I’ve been really obsessed lately with the website 40 Days of Dating. Two friends, Jessie and Tim, with opposite relationship issues—who also happen to be graphic designers—decided to date for 40 days and write about it. Part of what draws me into their experiment is the graphic element (I’m a sucker for bright colors and delicious fonts) but I’m also fascinated by the project itself. I relate to both Jessie and Tim in different ways.
Like Jessie, I grew up with parents who are deeply in love and have a strong marriage. Witnessing the beauty of the life they have made together and the bond they have with each other, it’s impossible not to want a relationship like that myself. Also, like her, I’m a romantic. I love the feeling of being in love (or being infatuated). And I’m equally uninterested, and frankly exhausted, by the idea of dating lots of men. But my reasons for being disinclined to date casually are very different from hers. This ties into how I’m like Tim.
Tim is a commitment-phobe because he loves his freedom. He loves that he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with whoever he wants. I can relate to that. As I recently told you, freedom is a requirement in all of my relationships. Though I am energized by having an extroverted job and love investing deeply in people, I am an introvert at heart who is very project oriented. I need a lot of quality personal time to unwind, reflect, recharge and work. When I’m sunk into a project or taking personal time even my loved ones feel like a huge inconvenience when they make the smallest demand on my time or energy (especially energy). I prefer having relationships on my terms, in my timing.
All of my friends have said to me at some point or other, “I love that we can go months or years without talking and I know it’s okay. You won’t get offended.” Of course, I don’t get offended. This is how I like my relationships. The beauty of only seeing each other every once in a while is that it pretty much guarantees that when we do see each other it’ll be great! No drama. No boredom. No opportunity to take each other for granted. Since I jump quickly into deep conversation, we both get intimacy on demand. While these marathon hangout sessions usually take up a large chunk of time, it isn’t a habitual commitment so it’s easier to fit into my haphazard schedule. I get intimacy and freedom. But I don’t get anyone to consistently lean on or talk to every day. That’s the trade off.
Where all of this defers from Tim is that my need for freedom and control leads me more naturally into pseudo-relationships than casually dating. I did give casual dating a try but I found it entirely unsatisfying because it didn’t offer me the intense emotional connection I crave. I don’t care if a relationship ends in marriage or if it just ends but while it lasts I want it to be deep, beautiful and meaningful. If it isn’t, there is no way I will find time for it in my schedule. Flirting is fun but I get my fill of it at work.
This last year I have been “deep single” because I decided that my habit of pseudo-dating wasn’t healthy and that casually dating isn’t for me. I haven’t even allowed myself to hangout with guy friends outside of work because I didn’t want it to get complicated. While this time has given me a chance to clear my head and feel more centered, it has also left me craving intimacy. One thing I’ve realized about myself in the absence of close male relationships is that I don’t have the capacity to emotionally connect with women as deeply (I let my best female friend find out my grandpa died through facebook–you can bet I would’ve texted one of the leading men in my life friends right away had we still been on texting terms at the time).
The 40 Days of Dating project speaks to where I’m at because I’m a crazy mix of both of these people: I don’t want to give up my freedom and I want a deep meaningful relationship. While they struggle to compromise with each other, I am struggling to compromise with myself.
Wednesday, I had what was supposed to be a networking meeting with life coach Jill Haas that practically turned into a therapy session. She observed that I’m a control freak which isn’t news to me but, somehow, I always seem to disconnect my desire for freedom from a need to have control (even though that is obviously what it is). She left me asking myself some good questions. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve come to an easy resolution. Instead, I’ll leave you with the main question I’m asking myself:
Is my need for a sense of freedom and control more important to me than my desire for intimacy and a healthy relationship?
Good question right? I wish I had an answer.