As a journalist, it’s my responsibility to get under people’s skin. This doesn’t always mean in a negative way, but to get a story or to get the best angle – sometimes you have to ask a lot of questions. Even more so, you are drawn by this idea that there is something more than what people initially reveal and it is your job to evoke those concealed emotions out of them.
And usually, I do a pretty good job at interviewing by fiercely, yet kindly, easing out information that’s below the surface. Because of this so-called “talent” – I’ve been pretty successful in my career, but I’ve allowed this skill to throw me off course in relationships.
Why? I don’t really take a man at his word.
He may say something, but as far as I’m concerned – it goes in one ear and right out the other. Maybe even more destructive, I tend to hear what I want to hear and heed red flags until I have to pull out my white one and surrender. Somehow, even if a guy has laid it all out there for me – the good or the bad or the very ugly – I’ve questioned it. I’ve debated it. I’ve wrapped it around my head three or four times and drawn my own conclusions instead of taking what he’s promised or said at face value.
As I’ve described, I’ve met Mr. Faithful, Mr. Fling, Mr. Fire, Mr. Idea, and Mr. Unavailable over the course of my dating history. Now, I’ll admit that men (and women, too) sometimes promise things or relationships or feelings or promises they can’t fully deliver. I think at our core, we all want to do right by those who make an impression on us, romantically or not, and I highly doubt anyone goes into a committment thinking “I’ll break this one day, even though I said I wouldn’t!” If you do, I suggest you stop reading my words and seek serious help, alrighty?
Nevertheless, if I go back to these dudes, all of which have left and continue to leave distinctive impressions on my soul, and think about the words they’ve used to describe themselves or their intentions – I may have saved myself a little heartbreak if I would have listened. If a guy tells you right at the start that he isn’t over his ex-girlfriend and isn’t ready for a relationship: that’s what he means. This isn’t a line he uses to pick up the ladies or a vulnerable side he pulls out to distract you from seeing that he truly, honestly, just wants to meet a woman who will lick and heal his wounds. He doesn’t want this woman and this woman isn’t you, so why put yourself in a situation where you seek a man who is unattainable?
Or if a guy tells you he wants to have sex – or rather doesn’t say it, but only calls you at midnight when he’s had a few too many – that doesn’t mean he magically falls in love with you after an orgasm. It means he came (pun intended) to see you for a specific reason and goal. And sadly, if a guy says he worries about breaking your heart or hurting you, he does actually have a soul, but it’d be in your best interest to walk away before his premonition comes true.
I won’t say there are not exceptions to these ideas, but I’ve learned, often the hard way, that sometimes you can learn so much more about the person you’re falling for if you catch yourself and start really listening, instead of projecting. Because anyone can put on Mr. Right’s cape and ride in on a horse with a bouquet full of tulips, if we rent the stallion from a stable, hand the dude $30, and give him a sword and a script. If you project an idea on a man, instead of seeing him for his true-blue colors, all you will see is your reflection.
Now, as I’ve said trust is one of the most important building bricks in the foundation of a great relationship, especially the one you have with yourself but also with a partner. And as far as love is concerned, if you don’t truly listen to what someone is telling you, you never can develop that security or promise that’s required for an everlasting union.
And step one to gaining trust both in myself and in the men that I date is opening my ears and closing my mouth and imagination.
It also means that when a great man with a kind heart comes along, I must be able to turn the same token around and realize that if a man says he’ll be there – I have to have enough courage to take him at that word, too. If I forever let the bruises of the yesterday cause harm to the love I’ll grow today, then there is no opportunity for prosperity tomorrow. Just because one man lied, or I decided to construe my own meaning out of his words, doesn’t mean they are all one-in-the-same.
Possibly though, even more strenuous than accepting a man who will never love you in the way imagined or learning to gradually open up your heart that’s been shattered more times than you’d like to count – is also learning to listen to yourself. To the words you put out into the world and into the ears of men whom you’d like to accept as your boyfriend on Facebook (even with the new annoying interface). Because if you accept a man at his word, in return he will accept you at yours – thus making each and every single thing you say, so vital. If something isn’t okay or isn’t fine or doesn’t feel good or makes you uneasy or feels like settling, you have to stand up and say: why, yes, I frankly do give a damn about that.
If I want to meet a man who I can trust to say what he means when he says it and be a man of good word and honesty – I have to be a woman of the same principle. Because what is the use of language if it isn’t dependable? If we couldn’t trust in what we read and in exchanged sentiments from page-to-page in the magazines or pillow-to-pillow with our lover, would we ever get anywhere?
That is, anywhere other than subjected to below-the-fold and in the corner, or crying in the shower (where we need not worry about mascara), wondering: “why didn’t I just listen to him from the get-go?“