Don’t ignore the little things that tell you someone’s not right for you
Have you ever had what you thought was a promising relationship end prematurely only to realise afterwards how many things were just not quite right? I’m not talking about the things that would be considered objectively ‘wrong’, like disrespect, dishonesty and selfishness, but the things that are subjectively ‘wrong for you’.
My dating experiences by and large haven’t been in the heterosexual world so a lot of the dating advice predicated on gendered patterns doesn’t apply. Unlike straight women, I don’t need to look out for the constellation of behaviours that arise from male entitlement.
There’s a freedom that comes with not being bound by gender roles in navigating non-heterosexual relationships. But the absence of recognisable messages can mean the signs that someone isn’t right for you are more subtle and easier to miss.
Sometimes we want a potential relationship to work out so badly that we’re not seeing it for what it really is but projecting on to it what we want it to be. As a result, we’re less alert to when things aren’t a good fit.
We smooth away the rough edges by urging ourselves to give someone a chance. A reflexive cringe at something they do or say is quashed as you admonish yourself for being judgmental. The societal message that we should take someone as we find them and not have high expectations is pervasive. But accepting someone as they are doesn’t mean you should pursue a relationship with them if they’re not right for you. It means accepting that its probably not going to work out with them.
After being blindsided by the abrupt halt to what I thought was a potential relationship, I was determined to make sense of what had happened. I took a cold hard look at how I’d got there.
There were plenty of clues in the text messages. The fact that they made up the bulk of our interaction was in itself problematic. It meant that things were easier to overlook. Yet, often enough there had been a niggling feeling that something was a bit off. Stopping to explore my reaction might have pointed me in the right direction. These were some of the signs.
The flirting was stilted and awkward
Flirting attempts misfired from both directions. I would say something bold and then find myself backtracking. She would say something cheeky and catch me off guard. It was a long way from the heady momentum that sweeps you along when you’re in sync with someone.
She was surprised at the depth of our conversation
She actually said: ‘I’m liking the depth, it has more substance to it’. I never really stopped to think what ‘it’ was being compared to. Now I realise it was most other conversations for her. Talking about things on a deep level is a given for me, not a novelty.
She was coy about politics and religion
She apologised for inadvertently talking about politics for fear it may offend. For me, these topics are not something to be avoided but a sure-fire way to get to know where someone is coming from. I just don’t see the point in skirting around it, especially when there’s no indication someone is on the other side of the political fence.
She said things that seemed like they were scripted and rehearsed
When you’re getting to know someone through text message conversations, things can seem a little disjointed at times. But on further reading, it looks as though she was stepping out of the conversation to deliver a monologue. It was like a scripted manifesto of what she wanted from a relationship and what she was like in one. Not only was it pre-prepared but I think it had already had a few runs.
I was more intrigued by her occupation than many other things
Okay, so this one is totally on me. I had never dated a detective before. There’s a reason why so many books, movies and television programs have one as their protagonist. Although the subject matter of her life was objectively interesting, I wasn’t getting much of her internal experience of it.
She persisted in talking about things I had zero interest in
She asked me if I liked dancing. I gathered that she was referring to the nightclub rather than the ballroom variant of it. My comments about it not being my thing and my hopeless lack of co-ordination were met with further questions. It was as though she was determined to get the answers she was looking for.
Many of my jokes just didn’t gel with her
My sense of humour can be a little left-field and I know that not everyone gets me. Once you have to explain it, it’s too late. My witticisms are a reflection of how my brain works so when they’re not understood, it can’t just be brushed off the surface.
She had a schedule to meet
We had been quite happily chatting away for a few evenings when she started talking about meeting up. I took this as a sign that was ready to move things to the next level. It turned out that she was just ready to make a call about whether she wanted to continue or not.
There is so much I could have learned from the signs
If I’d been more mindful of what was unfolding, I wouldn’t have been blindsided by being dumped and her motives wouldn’t have been such a mystery. I now see that she was avoiding any kind of intimacy developing by not giving away too much about herself. My hopes had clouded the lack of meaningful engagement between us.
She was shopping for a new girlfriend and going through the list of requirements. She wasn’t interested in learning anything about me that departed from the list. She made assumptions about me that suited her purposes. She had specific ideas about what she wanted and in the end I wasn’t it. Perhaps if I’d been clearer about what I wanted we could have saved each other a lot of time.
If I’d taken more notice of the little things, I would have seen that they were portals into the core of who she was. I would have realised that there were fundamental differences between us.
Everyone is different and compatibility is far from assured. Accepting this enables you to make an objective evaluation of someone’s attributes before your judgement is coloured by emotion.
There’s a cautionary tale in here about relying too much on interaction through text messaging to establish a relationship. You might feel a connection but often it’s just wishful thinking filling in the gaps. Instead, I needed to ask myself some hard questions and reality test my expectations.
It feels more empowering to understand my responsibility in things not working out rather than blaming the other person. The end of the not-quite-relationship was all the more painful because it was taken out of my hands. I could have avoided the pain if I had opened my eyes rather than blindly coasting into it. If I had made the effort to figure things out earlier on, it would have been my decision to make.