I think a lot about falling in love. For one thing, there was a long time it was the only real goal I cared about in life. I wasn’t passionate about career, personal accomplishments, or anything else that falls under the umbrella of long-term ambition. But I regularly gave everything I knew how to give to acquire and maintain a relationship.
The irony is that this unbalanced approach brought with it many other imbalances. How can one overextend themselves looking for love, neglect the other important areas of their life, and still expect to foster a healthy relationship?
And so it went for so many years. As soon as I was old enough to think about romance I figured I’d found the key to happiness: find a nice lady, love her, and the rest of life will figure itself out. Well, it turns out I needed to receive the love more than I wanted to give it out. And that’s not easy to say, mainly because it was not easy to see. It felt so benevolent to give so much to another person, I had no idea my effort was actually all for me.
I spent all those years trying to fill a hole inside of myself that I unfortunately had no idea was there. Since it was all I knew I figured that was normal. I thought everybody had this aching vacuum and massive need to get approval from someone else. Imagine my confusion when most other people were able to be so cool about it. What a mystery, I tell you.
In recent years I have really started to figure this out. I strive every day to understand what I want and need just a little bit better and I am rewarded with little epiphanies here and there. Miniature ones. Minipiphanies, if you will. But their effects are not miniature.
I still think about love and finding a partner, though the scope of it is different now. Rather than seeing it as a vacancy looking to be filled, for me it’s now a question to be explored and the question is this: what the hell do I actually want? I’m through with trying to complete myself through someone else, now I want to complete myself so I can enjoy being with someone.
I’ve been fortunate enough to realize that there really is a void within me and that the answer to that sucking vortex is not to be found in anything external. This is fortunate because, for one, I’m always with me. So at least it’s convenient that I can’t escape myself… no matter how hard I try. And two, as I calm this whirlpool of desolation down it goes great lengths in calming down everything else within me.
Everybody has come across someone every once in a while that is desperate, and it’s usually so thick you can smell it on them. That’s the irony is that desperation is lonely and it drives everybody else away. Well my friends, that was me. Holy hotcakes was I desperate. And discovering this, or rather, admitting this to myself was freeing but it didn’t turn off the feeling right away, nor did it change my behaviour.
Learning a personal truth about yourself can sometimes trigger an instant and significant change. Other times it simply shines a light on something so that you can see what you’re doing but the actions remain; it may be running the same course but at least you’re aware of it now. That’s typically the way it is for me: I’ll have a minpiphany which allows me to watch myself being foolish in some way, then I can apply pressure in the right direction to begin to reshape the behaviour.
So I’m not desperate. At least not from the inside any more. Great. No, really, it is great. But… that doesn’t magically solve all the related problems. And thank the stars for that, because how boring would that be?
So now I can go and date people from solid personal ground and enjoy the process…. right?
Not so fast, slugger. It turns out understanding a former weakness of yourself doesn’t change the whole world. People are still complicated and confusing and meeting new people with the prospect of romance is stressful.
I’ve done some online dating and I’ll say that I don’t much care for it. At all. It’s awkward to get to know someone through a text medium only to eventually (maybe) set up a date, which is as awkward since you’re both meeting as a test run for romance. That’s a lot of pressure. Not only that, you’re out on a date with a complete stranger. Now I know that’s normal no matter how you meet someone, but I’ve found it uncomfortable when it’s a result of using a virtual matchmaker.
And so this always has me coming back to a philosophy that has been bouncing around in my head for years and it’s like this: as I truly pursue the life I want I will meet the kind of people that are congruent with that life. Platonic, romantic, everything I could dream of and more. I don’t say this meaning “all my dreams will come true!” with stars in my eyes, I just mean that when you pursue something meaningful and genuine, things will happen in your life that you never could have predicted just by dreaming about it.
The tricky part is that this stage of this process that takes a lot of patience and perseverance before the hard work will turn into anything tangible. So I continue with the work I have started, and I spend time reflecting on the interactions I’ve had with people and how they change over time. I’m noticing that what I take away from conversations with people, especially attractive lady people, are becoming more even. I have always been passionate and a hopeless romantic, but looking for a solution to my problems over-romanticized any one interaction.
As I move forward what’s showing the most progress is slowing down enough to remember that I don’t need to go out looking for that missing piece. The more anything is practiced, the stronger it becomes. And so patience is growing stronger and allowing me to change from going out looking for something specific, like a life-altering romance, and instead enjoying each interaction that takes place. Even more than that – understanding what has actually taken place. Expectation distorts our perception of reality and has us looking for any evidence that we’ve found what we’re hoping to find, but this comes at the cost of missing out on each connection as a whole.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw
I want to listen, and I find that the only people that are worth listening to are those that know how to do it themselves. These are the people that don’t ramble on and repeat themselves, the people that know how to read your connection in the conversation, and that know how to keep themselves focused so that the conversation doesn’t just hop off the tracks with each passing impulse.
The more I think about these things the more I understand all the people that have said “I found love the moment I stopped looking for it.” For a long time I thought that was silly and there was some misunderstanding in the people that would utter that phrase.
But it’s making more and more sense. Especially because I’m coming from a history of desperation, the more I stop looking directly for love the further I get from that scared and lonely boy I was in the past.
This is, however, testing my faith in myself. It’s scary to let go of my old familiar place. Although my old approach didn’t work for me in the past, going forward is intimidating since I can’t see where it will lead. But I do trust in this path, so I learn to let go of the old a little more each day and take one step further into the beautiful blind road of what’s to come.
What’s your story? Do you struggle to find that special someone in your life? Does it scare the crap out of you?