I’ve met someone. You say it with a dose of giddy in your inner voice. It’s not the same as some rando hitting on you at the brunch club or the night club or as you stride by them on a busy street. It’s not the same as a flirtation, or interest, or a suppressed crush on a business associate, or an ask. It has POTENTIAL. You feel it. You likey. They likey. There is that infamous connection. There is requisite chemistry. You are going to see each other again, and then again, and then, wait for it, AGAIN!!!
That is how it has to start, right? Something goes right, enough times in an actual row. Which means you can call it something. A thing!
And so you greet the day with a bit more sunny in your disposition. Pep in the ol’ step. Your bros catch you smirking on beer and game night, you are noticeably less mercenary in your meetings. You smile a dreamy Marsha Brady lovestruck smile as you pour milk outside the glass. Your vitals are disturbed when a text pings. You are distracted a little from your cool. You slip names into conversation because you might just want to moon about it.
Then, just like that, overnight it seems, you are officially seeing someone. I mean it may be your super secret. Maybe you’re planning dates with a few back ups so that you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Or maybe you’re a ‘one at a time’ dating style. You do you! But things are swimming along and there are both hope and endorphins, possibly some Oxytocin, even some Oxycontin, again depending on your dating style (I prefer a nice Cabernet) but still you’re all doped up on happy juice.
And then it happens.
Your date, the new person you are seeing, dating, hanging with or whisking away to Vegas for Elvis themed nuptials officiated by the dead King himself and including a free breakfast of oxygen and egg McMuffins, does a thing (or says a thing) that YOU. DON’T. LIKE.
I mean not the little thing he said about your pet hamster, RUDE! or the fact that her dream car is a minivan, PUHLEASE. But an actual THING. A thing that suggests a different value, or a distasteful thing. A thing that makes you think, Ah-oh, if this all goes well am I going to have to live with that, like foreseeably forever and ever until death do we part? And just like that you are All Shook Up and lawyering up with the best money can buy to loophole out of spending a Vegas eternity with that Hound Dog. Maybe they do or don’t like Donald Trump. Or they throw money at every problem and even though you both have lots of it do you really want to raise your kids that way #vercuccasalt. Maybe she made an offhand remark about all the things she could do with the space, and it flashed before your eyes, your new living room with the pink silk sofas and the fluffy rug with one of those ridiculous purse dogs perched with folded paws and a pink frilly smock and a bow on its stupid little head to complete the vignette. Or like he made a JOKE about laying off the chocolate donuts and gave your butt a love tap, which was so funny to you, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH *turns head to reveal full Joker makeup* that you make a mental note about the next time he’ll have access to that cute, donut deprived little booty of yours and it’s somewhere around the year Twentyneverfuckingeveryouasshole.
Or maybe they didn’t make time for you, or cancelled plans last minute, or didn’t text you at text o’clock, because that definitely happens. Maybe you foreshadowed loneliness, or inequality, or only one of you getting satisfaction, or feeling like a needy bitch like you did with Nancy all over again.
Fear, no one’s favourite ice cream, presents itself in fifty different flavours and the only thing that makes sense is to avoid becoming one of those Red Flag ignoring fools and throw your Red Flag waving little fish back in the deep blue sea, where as we are promised by all of the dating apps, there are plenty of other, better, less dangerous fishies.
Oh, and there are. So many other fishes. And guess what?!!!! Forgive me if you were like all believing in Santa and Prince and the Easter Bunny and I’ve gone and wrecked it for you, but all of those fish in the sea are all going to pick up a Red Flag or two, or seventeen, David, and waive them in your face at some stage of the fishing expedition.
Here is the breakout news friends.
There is no fish that is just going to check off everything on your list. There is no one who is just going to appear, flawless, and fail to rattle you, scare you, alarm you, and depart from your expectation of what you want and need. AND THAT IS OKAY.
It’s okay precisely because a relationship, a good, great, grand relationship, a healthy wealthy and wise relationship, is not created by lining up two perfectly aligned candidates. WHAT!? Well then what is the point of anything, don’t take away my hope that I can choose better this time, I beg you, Erin.
Yes, of course the lining up part matters. And that is why we have apps, or for the more discerning, matchmakers, to help us match. But our matchmakers are not actually putting on a Martha Stewart apron and baking us up the perfect man or woman at 350 degrees with premium sifted flour and double extra chocolate chips (how do you like my booty now, David!??) so that he or she gets us with zero effort at all on our parts.
RELATIONSHIPS ARE PRODUCT OF THE LOVING ATTENTION WE GIVE TO THEM.
They are malleable. You won’t know the potential of yours if you aren’t willing to ask them politely to stop eating crackers in bed, by which I mean chocolate, obviously.
The point is, that landing a great one requires more than just the landing part. We then need to come together, to integrate, to build. We need to invest, in understanding ourselves and our emotional needs and triggers, and in expressing actual needs to our partner in a way that invites resolution, or teaming up rather than judging, and finding ways to support one another in all of our idiosyncrasies, rather than picking each other apart for them.
We need to take all of the connection and chemistry and build on it to create a great relationship, not just sit in a corner with our judge cards out waiting for the person we couldn’t get enough of last week to fall short, or piss us off just one more time I dare you before Shark Tank I’m out.
Oh David, it’s not actually that hard. Certainly no harder than white knuckling through your longing for companionship, someone to eat breakfast with in the morning, arms around you at night, a thought partner to co-navigate dreams or challenges, a partner in taking on or staving off the world. To feel we are in it together, to play at life with. I will be the first one to tell you that a solo romantic life is not an empty life —there are all kinds of relationships that create meaning for us and through which we create meaning. But I will venture to say that most of us don’t want that. We simply want a relationship that gives us the good stuff without a lot of pain and heart ache. And you can tell yourself that it shouldn’t be hard work, or that it is hard work, but then you’re missing the point.
Relationship is hard in relation to how hard it is for us to be vulnerable.
Expressing and asking and being vulnerable isn’t that hard if you come together to make a safe space for it. It CAN feel hard at first if you’ve never done it. We make that space, first within ourselves, and then we practice it in relationship.
I know that we all have our histories, and that they get in the way for us. But at some point we just need to deal with them, to heal them, to outsmart them. Otherwise (and I will speak more on this topic in it’s own dedicated musing) we might as well just invite them over for dinner already, because we are still dating them, it’s just in our head with none of the perks like someone to do the dishes or curl up beside us. NO, don’t REALLY invite them over. I am using sarcasm to make the point that you need to resolve your past relationship issues and if you need help with that well, hello, go ahead and reply to this email because that’s my day job.
I know there are really really really good reasons why you ended up here. Your parents may not have had the skills to teach you, bless them. The WORLD gives everyone a complimentary handbook on dating I like to call “Hand basket to hell”. It’s not your fault. But it has become your job.
And once you lift off all of that shame and grief that tells us we are shameful and not worthy and last to get picked for sports day, well vulnerability doesn’t feel so hard after all. It rewards us. With things like affection, and love and trust.
Sometimes we put ourselves out there and we don’t get what we need, or any willingness to hear it let alone dive into it. And that is when we throw the fish back, my friend.
But then we still get rewarded…with the knowledge that it didn’t fail because we were running or hiding behind our shopping list. We know that we fought for it, showed up for ourselves and advocated for the relationship we are committed to building. We didn’t just throw a seed a patch of grass and cross our fingers. We watered and fertilized and gave it conditions for growth.
*Caveat. Please don’t stay with someone who is hurting you, using you or abusing you. Get out, get safe and then we can figure the rest of it out.
A relationship is a product of an inner process expressed outwardly.
At least give her your instruction manual, take his, and sit down over a dinner or some donuts to see if you can’t get them to sync. If you’re not the gardening type try engineering it a little.
Before you run screaming that they contravened rule number 80, part b, on page 471, and leave yourself at the altar for the 221st time, not that I am counting.
Your love life should not resemble the plot of Finding Nemo or that sad day Fluffy ate Susie’s guppy and you went to forty pet stores looking for one that had the same orange stripe across it’s left wing.
If you’re waiting for someone with the same manual as you, that doesn’t shock you, or piss you off, or elude you or confuse you or ruffle your gills, then you’re fishing for one.
— Love Erin
P.S. You know that I live and breathe underwater for solving your relationship and dating woes, right? Well if you need a new manual, or help to figure out the one you’ve got drop me a DM. I am all over it, from what went wrong the first hundred times to what to text when they say that thing they’re going to say. I’ve got you.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.