When modern day relationship gurus and women’s magazines talk about being ready for love, what they mean is recognizing when the right person comes along and having an open heart ready to receive love’s blessings.
Last week, I met a man who fits all the criteria I’d want in a partner. He is mature, grounded, spiritual, and of course, handsome. In his early 20s, he was a professional model hand-picked by Giorgio Armani. His looks have faded somewhat in the intervening 20 years, but they have been replaced with a worldly wisdom that comes only from a life of diverse experiences. His journey resembles my own, beginning in a superficial domain whose emptiness revealed itself and eventually led to a deeper path of spirituality. While mine has taken me to India, his took him to Tibet where he taught English to monks.
On our second date, he expressed that he was timid in my presence because he was attracted to me. At the end of the night, we kissed. Passionately. For an hour. The next day, he told me how much he liked me and asked if I was free again that evening. For the first time in a long while, a man expressed real feelings and genuine emotion to me. There is no guessing as to whether he likes me or wants to see me again, he told me so. I am not agonizing over whether he will respond to my text, or afraid of what he might say.
I should be rejoicing and saying prayers of thanks to the universe for having finally sent someone who appreciates me and doesn’t treat me like a beggar to be regarded with suspicion.
Instead, I am frightened by the enormity and complexity of the emotions involved. On Sunday, I could have spent the day with him but instead I pursued a neighbor I once slept with and since has been noncommittal in seeing me again. I always thought that I wanted men to chase me, but what I realized is that I have a pattern of lusting after men who are unavailable.
When it comes to love and being single, many of us are masochists. A love affair doesn’t feel real unless there is tension and a little bit of torture involved. If it comes too easily, we are suspicious or disinterested.
Groucho Marx said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” In dating, it’s common to be turned off by people who too eagerly like us. While I bemoan mistreatment at the hands of men who leave me hanging, I derive a sick thrill from it as well.
Psychology tells us that we chase unavailable people because of a lack of self-esteem, and their abuse reinforces the negative perception we have of ourselves. This is probably the biggest challenge facing gay men in their search for love. Many still carry wounds inflicted from childhood and are unable to see themselves as anything but fundamentally flawed and unlovable. They traipse from one man to the next, rejecting anyone who expresses anything more than a desire for surface-level sex for fear that their real self may be exposed and trampled upon. If we are not in a place to truly love and accept ourselves, then we reject the love that someone else shows us.
I was once in a similar position a few years back when I met a French-Canadian Cirque du Soleil performer. He was beautiful and he spoke French, which were the only things that mattered to me. (I was 22 at the time.) He was intensely infatuated with me. We had been dating for a week when he asked to be exclusive. I was taken aback by his abrupt request. I had never been in a relationship and it seemed way too soon, and too fast. When he went away that weekend, I slept with someone else just to spite him.
I have never been in love before because I have never loved myself, truly, fully. Each time someone came along who wanted to love me, I treated them badly.
The paradox is that the people who crave love the most, who bemoan their singleness, are usually the least adept at accepting love. They project their lack of love onto a far-off, fantasy relationship that never comes because fundamentally they don’t love themselves. They are heartsick not because they are unloved by another person, but because their heart has been covered in the plaque of self-loathing.
The same concept applies to happiness. Many project their happiness onto a future time when they will have an expensive car, a beautiful home, or status in their career. But the truly content have found happiness within themselves, a quality of inner richness and a product of meditation.
For those in a passionate love affair with themselves, they are never craving the love of another. If this love comes, then it is a wonderful dance of two souls, but they are never unhappy dancing alone.
Recognizing my behavior pattern, I am forcing myself to act differently. I won’t treat this one badly. It will be a slow walk and I may stumble along the way, but love is never a race to the end.