I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
There is a series of unspoken questions you go through online before most people agree to meet in person. Generally, it begins with some form of light flirtatious back and forth establishing an interest. One that is not so clearly stated as to potentially frighten someone away as it is more subtle yet understood. Something along the line of, “Hey, I think you’re pretty attractive and I would like to see if you’re as awesome as I think you might be in real life.” Now, I suppose you could just go ahead and say something along those lines but most of us simply do not because honesty is vulnerability and few of us feel comfortable truly being ourselves right out of the gate.
One that slight connection is established you can move on to something a little more personal. Talking on the phone or video chatting are almost like 21st century first dates. For as much as we long for the days of black and white movie romance, the truth is, none of us have the time or the patience for such acts. Could you imagine a letter correspondence in a time where you can speak text an entire story in a matter of seconds or just swipe right on 100 potential new suitors in the next minute. As much as any of us would love to believe we would play along with the romanticism of yore, let’s be real – none of us have the patience for that ridiculousness in this day and age.
After the virtual first date, the next step is seeing a person right in front of you. After scrutinizing over the cold stats of an online profile and determining whether or not their quick-witted and charming personality translates well over the phone or screen, we become eager to see how a person operates around other people. Because how a person holds themselves in public could be a potential deal-breaker. Maybe he is hot and reads all the right books, but if he stiffs the server and treats the staff at the bar like they’re beneath him, well, that kind of behavior could leave him driving home alone because many of us see that conduct as selfish and crude.
Often, when we meet someone for the first time we do our best to avoid giving the wrong signal. Sure, we might smell after work or rarely wash our hair or treat our co-workers badly or maybe we have a shitty personality that will require someone with unwavering patience. Maybe we have terrible fashion sense or we can’t take a joke. Maybe we are terrified of being alone and the reason we are out meeting strangers for dates is because the thought of having to go back home to another Thanksgiving dinner and explain to our family why we are still single is beyond irritating. Or maybe, some of us are simply scared to be alone with our thoughts. That it would be nice if we could meet someone who could tolerate us just enough and hate the same things we do and liked seeing us naked so we endure the gauntlet of boring and banal dates one after another with the hope that person will agree to lie in bed next to us just as desperate for our love as we are of theirs.
So we sit across from them and tone down the shitty and we smile and pay attention and remember all the listening cues and personality mirroring techniques we have picked up over the years. We ask them questions about their lives – real questions. Ones that they can’t answer with a yes or a no. Questions that demand a thoughtful explanation. And we pretend to care about their mundane stories of their early morning work commute and that we would be open to trying their fusion cooking. We do this for the same reason: because we need to believe there is someone out there who could possibly love us and give us the happiness we are looking for.
But the truth is, no one gives you happiness. Aside from the temporary high, money, sex, and prestige, leave no lasting happiness in our heart. And we can go on 10, 100, or a thousand first dates but in the end, if the sole reason why you’re throwing yourself into the pit of dating lions is because you are looking for someone to make you happy… you never will be. Because you’re looking in all the wrong places. And so many of us continue the same dance over and over hoping that the next person will get it right. That one more date is just one more opportunity to find happiness. That if you find the right person who fits your stringent criteria of wants, needs, and desires that everything will fall in place and you can start living this ideal happy life you have craved ever since you began to know sadness.
But I’m here to tell you something I wish someone would have told me a long time ago – you don’t get to pick who you fall in love with. We get fooled into thinking we have some kind of say in who we love but that is the biggest lie we tell ourselves. If you would have had the cold statistics of each women I have loved in front of me written on a piece of paper before we met, I would have scoffed in your face when you told me that they would one day wreck me. I don’t get to pick. You don’t get to pick. We GET picked. Love isn’t some prissy little kid screaming “yes” and “no” to toys in a store – love is a brutal wrecking machine magnetized to the people who need our love the most. Because our heart doesn’t care about our happiness, it is cruel and only cares about what it is magnetized to. And that is why the people we love the most are the people who can destroy us the easiest. Because they have a wrecking machine just like you. We just have to trust that our machines can lie next to each other night after night without wreaking havoc.
Your happiness will not be found in their machine, but in your own. Happiness comes from self-confidence. It comes from knowing you could destroy a heart but you choose not to because you aren’t as hateful and ruthless as you once were. While the machine never goes away, it can be controlled. And it is within that control that we can find our own happiness. And the happiness you have found will flourish in their shadow.