Continuing on his mission to find real love, Damien Bohler seeks advice from an expert after a date goes wrong.
I sat under a tree lost in thought and gloomy feelings. It was a public park and people were walking by, some were playing badminton and others were kicking a football around. Couples sat together or strolled hand in hand and the afternoon sun was on its way down. I had just left the apartment of a woman I liked, where I had stayed the night, and this tree was as far as I could get before I had to sit down and feel the fullness of rejection that I was imagining had just happened. I didn’t know where to go, I had no desire to head home, which was a 2 hour train ride away, and was not really sure what my other options were. I wanted to be held, I wanted to talk to someone, I wanted to understand this hurt and confusion I was feeling.
Sitting with my phone weighing heavily in my hand, I finally lifted it and typed a message to her: “Last night it seems like I met you as a friend, was tested as a lover and left as an acquaintance”.
The lukewarm hug that she gave me before I walked out the door hung on me like an oily reminder of intimacy that was not to be. How is it that we went from fun conversation and wine at dinner with friends to making out on her couch, to me sleeping on that couch… alone… to a morning that was distant and disconnected? I wanted to know what was going on and in that moment, on that morning I could not summon the courage to ask her. I just cooked her breakfast instead which she ate, thanked me for and went back to silently working away on her computer.
Thoughts ran through my mind and, as I am often to do, I latched on to the worst case scenarios. Could it have been because I decided not to touch her more sexually as our kissing became hot? Could it have been my expectation that we would be sharing a bed that night? Was I a crap kisser? Or… could it have been that she was stressed about her impending move back to the US? She had expressed previously the panic she had felt every morning upon awakening, and I felt myself struggling to remember Shana’s words and not take it personally, to consider that maybe there was more going on than just me.
My feelings won out, in the end, and a chasm of inquiry opened up as all the experiences of my previous long term relationship came flooding to the fore. There were many times in that relationship when I found myself in a state of hurt surprise as she, seemingly out of nowhere, disengaged herself from me. I would feel enveloped in loneliness when I was hanging around trying to get her attention, and being ignored. It’s strange because from movies and TV shows I always thought it was supposed to be the other way around that as a man I would disengage, and she would be trying to get my attention. It never happened this way for me and often there I would be trying to talk to her, or wanting physical closeness and affection, and she is not there with me at all.
And then somehow, at some hidden cue unknown to me there she would be again, and her arms would envelop me and a kiss might grace my cheek (or maybe even my lips!)
This was a real problem for me—a woman’s ability to complete disengage would throw me into utter disarray and confusion, the inner poor-me, that dramatic little boy that believed I was a victim of the world, would cry out and imagine all kinds of worst-case scenarios and I would enter reactive behavior often making things a lot worse.
If composure is a state of complete responsiveness to the whirlwind of the world around us, and posturing is a numb puffed-up chest of pretending that nothing affects us, then I lived most often from collapse… where I cared TOO much and the slightest hurtful thing would send me spiraling down into depths of despair.
Living life this way was so often a hellish experience and, I imagine, just as crap for any woman involved with me. I made a personal vow after that relationship ended to get this part of myself handled, to do whatever it takes to be ‘O.K’ regardless of what life, and women, throw at me.
I think I did better this time. I didn’t cry, I didn’t pick a fight, I didn’t accuse or blame her, I was respectful… and yet it feels like there is still something more I could have done, or some way I could have better been.
What is it that has a woman go from warm to cold, just like that? And what can I do to better ride that wave of opening and closing?
I’m grateful to have Shana James, who has offered to give me dating advice throughout this series.
One of the things I find most fascinating about relationship dynamics (not only romantic but all relationships) is when people silently wonder or suffer in the face of confusion about how another person is feeling.
The simplest thing to do is to ask. But simple doesn’t make it easy!
Damien, you wrote, “In that moment I didn’t have the courage to ask [her what was going on].”
I am curious…What kind of courage does it take? What are we actually facing if we ask? What is so hard about asking “What’s up?” “What’s going on?” “What are you feeling?” when someone seems preoccupied, frustrated or disinterested?
The two answers I hear most about why it’s so hard to ask are:
I don’t want to kill the spark or interrupt the flow.
I don’t want to be rejected.
I understand. I have hesitated to ask what someone was feeling because I was afraid I’d be told I wasn’t wanted. I have hesitated to speak up during sex because I didn’t want to interrupt the flow.
But then what I notice is that I’m not actually connected to the other person. There is a layer of fantasy or fuzziness between us, and it eventually kills the spark or the flow!
It’s uncomfortable to not know and It’s uncomfortable to take a risk and ask. It helps to ask yourself what kind of discomfort you would rather experience.
Next time you notice something strange, or unsaid, in your dynamic with another person, check to see if you want to know the truth. If so, try asking a simple question like:
“What are you thinking?”
“How are you feeling?”
“What’s going on?”
You can also add an observation:
“I noticed you just closed your eyes when I said that. What were you feeling?”
“Your eyebrows furrowed a minute ago. What happened?”
You may have thoughts and fears about the answer you’re about to receive, but that doesn’t have to stop you. If you can hear the other person with curiosity and compassion, without jumping to making yourself wrong, you’ll get to know the other person, which will likely create a deeper connection. Or you may realize you aren’t inspired to connect further. Either way you have real information to base your choices on, which is the only way a relationship will actually thrive!
About Shana James M.A.:
As a dating & relationship coach and workshop leader Shana has spent a decade working with men and women around the world. Instead of games or pick up lines she works with each person’s unique fears and stuck spots to make it natural for you to create passionate connections and fulfilling relationships. Shana will call out your greatness in a way that makes you visible and desirable to others. For more information go to: www.themanshewants.com
Read more from Damien Bohler’s “Authentic Man Experiment” series