Tag Archives: men

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.


When the woman in your life is crying…


 A few tips for men on what to do when the woman in your life is crying…

  1. Don’t panic. You are not going to drown. Your girlfriend/wife/partner is not going to dehydrate. The only really important difference between someone upset with tears in her eyes and someone equally upset without tears in her eyes is that the first scenario tends to make many men freak out… it’s just salt water, guys!
  2. Do not attempt to get her to stop crying. This will happen in its own time, but more haste, less speed. The problem is not that she’s crying, the problem is that she’s upset. Focus on trying to understand why she’s upset.
  3. Establish reassuring physical contact – hold a hand, give a hug, find a tissue. Best to keep it non-sexual at this point though – chances are fairly high she’s really not in the mood. Kissing away tears may be a very sweet gesture, but a woman will generally appreciate it more after you’ve attempted to talk about what’s going on.
  4. Talk about what’s wrong. No, wait: ask, and then listen, and then talk.
  5. Never, ever, ever tell her that she has no reason to be upset or tearful – this will make her feel so much worse that it is an incredibly bad idea unless you want to prolong the weeping.
  6. Provide sympathy, not solutions. Do not attempt to solve her problems or feel under pressure to do so. After crying, most women will get on with sorting out what is wrong, though it’s always good to offer to help if you can and want to. But this is far less important than giving her time to express the emotions she’s feeling, and letting her feel that she has been heard and understood.
  7. If you’re feeling upset or uncomfortable because she’s crying or because of what she’s said, say so and say why. A solid and dependable rock is useful at times but it’s often nice to have something a bit softer to cry on! Important caveat – try to avoid giving the impression that what you really mean is, “I’m in an even worse situation than you and look, I’m not crying”.
  8. Try to remember that she’s almost certainly not doing it just to make you feel bad. It’s easy for a woman to underestimate just how difficult a man can find it when she cries, particularly at the moment when she’s actually crying! Yes, I’ll admit that some women do use tears to manipulate men by making them feel bad, but do give her the benefit of the doubt until you notice a consistent pattern. It may help to bear in mind most women can’t stop and start their tears on demand! Also, tears only succeed as a manipulation device because men tend to ignore points 1, 2 and 6, and get so desperate that they’ll do anything to stop the tears flowing! So this advice should work either way.
  9. Remember that tears can be triggered by a lot of different things – from serious trauma to mild frustration to hormones to a sentimental film!
  10. Crying in someone’s presence is also a sign of trust and openness. So if you care about someone, try not to make her feel uncomfortable about crying in your presence. Nobody likes their partner to be upset, but if she is, would you really rather leave her to cry on her own?

Disclaimer: These are sweeping generalisations based on grossly oversimplified gender stereotypes. My only claim to expertise is my own experience, but that has given me grounds to think that these suggestions might be useful to a few people out there….

(Photo – Tear!, originally uploaded to Flickr by ::: *TearS* :::.)