• Relationships

Dater X: Debriefing With The Latest Ex

Not to get all touchy-feely on you guys, but I am a person who wants to improve myself. I spent months not dating so that I could figure out what I’m looking for in a relationship and analyze my dating patterns. I’ve been a little startled to realize that, when I click with someone, things go amazingly for a few weeks. And then at the month mark, almost uniformly, they lose interest. I’ve thought about what I might be doing to lead to this, but just can’t put my fingers on the magic bullet. At this point, I feel like I need some outside feedback.

So when Tall Guy, the last guy this happened with, IMed me and asked how I felt about being friends, I saw it as an opportunity. “Of course, I’d like to be your friend,” I typed back. “But I do need to hear a bit more from you about what felt off with us. Would you be willing to share?”

The big factor keeping him from wanting to be with me is that I’m an East Coaster? I knew what that was code for—that I’m ambitious, slightly type A, and fairly intense. But really, he was willing to overlook the fact that we have a great time together—and our 130-degree physical chemistry—because I don’t surf enough or use words like “chill”?

“Absolutely,” he responded.

“Cool,” I said, knowing that putting the question out there might be masochistic. “And be 100 percent honest. I really want to know.”

A week later, I found myself on a park bench with Tall Guy. He looked amazing, his skin more tan and hair more rumpled than I remembered. And had he gotten even taller? Crap, I thought. I still want to pounce him.

After about half an hour of sipping iced teas and catching up, I decided to broach the topic so on the forefront of my mind. “So, I kind of wanted to know,” I said, my voice involuntarily shooting up two octaves. The words were harder to say than I had imagined. I was acutely aware that I could be setting myself up for a supreme ego blow. What if he said that I wasn’t smart enough? Or interesting enough to stay with for more than four months? Or hot enough to keep his eye from wandering?

I forced the words out. “I guess I just wanted to know …” Deep breath. “What happened with us? Our first few weeks together were so amazing, and you said you were really into me. And then you just kind of checked out.”

Total silence.

I took a deeper breath and forged on. “It’s something I’ve noticed happening on repeat, actually—that someone expresses really liking me and that it fizzles around the month mark. I guess I want to know if I’m doing something wrong.”

He shook his head. “No, it’s not like,” he said. “You’re awesome. Something just felt not right for me.”

“Can you verbalize it?” I asked.

“Um, um,” he said. For the first time, he seemed nervous, too. “It’s just that … you’re really … different from the girls I tend to get into relationships with.”

Egads. Was he about to say that I wasn’t fun to be around? That I have a twisted view of relationships? That I’m just not girlfriend material?

“It’s just sometimes,” he said. “I feel like … I fit better with girls … from the West Coast.”

Huh?

The big factor keeping him from wanting to be with me is that I’m an East Coaster? I knew what that was code for—that I’m ambitious, slightly type A, and fairly intense. But really, he was willing to overlook the fact that we have a great time together—and our 130-degree physical chemistry—because I don’t surf enough or use words like “chill”?

It only got more absurd from there.

“And you always dress really well,” he said. “I’m used to girls that throw on flip-flops.”

Um, really? This is a problem? It’s true—I love clothes and make an attempt in the morning to put them together well. Sometimes that’s a dress with cool bangles. Sometimes it’s jeans, a cute camisole, and a jacket. I like looking my best. And since when is this a negative thing? Shouldn’t he be happy to be with a girl with a good sense of style?

I looked at him with an are-you-kidding glance, but he kept on going.

“And your eye contact is … very direct,” he said.

I instinctively looked away.

Wait, I thought, So the reason he broke up with me is because he pictures himself with a California girl in flip-flops who avoids eye contact?

All of a sudden, a wave of relief rushed over me. The things he didn’t like about me were incredibly … surface. Not to mention ridiculous. None of them are issues that would bar me from finding the spectacular relationship I want. The problem wasn’t me. It really was him. He’s created a very narrow vision of what his ideal mate is like, and in the process is overlooking the qualities that actually matter. Great rapport. Laughter. Chemistry. The ability to build a life together.

All of a sudden, the Tall Guy didn’t seem so tall. He was knocked off the pedestal. For the first time, I felt totally confident that he just wasn’t the right guy for me.

We sat on the park bench for another hour, talking about random things and laughing at the people on the lawn before us playing frisbee. We hugged goodbye and as I walked away, I felt great. If there’s one thing I can say about Tall Guy, it’s that he’s honest—I don’t think he was sparing me anguish by deflecting the real reason he didn’t want to see me any more with these pieces of minutiae. He genuinely seemed to believe that each of the things he noted was an issue.

In the end, I’m so glad I decided to ask Tall Guy what wasn’t working for him. It was just further proof that dating really is just like matching game. I’m sure if I asked other guys who checked out at the month mark, I’d get equally inane explanations. For the first time, I’m seeing that the reason I have this pattern isn’t because I’m unlovable and guys need a month to figure it out. It’s because that’s the natural course of dating—you click with a lot of people at first, but it takes a while to find the very small number you could be with long-term.

So onward with the search.

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