I was watching an advice show where someone wrote in to ask about how not to bring old relationship baggage into a new relationship. This person was feeling anxious about similarities in behavior between her past and present partner and wanted a way to ease her mind and stop worrying about being dumped by her new partner. I don’t know what I expected to hear, but I was a little disappointed that this person’s situation wasn’t more comparable to my own. Because I was hoping to get some advice or insight for myself.
My problem is almost the exact opposite. I can’t seem to find anyone that is similar enough to my old partner. I know I shouldn’t be comparing them to him in the first place, but I can’t help myself. Yet there are so many factors I have to consider while I’m doing so that I wonder if it’s really the other person falling short or me. Now, I’m trying to be fair here. I don’t expect them to be perfect, or a carbon copy of someone from my past. I am just looking for that same sense of connection.
On paper, it probably wouldn’t look like there was anything too remarkable about my last relationship. But there was this ineffable vibe that this person gave me. I don’t know what it is exactly. It’s not just that person either. My best friend is one of those people. My coworkers seem to be of that kind as well. I even randomly met someone the other day who has been in my mind since then. Just from that brief conversation I could tell they were potentially one of these special people as well. I’ll try my best to explain what exactly this quality is I am searching for in others.
It feels like when most people look at you, they aren’t really looking at you. They are seeing you distorted through all of their expectations and assumptions. They are seeing the person they want you to be. When you speak to these people you get the sense that they didn’t really take the time to hear you. These special people of mine are different. They really see me. And somehow they accept me anyway, love me anyway. What could be more beautiful?
Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t consider myself a great listener or someone who is open to letting people be whoever they are and accepting that. I don’t know if the people in my life that are like that with me are even like that with everyone. Perhaps there are just invisible threads that connect some of us in that special way. But even though I’m not always open and loving, something about being seen lets me be. It is a vulnerable, thrilling place to be. It makes me feel truly alive again to be near these types of people.
The problem is there don’t seem to be very many of these people. I’ve only met a handful my entire life. When I start talking to someone new, I really try to give them a fair chance. Even though I can usually tell if someone has that vibe or not right away. Meeting through the internet makes it kind of hard to be sure. These people are always conversationalists though. They are as good at talking as they are at listening. They ask lots of good questions and have interesting opinions and perspective on things.
It is quite emotionally exhausting to sift through the population trying to find these people. I feel guilty every time I have to break things off with someone for seemingly no reason. Most of the people I’ve met were perfectly fine, but they just weren’t right. I wasn’t feeling that connection. They weren’t really seeing me.
This is where I start to doubt myself though. Is this all in my head? Am I projecting all of this onto the people around me? Am I just looking for excuses to keep carrying this torch for someone who couldn’t care less about me now? Is this some kind of complex defense mechanism to keep people away?
Occasionally I’ll push forward with a new relationship long past when I’ve basically decided it isn’t going to work for me. Just to see if the person just needs more of a chance, if they’ll grow on me. I always end up just feeling guilty in the end for leading them on and wasting both of our time. I’m not someone who would ever “settle.” That has never been an option for me. I much prefer being on my own to being with someone I don’t absolutely adore. I guess I’ll just keep looking and trusting this one sliver of intuition that still speaks to me.