Interview With a Lover
I was married for a really long time, and then my husband and I split up.
I wish it were that simple. I was alone by choice for several years. I remained married in my mind if not on paper and insisted on maintaining (with a death grip) my own self-imposed isolation from the dating world. Then, after several years of this lonely nonsense I decided to get my groove back, shake off my love martyrdom and get back out there. Almost immediately I met Someone Else and I almost married him right out of the gate without considering any other candidates and without entertaining what other choices might possibly be behind door number two and three. I shop for clothes the same way: I see something I like, so I buy it before thinking about what could go wrong if I take it home and it doesn’t fit.
Sadly, life with Someone Else didn’t work out either, and I have now checked myself (sighhhhh) into another extended stint away from the dating world. I give up. It hurts too much. And people are odd.
Lying in bed watching SATC reruns in the middle of the afternoon on my long, quiet weekends, my linear-thinking mind comes up with some ridiculous yet ingenious solutions to all the world’s dating woes. I have real, marketable theories about how people could better vet a mate, but I doubt anyone would consider helping me test them.
Yet, here they are today…my thoughts…in a column in the New York Times! I was shocked and elated! There IS someone out there who thinks like me.
My idea is to stop the old-as-Methuselah dating rituals that include weeks and weeks of “dating-on-our-very-best-behavior.” I want to end the practice of just trying to get to know the best parts of a new love interest and to instead find out all the bad things about them first. Take any man. Let’s name him Joe. What would Joe’s ex say about him? If I were able to have dinner with her just once, would I not find out right off the bat if there was any point in accepting a second date? I know myself; I know what I like and what I don’t like. It should be that easy.
Who knows better about what could possibly go wrong with Joe than the person it had already gone wrong with?
I imagined a dark corner in a restaurant over wine. Me and the Ex, hashing out what I could expect. I would encourage her to be honest, but not mean. I would want her to be forthright and tell me straight up what he would be like after the newness wore off. I wouldn’t want her to be vindictive, and I would hope she still had some admiration left for the guy. If she didn’t, well there’s a clue. Wouldn’t it be helpful to collaborate with someone who hadn’t quite forgotten the dark parts of his personality but who could still remember the good qualities about the man she used to love, too? I would buy her dinner, and I would try to get her just drunk enough to spill the truth. Here are the questions I would ask:
- Is he stingy/frugal/reckless with money? (This tells me how independent he is.)
- Does he have good credit? (This tells me if he is reliable.)
- Does he play too many video games? (This tells me if he is mature.)
- Is he addicted to or obsessive about anything? (This tells me if he is controlling.)
- How does he react when something doesn’t go his way? (This tells me if he is emotionally stable.)
- How was your sex life? (This tells me if he knows how to treat a woman.)
- Has he ever lied or cheated? (This tells me if he is honest and loyal.)
- How does he treat his mother? (This tells me if he has integrity and character.)
- How does he interact with his kids? (This tells me if he is responsible.)
- How did he behave toward you when his relationship with you ended? (This tells me if he is a genuinely good person.)
There’s no score to tally and no magic formula to apply to see if the guy measures up or not. There’s no guarantee about anything to be found in these answers. These are just the things that are super important to me. If I had these answers, I could walk away from the evening knowing a lot more about the snags I might expect if I decided to pursue a relationship with Joe. Every woman has things that are deal-breakers. These are mine.
Naturally, I applied my line of questioning to both my marriage and to my relationship with Someone Else. In both cases, a nice, quiet dinner with their exes would have revealed everything I needed to know about both men before I ever got to know them myself, because many of the same behaviors existed in their prior relationships. I wish I had known, just to know, because people really don’t change.
By the same token, I imagined a potential suitor asking these questions of my exes about me. It gives me pause, which is good. It gives me perspective and enlightenment about what men might be looking for, too. The one thing I forced myself to learn from my failed relationships is what fault I carried in their ruin. In the event that I ever throw my hat back into the dating ring, I certainly hope that I am a better, happier, more mature, more giving, and more understanding partner than I was before.
Just for fun, why don’t you give it a try? Next time you’re at dinner with your favorite Someone Special, pretend to be dining with his new girlfriend and vice versa, with the objective being to extend your most intimate knowledge of each other, to each other. What would you say about him to a new woman? What would he say about you in the same situation?
Allow me to point you towards the New York Times article I stumbled across today. Their questions are the flip side of this coin…how to get straight to the point with a new love interest or how to reconnect with an old one and get down to the nitty gritty about your compatibility in a single, thoughtful evening. The link is below, and Mandy Len Catron’s own research is convincing. Good Luck!