Life gives no guarantees, no carbon-fibre-clad promises, no surety of anything apart from the proverbial death and taxes. As much as we desire a path that avoids the very worst disasters, shit, as they say, happens.
Romance and coupling fall squarely in the sloppy mid-zone of stuff that can fall one way, or the other, or no particular way at all. Our intimate relationships with people can make for a great life, or be the ruin of us or oscillate between vague happiness and undecided dissatisfaction – of all human pursuits it might be the most uneven.
I think the misunderstanding comes about from taking Hollywood’s version of coupling as some kind of standard. I’m a cynic about this, because movie and tv producers’ motivation is firstly commercial, and latterly political. If they can make money by appealing to our desire for glossy happy endings (for us) or horror relationship stories (for bad people), they will exploit that to the max.
If we want happy endings (whatever that means, but generally conflict-free, fully engaged, prosperous, united and happy relationships) that’s what they’ll show us. There will be minor hiccups, but they will resolve with minimal effort.
What, then, are we to do when in real life we can’t even get beyond meeting people who might vaguely mesh with us? What if the hi-def screen process increasingly represents a vision of life with another that is a parody of our own lives in which low-energy dating that goes nowhere is our norm? Will this state of muddy affairs ever resolve?
A start might be some brutal self-examination. Would I date me? Am I an attractive prospect? Is my state of mind one of clarity and honesty when dealing with people? Am I wounded in ways that require more healing? Sometimes the best answer is that dating should be a much lower priority, if only because another failure will take us down another notch. Self-repair is a wonder of nature, but it takes time and energy. Success comes to the successful, a truism of the very worst and very best kind.
Under the heading of “None of us is born with any understanding of what makes good or bad relationships” comes this idea.
Of the many characteristics to look for in a potential coupling-mate, a matching energy level – quantitative and qualitative – is high on the list.
By the simple act of even looking for such a thing, we increase our chances of finding a right person.
I sit here with an idea for a series of useful public gatherings for singles and the loosely-attached, stuck on a couple of points:
1. How to find the kind of single people interested in relationship ideas.
2. Figuring out if calling them “singles” is itself a turn-off.
This is a case where I cannot apply any of my own standards. Being single – and importantly, wondering what other people think of that – doesn’t occupy my brainspace at all. I care not what others think of my relationships. But something tells me that there is something of a social hesitation surrounding singles: mostly, of course, an attitude from the already attached.
Unfortunately, singles themselves are infected with this feeling of being lesser; as if your value as a person is related to someone else. We can be defensive.
The problem is that I cannot think of a better term than “single”. It is the clearest descriptor of our status. Anything else slips into the realm of euphemism, which makes people wonder why we need to parse the whole being alone deal.
On the other hand, I have a sneaking suspicion that whether you are single or with someone, the other side looks more attractive. The perennially dissatisfied fall into both categories, and I am probably one of them.
So, for the moment, I have a vision of interested people gathering to listen to experts and air out some thoughts on relationships and such. A vision only, though.
Let’s see now, I haven’t had a girlfriend in close to seven years. That’s a LONG TIME. Being without a special lady companion for that long is a result of having to cleaning up my own self-exploding personal mess.
Cleaning up personal messes takes time and energy. Sometimes in life one needs to focus – and I mean really narrow down one’s day-to-day being – on one or a couple of specific acts. And so it has been.
Now that doesn’t necessarily preclude you from maintaining a dating life, but it does for me. When I need to work at something as important as rescuing my life, I have no other way than to devote everything to the cause. The flip-side of such intensity is that there’s no room left for another.
Dating well requires time and energy. If there’s no surplus in the tank, you might as well not. You do yourself no favors by half-heartedly going about the business of exploring others; that’s been my attitude and of course everyone’s different.
My apprehension is that whilst I’ve been attending to other matters, I might have met someone really special and turned her away from simple inattention.
Accommodating other people requires spare mental and emotional capacity. Only you know if you have the ability.
When you are twenty, you can afford to date without forethought. Having all the time in the world allows you the luxury of asking anyone for any reason to spend a little time together. Because you are new to adult life, stretching your experience with different kinds of people works to help you figure yourself out. We find our life’s envelope by fooling around at the edges.
Logically, there’s no reason not to do the same if you are fifty. You might even want to make the case that being free of youthful responsibilities – and maybe even your own children – means you can return to self-discovery with your dating. Life gave you ups and downs, and now you can use the found knowledge to find someone compatible.
But I don’t think it works that way. Maturity narrows our focus to those elements of life that are important. Casting off that which doesn’t interest us gives us time and (importantly) the energy to pursue what is of value. Discarding choices can be liberating, in the sense that we more clearly define ourselves…both to ourselves and that yet-to-be-found other person.