Blame it on movies, music and television. As far as I can remember, I’ve been sold the idea that I’m going to meet someone and be swept off my feet into a world of bliss. I won’t be able to contain the butterflies and I will be overwhelmed with feelings of happiness. Even Carrie ends up with Big in the end! Over the course of the holidays, many of my close friends have experienced significant milestones in their relationships. My Facebook News Feed was in overdrive with the news of Engagements, Marriages and Pregnancies. In comparison, my success in romantic relationships has been questionable. Upon reading this news, I typically rapidly cycle through the following emotions, similar to The Five Stages of Loss and Grief. Maybe you can relate to some of the thoughts that run through my head when another friend joins the “Left Hand Club.”
1. DENIAL AND ISOLATION: Another engagement…really? Didn’t they just get together? I’ve had my 3-Wick Candles from Bath and Body Works longer and I use that thing ALL THE TIME! AM I THE ONLY SINGLE PERSON LEFT OUT OF MY GROUP OF FRIENDS? WTF IS WRONG WITH ME?! [I proceed to shut down my computer and consider blocking certain people from my Facebook News Feed. Make note that my News Feed will soon be empty.]
2. ANGER: I have my life together! I’m in business school! I have a job! I have good teeth! [I begin to text friends in similar situations to bitch and complain after commenting on how happy we are for our recently engaged friend]
3. BARGAINING: Maybe I need to change my approach. If only I were less sarcastic on that first date…If only I did not make a disgusted face when that “great match” according to OKCupid said something completely inappropriate…If only I did not tell that guy to “go die in a fire” after he sent me that unsolicited “head” shot. [I plead to the Higher Powers to help me! I promise I’ll be better!]
4. DEPRESSION: [Hit rock bottom. Order Pad Thai on consecutive evenings via Seamless and watch Sex and the City. Start creeping on OKCupid desperately and message people I would never interact with because of my fear of being alone]
5. ACCEPTANCE: After speaking to these “winners” on OKCupid that I reached out to in desperation, I begin to accept that I’d rather be alone than settle for anything less than an incredible match. Maybe I’ll just be the crazy cat lady, but instead have a house full of pugs.
The reason I wanted to bring this up is because we all go through it. Social media heightens the underlying-competiveness of our relationships, especially female relationships. Of course I love my friends and care about them deeply. I would be lying, however, if I did not admit that I compare myself to them, particularly in the context of romantic relationships. It is hard to admit and the truth often is just that: hard. Regardless of the success I have had, as a 29 year old single female, I am constantly asked if I am in the relationship and if I am not, what I am doing to fix that issue. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you my most recent “almost” relationship.
Given the social (media) pressure of the holidays, I attempted to unplug. If you know me well at all, you realize how challenging this is for me. I’m Instagramming, Facebooking, Tweeting, and Foursquaring my way through the day. I wanted to do less of that while I was home with my family in Arizona for about two and a half weeks. With all this free time though, I thought I would tee up some matches through OKCupid for my eventual return to NYC. Surprisingly, I really clicked with someone only a few days into my vacation. This was likely the beginning of the eventual end (spoiler alert: it didn’t work out). I was unintentionally setting up a recipe for disaster. Let me break it down for you. I started talking to someone new while I am at home with DAYS of free time. What did I do with this free time? Naturally, I texted this guy back and forth way too much. We even spoke on the phone – who does that anymore unless it is an emergency? Before I EVEN MET HIM, I knew far too much about him. To give you context, I likely know more about him than some of my friends I’ve known at Stern for over one and a half years.
You may be thinking it is a good thing to know a lot about a potential date before you meet him. Well, it is not. Each layer of information applies a filter to how you perceive that person. Is that fair? No, of course not! I can’t stop it OR its disastrous results from happening, though. I’m human! Once I know something, I cannot simply unknow it. For instance, I was discussing my desire to avoid Facebook because of all the engagements – especially of people I’m not close with but remain Facebook friends. I blurted out, “Have you ever been engaged?” He answered, “Yes” before I could stop him with, “Wow that was inappropriate for me to ask.” But, now that I knew this information, I wanted to know EVERYTHING. I had a crush on this guy and had an unquenchable appetite for knowledge! When did it happen? How long were you together? Why did you break up? WHO IS SHE? ARE YOU GETTING BACK TOGETHER? I had to contain myself. I promised myself I wouldn’t ask anything further as it was likely a sensitive topic.
So, I waited until the next time I spoke to him (the next day) to bring these things up. If anything, the honest answers he provided to these questions terrified me. Why did I think it was a good move to ask questions I didn’t necessarily want to know the answers to? I just kept stepping on clearly identified landmines. The quest for knowledge is never-ending; especially when it comes to someone you’re romantically interested in. An answer to one question does not lead to satisfaction; it leads to multiple follow up questions and DISASTER.
This process continued for the next two weeks as I was in Arizona. Even after all of our mutually shared revelations, we scheduled a date to meet upon my return to NYC. I was cautiously optimistic. Even though we clicked “long-distance” would we click in person? We decided to brave the polar-vortex (the first of several in January) and met on a Tuesday night for cocktails at a lounge. When he walked in, I was pleasantly surprised: he looked just like his photos, if not better. This is a rarity. We had a great conversation and hit it off. I still felt the spark of initial chemistry that I had for him before we met in person. This is always a good sign as many times the IDEA of a person is better than the REALITY.
Over the coming weeks, we spent a lot of time together (having the entire month off from school facilitates that). We went out on multiple dates and spent a lot of time texting each other. So, within a short period of time, I got a vibe of him as a person. I really enjoyed this time and getting to know him. Then, after our last date, something just snapped and I had a complete déjà vu experience: I already dated this exact type of person (years ago) and it did not work out. Only then, it took about eight months to find out instead of a month. In case you don’t remember my “What is the Deal with Deal Breakers?” article, I’ve repeated my Top 5 List in descending order with comments regarding this particular situation. [Note: I’d like to provide context for my rationale so you do not think I am unrealistically picky or unreasonable.]
1. No Chemistry – I need sparks to feel hot for someone
Sense of Humor: Are you laughing with me, or at me?
Communication Skills: Can you engage in intelligent conversation?
Strong Belief System: Do you stand for something or fall for anything?
Initially, the chemistry was very strong. As I got to know more about him, particularly his personal aspirations, I started to lose interest. I need to be into the whole package or it falls apart.
2.Conflicting Life Goals –Big goals are more important to me than big feet (but those are ok too)
Although he has an impressive job at an admirable company, he is incredibly unhappy in his current situation. He tended to discuss his job as a necessary evil rather than as a career. I am very career-oriented and driven by goals, hugely unrealistic goals that even if I don’t realize them, I’m aiming high enough to challenge myself. I’m not content with just OK. If you’re not happy, what are you doing to change your situation?
3. Lack of Shared Interests – The couple that plays together, stays together
I am passionate about my interests: discovering new spots in NYC and blogging about it, planning trips, hosting dinner parties (where I accidentally cut myself and have to go to the ER…), PUGS, and scuba diving to name a few! He was mostly just interested in sports. I have ZERO interest in sports. He seemed stressed by the idea of traveling outside the US. Meanwhile, I’m pouring over travel books for a two-week drive around Ireland. This seemed like a challenge. He had no interest in scuba diving; who will be my buddy?
4. Conflicting Core Values – Our moral compasses point in different directions
Haven’t had as many heart-to-hearts on certain issues. Given the differences in 2 & 3, it wasn’t that relevant.
5. Taller than me…with heels…that are high
Not an issue but given the context of everything else it doesn’t matter enough to outweigh anything.
I’m providing this information to hold myself accountable to the Deal Breakers I spent a lot of time reflecting on months ago. Is it fair for me to casually date someone and waste his time if I am absolutely certain there is no future? Is it harsh to have a list of qualities and go through them as I just did or is it really the more considerate thing to do? To have enough respect for the other person to call it what it is rather than make it something it will never be? I’m not ok with settling for OK. I also respect him too much to pretend it is more than OK.
It is tricky to navigate the ending of an “almost” relationship. How do you break-up with someone you are not committed to in any official way? To add to the complication, we connected to each other’s social media accounts. Talk about awkward. Do I unfollow him on FourSquare or is that weird? If I liked a post on his Instagram, is that stalkerish? How do you define boundaries when the beginning and ending of a pseudo-relationship are blurred? To be clear, I told him that I did not think we were the right match for each other romantically. Who likes to hear the “let’s be friends” BS anyway? If he unfollows me on Twitter, I will take that as a hint that he doesn’t want to be friends.
As always, I’m interested to hear your opinions @personalitini.