I saw your picture on Match.com and had to write. (By the way, I’ve changed your online name to preserve your privacy.)
I’ve been single since January, and haven’t been dating. But friends think I need to get out and insisted I look online, so finally I did. And there in the midst of a drooping bouquet I saw your lovely face. I was amazed at how much you resemble my ex-girlfriend.
She was sweet and good and kind, and I had high hopes for us, but she never quite had time for a real relationship. She had two teenagers, so she had reason to be busy. But a lot of that busyness seemed habitual rather than necessary, and very often it seemed downright chaotic.
And there was always a crisis in her life. If it wasn’t in her family – and she had genuine concerns – then it was a friend’s daughter, or her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, or an old classmate, and so on. There was always something to distract her, and after she’d told me about it each evening on the phone, she’d say her daughter needed her or she was tired, and she’d hang up.
Every time that happened, my heart sank. I had things I wanted say, too. Usually they were small things, something that happened that day, but sharing is a form of intimacy, and I value it highly. And there were times when I did share with her that she didn’t seem very interested.
I didn’t complain. I didn’t want to add to her burdens. There were a few occasions when I disagreed with her openly, but she always got angry and I decided it wasn’t worth the tension. So I kept it to myself.
Eventually I realized that the relationship was mostly about her, and I had no one to blame but myself. I kept thinking that I had given and done so much – I drove her every week up to Tennessee for close to a year so she could see her daughter – that it would even out. That something would shift, and she’d start caring more, tuning in to who I was and what I was about.
And we did have our moments. We danced one night to a Sinatra CD in the living room of a lake house while our friends chatted on the porch. But we didn’t string enough of them together to make it work.
Two years ago, I began doing some healing work that helped me drill down to the beliefs that were running me. Many of them were lies: I wasn’t good enough; I wasn’t smart enough; I wasn’t creative; I couldn’t have what I wanted, etc. I grew up fearful and insecure, a people pleaser with little notion of my worth.
I also discovered that unconsciously I’d been trying to fix every woman I got involved with so she in turn would fix me, make me feel whole. But no matter how long those relationships went on – and one lasted 11 years – it never worked.
The reason, of course, was the lies, the false beliefs. My girlfriend’s deep self-doubt led her to play the victim, always in reaction, reeling from crisis to crisis rather than taking control of her life. I played the victim, too, never secure enough to speak up, unable to have a genuine, adult relationship with healthy give-and-take.
So when I saw your picture online, I was shocked and hurt and angry, and not just because those earrings look like the ones I bought for her birthday. I was angry at myself for playing the victim, for putting up with all the disappointment and frustration without speaking up, for hoping things would change, but doing nothing about it for so long.
When I started cleaning it up, I understood that we can only fix ourselves, and suggested she do some work, too. But it made her angry. She thought I was finding fault, but what I was saying was we’ve all got "stuff," and our lives are better when we deal with it.
The night we ended it, she said, "It just wasn’t a good time for me to have a relationship." But we talked from time to time, and had dinner a few times. Just a month ago, we spoke by phone and she insisted on taking me to dinner. Clearly she was reaching out, and I’ll admit that while my hope was running on fumes, I hadn’t given up.
Hence my shock when I saw your picture. If you’re shopping yourself on the world’s largest online dating service, you must be primed for action. Heck, I’d like to go out with you myself, but you remind me too much of her. Too bad. We might have been great together.
In closing, I can’t decide whether to wish you luck in finding what you want or in getting what you need. How about both?
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