The last time I felt a strong, mutual connection with a guy was a little over a year ago.
His name was Tide Pods. Or, rather, that’s what my friends and I called him for fun – because I was so infatuated with him after our epic first date that I felt it appropriate to send him home with a packet of laundry detergent samples I happened to have randomly stashed in the backseat of my car. A souvenir (or maybe door prize?) of sorts.
Tide Pods and I proceeded to see each other for all of last fall, falling hard. Together we went apple picking, watched football, and trapped ourselves in my tiny studio apartment for the entire duration of Hurricane Sandy. We were smitten, he adored me, and things were easy.
They might have stayed that way, too, had I them allowed them to. But I didn’t, as through a combination of chronic second-guessing and a pesky developing feeling of boredom (I mean, he was just so emotionally available), I spontaneously broke up with him one night over appetizers.
“Are you seriously that damaged, Nic?” he asked, nervously slamming his beer down in front of him. “You’re ending this because you ‘don’t know how to be happy’? What a fucking cop out.”
There was something heartbreakingly relatable about his combination of hurt and anger. Jilted Good Guy is a role that I’ve had some experience playing myself.
“I don’t know. Maybe it is a cop out,” I replied. “You’re just such a nice guy; I feel like I would hurt you in the long run.”
He hated me by the end of the night.
I hated me by the end of the night.
But I mean, what is it about the good, available guys that can sometimes be so unexciting? I know it’s not just me. Like, why did Carrie Bradshaw have to sabotage her relationship with sweet, affectionate Aidan by cheating on him with Big, the ultimate unavailable man? And what was it about the (basically perfect) Irish cop in Bridesmaids that made Kristen Wiig’s character freak the fuck out after they slept together and he cleared his entire schedule for her the next day? Why do Taylor Swift songs exist?
I’ve discussed this subject ad nauseam with all my work-wives and female besties, and of course we always come up with the same cliché explanations — fear of vulnerability, the need for validation, wanting what we can’t have, living for “the chase,” self-esteem issues, ex-boyfriend issues, daddy issues, mommy issues, Disney movie issues, etc. — and we always end on the conclusion that once we finish working on ourselves and become capable of self-generating love and happiness without the help of a man first, then we’ll magically start to be attracted to the good guys, because we’ll finally feel deserving of the affection that they’re willing to shower us with.
It’s a neat, familiar concept, but I have a confession to make: Sometimes I wonder if it’s bullshit.
This isn’t to say that I think deep-rooted issues shouldn’t be explored, addressed, and healed; they should. I myself have spent most of my time since the Tide Pods breakup on a journey of reflection, seeking my highest good through gratitude, meditation, forgiveness, and various other Eat, Pray, Love-ish techniques. And I’ve made tremendous progress. My self-esteem is high, even.
And yet I’m still not actively falling in love with every “good guy” I meet. Even recently I found myself losing interest in one I’d been dating for a while before the holidays. Somewhere around the sixth-date mark, I developed a nagging fear that I was missing out on something. Sure, I thought to myself, he’s cute and nice and he likes me — but what if there’s someone out there who is cute, nice, likes me, AND makes me feel like I’ve won the man-lottery?
This got me to questioning: What if it actually has nothing to do with whether a guy is “good” or “bad” at all? What if — regardless of where we are on our journey to self-actualization — it’s just about finding one who is right for us? What if I didn’t get bored with Tide Pods because he was so emotionally available, but simply because the closer we got, the more I realized we weren’t so compatible after all?
I’m sure the true answer lies somewhere in between.
But I will say this: There is a fine line between healing self-destructive dating patterns and getting straight up carried away with the whole analysis/reflection/WHAT’S-THE-COMMON-THREAD-IN-ALL-YOUR-FAILED-RELATIONSHIPS? therapy culture we’re living in these days. And I don’t mean to sound regressive or immature, but I’ve got to be honest, it’s fucking liberating to consider the idea that maybe we don’t have to think so damn hard about why we’re not attracted to certain men. Maybe it’s not always that complicated. Maybe we can just chalk some things up to being on the path of searching for that one special guy who fits. Maybe we don’t have to be perfect.
And maybe — just maybe — we’re not as damaged as we think we are.