Remember that relationship, or whatever it was, I was just telling you about? Well, rather than looking at experiences like that as yet another failed attempt at love (and yes, that was only one in a long series of relationships that weren't love), here’s how I've learned to look at them: as learning experiences – on the road to true love. Because really, that’s what they are. Yes, sometimes I used to think it would be nice to skip the bad experiences and go straight to the real thing, but the reality is, sometimes we have a lot of things to learn. And it’s those same experiences that make us the person we are. Our true selves. Smarter, and more confident about what we do and don’t want and aren’t willing to put up with. We get there, eventually, because of our experiences.
So, on that note, here are some things I learned from relationships with guys like Mike the fire fighter that I can pass along to you so you can learn from them, too. Things like getting to know myself well enough, before getting involved with someone, so I knew who I was and what I was looking for in a guy in the first place. Like getting clear on what that looked like so I could significantly increase my chances of getting involved with someone who was on the same page as I was (read: attracting someone who was also looking for a real relationship). Like speaking up and being direct with a guy if he’s sending mixed signals, instead of waiting it out thinking he’s going to come around soon. Like knowing when to cut my losses and walk away when the writing is clearly on the wall – and clear in everything he says and does. Even when it hurts. Especially when I’m starting to second-guess myself and wonder what’s wrong with me.
It’s never easy to walk away from a dream, from a relationship we so want to make work, but turns out to be, in reality, only a relationship in our own minds. But it’s the best thing to do for us, for our true selves, and for the relationship that we truly want, that we truly deserve, that we will find ourselves in when we can let go of the current one that isn’t working – regardless of how much we want to believe it is.
It’s hard to know all of this when we first meet someone. Sometimes, there’s not that many warning signs that alert us to heartbreak down the road. And it can be really hard to tell. But there are some things we can do. Like noticing how long it takes him to call when he says he’ll call you. And if he’s not very responsive, chances are he’s, well, not very responsive. Or interested. In a real relationship. With you. As hard as that can be to accept. If you watch and observe his behavior and look for consistent patterns, you’ll find out a lot more about him and save yourself from a whole lot of heartbreak.
And does he meet you on your terms, at your place, where you live, with what interests you, with who and what matters to you? Or is it mostly about him and his life and who and what matters to him? If he’s always doing the planning and suggesting of things you do and it’s mostly about things that he’s into, that’s a big warning sign that he’s not that interested in really getting to know you – all of you. And if you’re not comfortable talking to him about just about anything, including where your relationship is going, then that’s another sign that he’s probably not on the same page as you. He might not be a big talker, but if you are, and you want someone who communicates easily with you and doesn’t leave you wondering what he’s thinking, then that’s a definite compatibility issue for you to consider. Most of us want someone who talks to us about things that matter to us. And shows he cares about those same things, or at least cares about them because we care about them.
Do you get what I’m saying here? You’ll know the difference. A guy who’s not a big talker is a very different thing than a guy who isn’t really interested at all. And yes, I learned that one the hard way, too. You’re getting it. It just takes practice. And a lot of confidence. And believing in yourself that you know all this. Trust your gut instinct. You’ll know. When you’re feeling that something isn’t right and his actions give you reason to question, taken together, you’re onto something. And in a real relationship, with a real you and a real guy who wants the same thing as you, you can always check in with him and ask.
That’s what a real relationship really looks like.