I noticed a pattern in my dating behavior recently. Actually, I think I noticed it a few years ago but suppressed it, afraid it might be indicative of something that I might have to deal with.
I think I’m good at being single. I keep myself busy with work, friends, and sports. I enjoy my alone time. Sex outside a relationship doesn’t do much for me. And for the most part, I don’t crave to be in a relationship. Yet every year, I enter the fall a single man, and exit the holidays in some kind of relationship. Maybe not every year, but close enough for me to see a pattern.
In 2016, I met a Harley Quinn at a Halloween party and we dated until the spring of last year. Before that was Max, who I met in the fall of 2015. We dated until the spring of 2016. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been anywhere near a woman though, and I’m starting to bug out a bit.
As great as my last girlfriend was, I came out of that relationship thinking that I might be asexual. She was all kinds of awesome, and I was all kinds of uninterested towards the end. It wasn’t her fault as I had some things I needed to work through. In that regard, I suppose I’m not very good at multitasking.
Harley and I broke up in the spring. Women weren’t on my radar at all. The summer came and went and I still had no interest in women. I was open minded to the idea that I just wasn’t suitable for a relationship. I was also open minded to the fact that I might be a touch asexual as I noticed myself getting bored of sex within the first few months in most of my relationships. I loved exploring, I loved figuring out where her buttons were, and I loved introducing her to new things… but as soon as things became a bit repetitive, I would lose interest.
In the fall, an ex messaged me. We chatted for a bit and I could see she was angling for something physical so I told her she was probably barking up the wrong tree. She took it as a challenge and basically took it upon herself to turn me back into a red-blooded male. I thought it would be an interesting experiment. We were supposed to meet up one weekend after she wrapped up at some kind of fancy party. I told her earlier in the day that I just wasn’t into it. There’s an interesting test that I think most men (and perhaps women?) are aware of: If you still wanna hang out with them after you jerk off, then they’re worth hanging out with. That was not the case with her, so I eventually told her that it wouldn’t be right to use her to work out my own issues.
On Monday, I downloaded Tinder. Or perhaps I should say that I re-downloaded Tinder. I’m probably the minority but I’m a fan of the app and have used it to meet several quality women. This time around, I’m feeling a bit lost. My last profile was a head shot of me in a 3 piece suit, talking about working in finance and dabbling in venture capital. As effective as that profile was, it seemed a bit douchey this time around. It didn’t reflect who I had become over the last year. I really didn’t know what kind of girl I was looking to attract, or even what I would even want from them. I just knew it was different from before. But Tinder isn’t the place for me to work this out. I had the app for 2 days before deleting it again.
But I’m playing back into this pattern aren’t I? Give or take a couple months. Do I want to be in a relationship? Probably not. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Am I open to one? I think so. Maybe what I’m hoping for is to meet someone new who can teach me a few things about the world and myself. Or maybe I’m feeling the void of someone who’s already taught me so much.
I probably went through more personal growth in the last 12 months than any other period of my life. The last time I went through this much growth was when my dad died. I learned to appreciate the true diversity of humanity. I learned that embracing what made me different, and being true to myself wasn’t only going to be my greatest comparative advantage, it would also lead to my happiest self. I learned the importance of not suppressing my emotions and the value of learning how to process and communicate them. I learned why it was important for me to embrace the parts of who I am which I had neglected, thinking they weren’t necessary in my career. I learned a greater appreciation for prejudice and the survivorship bias. I learned to be far more grateful. And perhaps most importantly, I learned a tremendous importance of keeping an open mind.
Keeping an open mind can be important for a variety of reasons, many of which I learned last year. Of all those reasons though, one is very important to me. I had the opportunity to learn all of this when I was dating Max. She was a few years younger than me, but she had a handle on all of this stuff. And the things she didn’t know, we should’ve been able to discover together. Instead of keeping an open mind and seeing her as someone I could learn from, I saw her as a challenge to the path I was already committed to. Where she embraced her diversity, I was telling her to mind her P’s and Qs. Where she tried to encourage me to explore, I would tell her that I didn’t have the time. Where she pushed me to have a better awareness of my emotions, I bought into the myth that I was all robot. Where she encouraged me to be more grateful, I insisted that I had worked hard for everything that I had. When she tried to assert herself as an equal who I could learn from, I basically told her that between our age difference and the life that I had lived, there was a good chance that I knew better. I dismissed the wisdom in what she was trying to help me learn, for the sake of being right and being able to continue along the path I was on. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done to anyone in a relationship and I still feel pretty rotten about it.
In a year where I’ve had more personal growth than at any other point in my life, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Max. Over. And over. And over. It wasn’t even about wanting to be back in a relationship with her. It had everything to do with wanting her back in my life. But she wasn’t.
So I found myself thinking about her more and more. I started playing some of the music she had turned me onto (Phantogram). I made a half hearted attempt at stalking her social media (largely unsuccessful). I started to wonder if we would still be compatible (maybe?). Eventually, I even found myself tossing and turning in bed, wanting her to be within arm’s reach.
When we dated, we fell hard and fast. Within the first few weeks, we were in love. Within the first month, we were talking about moving in together. A month later, we were joking around about having alpha-babies. Infatuation aside, there was also a deep compatibility that I hadn’t experienced with anyone else. But she only got half of me. The other half was career oriented at all costs, and had picked a terrible career to be committed to. I don’t see an alternate universe in which she could’ve convinced me of that. I was subscribed to the philosophy that if failure was an option, then you had too many options. A painful lesson, but perhaps invaluable to my future.
When I think about her now, the word that I can’t get out of my head is ‘equal’. In the grand scheme of things, I think that we’re all equally valuable to the universe. But Max was equal to me. Or maybe I was equal to her. Or maybe I’m just in awe of the situation and can’t help but hold her in such high regard. I don’t think it’s that simple though.
I’ve spent most of my adult life hoping to find a partner. I’ve also spent most of that time not knowing what that person would look like. I think I have a much better idea now, though it seems incredibly hard to articulate beyond being with someone who’s my equal. I want to be able to learn from them as often as they learn from me. I want us to be able to keep an open mind when exploring the unknown together. I want someone who can hold their own when debating something we disagree on. I want someone who is valuable to me as I am to them. And for each of us to be the most valuable person in each other’s lives because we’re committed to bringing out the best in one another.
Maybe that’s what’s going on here. I have this fixation on becoming the best version of myself. Seeing the influence Max had on me, I can’t help but think of her as an asset. The key to my best self. As romantic as that may sound to some, I don’t think it’s a very functional or realistic way to approach this.
With all the growing up I’ve done, I’m confident that I would make a far better partner for her than I did when we were dating. Considering the potential we both saw in each other when we did date, I can’t help but be interested in knowing where that would take us today. Maybe not much further than before. Maybe much further than before. I think that would have a lot to do with who she is now. And therein lies the reality of the matter.
We were in touch over email last week for the first time in about 2 years. She’s on the other side of the planet working on her MBA. She’s out there doing her thing, as I always hoped that she would. Which means I either gotta go get her, hope that she comes to me, or put it out there in the universe and see what happens. And I’m going with option 3.
I’m sure there’s a romantic, fairy-tale way to approach this… and I wouldn’t put it past me to try something crazy like that. But I’m still not sure how much of this really involves her. Had it not been for our most recent communication, she wouldn’t have a clue any of this was going on in my head. Not to mention there’s always a chance that she’s already dating someone. Maybe she’s found her soulmate and I’m just being a needy ex.
How much of what I’m feeling relates to the fact that I haven’t been intimate with anyone in almost a year? How much of this has to do with me usually being in a relationship at this time of year? How much of this has to do with the loneliness I experience when I don’t have anyone to share my inner-thoughts with? How much of this is the loneliness that comes from a modern society that’s so connected yet so divided? How much of this is the loneliness that comes from a world where it costs money to hang out with your friends, but where everyone is struggling financially? And how much of this stems from the fear that I may have found someone who I could truly build a future with, and may not find another?
The logic in me says that there are a finite amount of people in this world who would make for a suitable partner. That Max may be one of them, but that she wouldn’t be the only one. That given where she is, and the phase of life that she’s in, I would probably have better odds looking elsewhere. Or maybe as the odds play out, I end up with none of them. The logic in me says appreciate who she is, be grateful for what she’s helped you learn, and focus on the things in your life that are a little more tangible.
But then something else inside me says, what about Max?