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Parallax - Advice

July 14, 2003

Slim Pickin's

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Cherry pickers are people who shop for the best bargains and find them. In romance, cherry pickers search for the perfect dates—or mates. Many find them. But for every sweet cherry of success, there are ninety-nine sour grapes of failure. Why the big gap? For most people, it's simply a matter of poor choice. To put it frankly, most people are the pits when it comes to matters of the heart. 'She & He' offer fruitful advice.

Ben there, done that.
Round two.
 Date: 07/14/03

Free room & board?
Too high a price!
 Date: 07/14/03

Dial M for Married.
Flirting with disaster.
 Date: 07/14/03

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Ben there, done that

Dear Conversely,

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I'm twenty-nine years old and have been divorced for six years. Five years ago I became friends with Ben. He was cute but two years younger than me. I wasn't interested because I wanted an older man. We did, however, become friends, and after a year, I started to like him (he had always liked me). That relationship did not work out and I broke it off. It really hurt because I never though he would mistreat me. He later apologized for his actions. We were part of the same group of friends, and he and I resumed our close friendship. Since then, he's been there to cheer me on and console me—in good times and bad. And the attraction is still there. We have this magnetism. When we're around each other I want to be with him, and we are constantly flirting. All of our friends say that we are in love. He's told me a couple of times that I was the only woman he's ever loved. (However, he's only said it when he's intoxicated, so I'm not sure.) I really love this guy—his faults, his ups, his downs, his achievements—I love everything about him. Recently, he moved away. When I visit with friends, he's unusually attentive and caters to my every need! Can men grow up and change? Should I put my heart on the line again?

Her view:

Dear Ben out of Shape,

Well you could avoid all the nonsense of course and relegate yourself to the life of a recluse. Or you can concoct an asexual being if you wish to still maintain friendships. Your wardrobe expenditure would decline precipitously, stressful phone calls would be reduced to zero, and you'd probably be in fantastic shape.

Or could you? Could you really avoid flirtations, advances, whatever...from said suitor or otherwise? Nope, not a chance. So now that we've ruled out that option, let's think about the game called 'Humiliation Minimization' because an unanticipated dose of humiliation adds no value.

The first rule to winning 'Humiliation Minimization' is to be cavalier and nonchalant about the whole relationship saga. That way, if it blows up, you behave as if you've lost absolutely nothing. While your feelings may truly be hurt, you will have parried the public flogging.

Tactically, this involves letting your suitor put forth his feelings first and you move slowly along, as if he is no priority. You travel down this path for as long as it takes to move into relationship mode. If you reach the relationship mode, the rules change and you can resume behaving like a well-adjusted sincere human being.

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His view:

Dear Ben out of Shape,

Men have been known to grow up and change. I've seen a few of them do it first hand. It is a painful experience that leaves them shells of their former selves—all mushy and domesticated, and scarcely recognizable.

As to your specific case, yes, you should put your heart on the line again. Take a risk. Live it up. Don't find yourself six years from now wondering what if. And don't do it half-assed and don't be skittish because he will sense that, and respond in kind. On the other hand, be smart and know when to call it quits, if it comes to that—not because you fear getting hurt, but because you gave it a fair shot and it failed.

Ben sounds confused, unsure of what he wants and afraid of getting rejected, especially since he probably feels he deserves rejection after the way he treated you before. Those feelings, mixed in with your own insecurities, make it tough to make a clean start. Your best bet is to have a frank talk with him and tell him you want to try again, so that he has no doubts about your intentions. Share your fears, so that he's not guessing about those, too.

If he's serious about you, he'll also open up...maybe not immediately but he will in time. Just make sure he's sober when you have your frank discussion.

And, if you're lucky, he might actually prove to have grown up, hopefully without morphing into a vegetable.

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