I worry sometimes that I’m too snarky about the people I’ve dated. Too judgmental, too quick to jump to conclusions. And I admit that I’ve gone for the easy, cheap laugh here when describing some of my more recent dating exploits. There were valid reasons for ending things with TLD, for example – reasons that would have made sense, reasons that would have made me look like less of a wench. But I didn’t share them – instead, I went for the ‘lousy tipper’ rim shot.
In an email exchange over the last day or so, a friend called me on it, and rightfully so:
I’m sure TLD and DG were both nightmares waiting to happen. But your writing about them makes me sad for what seem missed possibilities, and a search for perfection, rather than acceptance.
He goes on to give me the benefit of the doubt, of course, not knowing (nor really wanting to know) the particulars. But he said some things that have been really resonating with me. And – me being me, I’m going to try and work them out here a bit, if you’ll let me beg your indulgence here (and also because he’s got some great things to say, and has given me permission to share them.)
Love isn’t really about those things that seem to come up most often in personal ads, comments about dates, SC&A’s nightmare-date’s List, etc. It’s about attraction, understanding, but most importantly, acceptance.
Our expectations of the other side, our insecurities about them, and our difficulty emotionally communicating seem to do a great tri-partite job in making us search for the one in the worst way possible.
And I think of this in light of the discussions we’ve been having over on S C & A’s site, about teenagers, sex and relationships. If we haven’t – if I haven’t – figured out how to be kind, for instance, what kind of example can we expect to set for our children here as they begin to navigate the many minefields of emotional-sexual relationships? And if we’re confused about intentions, misread expectations, or can’t manage to put our own insecurities aside long enough to make smart decisions (and there’s plenty of evidence out there to suggest I’m not alone here), how can we best guide our kids?
We (among other things): don’t give people more than a chance or two; don’t look for reasons, leaving understanding in the wayside; don’t find ways to help out our fellow romantic travellers, leaving future people to be burnt by the same troubles we found; do look at things primarily rationally, not understanding that emotions are governed by emotions; do focus on weaknesses and don’t focus on strengths.
Wow. Quite an indictment there – how many of you just saw your romantic history in those words? (I know I did.) Nevertheless, I argued back that there are often valid reasons for not giving more than a chance or two – if you already know from experience that something’s going to push a big red button for you, I say it’s best to disengage sooner rather than later. Or – using TLD as my example here – if someone’s determined to live his life a certain way, yet being with you only causes him regret ’cause he’s straying from that predetermined path – well, isn’t it the kinder thing for both parties to disengage, lest I end up as the stick he uses to regularly beat himself up with?
Kind. It’s a word I keep coming back to – and it’s the two-word sentence I regularly give my young son as I watch him begin to navigate the mysterious world of pre-teen relationships on his own: be kind. It’s a sentence – and a lecture – I’d be wise to give myself as I look closely into a nearby mirror.
- Remember that everyone, no matter how confident they might appear, is really scared inside.
- Remember that we all let ourselves be ruled by emotion much more often than we’d ever like to admit.
- and –
- (my own personal credo) It never hurts to take the high road so much that you get nosebleeds.
Now – I know I’m missing an entire conversation here about defending one’s values, maintaining one’s integrity, and living one’s life in a way that preserves emotional and mental stability. And yes, that’s also part of a larger conversation that I need to figure out how to have with my children as they learn how to develop and sustain friendships and relationships.
But first, I need to start with this point, and remember this point.
First? Be kind.