I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and then I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.
~Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat, Pray, Love”
Well, Holy Hannah Liz, apparently you and I went to the same school of starry-eyed soulmate-searching. Because honey, I know exactly what you are talking about. Been there, done that and most probably am doing it again.
I remember reading Gilbert’s book with the kind of reverence and fascination typically reserved for royal weddings and gourmet dinners (is that just me?). Why? Because she was writing my life. Not that I’ve ever been to India or Indonesia (I have been to Italy and I will return!) but she was writing my emotional life and she was writing my history with men. Remember the part where she’s lying on the bathroom floor just about drowning in her own tears and snot because she is stuck in a doomed marriage but has no idea what to do about it? Yep, been there done that too. More than once, I’m sad to admit. Floors, tears, snot and I have a far too familiar relationship.
While I was reading her book, in the tiniest of increments every day because I truly did not want it to end, I would earmark the pages that really spoke to me. Then I would read those passages to my girlfriends as they sipped wine at my kitchen counter. Their eyes would bug out as they choked on their Sauvignon Blanc, all the while sputtering “Holy Shit Vic, she’s talking about you!”
Yeah. I know.
Because what she wrote in the paragraph above, well, that’s what I do too. I just didn’t realize it until I read her eloquent words. I was not aware that I was doing it. It was always so much easier to blame the guy than to blame my unrealistic expectations of the guy. Those very same expectations which I had painted up perfectly in my head and then quietly imposed onto his head. Of course I didn’t tell him that imposition had occurred. I just sat back and waited for him to figure out that in order to be the best that he could be all he had to do was be the guy I thought he could be except I didn’t actually explain to him what that was and even if it did come up in the occasional conversation it was never expressed gently or lovingly and it never, ever worked out.
And so, after too many bad choices and one too many negative outcomes, I changed my MO. I started explaining to my lover, ever so lovingly, that his highest potential might be better served if he allowed me to guide it. After all, I had spent many hours learning all the handy-dandy communication skills that are supposed to help propel our relationships to a higher level. Like, say, to their best potential.
For instance – you never say “YOU always do this and I hate it!”
What you do say is “When you do this, it makes me feel like that.”
He can’t really argue, can he? Action, reaction.
And the way you feel is the way you feel, regardless of whether or not he meant to make you feel that way. No possible argument there either.
Another one? It never behooves you to tell him what he needs to do. Better to offer that “If you do this, that or the other thing, it will make me feel loved and important.”
He can’t argue with that either. Obviously the inference here is that if he doesn’t do this, that and the other thing you will not feel loved and important. But that’s his extrapolation to decipher, not yours to deliver.
So here I am with all my newfound skills and thanks to Liz, newfound understanding of my roll in this relationship rumba and you know what?
I’m still doing it. I’m still fucking doing it.
I am still falling in love (too quickly) without honestly assessing the risks all the while drooling over what could be when the man reaches his highest potential. Because my assumption is that he is going to want to. Whatever I think his highest potential is, he is going to not only want to aspire to it, but to do the work necessary to achieve it.
I am so damn stupid.
Because recent history would suggest that it ain’t gonna happen. Most men – especially in my age group – are quite content to be exactly who they are. They are not spending their days yearning to become more evolved lovers or aspiring to higher potentials. They are working, playing, struggling, laughing, lonely, happy, horny guys. Just trying to find a girl who will fit in. That’s it – just fit in.
So I guess that leaves it all up to me, right? I mean I need to change my MO again, right? I need to stop falling in love with potential and just fall in love (if it’s possible) with the guy exactly as he is, deficiencies and all, potential be damned!
And if he isn’t enough, just as he is, I should walk away and keep searching. I shouldn’t be patient and I shouldn’t offer advice and I shouldn’t hope that one day he’ll see the light, right? Because hey, it’s just my light I want him to see. And maybe he just doesn’t wanna.
Yeah. I should just walk away.
What if? What if a little more time, a little more understanding, a little more quiet unwavering love is all he needs? What if his potential is beckoning and he just needs you to be patient?
Damnit, damnit, damnit