We tend to look at relationships like the holy grail of social interaction, something to be pursued as a cure-all for boredom, fear of dying alone, and the frozen food aisle. Too often, we end up settling for the wrong relationship just because dating is so arduous and loneliness so oppressive.
Last week, I wrote about meeting a man that seemed to represent everything I was looking for in a partner. Since seeing him frequently over the past week, I’ve come to conclusion that he is not the right man for me. I have been agonizing over whether my feelings are valid, or my fear of intimacy is once again driving a stake between me and potential coupledom. It’s so rare that someone comes along who puts their heart on the table that I felt I owed it to him, and to myself, to at least see where things could go.
Despite not feeling that thrilling, inexplicable rush in his presence from the beginning, I pushed forward anyway. He has nice teeth, I told myself as we kissed, and tried to imagine him as he was during his modeling days. I found on the first few dates that conversation with him was not free flowing or easy, but stunted and punctuated with uncomfortable silences. Sitting across from him at dinner was like sitting in the dentist’s chair, making dull banter and waiting to get drilled.
It didn’t make any sense. He was logically the perfect guy for me — fitting nearly all the artificial criteria I had conjured and he was unabashedly enamored, so why didn’t this feel right?
I knew I wasn’t invested because with each lengthy declaration of affection he made over text, I dreaded crafting a response. During our week-long romance, I went on a date with another guy and cancelled dinner plans on Saturday night with him to pursue someone else. It wasn’t that I was doing these things to push him away from me per se, but dealing with him became heavy, complicated, and un-fun, as if a barnacle had attached itself to my leg. I wanted my freedom back.
He was the relationship equivalent of a pair of shoes you come across in the clearance section while online shopping. They’re not really you’re style, but the price is too good to pass up so you order them anyway. When they arrive at your door, you try them on and maybe even keep them for a few days until you realize you’re never going to wear them, promptly returning to sender.
When this nicely packaged (pun half intended) man arrived in my life, I tried to convince myself that he was a fit. We were compatible in many areas, but that essential spark, the one that makes our stomachs flip and hearts race, was never present for me. I realized that the price was too high to pay for something that wasn’t right. I’d rather be single than in a relationship that didn’t excite me, that felt like an immense amount of work from the outset.
The experience made me remember what I value in being single. I answer to no one, I sleep with whomever I want, and I am free to leave town whenever I like for as long as I like without guilt. I do pretty alright just by myself. I don’t need a relationship for regular sex, emotional support, or companionship. In fact, most of my friends in relationships have less sex and more emotional baggage to shoulder.
Too often, people are willing to sell off their independence at a bargain price, settling for a counterfeit illusion instead of the real thing. Never enter into a relationship because of boredom, loneliness, or experimentation. If I were to continue seeing this guy while I know our future is as bleak as an Ebola diagnosis, it would be unfair to him — each time he sees me, he becomes more inextricably attached, falling deeper into infatuation, imagining that there is a story to be written between us. Meanwhile I continue to feel as unimpassioned as a tenured professor at a community college.
Were I less complete of a person, I’d continue to see him for the safety and the reassurance he offers. But I don’t want security at the expense of passion. I’d rather ride the roller coaster of twists and turns, unexpected highs and lows to remember that I am alive.
If you’re in a relationship of convenience and you know in your heart that it’s not right, you owe it to the person you’re with to be honest and let them go. Selfishness is not a valid reason to hold onto someone whose genuine feelings will never be reciprocated. Better to send them on their path so they can find someone who feels the same way about them as they do about you.
It’s not uncommon to lose faith in following our heart, which has been broken one too many times or lead to disappointment. Instead we resolve to be logical and let the mind take control. But the problem is that the mind is ruled by ego and, too often, fear. We rationalize that because our past has been littered with failure and heartbreak, it must be time to try something else.
Maybe you try to convince yourself that deeper feelings will sprout like dandelions over time, but if you’re not excited about someone now, you will never be excited about them. You may settle into something resembling co-habitation and co-existence, but it will be devoid of real meaning, of passion — and passion is the only valid reason for two people to come together, and the essential glue that keeps them together.
Relationships are a lot of work. Being responsible to another person and their emotions can be imprisoning and exhausting. Remind yourself how lucky you are to be free.