I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I recently received an email asking me for suggestions on how to help someone connect more with her boyfriend. She asked me to tell her date night ideas that would help build and strengthen that bond she so desperately wanted. I began like I usually do – with a disclaimer. I told her that I wouldn’t pretend to know who she was or the dynamic of her relationship after a handful of emails. I didn’t know her hopes and her dreams and her prayers. I didn’t know how selfish she could be or how fiercely she could love – so how could I ever responsibly tell her how to conduct her relationships. All I could do is tell her what worked for me and maybe there would be something that would help her see things a little differently. Kind of like a bootleg Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doled out by a long-winded recovering hoodlum who only really knew how to talk about himself.
I told her about the woman that I began dating because she was everything I wasn’t. I wanted a change. Something new and different because the type of people I had been dating my entire life were clearly not working. She dressed me up and brought me to fancy functions. Worlds away from my comfort zone. Professional men and women who looked at me like an exotic animal. Conversations where I would fascinate people with my punk rock tales of debauchery and madness. She would take me to not just meet but hang out with her family. Flew me to symposiums and brought me to sporting events. And it made me feel like she was proud enough of who I was as a man to bring me around such influential and important people in her life. She made plans for vacations and financial security. They were the big things. The things most people look for as the foundation of a desirable relationship. For as nice as it felt to be away from the life I knew, I knew it wasn’t me. It wasn’t as enticing as I hoped and I never truly felt comfortable around her. She was perfect… on paper. And she was everything a person could hope to find in a woman – just not a person like me.
Then I told her about the woman who wanted to walk with me to the store to buy groceries just so she could have more time to talk. The one who would sit in the kitchen just to watch me cook. The woman who somehow knew when I needed to feel her fingers through my hair and when to keep her distance. She could read me and could navigate my idiosyncrasies. I don’t know how she did it but she made me feel whole. And while she would never be able to tell me that she would take care of me and that I would never have to worry about money, she enjoyed the daily rituals because she said it made her feel closer to my world and that she didn’t want to simply know about my world, she wanted to become part of it. She knew I liked riding my bike so she got a bike so we could ride together. She made me take her to my secret spots I like to go when I’m feeling super sensitive and it made me feel close to her. It wasn’t the movies or the baseball games or the clubs – all of that is filled with distraction. The crowds, the screens, the cover charges and loud music steal away moments. Time where we could spend learning more about why we feel the way we feel and how we interpret the world around us. And while a relationship can’t be one long serious interview, she chose to fill our time with things where we could concentrate on each other. And that was important. And that was what set her apart from all the rest because it made me take her seriously. And that got my respect. And you fall in love with people who you take seriously and respect and who make you feel important and loved. That was what truly brought us together.
I didn’t know how to make the person on the other end of that email feel closer to her boyfriend. I only knew what worked for me. And for better or for worse, The 15 Ways To Feel Closer To Your Lover list in Cosmo doesn’t apply to people like me. For all I knew both of them could find more excitement in sex-filled afternoons followed by drinks at the local tiki bar. And hey, if that’s what works for you more power to you. But it doesn’t for me because I have tried to fill my relationships with distractions and I never felt fulfilled. Because it has always been about the little things that build a real connection between people. So I told her that is where I would begin.