In all of the years of being a relationships ‘expert’ as a therapist, writer, minister and teacher, I have been a sponge, willing to soak up new ideas and information to squeeze out on those in my personal and professional life. Recently, a paradigm shifting and shaking idea came from the husband of my friend Monique Darling as he offers snippets of suppositions on social media. I have not yet met Nathan Darling, but admire his openness and thought provoking wisdom.
He was describing a scenario in which you are on date with someone who touches your heart and who intrigues you. You observe that the feelings are not returned in kind as that person seems to be drawn to another at the same party. There are a few options here.
- You can feel hurt, miffed or rejected.
- You can be happy for that other person, as embodied as a concept known as compersion.
- You can encourage your date to go and talk to the person of their interest, or as Nate suggested, speak to them yourself to see if there is mutual attraction.
The higher ground action would be the third, but unless you are well versed in and comfortable with the second, you are likely to drown in the first; or at least splash around in it. What if we really could make it acceptable that someone we feel a certain way about, has those kinds of feelings about someone else? What if it in no way lessens our value? How about it we could be magnanimous as we step away from attachment to being seen in a certain way?
The thoughts that may arise include those of unworthiness, of being not enough or too much, feelings that harken back to junior high school experiences of having someone you have the hots for, having less than thermogenic feelings about you. He then posed an option that had me gulping with an, ‘oh sh*t, that’s me,’ reaction. It was about the idea of being chosen. Since I was a child, I have had this desire to be loved best of all. The first born, although I consciously didn’t feel threatened by the birth of my sister, I somehow internalized the idea that if I was to maintain my role as the golden child, I had better be on my toes. And so I tap danced my way into people’s hearts and lives. I dazzled and entertained. I charmed and nurtured. I read them well and anticipated their needs before they could express them. I did my best to insure my place with them. And then I felt guilty, needy and embarrassed to be feeling that way. Even as a mature and seasoned woman, I am plagued by that howling banshee. “What do you mean that person is paying attention to someone else and not you? Why would you want to work for attention when it should come naturally?” What I have been able to muster is a response that sounds like, “Just because that person doesn’t choose you, it doesn’t mean that you are unworthy of being chosen and perhaps you are being redirected to something more fulfilling, rather than rejected. In retrospect, I have been able to affirm that insight. While in the midst of it, it just plain sucked. One way to silence the banshee has been to agree with her, even if just temporarily. She has nothing to bump up against and is likely to slink back into her cave.
Nate then spoke about the idea of facilitating joy. If you are remembered as the person who helped your friend meet other friends, even if it seems like it is at your expense, then you are likely to be a welcome part of both their lives. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom in most cultures, since we are taught that if someone else wins, then I lose. A zero sum game. What if it could, instead, be measured as a win-win?
I have a dear friend who once upon a time was the subject of my desire. We met at a party in 2001 and there was instantaneous soul recognition that I read as being budding romantic attraction on both our parts. We spent time together and at one point he told me that as much as he loved me, he wasn’t sure why he couldn’t return my amorous feelings in kind. He had just met someone else toward whom he shared a ‘blinded me with science’ chemistry. They married and had a child, but our friendship deepened, because he had been honest with me AND because he followed through on the dedication to our platonic relationship. He checks in with me often. We are part of the same community. He is affectionate when we see each other. He calls me a sweet nickname. I never doubt our connection. I never second guess, despite the initial disappointment. I am friends with his wife as well. A definite win-win. A choice to be happy.
Couple talking photo available from Shutterstock