How To Avoid Intimacy
Someone very wise once gave me a solid piece of advice — one that has managed to inhabit my mind ever since.
We were in a heated chat about life over drinks at some obscure restaurant in Toronto, sitting beneath ground level in dim lighting and on booths I recall being velvet.
And of course, there I was — pining over some guy whose most predictable trait was that he’d never actually show up.
After hearing me complain aimlessly about the aforementioned guy and his lacklusterness, this friend of mine kindly suggested that perhaps the people whose attention and affection I coveted most, those whom I claimed to have had the strongest feelings for, could simply be distilled to being the most unavailable and unattainable to me.
He suggested that perhaps I put these people on a pedestal not because they were inherently superior but rather because they weren’t actually there to prove me wrong. And that if I actually had dated them, I’d be disappointed to learn that they weren’t nearly as interesting/intelligent/kind/cool as I’d made them out to be.
So these men were nothing more than glorified blank slates that I could paint with any color I wanted to, filling in the holes as I saw fit and ignoring the parts I didn’t want to see?
Now, perhaps he was onto something.
See, the thing about dating people who don’t consistently show up is that, ironically, they’re really safe to keep around.
To put it simply, we get to go through the motions without actually facing the music.
And while we’re going through these motions, we’re also equipped with the perfect scapegoat. We tell our friends things such as: “Sorry, I don’t want to meet your super great friend right now, I’m still hung up over Mr. Almost-But-Too-Complicated.“
When we want to avoid being vulnerable and truly show up, we date fragments of people so that we feel a little less alone (but no more actually accompanied). And it’s by spending all of our time loving ghosts that we, in turn, avoid loving the living.
We’d rather hold on to something that’s not real because we get to avoid having to jump into something that is. And jumping into a real love affair is terrifying when we don’t trust ourselves enough to know if we’ll land on our feet.
By being emotionally unavailable, we get to opt out of all the frightening, messy, uncomfortable experiences of ACTUAL intimacy. Things like being vulnerable, being held accountable, seeing ourselves through another’s eyes, admitting to our mistakes…
But that means we also opt out of all the benefits, too. Things like being vulnerable, being held accountable, seeing ourselves through another’s eyes, admitting to our mistakes… Do you catch my drift?
And the craziest thing of all is that we actually convince ourselves that we really are available — we’re just victims of circumstance, waiting for them to get their shit together.
It’s truly the perfect cocktail of denial: one part escapism at its finest, one part refusal to see the truth. Shake well and serve on ice.
So what do we do? How do we break the cycle and start becoming more emotionally-available? How do we transition into the realm of the living?
Well, the first step is debunking the excuses we make and recognizing there is no pride in loving someone who will never love us back.
The next step is asking ourselves some meaningful (albeit difficult) questions and getting really clear on the answers.
Are we feeling a pull towards another person because we fundamentally like who they are? Or, are we seeking the attention from someone whom we deem ourselves “unworthy of” in an attempt at feeling validated?
What needs are we getting met by dating someone who’s chronically absent from our lives? And what are the familiar roles we play when we date a person who never fails to disappoint us?
Why do we feel smothered when people get too close to us and yet crave people who have one foot out the door? If we feel most in love when we’re at risk of losing someone, maybe we just love people who are on their way out?
Is this whole attraction really about them… or is it mostly about us?
Now when we subconsciously choose people who don’t actually show up for us, and when we turn away from those who do, we’re making a loud statement about our own self-worth and concept of love.
And it only makes sense: when we believe we’re fully deserving of love, we will naturally seek those who can love us in ways that we deserve. We’d never submit ourselves to settling for any situation that doesn’t meet our needs because we know we’re valuable enough to actually have them met.
When we feel as though we’re not easy to love, we seek out partners who cannot easily love us because that’s what we recognize as normal. Anything else just wouldn’t “feel right” to us (although we’d simply claim there’s no chemistry).
But the thing about loving people who don’t show up is that no matter how much we talk them into life or convince ourselves that they’re real: by mere virtue of the fact that we’re having this conversation with ourselves, they’re not.
And by engaging in these relationships (or semblances thereof), we aren’t showing up for ourselves.
So the next time you’re sitting with a friend at some obscure drinking facility on velvet booths chatting about the latest conquest whose attention you covet, remember this: it’s easy to project what we want onto a blank slate of a person, then find reasons for why it it’s not working and excuses as to why we’re still waiting.
But the real test of fate, the real merit in life, is in meeting someone as they are — colors, textures, shapes, experiences, idiosyncrasies and all — and then making things work together.
Because we’re supposed to actually be in this together, aren’t we?
And also: having friends who are wise is very underrated.
Keep these people around.
This article was originally published on Medium.