Dater X: Compatibility Is All In The Details

I’m happy to report that things are, for the first time in a long time, going well in my love life. In fact, they’re really great. Over the last month and a half, Officer Handsoming and I have hit upon pretty much every “getting to know you,” milestone appropriate for a six-week courtship, making this the most “normal” relationship I’ve been in for a long while. He wasn’t rushing to jump into bed with me, he didn’t ghost me after a couple of weeks, and most importantly, he doesn’t seem to exhibit any signs of having another girlfriend (a huge plus after the hell I went through with Patrick Bateman).

Things with Officer Handsoming are pretty cut and dry. He speaks his mind, laughs when he’s amused, lets me know if something bothers him (apparently I need to work on saying “fuck” less often, because I sound like a dirty-mouthed trucker) and he’s genuinely thoughtful. He calls me at the end of the day “just because,” fixes my wobbly kitchen stools when the screws are falling out, and even brings me chocolate-covered cannolis from the best bakery in town when I have cramps from my “monthly curse,” as he calls it.

His work hours are different than mine, and he’s often assigned to overnight shifts, but despite our opposite schedules, he’s made a conscious effort to sneak in any time with me that he can. Even if he only has an hour here or there, he actually wants to spend time with me; no teeth pulling necessary. Frankly, it’s refreshing.

As I spend more time with Officer Handsoming, I’m learning a lot about him as a person. Not just about his job, family, and the Greek salad he likes to eat for lunch, but about the real him, and how much we actually have in common. I’m learning that we have similar values and fears, and lots of the same things tick us off, mainly ignorance, narcissists and prejudice. We’ve swapped stories about our past relationships and bonded over the hardships that followed, and I have to say, there’s a certain feeling of relief that comes with knowing we’re on the same page about many of the big things. So far, we seem to be compatible — sexually, and otherwise. But there is one way in which I’m learning we’re completely different.

From the very beginning, Officer Handsoming told me that he’s not a wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve kind of guy, which I came to see in action pretty quickly. This is completely foreign to me, having grown up in a huggy, kissy Italian family who overshares emotions and turns every major event into a Shakespearean melodrama. I am, and always have been, a very expressive person who’s big on physical contact. Officer Handsoming, on the other hand, isn’t outwardly affectionate. Of course, he’s intimate behind closed doors, but small gestures like holding hands, pecks on forehead and sneak-attack hugs aren’t exactly his style.

This week, we were lying in bed talking when I nuzzled in close to him and wrapped my arm adoringly around his midsection. Noticing my desire for some kind of reciprocation, he threw his arm around my shoulder, to which I blurted out, “You’re not really an affectionate person, are you?”

I already knew the answer to this, but what he said next surprised me.

“Not really, no,” he looked down into my eyes, his gaze telling me he knew I wasn’t thrilled about it. “Actually, you might find this weird, but I never say ‘I love you’ to my parents. Well, rarely.”

Say whaaaaaat? Every conversation I have with my parents or siblings ends with “I love you,” even via text, so I was completely baffled by his confession.

“Why not?” I asked.

“It’s just uncomfortable,” he shrugged. “It’s not that I don’t love them, but saying it is strange. It’s kind of just an unsaid thing.”

Naturally, I then asked if he’s ever said it to anyone aside from his family members, ready to reach for my phone to refer him to my old shrink.

“Yes, but only to two people,” he confessed. “My two long-term ex-girlfriends.”

“And did you mean it?” I asked.

He responded with a certain, “Yes,” explaining that those were “intimate relationships,” so it was different.

For someone who considers himself relatively closed off, Officer Handsoming has certainly come out of his shell in the last couple of weeks, sharing tidbits of personal information with me that he might normally hesitate to reveal. But I guess that’s to be expected as you get closer you get to someone. He admitted that he’s told his past girlfriends he loves them, but did he ever physically show them that affection outside of the bedroom, and after how long? As someone who’s always considered touching and body language a type of security and reassurance in relationships (his kamikaze kisses means he still wants me, and our PDA means he’s not ashamed to be seen with me), I worry I may not get that guarantee from him, which, to me, could be something that throws the whole relationship off kilter.

If I’ve learned one thing from my past relationship failures, it’s that compatibility doesn’t necessarily mean two people have to see eye-to-eye on everything, act the same way, or share the same perspective. Sure, sharing a political party, loving Cool Ranch Doritos and agreeing that Robert DeNiro is the greatest actor of all time might make two people “compatible” on paper, but in my opinion, true compatibility is all about the harmonizing of both parties’ needs and feelings in the day-to-day and moment-to-moment.

Will Officer Handsoming ever be able to warm up to me the way I crave? What if he can’t give me the physical affection that’s always been second nature to me? Will I be able to accept the fact that he shows his love different ways: through sweet phone calls, baked goods, and playing Mr. Fix-It around my apartment? Can Officer Handsoming and I adapt to each other’s way of doing things or is this one detail too big to overcome?

[Photo from Shutterstock]