Some years ago, on a delightful June morning, I sat comfortably in the Omaha airport, waiting to board a plane to New York City. I couldn’t help but admire Mary, who was sprawled out on the floor, thumbing through magazines, as the bright summer sun illuminated the left side of her face. I loved the way she scrunched up her nose when something perturbed her. And the way she compulsively twirled her hair around her index finger. And the way she could drift off into her own little world, even amongst clutter and chaos. She was cute and quirky and weird, with a kind of small-town innocence that I couldn’t resist.
We’d been planning this trip for weeks, enlivened by our recent and seemingly perfect transition from good friends to passionate lovers. I’d booked a hotel room in SoHo, reserved a table at one of the best restaurants in Greenwich Village, and bought tickets to see one of our favorite musicians at a small club in Williamsburg. For three days, we could be together, just the two of us, blissfully celebrating our union in the City of Dreams.
We could get lost in Times Square and sip wine in The Bowery. We could soak up the view from the top of The Met. We could have fiery sex in Romanesque places, hearts racing wildly with the thrill of being seen. We could toddle through Central Park and take the train up to Harlem and watch the sun go down on the Hudson. Mary had never been to New York, and I couldn’t wait to show it to her.
For the first time in my life, I’d found someone to love. And, someone who loved me, with all of my flaws and idiosyncrasies. I was her rock, her best friend and her muse. I was her favorite soul in this vast, beautiful universe. I was her everything. And I knew this because she told me, nearly each day, with fervent and penetrating sincerity.
So, I guess it struck me as odd when, somewhere over Pennsylvania, Mary divulged that she’d been fucking my neighbor – and, as I’d later discover, a startling number of other guys in the Greater Omaha Area.
If nothing else, Mary had impeccable timing. News like this tends to ruin your morning, particularly when you’re on a plane to New York, eagerly anticipating a romantic weekend getaway.
My heart plummeted to the floor; then panic and anger swept in. I vividly pictured Mary, just steps down my corridor, rolling around in the sheets with that spikey-haired little dipshit. I questioned my judgment, wondering if Mary was the person I’d believed her to be. And, suppressing the urge to disrupt the flight, I gazed out the window, knowing that the next three days would make for a spectacular waste of money and a special brand of hell.
Indeed, a vacation can be rather disappointing when the person you’re with makes you sick. I found myself unable to smile or eat or sleep, endlessly wishing I were alone. Occasionally, I’d ask Mary questions, hoping for practical answers. Instead, I’d get typical Mary-like ramblings, filled with cosmological nonsense and existential psychobabble.
Trying to understand Mary was a singularly pointless activity. So, I largely stayed quiet, biding the time until we arrived back in Omaha. And, as soon as we did, my heart dropped again, as I calmly told Mary that I needed to think about things.
Of course, a wiser, more self-assured man would’ve had nothing to think about. He’d have simply walked away, recognizing his worth as he searched for something better.
But not me.
I had dozens of long-winded conversations, exchanged hundreds of texts and took two more trips with Mary, trying to win her undying affection. But, all of my efforts proved futile, leaving me hopelessly drained and dejected. When we finally parted ways, I spiraled further into despair, paralyzed by the thought of a permanently lost love.
The truth is, nobody showed me the blueprint for a fulfilling relationship. I never learned to stand up for my values, make my own needs a priority and walk away from bad situations. I never learned what it means to have a healthy, supportive partner. I never learned that love isn’t something you win.
My relationship with Mary was only the first in a series of turbulent, short-lived, and heartbreaking affairs. But, that’s okay. Because, if you’re going to learn, sometimes it’s best to do so the hard way.
Still, I wish someone had told me that, if you’re on a quest for love, it’s essential to not just walk away, but run like hell from these kinds of people:
If the television show House taught us anything, it’s that everybody lies. In nearly every episode, Dr. House operated under this guiding principle, probing his patients for secrets so he could accurately diagnose them. A fictional character, yes. But Dr. House was right. Everybody does lie. And, in the case of the show, lying frequently meant the difference between life and death.
In the real world, though, most of the lies that we tell are harmless. Like telling your grandma she makes the best mashed potatoes when they actually taste like wallpaper glue. Or pretending to admire your neighbor’s newborn, even though it’s the ugliest goddamn baby you’ve ever seen. These are little white lies, and they’re a natural part of the human instinct. As Pamela Meyer, the author of Liespotting, points out, “White lies keep social dignity intact and are far more prevalent than most people realize.”
Unfortunately, the dating pool is littered with people who lie in far more destructive ways, often to manipulate, deceive or hide information.
Does something seem off about the person you’re with? Do they tell you stories that don’t add up? Do they leave out details and talk in circles? More importantly, do their actions fail to match their words? If so, congratulations. You found a big, fat, fucking liar. Do yourself a favor and run like hell. You deserve someone who is honest.
Incidentally, if someone tells you they’re honest, don’t believe them. An honest person doesn’t need to tell you they’re honest. They will simply speak the truth, and act in congruence with what they’ve said.
In a marriage, cheating is the ultimate transgression. Yet, research shows that physical or emotional infidelity occurs in over 40% of marriages. Not to mention that 74% of men and 68% of women admit that they would cheat on their spouse if they knew they would never get caught.
Spouses cheat for a variety of reasons, including: lack of sexual satisfaction, anger, the need for emotional validation, and just plain boredom. One could also argue that, from an evolutionary standpoint, human beings simply aren’t wired to be monogamous. Nevertheless, many of us are searching for a loving, devoted partner with whom we can spend a lifetime. And, upon finding such a partner, it stands to reason that we’d prefer not to be cheated on.
Long married couples can – and occasionally do – overcome infidelity, usually with a shitload of counseling and hard work. The purpose of dating, however, is to discover another person’s nature. If somebody cheats on you in the early part of a relationship, don’t assume it’s an isolated fuck-up and stick around. More than likely, they’ll do it again.
As Ayn Rand once said, “You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” Once a cheater, always a cheater. You deserve better. Run like hell, and find someone who values loyalty.
Hear the word addict, and it’s hard not to think of drugs or alcohol. But, people can be addicted to all sorts of things, from lesbian porn to Pokemon Go. Are addicts bad people? Of course not. But, this isn’t about them. This is about you. And if you’re looking for a satisfying relationship, you’re not going to find one with an addict.
Addiction is a disease, and addicts do not make healthy partners. An addict will always place more importance on their drug than on your relationship. And if you try to control their addiction, they’ll resent you (or worse), regardless of your intentions.
Certainly, if someone close to you is an addict, you can lovingly confront them. But, if you’ve just started dating an addict, you’d be wise to run like hell. It’s not your job to fix or save or take care of someone with an addiction. Perhaps they’ll get help and reappear in your life. But, until that day comes, your only job is to take care of yourself.
Let someone take you through their relationship history, and there’s a good chance they’ll describe at least one of their exes as a narcissist. This is a term that we tend to hurl around, especially in the throes of heartbreak. Even a detailed psychological workup can’t prove that someone is truly a narcissist. Theoretically, they could have histrionic or borderline personality disorder. Or they could be a sociopath. But, the fact remains: these people exist in droves. And, in the end, they will cause you nothing but excruciating pain.
Narcissists will chew up your lunch and spit it right in your face, without a hint of remorse.
First, they’ll idealize you, setting the stage for the passion to come. They’ll love-bomb you with flattery, praise, and promises of a future together. They’ll tell you that you’re the most amazing person they’ve ever met. You’ll think you’ve hit the relationship jackpot, wondering how in the hell you got so lucky. That is, until they begin to devalue you.
Yes, just when you think your relationship is progressing, narcissists will turn on you in strange and twisted ways.
The very traits that they said they loved about you will become your biggest flaws. They’ll be distant and cold and inattentive. They’ll gaslight you with lies and insults. They’ll trivialize your feelings, vehemently denying their own behavior. They’ll tell you that you’re crazy or that you have it all wrong or that you’re too sensitive. They’ll make you second-guess yourself, as you scramble to get back to the way things were.
You may have moments of clarity, but the fact is: you’re hooked, just as the narcissist wanted.
Then, without a moment’s hesitation, they’ll discard you, like yesterday’s trash, leaving you with a spinning head and a shattered heart. And, while you’re trying to figure out what the fuck just happened, they’ve already moved on to their next source of supply.
It’s happened to me and it can happen to you. Educate yourself on the stages of narcissistic abuse. Look out for yellow and red flags, and be mindful at all times. If you think you’re involved with a narcissist, don’t waste another day. Immediately cease contact, run like hell, and then run like hell some more. You’ll be grateful you did.
THE EMOTIONALLY UNAVAILABLE
If you were to make a list – and you should – of the traits you want in a partner, you might not think to put AVAILABLE on the list. Why would you? It’s a fucking no-brainer. Except that it’s not. And, I’m willing to bet that, at some point in your life, you’ve pursued a relationship with an unavailable person. I know I have.
Maybe you met someone whose job takes full precedence in their life. Maybe you met someone who is fused with their kids, their friends, or their extended family. Or, maybe you met someone who isn’t quite over an ex. People can be unavailable for many reasons, even if they’re dating. You may think you can win them over, but you can’t. And, the harder you try, the more they’ll use their defense mechanisms to push you aside – often in shockingly unkind ways.
You have no control over someone’s emotional availability. If you don’t seem like a priority or your relationship never seems to move forward, it’s in your best interest to run like hell. If you don’t, you’re venturing down a slippery slope towards heartbreak.
THE BIG QUESTION
It’s hard to imagine why those of us looking for a fulfilling relationship would get involved with a liar, a cheater, an addict, a narcissist or someone who is simply unavailable. Yet, we do. And, in many cases, we do it over and over again.
The big question, of course, is: Why? Why do we consistently fall for the wrong people? Why do we love those who don’t love us back? And, why is it so goddamn hard to remove ourselves from these situations?
Well, it’s complicated.
It’s complicated because we’re all a bit different. Some of us recreate our earliest relationship experiences, and it feels normal to us in adulthood. Some of us are caretakers or codependents, and feel responsible for the needs of others. Some of us operate from a scarcity mindset, fearing we may not meet anyone else. And some of us simply have low self-esteem.
At the end of the day, however, we all share one common thread: somewhere along the line, we internalized the belief that we need to put up with shit to be loved. And, in case you didn’t know, this is not how love works.
So, the other big question is: What can we do about it?
This, too, can be complicated. To truly make a change, you may need to dig deep in your past. You may need to educate yourself on toxic shame, relationship patterns, or attachment theory. You may need to work with a therapist to overcome any childhood trauma. And, you may need to reshape your beliefs.
But, you can get a massive head start by making a very simple promise to yourself. You can promise yourself that, on your quest for love, you will never let anyone treat you badly. And, if someone does, you will run like motherfucking hell and never look back.