Magnetic Partners

What pulled you together maybe pulling you apart.

Knowing When Someone's Not Right for You

Listen to your gut, but don't forget the evidence.

When I was in my late teens I was fortunate enough to be approached at a summer party by an extraordinarily beautiful girl. This young lady was as close to a so-called super model as someone other than a rock star could get—and my male friends wholeheartedly agreed. Tall, slim, and with perfectly symmetrical features, there was only one way a person could be this beautiful—you’d have to be born that way.

Now this wasn’t the kind of thing that usually happened to me, but rather than being wrought with insecurity I distinctly remember feeling eerily calm; as if the experience wasn’t real enough to fret over. The truth is, I was waiting to wake up—and I soon did.

While I’ll never forget that night, it was on our first formal date—the following week—that my icon injected reality directly into my veins. At least five times within the first couple of hours she asked me how tall I was. And while I answered straight-up, she continued to ask until I realized that I was in the middle of something Shakespeare might have appreciated. In speaking to the crowd following Caesar’s assassination Mark Antony referred several times to Brutus as “an honorable man.” It was Antony’s way of telling the crowd that he was particularly displeased that Brutus was involved in the assassination.

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My teenage dreamboat conveyed time and again that she was displeased with the disparity in our height: I swear she was only about one inch taller than I was. Can you imagine, one inch from being a teen ubermensch; one inch from being elevated beyond an average boy’s high school station? I don’t mean to sound like an ingrate, but at the time I would’ve rather had severe acne—at least I wouldn’t have suffered false hope.

Part of me wanted to believe that this girl really liked me. For a brief moment I fantasized that by repeatedly asking the same question she was hoping to get a different answer…and a different reality. But shy of orthotics, or a pair of high-heeled shoes from the Disco era, as we say in Jersey: “Forget about it.” So I did the only logical thing: I told her that it was okay with me if she wanted a taller guy; that I would quietly steal away into the night so that she could pursue a better fit. Gallant don’t you think? A little like King Arthur allowing Guinevere to go to her true love, Lancelot. Surprisingly however, she denied that height was a problem. “You’re crazy,” she said, “I’d be shallow to base a relationship on height.”

I wanted to buy her story so-o-o-o bad. I thought the rest of my life was riding on it—or at least the rest of high school—and she told it with such passion and sincerity. But I was sure I was right. So I pulled myself out of her arms and left, never to have seen her again. I assume she’s married to a basketball player by now…and that’s fine.

Last week a man came to me complaining that he may have “let the right one go.” Although he had had several dates over a period of months with a woman he was very attracted to, he believed that the feeling wasn’t mutual and so he walked away. I asked him what evidence he had to support his decision; he listed several reasons: After many dates there was no hint of sexual attraction or chemistry coming from her end—not even a kiss goodnight. When he tried to initiate a kiss she turned away. The men she had dated before him seemed to be the complete opposite of my client: fast cars, big muscles, and an aversion to art museums. At dinner one evening he tried to sit close to her and she acted as if he was invading her space…and bringing a disease with him. All the while she insisted that she was attracted to him.

At one point the elusive damsel said the problem was that my client “wasn’t aggressive enough.” Fine, the following date he tried harder to kiss her goodnight but she rejected him once again. She then switched her story: “I don’t get that close until I really get to know a guy,” she claimed. Okay, but she’d previously told my client that she’s very sexual and had in fact slept with some men soon after meeting them. She also told him that one of her strong suites was that she was extremely affectionate—something he never experienced with her.

It was clear to my client that this woman wasn’t asexual. So what was the problem? Who knows, but he had to make a decision regardless of his date’s protests. He had to invest in his own point of view: While this woman found him pleasant enough to date and to occupy her time, she wasn’t interested in him from a romantic perspective. My client had to believe in himself and his own intuition. He had to accept the fact that although he had lots of evidence to support his decision, his date had her own reasons to defend her position and she wasn’t going to shift. Most importantly, he had to come to believe that no matter how much he wanted this woman, he probably wasn’t going to get her.

People have their own agendas; they have their own internalized conflicts influenced by their respective families of origin. While it’s important to understand them as best we can—especially if we’re going to try and form an intimate relationship—we must first know ourselves and respect our own desires…or risk investing in the delusions of others.

 

Stephen J. Betchen, D.S.W., is the author of the book Magnetic Partners.

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