Once I was asked, “Why don’t you spend time with people like you?”
To my surprise, there were two answers. I thought compromise was part of every relationship and no relationship could be smooth-sailing. And secondly, I honestly didn’t believe there were people like me. I didn’t feel as though I connected with more than a handful (read less than or equal to 5) of people in my life. Every other relationship has been strained with substantial, almost daily chafing difference.
A similar question of why I was spending my time with people I didn’t even like, was a result of similar reasoning. I had been trying to accommodate myself to fit school friends, college boyfriends, and later, all sorts of random people. My mother once asked me why I was trying to get back together with a boyfriend I didn’t even like. It was a pretty revelatory statement that opened my eyes to the truth: I didn’t want to be rejected, even by someone I otherwise wouldn’t want in my life.
I spent so much time trying to be someone else for others. While complaining of others’ failings and my attempts to live with these people, I was asked, “Why don’t you just live according to your own standards?”
Again, the answer surprised me. I didn’t think my standards mattered as much as those of the people I was trying to change myself to be accepted by. I didn’t agree with their standards, so I always felt tension in the relationships. But I didn’t leave, armed in the knowledge I was being true to myself. Instead, I sunk to ‘their level’. I lived my life according to the principles and behavior that I myself disagreed with. And why, oh god, why? Because I didn’t think there were people with my values and that I had to compromise to have any friends and not be lonely. I was desperately lonely. I found interpersonal connection hard to create. I didn’t find people who I felt like I could be myself around.
So now, self-aware of these insights, in a romantic relationship I want to be true to myself and find someone like me. With the same professed values, interests, humor, and lifestyle. As a friend once said, “After you marry, the relationship will stay the same or might get worse. But it never gets better.” But combined with a ticking clock, loneliness, and less than stellar self-esteem, I find myself in my same old habit of trying to wriggle into a fit with someone.
Anecdotally, I often try clothing or shoes once very quickly and decide it fits. I purchase it, cut the tags and then wear it for an entire day, at which by the end of said day I am very uncomfortable or in pain. The item doesn’t fit right.
I find the same in relationships. I get so excited initially at what I see as a great fit with a glamourous new man (and rarely, a woman). Then, within weeks, I realize this person is very different from me. I have just jumped in the deep end of infatuation and desperation and now I am drowning, trying to figure out how the relationship can be managed to fit.
Clearly I need to be more patient, discerning, and selective. It would help if I could catch a break and finally meet someone that’s really similar to me. That’d be lovely.