People scold me about how opposites attract, but similar people always seem to have better relationships. What they really mean to say is “Hey, your hormones are fighting your sense of reason and you’re doing a terrible job as the mediator.”
Convergent mating strategies might work out well for our offspring, but tend not to work on a personal level. If you’re aloof like me and you’re constantly falling in love with extroverted and super-emotional guys, then your relationships might go something like this:
How You Meet
Pick a dive that’s not too hopeless. The one I went to caters to bluegrass bands and the people who love them. He knows everyone there. You’ll respect him because he doesn’t hone in on you right away like the other guys do. You might not care much about him at first, but if you’re playing poker like I did, you’ll soon be impressed with how he cleans everyone out every time. He knows their behavior patterns. He doesn’t even have to think about it.
A couple weeks later, he asks to walk you home. You end up sitting on the sofa in your lobby talking about everyone you drink with and your spirit animals until 4 AM. He knows what you think is funny. He gets you.
What You Talk About
Your new man is a spectacular conversationalist. He instinctively wants to talk about the ethical questions you have from watching what people you know are doing. You’ll never have to worry about him thinking you’re some dumb broad who doesn’t know enough about nanotechnology or Schopenhauer or other things guys you know like to brag about.
He asks you about yourself and when you answer he sometimes says things like “hmm, that’s surprising” and “that’s what I thought.” You’re surprised when you surprise him. He’s a little bit arrogant about his intuition, but that doesn’t bother you at all.
Soon you feel a compulsion to confess everything that’s wrong with you. You tell him you don’t know what contentment feels like and you’re not sure you ever will. You seek out places where you’re the smartest person in the room because you don’t know what else to be. I’ve never told anyone this before, you say, and he gives you the answers you need in the well-reasoned way you like them. You tell him everything you’ve kept from yourself and he makes you feel like you will always be okay.
He probably believes in karma. He definitely looks for the best in things. You might ask about the purpose of your roommate’s boyfriend, who blew all her savings at the racetrack. He tells you to be thankful for that guy because he sets a low standard. If such people didn’t exist, your boyfriend says, then good people would be the low standard. You’re in love.
Your boyfriend has an impressive notch count. He’s uncomfortable with this because he really wants to find The One. He legitimately thought he loved every girl he’s been with, all 30 of them. He tells you that as great as his exes were, they didn’t fill his emotional needs. He was pretty much always the dumper.
Sensitive guys make excellent teachers. Especially with teenage boys. He plays soccer with them. He tells them about girls. He’s never too soft. Any 14-year-old problem will tell your boyfriend anything. You can’t imagine anyone else making half as good of a father.
My ex works in a home for severely autistic people. He talks about their interests no matter how boring those interests may be (vintage electrostatic sound systems anyone?) He coordinates field trips for them. He even takes a guy from the home he doesn’t work in anymore to the movies every couple of months.
Your guy might be a journalist or work for a nonprofit. He’s also likely to be a small business owner, because he has even less patience with The Rules than you do. Unsurprisingly, many of these guys have an artistic bent. They’re pretty good because they’re so attentive to detail. If they can handle the criticism then they might make it into a successful career.
Sometimes it’s pretty good. He doesn’t have specific ideas about what he should and should not do, so he’ll let you tie him to the bed with a leather belt. He’ll let you scratch him and slap his face and tell him what a bitch he is. You may worry that he’s too sensitive to do the same to you. He’s not.
He won’t have sex if he’s irritated with you though, which will happen more and more after the first couple of weeks. You beg for it and he’ll walk out the door to get beer. It won’t even be about sex at that point. You’ll want to be as close as you possibly can to this person. You’ll want to graft yourself onto his body. You’ll lie there kissing every part of his face while he makes it clear that you’re nothing but an annoyance. He says he wants to when he wants to, and your pushiness is ruining the mood.
What He Doesn’t Like About You
Eventually those abstract conversations you enjoy so much will make you start fighting. He doesn’t like it when you see hierarchies. He thinks you’re judgmental and he doesn’t like how you don’t have sympathy for the grossest and most morally bankrupt people he knows. Like I said, he’s everyone’s friend.
You start to feel like you can’t say anything. If you’re lying next to him overcome with joy at his protectiveness and his big, comfy body and you say “I love how you’re a little fat,” then the end is near. He takes everything as criticism, even though you’re delighted to snuggle with such a loving, enveloping guy.
But no matter how tired you are of walking on eggshells you’re madly in love with him. He sees your soul and he wants to fix it. He’s so pure. How are you ever going to be happy with one of those misanthropic losers like yourself when you’ve been understood by someone who knows the truth about everything?
How It Ends
He will always leave you. And it will always be a drawn-out breakup because you’ll try desperately to keep him. He’s unlocked more feelings than you’ve experienced in your entire life and he says you haven’t even scratched that surface for him. You feel shallow and worthless.
My ex yelled at me that our wavelengths might come just this close but we will never, ever be on the same path at the same time. I told him that was close enough to keep me happy forever. No, he said, it had to be perfect.
You’ll keep thinking of things you want to tell him, like that your rebound doesn’t understand how that hippie from the bar is so content since his only talent is running the local chess club. “And he’s not even good enough to go pro,” your new man says like a heathen. I ran to tell my ex how karma got back to me. He laughed good-naturedly. I cried in front of him yet again because I couldn’t stand to let my life guide go.
Cheer up though. He did leave you with a brand new perspective, and no one can take that away from you. You’ll remember him as the mentor who made you look at everybody more closely, never as the douchebag who left you.
You’ll slowly warm up to your new boyfriend, who’s a little bit boorish but fascinated by you in a way that will never involve verifying his beliefs about social systems. He won’t always know what you’re thinking, but he’s eager to learn and refreshingly hard to offend.
One day you two will be sitting on his couch talking through an old movie and it’ll dawn on you that this is what contentment feels like. Contentment is watching The Empire Strikes Back while eating peanut butter fudge ice cream and not having to prove that he’s taught you anything. And you’ll realize that’s enough.
I’m projecting, of course. Because I hope that one day it will be.