It Takes Three to Make Love
You, him and your expectations.
Most of us construct our prototype of the perfect partner from a novel, a movie or even a mysterious passing stranger. Then we let our imagination run wild and we ascribe all sorts of wonderful qualities and abilities to our dream partner. They are kind, considerate, loving, strong, sexy, mysterious, powerful, rich etc etc
“You see what you expect to see, Severus.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
As a teenager, not unlike other girls my age, I read a lot of romance novels. The “tall dark stranger on a white horse” type of books. Stories where the main hero is always mysterious, and his character is never fully revealed by the author. He does not say much, and he is of course gorgeous, powerful and successful. He spends money on the heroine, and occasionally gropes her, but he never admits the extent of his feelings until the very end. Instead he mostly ignores her unless he is briefly kissing her passionately before he ignores her once more. There is always a rival who is prettier, richer and more popular than the heroine, but he never goes for her. Instead he goes for the younger, poorer, badly dressed, shy and inexperienced one.
The summer that I turned 18, I met this perfectly ordinary man. Ordinary, that is, in every way except one. There was something about him that matched my prototype. He said nothing. No, he was not mute, but he might as well have been. He was also sort of dark and tall. What happened next is interesting. I imagined that he actually had all the other qualities that I was looking for as well. Turns out that he was quiet because he had little to say. But I did not see that. I matched him to my prototype which equated few words with a powerful, deep thinker with a mysterious bend. He even appeared a little tortured waiting for me to fully understand him and save him.
Higher and higher he went on the pedestal. I fell head over heels in love. Then he kissed me passionately against the wall by the restaurant dumpsters. I could think of nothing but him. I wrote pages upon pages about him and our love in my diary. I was ready to marry him, spend the rest of my life as his devoted wife, bear his children. Him and I, in a windswept mansion by the sea.
A week passed in this dream state. We would sit quietly on the beach where I would imagine the dark, deep, intelligent and beautiful thoughts that must be occupying his incredible brain. Then, one evening as we sat quietly on the beach saying nothing, he looked deep into my eyes and said what he had been clearly pondering for a week: “Wow, there’s so much we don’t know about the universe. Like where do the stars go during the day. Are they still there? If not, where do they go?”.
At that instant, the terrible truth dawned on me. The man was an idiot.
In the years that followed I adjusted my prototype from what I learned.
If he says nothing, he either has nothing to say or he is cripplingly shy. The richer, prettier, better dressed girl will probably win, and he will almost always want to split the bill for two coffees.
None of the guys will come on a white horse.
Here is what I discovered. When it comes to relationships you will meet and kiss frogs. The trick is to minimise the number of frogs you kiss and to not get discouraged when they don’t turn into princes who ride white horses.
“You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect.”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden