Last week I explained that I was in the dating game from 1996 to 2007, and described four mistakes I made (of course, there were others, too) that kept me in the game by taking me on detours that led nowhere.
1. It’s just fun.
It may seem strange, but I don’t think it’s such an unusual phenomenon: some of the partnerships I had couldn’t really be called fun. Before getting together with the woman, I would sort of have to brace myself.
Maybe it was because we were, at bottom, too different, and I felt I was sort of playacting. Maybe it was because I sensed expectations floating around in the air, didn’t really understand what they were, but always felt I was failing or falling short. Or maybe it was because I felt I had to leave too much of myself home, that she was too lost in her own woods and—even if she acted as if she was—not really attuned to me.
But now, it wasn’t like that. I felt comfortable; I looked forward to being with her and didn’t feel as if preparing to walk out on a stage. It was almost like being a kid, going out to meet a friend who, you know, wants to hang out just as much as you do, with mutual plans. It was like a jazz musician catching a buzz, carried along by the wave, not having to carefully craft each moment.
2. There isn’t an atmosphere of demands.
And the corollary of that free-and-easy feeling was the absence of something else: demands.
Of course, we all have demands of some kind, usually regarding what’s on the outside, definitely regarding what’s on the inside. But in some cases I sensed something that went beyond that—a preconceived image of “the man” and how he was supposed to act. And if it meant I was supposed to play the gallant, with a lot of overt wooing and flattery, I wasn’t optimistic about my chances.
At bottom, excessive demands mean overlooking individuality. A too-exact template is something the other person probably can’t fit. An introverted guy may not come up with the “right” words and gestures. He may, in the end, have soul food to offer; but he might convey it more subtly, or in a way all his own. But by that time, the date is probably seeking elsewhere.
Now, though, I felt I had the time and space to be what I was and become what the situation would allow me to become. I think I also gave that same latitude. It’s a matter of being open to what’s within the person, and a little patient. I think that, if one or both people are holding out a hoop for the other to jump through, the show probably won’t stay on the road.
3. There’s some congruity of outlook.
Here in Israel, where I’ve been living for almost 30 years, I thought I had two bedrock requirements when it came to a date’s “views,” without expecting a carbon copy of my own. One, that her basic attitude toward living in Israel be positive. (It’s true of most Israelis, but there are some who dream of other lands.) Two, that she not make excuses for terrorism (they do it because they’re deprived, oppressed, etc.). Actually, once, in the case of a very good-looking date, I bent the second rule; I came to regret it.
Now, though, it was clear that we were from the same neck of the woods—a very deep sense of Jewish and Israeli belonging built on quite a lot of historical awareness. On religion there was less concordance, with me much more of a theist. But that common nationalistic bent enhanced the overall feeling of a natural fit, of a friendship that happened spontaneously and inevitably.
I wouldn’t say such congruence is essential; in Israel there have been a couple of well-known cases of a successful marriage between a very right-wing man and a very left-wing woman. But, again, well-known because such cases are rare. Seeing things through the same prism, or similar prisms, is certainly a plus.
4. You’re accepted.
No one is perfect or anywhere near it. In movies and TV shows, two ideal beings find each other and step into perpetual bliss. In the real world, even when you find someone who really is “it,” there will be some things that grate on you or that you wouldn’t have opted for.
I’ve been in some episodes where, at first, I was celebrated as a wonderful find, the marvelous answer to life’s woes; no doubt it was flattering. Then came a complaint or two; can you just change this a little, adjust that a little? When the complaints became persistent, I not only stopped being the Superhero but began to wonder if I’d survive.
But the situation that began in July 2007, and is still going today, was different. I was never cast as a Wunderkind, and so didn’t have to keep trying to prove I was one, or fearing I would disappoint her when my real identity as just a human being was revealed. If the other person really is the right stuff, let them have a few quirks. Keep the bigger picture in mind. If you can manage mutual acceptance, then you not only experience sweetness and light but spread some in the world.