Love like Film Requires Development:

Today my friend Jill explained that she would have had my sweetheart and myself over for dinner as promised, but instead had shit-canned her date. This was not surprising. In fact, it was entirely predictable. Though Jill has many successful Match.Com applicants vying for her attention, she invariably loses interest once they disappoint her for the first time.

As she struggles through this process, starting over again each time, with some vague ideal man in mind, and some new prospect on the horizon, I want to tell her something that might help her form a relationship worth having. Today, I suggested that perhaps she was being a little tough on her prospective suitors. She denied this, saying the magic had been there in the beginning, but had dissolved.

Pressed about the actual circumstance, she related that after four dates, the couple planned a dinner at home. Mr. X had showered first and returned to the kitchen with guitar in hand, asking her if she had ever been serenaded while cooking. She replied that she would rather he took over the dinner preparation so that she could shower in turn. Mr. X did not volunteer help at that point.

They made it through dinner, but she was finished with him. She claimed he was being a narcissist, and added that furthermore he had judged himself to be a terrible husband to his previous wife. For Jill it was cut and dried. To my mind it is inevitable that people are at some points on different pages. To expect anything but that moment of disjunction, is to be deluded. How that moment is handled is the first step of building a relationship.

Clearly, it is at times like the one Jill described, that you learn whether or not you can trust one another. If you’re dismissive of another’s reality, even if it’s entirely preposterous at the moment, you bruise them. Even if your candidate is not Romeo to your Juliet, he may present an opportunity for practicing your relationship building skills. Having mercy for another human being, understanding that previous experiences and facets of that individual’s character have led him to that moment, in this case, of risk-taking, isn’t difficult. It demands that you rein in your reaction and judgment, and open to that moment of frailty with respect.

It is every bit as tender and intimate an experience as having sexual contact. In fact, it is the counterpoint. I asked Jill whether or not Mr. X had put down the guitar and come to the kitchen counter to help her, and she said that no, he hadn’t. I was reminded of something I had while teaching school as a substitute. One of the other teachers was in charge of a class, when a student, an adolescent boy acted out. She told him to leave and go to the principal’s office. For some reason, he was frozen to his desk, unable and unwilling to do what he had been told. Two male teachers were summoned to the crisis situation, and they subsequently carted the desk, with the student still sitting in it, right out of the room and down the hall.

A man is not an adolescent, but as a breed they are most certainly the next thing to that. Another of my friends swears that this is because they do not bear the children. Every woman can recall, with a chuckle, some incident in which all common sense and appropriate behavior was roughly abandoned by her husband, that time when he was transformed into a complete nincompoop. My theory is that these are moments when the adolescent inside a person can make an appearance. It happens with women too. You can’t expect the human experience to be devoid of such moments. It’s the giddiness and humor of adolescence breaking through that provides us fun and joy. It’s a hackneyed phrase, but you learn to take the good with the bad.

I’m in a relationship that had a rocky beginning. It was heady and romantic, but fraught with emotional walk outs and devastated nerves. In this situation, though I had always been the emotional person, I was forced into becoming the stable one. Beside myself and not knowing quite what to do, I talked with my chiropractor. He advised me to deepen my own commitment at each intersection, and though that advice seemed foreign and counter intuitive, I tried it.

Lo and behold my relationship grew stronger, more relaxed, more loving, smoother, less scary, and a lot more fun. Sometimes the outbursts that people are prone to exhibit, are simply animal ways of showing fear. Sometimes they are ways of expressing deep contempt for or dread of the darkest truths of the world. It’s not easy to be a whole and imperfect person with a well of pain inside. We all want to be held in the lap of love, loved in spite of our shortcoming, accepted with our imperfections. We want to be able to relax, to be assured that when we step on someone’s feet, we’ll be informed with kindness and a sense of humor.

One more story about the business of love and relationship occurs to me. Years ago, I lived in the country, where during summer nights, the trees literally filled with lightning bugs and the low fog whispered over the blacktop roads. If the moon wasn’t out, it was so dark, that your eyes never adjusted. One evening at a party, a southern girl that I didn’t know, I didn’t even know her name, came up to me and asked if I knew any eligible men. I had to think about that.

I told her after a moment that I did know one, a young man named Joe Orne. “He works for a television station and has had the job about four years. He’s a Big Brother and sees a boy every week, taking him to the movies, or to a baseball game. To me, that means that he likes children and would like to have them. He comes from a good family. I think his parents have some money, and he seems to be close to them. He talks about them and calls them every week. He has a lot of friends, he’s a little goofy, and he has a droll and mischievous sense of humor. I’ve never known him to date anyone. So he’s probably a little bit shy.”

“I’d like to meet him,” she said. I suggested that there was a party the following evening, gave her the address, and told her to simply show up, and I would introduce them.

She did show up. She met Joe and told him immediately that she was interested in a real relationship. They were married within a year and a half. After the ceremony, she went through his closet and picked out the things that he looked best in, and asked him to get rid of the other items of clothing that she didn’t care for. That may sound a bit Draconian, but to me it symbolized a commitment to take care of her husband. I have never heard a tale like this one before that time or since, but it tells me that finding some one to love doesn’t require Match.Com or any of the other dating services.

What it requires is a genuine desire to love someone, and an understanding of what that means. It also requires the will to not get lost in that void where nothing can happen.

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