Human relationships have always fascinated me. And the relationships we, as a culture, seem to be most interested in are the sexual unions. If we’re dating, we want to know what the dating partners are thinking, what we could say or do to get them to commit to us or have sex with us. If we’re married, we want to know how to keep love alive and thriving in the midst of so many transitions in life.
All of us want to be happy, and we’re convinced that a romantic relationship is an essential piece. I’m not sure it is. I’m really just not sure. I do know the physical matters, and having someone’s body so close to my own sets me at ease and helps me to relax. Physical expression of love is very important—we shouldn’t have to go without that. But we have been taught in our culture that this kind of physical expression must come from one person, and that particular person must also be a co-parent and a best friend and a business partner. How on earth can one person satisfy all these needs? I suppose it’s possible. I see it work for people, occasionally. But usually, to make such a commitment work, people have to sacrifice some things they want. They do that for the sake of love. And I don’t judge the decisions people make, what they feel called to do, what they decide is important to them.
I am in a place of trying to figure out what decisions I should make for my future. Do I want a monogamous partner? Is that really a missing piece to my puzzle? It feels like it is, but I’m not so sure. I have a tendency to change my mind about things. I went into marriage somewhat blindly, thinking that because we said vows and loved each other fiercely, all would work out. It didn’t. So I’m a lot wiser now, and I know what’s at stake in a romantic relationship. And I do want romance. I do want creativity. I just don’t know if I can have that and also have the practical elements that it takes to make a relationship thrive. I may just have to settle for a cleaning service, a car with a good navigation system, and a paramour on the side.
As Rainer Maria Rilke advised in Letters to a Young Poet, I “live the questions themselves.” I don’t rush into anything. I take my time. I make wise choices. I trust myself. And yet I am full of, bursting with, love.
Wow, is this combination confusing to the men I meet.
I keep ending up in patterns where men grow fearful and run away. I don’t know if there is a better way to phrase that. I can tell they find me attractive, but I am also scary in some way, too. The line I keep hearing is that I deserve so much, that I need the whole package, and how they do not feel they can meet my needs. And yet this is before there is even a conversation about what my needs are. This is without ever asking me if I know my needs. The men I come across keep assuming they know me and my wants and needs better than I know myself.
This really pisses me off! Because I’ve taken a lot of care and time and attention to know who I am, and I am still learning, and I am open to changes.
What I think is really happening is that I’m coming into contact with men who are intuitive and perceptive, and they recognize that if they fall for me but don’t measure up over time, I will leave. And they’re not necessarily wired to make a relationship work, or have never been taught. (I’m willing to teach if someone will listen!) Instead, men are wired to work hard to earn money, because that’s the kind of work they know. That’s the kind of work that has more assurance of success. Keeping a strong woman happy requires constant learning and growing and adapting, and that’s not about ego. Ego has to get out of the way.
The other conclusion I come to is that our cultural assumptions about women are so deeply ingrained that they come to light more forcefully when it’s time to pair sex and love. As a culture, we have a notion that women are crazy and weak and that they need a man to define them. When a woman exhibits the opposite—strong, sure of herself, and yet kind and thoughtful, playful and feminine, men may not know what to do with it. They don’t know where to put that in their compartment of boxes. So they run.
(Just some men, mind you. Mostly the ones I’m attracted to. Ugh.)
I keep thinking about Taylor Swift’s song, “The Man”:
I would be complex
I would be cool
They’d say I played the field before
I found someone to commit to
And that would be okay
For me to do
Every conquest I had made
Would make me more of a boss to you
Perhaps I’m just playing out past karma, and I have to wade through many old frogs before finding a prince. But I don’t know that I want a prince. I just want a guy who knows himself, knows what he has to offer, and has the emotional maturity to communicate effectively. He has to be willing to adapt and grow and alter his thinking when his thinking is getting in the way. And there has to be sexual chemistry. That seems the only combination that can withstand the test of time.
Why is this so hard to find?