When it comes to men and women, there is a lot of mixup in communication. We all have needs and wants and desires and goals, and yet we’re primal people with physical and sexual urges, too. Add kids and careers and hobbies and friends, and the prospect of a true loving relationship feels completely a mess. How does one make it happen? If we’ve been single a long time and know what makes us tick, know how we like our lives to be, we wonder about how much to settle for when diving into romantic love.
Because, contrary to my point last week, dating and entering into romantic love is not always like buying a car. It may seem that way at first. But people are more complicated than cars. And they have a lot of complicated emotions. And if they’re actually growing and changing and committed to their own uncovering throughout life, to fulfilling the best of what they can be, there’s the potential for a lot of change, which makes a person less predictable than a car.
So let’s try this metaphor: maybe dating someone is like getting a new smartphone.
Just go with me for a second.
I can’t speak to dating women, because I haven’t done that. But I can speak to dating men. And I can speak to what happens when a man dates me.
For me, if I get a complicated new piece of technology, I treat it with care. I try to learn about it. It might feel overwhelming at first, so I often ask for help in learning, because I can’t figure everything out myself. I take some time away from it so I don’t get addicted. But I enjoy having it with me, the convenience it provides, even though it is often frustrating, too. Still, I prefer having it over not having it. It makes life easier.
I worry that men take care of their technology, get excited about updates and new apps, but don’t treat women the same way for the long-term.
I can only speak from my own experience, so take my experience for what it’s worth. (I try to learn fast and not make the same mistake over and over again.) When I meet a man, I think he’s excited by something new and sleek and nice to look at. Other people, a lot of them, also have this sleek new thing (a phone, in this metaphor), so now he feels satisfied. But he’s a little lazy and doesn’t want to learn about all the features. It’s not like he has to know them all at once, in the beginning, but it’s helpful if he recognized they are there, to be uncovered at a later date. And then there are ways that the smartphone is adaptable, ways it can change and look different. Cases. Screen covers. Pictures and backgrounds and the organization of apps. There’s a lot you can do with it. You can’t overuse it and you have to treat it with care, not drop it or be haphazard about it. You have to keep it in safe places. You have to appreciate all that it offers. But then there are updates, and there is maintenance. If you don’t perform these acts of maintenance, the phone will eventually stop working so well, and it will lose its luster, and you’ll start wanting a newer model. And then you’re at risk for the whole problem starting again.
But if you take care of the phone, it can last you for a long time. And that’s a good thing. Because it’s a hassle to buy a new phone and transfer all your data and get used to it all again.
Is this metaphor working? I don’t know. I just think that we live in a society that doesn’t know how to take care of its things and its people. We don’t know how to take care of ourselves, either. And if we don’t know how to take care of ourselves, and at the same time can’t acknowledge that there is mystery and so much more to the universe that we don’t know, we can’t be effective in relationships. If people are happy and thriving in their relationships, that’s great. If they have a good sense of what they have given up to be in the relationship, and they’re okay with that because the positive outweighs the negative, that’s great. If they like the stability it provides and it doesn’t feel like it’s holding them back from being fully themselves, perfect. But not all relationships are this way. And the divorce rate shows it. And I’m talking to a lot of college kids lately who have no fucking idea what they’re going to do, what they should be aiming for, what love actually is.
My definition of love is that you accept every part of a person without expectation of anything in return.
So that means that love and partnership are very different things. Because we want more out of a partner. We do have expectations. We do need our partner to measure up in some way, to satisfy certain cravings within us that make us want to make sacrifices for the long haul. And when we do that, when we dive in, we have the propensity to grow and thrive even further. We learn about all the many layers of love, that it requires constant maintenance and communication, the way our bank accounts work, the way we pay our bills, the way we update our smartphones, the way we clean our houses.
We can’t treat a potential romantic or sex partner like a shiny new toy who is exciting at first but whose maintenance we don’t want to invest in. That’s just cruel. Unless both people truly know themselves, are crystal clear on their wants and needs, and the attraction is handled by both parties with a deep level of non-attachment. That’s possible, but rare.
Some men I come into contact with in dating situations, men who have been married before or in committed relationships and the relationship hasn’t worked out, have operated as though a woman is an object that, once obtained, is just there to serve his needs and make everything function more smoothly. There is a fundamental lack of respect that she is a separate person who may have wants and needs of our own. But in situations like this, when a woman is insecure and wants love and is also generous, she gives pieces of herself away before she knows what happened, and then she feels stuck and scared by the prospect of anything else. So she stays. And suffers. And hands over her life to someone else.
So if you’re a man, and you’re having a hard time making a relationship work, treat a woman like a smartphone. Yes, she provides convenience. Yes, she serves needs. But there are updates to consider, and time away. There are new applications all the time you need to download and learn about, and keep adapting to, because she is not the same thing every day of every month of every year. If you feel that you can’t live without one, make sure she gets treated that way, with care and attention.