly should be kicked to the curb in favor of those who can recognize our value without our “help”.

Still, I would be less than honest if I said that a part of me wasn’t pleased to see he’d found his level and that sometimes karma is more instant than oatmeal.

 

*There were some conduct issues to. Off the job. But stuff that can get you terminated in a hurry. I didn’t know about them until long after I knew him. Had I known. He would have never been on my radar.