I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I read an article recently that mentioned a theory about how as we grow older we lose more and more control over our lives. Kids, careers, marriage, mortgages – for good or bad, these things tend to thin our options and opportunities as an individual. One of the few things we can control is our hairstyle. And subconsciously, many adults tend to choose a hairstyle that reminds them of the best time of their lives. I mean, it really does make sense. It’s not like our parents or grandparents are unaware of the changing fads and styles around them. They go to the grocery store, watch television, and walk the same streets we do. And they will tell you it’s because they don’t care, but they do. Because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t put so much time primping in the mirror caring about how they look. They simply choose a look that reminds them of when they were at their best.
As my list of dates grew over the years, I found myself constantly looking back and reminiscing over the women that I believed worked out. I would try and remember their reactions from a certain joke, or how the responded to my initial introduction email, or how they handled our first fight. The problem is that time tends to romanticize the past to the point where the grey area begins to fade and we tend to remember people as generally good or generally unhealthy.
Date after date, I would look for these characteristics in women. The characteristics of past relationships and I would hold these new women up to the standards of which I believed worked previously. And while each woman would sit next to me on a couch while we shared a pizza or while we held hands walking down the street, all I could think of was, “Well, this isn’t how my ex would have done it.” And that wasn’t fair. Not so much because I was judging these women based upon the actions of those who came before them, and not even because I was subconsciously stripping away their individuality and viewing them as a potential replacement for the women who kicked dents in my heart – but worst of all, because I held them up to the standard of relationships that inevitably did not work out.
I have dated some truly amazing women. Women that have left me glowing warm in their presence. Women that have knocked me down and shook me off and women who have made me feel truly loved. And while I think of them often and wonder who gets to share their laughter, there is not one single woman that I want back in my romantic life.
Sure, they were absolutely stunning and brilliant and challenging… but they lacked the one key element that so many people blindly stumble past – compatibility. Because while we think we know what we want, at the end of the day, undefinable compatibility is the only true mortar in the foundation of a successful relationship. And when I look back at the list of amazing women that have come in and out of my life, I oftentimes sabotage my good sense by romanticizing those women. And I forget the moments when I looked at them from across a dinner table and felt myself all out of love. They may have been wonderful in their own right, but they weren’t perfect – well, maybe for someone else but at least not for me.
I am not married. I never walked down that isle. Maybe it was my fear of commitment and maybe it was because my good sense was right all along. All I truly know is that I sleep well knowing that I have made the right decision. But just because it was right doesn’t mean it was easy. Walking away from women who fit a decades long list of wants, needs, and desires is tough. But what is tougher is thinking about forcing false compatibility in a relationship until it snaps. And I have been there. I have laid next to a woman as a lie. Holding her and telling her that I loved her knowing there was no future. And I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that there are few things in this world more soul-crushing than lying to a good woman’s heart.
All we can do is do what is fair. If we have any heart, we do what is honorable. And that is to do our best to not judge a potential future based upon the actions of a failed past. Each new date, each new individual should be recognized as such. A person with new complexities and insight. A person with new depths of love and compassion and a person who could possess the light we have been looking for all along. And it would be a tragedy if we allowed it to be eclipsed by what we think we know – when we never knew all along.