Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Love With the Proper Stranger

Would you travel 4,000 miles looking for love?

The wire services were buzzing today with the story of a dentist who has been searching for a woman he spoke to for two minutes in a cafe last summer. Although he doesn't know her name or anything else about her, and only asked her for directions, he has made finding his dream girl his life's work.

In high school we saw this syndrome played out again and again when kids from one high school would declare the boys and girls at another high school much more desireable. It represented our immaturity. We would rather fantasize about what the people were like that we didn't know that try to flesh out real relationships with the people we knew well. It was easier to fixate on the physical beauty and superficial charm of strangers than deal with the foibles of those we spent hours with every day.

Unfortunately we see millions of  grown men practicing this immaturity long after graduation from high school, predicating courtship and marriage on physical beauty and charm. Many men treat dating and mating in the stereotypical male method of shopping for clothes on a weekend morning- they find the first thing that fits and rush home to watch the football game. Only later will they notice if the colors clash.

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Courtship was originally designed to ascertain the correct partners for each individual. There was supposed to be some discernment involved, some weeding out of inappropriate candidates, as in a job search. Today men are entertaining any personality and temperament as a potential mate, from moody graphic artist to poised family practice physician, from shy librarian to boisterous improvisational comic. Yet our supposedly less enlightened forefathers and foremothers knew that the fitting of square pegs into round holes led to relational disaster.

Mirage Man Syndrome is based on the false optimism of this dentist, who has fallen for the myth that love is a fairy tale. Our travelling Prince Charming believes with all his heart that once he locates his missing Princess, they will live happily ever after. Unfortunately, finding someone to accept your romantic offerings may not result in mutual personal fullfillment once the thrill of the honeymoon is gone. The harsh reality of differing interests, worldwiew and goals and clashing personalities can mean a sad ending to our storybook romances, no matter how strong the initial passion.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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