“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
People who know my dating philosophy and/or read this blog sometimes ask how I can stay so upbeat in the face of so many encounters that haven’t panned out. I admit that while to some it can sound exciting to have gone out with 71 men in 2 years, it has also been time consuming and frustrating.
One phrase that keeps me going is from Richard Bach’s book Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. You may remember Bach from Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Both were packed with thought-provoking philosophy wrapped around an engaging story.
In Illusions, Bach says, “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in it’s hands. You seek these problems because you need their gifts.” When you look at the problem as bearing a gift, you search for it.
When I have a less-than-grand encounter with a date, I’ve learned to look for the gift. I know there is a needed lesson if I am willing to search. I ask myself some questions:
- Why is what he did (or didn’t do) bothersome to me? What do I make it mean? Do I make it mean something about me?
For example, if he kisses me passionately in public, do I interpret that as his not having respect for me? Thinking I’m a trollop? Why do I care as long as I know I’m not easy?
- What is another way to interpret his behavior?
With the passionate kiss, he could have felt such overwhelming affection for me that his desire to kiss me won out over any sense of inappropriateness. I could feel flattered that he is so attracted to me that he couldn’t wait to express it. Isn’t that part of romance — feeling so full of passion you want to express your love everywhere?
- Did his behavior trigger a hurt from a previous time in my life?
If so, I’m not upset with the current man, but from a past encounter that hasn’t been healed. Maybe someone from the past kissed me passionately in public. That experience coupled with other behaviors left me feeling disrespected. If the current man hasn’t shown other signs of disrespect, I shouldn’t burden him with the same hurt feelings that belong to the past guy. This trigger gives me an opportunity to explore the past hurt and heal it.
- What signals am I sending that say this behavior is okay?
I am playful, flirty, affectionate and accepting, so am I encouraging him to show public displays of affection and he doesn’t yet know what is beyond my comfort level? Did I tell him it isn’t comfortable for me and he persists?
- What do I do that is irritating to him, yet don’t know it yet?
If I put on lipstick at the dinner table (which I don’t, BTW) and it drives him batty, how would I know unless he mentioned it? And how do I want to be told so I can offer feedback to him in a similar way, at least until I know how he wants to receive such feedback?
- Is he being a mirror for my similar behaviors?
For example, I don’t like it when people interrupt me. But occasionally I find myself interrupting others. So is he unwittingly reminding me why people might not be able to wait to express their thoughts?
Whenever someone does something I find annoying, I ask myself if I do the same thing or something similar. Sometimes I find I do, so their behavior reminds me to rein in my own.
So just like the joke about the child who enters a room full of manure and exclaims, “There must be a pony in here somewhere!” you can look for the hidden gifts in any encounter. The key is to believe there is a gift and to be willing to look for it, even if it means something not so great about you.