In The Garden

No, relationships never, ever begin at maturity. This is a mistake that I have fallen into time and again, presuming that we, the both of us, begin at altitude instead of at ground level.

Example: Two adults meet, fall in click, figure they can make it work, and attempt to do so. The assumption of both parties is that the other is working from a framework of similar snapshots, that the beginning is clear.

What we actually have is two individuals with backgrounds, peers, modeling, assumptions, understandings, biases, visions and expectations that are at best hidden, and at worst unacknowledged.

So the beginning is clear on one level, the attraction part. But what of the rest? It’s akin to planting two flowers side-by-side thinking they’ll thrive in the same soil. One, however, is a rose, the other is a cactus; how to mesh those two?

Sure, they both have spiky bits, which might or might not be a similarity worth pursuing. But is the commonality worthy of ignoring the differences? Should Miss Piggy really be dating Kermit?

Two muppets is a lighthearted and worthwhile locus. If we humble ourselves, agree to start afresh, resonate to the discovery, things might turn out differently.

Me In A Dress

Ego is the barrier between us and seeing the other. By the other, I mean the other person, specifically the one with whom we’re contemplating coupling.

When we list out the qualities we admire – and desire – in others, oftentimes the result is a compendium of who we think we are. We all look at our own constituent parts and think hey, this is the good side of me, I want someone who is similar to this.

It makes complete sense. You and I both feel that we’re alright, that we’re sufficiently individual with our neuroses, predilections, biases and slants…that we’re worthwhile and that’s something to aim for in a coupling partner.

But is that true? Do I really want me in a dress? Am I best served by finding someone who mirrors me in a female way, and in doing so will mesh beautifully?

Ego stands in the way of finding who someone who fits in real life because we’re all resistant to accepting different ways of looking at life, and especially different ways of looking at us. Self-protection is a fundamental human quality. It’s a personal affront (but a critical element of good couplehood) to live with another viewpoint of everything we hold dear; which is code for “living with someone who sees the good and the bad”.

But living side-by-side with someone who sees us clearly – the good, the bad and especially the ugly – will ultimately be our making. A bargain with another person who wants to link with us but is both clear-sighted and affectionate results in something bigger than us both.

Room To Breathe

None of us think of relationships this way, but the courtesy of allowing room for the other to be who they are forms a lifelong framework, if we so choose.

What does “allowing room” mean?

Well, Hortense, room equates to latitude and understanding. Within the boundaries of law, morality, etiquette and goodwill, women should allow men to be men, and men should allow women to be women. Observing our specific mate’s version of malehood or femalehood is part of learning about them.

What does ” (being) who they are” mean?

Being who they are is the characteristic and integral behavior of each sex. Women and men are different, and understanding them from the perspective of the other can be difficult, and, in extreme cases, fatal for a relationship. Finding a way to rejoice in the differences and to be at one with our opposite is finding peace with who our mate is.

Acceptance; finding a way to want what is mostly for the good is a fine way to progress through life with someone.

Depress Me

Number one on my list of prospective mates to avoid is anyone with any kind of chronic or recurring mental illness.

Sadly, this counts out a lot of women, but counting out a lot of women is the idea of such a list. Mental disorders are rife, and, from what I understand, wholly under-diagnosed. Even if that’s not true, we rarely think of not dating such people for precisely that reason, because we figure that therapy or drugs will mitigate any problems. We overlook this stuff on the way to the bedroom.

Wrong.

I had coffee this morning with a women who is dating (read: shacking up with) a guy who is a depressive. We’re not talking someone who is maudlin or down a lot. He’s capital D Depressed for much of the time.

She is clearly having second thoughts about this dude. As m’colleague Kregg repeatedly says, women are attracted to men with ambition and voice; a man continually in tears living on the couch doesn’t have much of either.

The question I could see bugging her is just why she’s involved with a guy who is failing to live up to her expectations. The best she could come up with was that he “…helps changing the sheets, oh, and does some work around the yard”.

Mismatch, much?

Comforting someone who sobs themselves to sleep might fulfill some need you have, but that’s not a need you should satisfy. There are other ways. We’d all like to help that person, but attempts to do so for misguided ideas of “love” or “being there” are foolish and create two people falling down a well.

Sometimes saving ourselves from mistakes is the best possible outcome.

Sunk Cost

We humans are awful at probability. We’re even worse at logical decision-making for our own benefit.

An example is the power of a sunk cost. A person, A, dates person B for two years and finally figures that the current nature of, and likely future path of, their relationship is unsatisfactory. Person A is much more likely to reason that it’s worth staying together because of the time spent together. This is simply the way we work. That two years is the sunk cost, meaning the investment of time and energy and emotion.

A logical person would say: It matters not a whit what has transpired for me to find myself at this point. Only the future matters. The fact of my having invested time in this joint venture is irrelevant, because it’s not what I want. Now is the time to cease investing time with this person and go find a better candidate.

Instead, because we aren’t logical, we continually justify ongoing efforts to either make the relationship work, or hope that something changes to make it work. Letting go of the sunk cost appears to mean a loss, but it isn’t and never was. That time is necessary to figure out if B is in fact the right one.

To be clear: the process of getting to know someone is all about seeing how we fit together for the rest of our lives. Until we marry, it’s not a sunk cost, it’s just the cost of familiarization, and should be counted only that way.