Love and friendship

Last night I had to tell someone who was clearly falling in love with me that I was interested in being his friend, but didn’t think it was going to develop into anything more. And he, obviously hurt, replied that he was fed up of being just a friend to women…

He didn’t ask me, but it made me think, what is it that makes that difference for me?

In my quest to find myself the sort of relationship I am looking for, I’m doing my best trying to look beyond the intoxication of romantic love and/or purely sexual attraction. I’m trying to find a person that I could feel happy, on a long term basis, spending lots of time with, relying on, growing with.

So, setting aside hormones as far as possible, what is it that separates a perfectly nice, kind person that I want to be a friend with, from someone that I feel I might fall in love with?

It’s difficult to comment on someone’s personal characteristics and why they somehow “weren’t good enough” without sounding mean and judgemental. Which would be unfair, because he’s a great guy in so many ways, and he certainly gave me cause to seriously consider whether it might develop into something more. I really valued his ability to be honest and was touched by his willingness to expose his vulnerable sides. I enjoyed spending time with him – and particularly liked the poems he sent me!

And yet it was sadly clear to me that it was only nearly right, and that this wasn’t enough. I want to understand, as far as it’s possible to understand such things, why this was.

So although it may sound negative, I want to be honest about what I actually was thinking and feeling – in order to understand the implications of what I’m looking for. To understand which of the things I’m looking for are helpful, which are hindering me from finding a person that I love, and which are completely irrational. And of course, which of all of these is in my power to change and which isn’t!

I don’t think the stereotypical things matter much to me – like conspicuous wealth, cars and other possessions, macho traits such as arrogance or pushiness, or indeed overprotectiveness. I don’t think I fall into the “women like bastards and walk past the nice men” trap. And I’m pretty flexible about what I find attractive… I don’t demand immediate chemistry as I believe it can develop gradually and be the stronger for that.

I think there’s a pheromonal component – I’m certainly not saying he had BO, but the smell of him just wasn’t attractive to me. It seems a trivial thing… and yet bodies are very powerful in these areas!

There’s something about being met as an equal. Which is partly about being neither protected nor put on a pedestal. And partly about feeling an intellectual rapport. Someone who challenges me, makes me think in new ways. Which is odd because he was very clever, and well read, and interesting… and yet somehow I didn’t feel we connected – or rather, not consistently. There wasn’t a feeling of banter, of someone responding to my humour and moods as I responded to theirs. I can’t explain it any more precisely than that. (I think also he probably let himself down by talking about the things he didn’t do well more often than the things he did do well.)

And even harder to define is something that I find core to attractiveness… on a simple level it’s about confidence. It’s also about a seriousness of intent, of desire. A charisma. Which I didn’t feel from him – which seems utterly unfair because there were definitely ways in which he was pursuing his dreams. And yet if I am honest, that is what I felt. Was it that I didn’t give him a chance to shine? I tried to leave space… but I didn’t feel he came to fill it.

Perhaps above all, while it was clear he wanted a relationship, I had a strange feeling that it wasn’t about me. As if what was looking for was his ideal of a person, and somehow this got in the way of his seeing the person I was. And in a way this was confirmed last night – when I told him that I didn’t think we were likely to go beyond friendship, he fell silent, and I don’t expect he’ll contact me again (of course I could be completely wronging him here – time will tell!). Of course that needs no other explanation than hurt, and disappointment… but I can’t help feeling that he wanted to have a romantic relationship with someone much more than he wanted to get to know me, to get closer to me, as a person.

(Do I do this? So easy a trap to fall into when you’re meeting people with the intention of finding out whether they are potential partners. And yet, when I came to the conclusion that things weren’t going to work out for us romantically, I was saddened, but didn’t lose interest in him as a person that I wanted to get to know.)

I’ve come up with a number of answers but I don’t know which is the correct one… I think perhaps it’s a combination of them all. If more things had been right, I like to think I would have easily been able to overcome the other things. But nothing was quite right enough… leaving him, as well as me, in that sad space of “nearly”.

It’s easy to analyse these things to death… when maybe it’s just as simple and unarguable as pheromones.

And yet it’s fascinating to try and unravel the complexities of attraction…. and in the process, learn more about myself, and about humankind.

My approach to looking for a relationship is simply this – to try to increase the number of new people that I meet and get to know. Like buying as many lucky dip tickets as I can! And welcoming new people into my life is giving me new perspectives on myself and others, and introducing me to activities I’d never have tried otherwise.

And so, even if I never find the relationship I’m looking for, the search in itself is a fascinating journey.

2 responses to “Love and friendship

  1. Hi Lirone! I think your post is an excellent example of a sensitive and intelligent analysis of a hugely complex question. Most days, I’d rather try to understand a Nobel paper on economics than why I’m attracted to someone. There are just so many variables and they have such complex ways of interacting with each other. But you do an entirely admirable job sorting it out and making some sense of it. I agree with you about the importance of that.

    I also agree — very much agree — that “nearly” is not enough. I’ve gotten into trouble with “nearly” before, and I hope I’m done with it. That’s not to say I would demand perfection — just that the really important things must be there.

    By the way, I recall reading somewhere that when we’re attracted to someone’s odor, it’s a good sign our immune systems are compatible. Which I guess must be important enough for us to have evolved some means of assessing it.

    Thank you for a remarkably insightful post!

  2. Hi, Lirone

    Not to dismiss the rest of your analysis, but if you don’t like his smell, that says a lot. You are a sensitive person.

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