In my relatively short time in this world, I've had a lot of girlfriends. I'm something of a serial monogamist, with a couple of notable long girlfriendless gaps. Now is really the first time in my life that I've been interested in playing the field and truly seeing who's out there. Though I've gotten a lot better, historically, if a girl is interested, I'll just commit to the idea of being exclusive with that girl, regardless of whether or not we're compatible or if she raises any red flags.
I used to justify it as giving in to fate. I know now that it is actually a toxic combination of laziness and desperation.
Sometimes my let-the-game-come-to-me approach works out for a few months or even a few years. Then, inexplicably, the relationship stalls, and I'm left wondering what's wrong with me. So, in the spirit of figuring out what precisely is wrong with me, I sat down with one of my few ex-girlfriends with whom I'm still on good terms to talk about my favorite subject: me.
This may be putting the cart a smidge before the horse -- since I'm still in "dating mode" and not so into the idea of pursuing a relationship. But I figured this might the best way to break the pattern of broken relationships.
Sarah was my girlfriend a few years back, and we went out for about a year. In that year, we broke up twice. She eventually moved out of state for work, and, thanks to Facebook, we've reconnected. Here are the highlights of our phone conversation:
Y Me?: Every time we broke up, you would always attribute it to one thing ...
Sarah: Yes, you were very distant and emotionally unavailable. At first, you were awesome. It was all hugs and picnics, then when I wanted to ratchet things up (she wanted us to live together), you'd turn into a zombie.
Y Me?: Can you give some examples?
Sarah: Every time I would talk about our future, you got evasive and would turn it into a joke. I also got the feeling that you would have rather been off drinking with your buddies than spending time with me.
Y Me?: It got to a point when all we did was fight, so that's probably true.
Sarah: We fought because I felt like we weren't going anywhere and you refused to address it. I felt like there was something wrong with me, but I think maybe you just weren't ready for a relationship, but didn't know how to get out without hurting the both of us.
Y Me?: So you think I was scared of commitment?
Sarah: To say the least. But what made it worse is that you were willing to string me along, knowing full well that we were never going to get married.
Y Me?: That's not how I remember it. We were in our early 20s, and I didn't know why you wanted to rush thing s.
Sarah: That may be true, but you wouldn't even have the conversation until I broke up with you. It was really the only time we had serious talks.
Stuff like that hurts to hear, but, in retrospect, everything she said is correct. I, like many men, hate having heavy conversations. I guess the one of the things I'll take from my conversation with Sarah is that had we just been honest with one another, we probably could have avoided a lot of drama and heartbreak. I think a lot of people, myself included, hang on to relationships that aren't going anywhere because of sex. That's really not fair to anyone involved.
Sarah, by the way, is a tenured professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is happily married and has two kids. If you have ex-girlfriend/boyfriend stories you'd like to share, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.