Tag Archives: dating vs. relationship

The Dilemma of the Feeling Man: Stoic vs. Romantic


A while back I had the problem. A woman who was “dating” me didn’t want to admit to dating or even having a relationship. Something about that commitment, even saying the words, bothered her. Scared her. And yet we continued on in a “relationship” for a while. We limped along, in fits and starts and breakups.

She would break up with me when she felt things were getting too close. If I wrote a love poem, she broke up with me. If I said something too close to home, she broke up with me. So, with her anyway, I learned to be more circumspect. More withdrawn with my feelings and joy at being with her. I didn’t want to scare her off, but I was also a bit compromised in my expressions. Okay, so what was going on?

A recent post, brought some of this issue to light for me. From SkinnyandSingle blog:

Why did the chick cross the road?
To get away from the wonderful man who is falling in love with her.

I think most of us are afraid of this. We say we want it, but we sure throw our boots on and run like hell when it’s happening, don’t we?

Okay, so she’s talking about married men being more attractive to her. I think the issue is, the married man, is unavailable and that makes him safe and more alluring.  So what about the stoic man makes him more attractive than the deep-feeling romantic?

Perhaps at some level we are not willing or ready to “fall in love.” It’s an intoxicating feeling, and out of control. When love is in full bloom your senses and sensibility at taking a free fall. Both of my marriages were the result of a drugged-state of lust and love. Often it is hard to separate the two feelings. Sexual heat, and long-term compatibility do not necessarily go hand in hand, and in my case I’m 0-for-2 on that count. It might actually be the love-drug that is most frightening. At risk is the heart as much as the mind. If it’s just sexual, and just stoic then we can bypass the risk. Well, at least we think we can.

For a feeling person that running away is the biggest fear. If we allow ourselves to go deep into the passionate heart and we are left holding it in our hands as the partner runs away, it’s devastating.

But at some level we are skipping the depth of feeling that comes from opening up fully to the good as well as potentially negative effects of falling in love. I think the romantic believes in love, and believes and craves this intoxicated bliss. And I’m certain it can also become an addiction, preventing long-term and solid relationships, when the drug wears off, the addict will go searching for the next “high.”

And while I crave the high, I’m okay with the buzz too. And sobering up enough to assess the core of the relationship. At least that’s my hope. But what is so attractive about a man who stays aloof? With this previous relationship, I almost felt like the more I ignored her texts, the longer I waited to respond to a request, the more alluring I became to her. If I was too available, too eager, it frightened her off.

For a feeling person that running away is the biggest fear. If we allow ourselves to go deep into the passionate heart and we are left holding it in our hands as the partner runs away, it’s devastating. So we learn to curb our enthusiasm. We learn that love poems are for “later.” Or maybe for “never.” Is there value in the love poem? Am I really writing to the woman I am with, or am I writing to the woman I imagine, the ideal woman?

In another early dating negotiation, I met a woman who seemed interested, and who was highly attractive to me. But when I reach for the second date, she mentioned this other person, “she was seeing.” What? Um, why did she reach out to me?

As we emailed over the next few weeks, me in the friendzone, she complained about this man who was unable to express his feelings. Stoic. Maybe he was playing the aloof card to manipulate her, in some attempt to keep her interested. It sure killed my “romantic” play. As this woman and I communicated over the next few months, he broke her heart. And I continued to profess, “Well, we could go out,” and to no avail. When she also showed up on the dating site I have a profile on, I was again confused. “What’s happening?” I asked.

Even though the chemistry seemed to be good for me, and she said it was for her, something about the timing, or the risk of my overtly “romantic” personality was a turn off to her. And she continued to wax poetic on Facebook about her lack of companionship. Oh well, seems like she was continuing to hunt for the stoic. Of course, she was romantic herself, and perhaps that was the risk. Two romantics together, might make for some uncomfortable projections and unrealistic fantasies.

When she continued to push and pull, I began to feel a bit scraped up by the pushes. While my romantic heart is resilient, and my “casual” commitment was in place, I wanted someone to fall in love with.

At is goes, the stoic or fearful woman, eventually wore me down. And my squelched romanticism was too much to bear. I had to go on looking, even though she was who I wanted. I learned that if the HEAT is not reflected, or if the “run-away” response is too  pronounced it begins to be a buzz kill. There’s a lot of passion, but if you have to moderate all the time, perhaps it’s not a fit.

So what is it about my silences that kept her wanting more, and my love songs that freaked her out? Do women want romantic love? Or was it just too soon for this woman, to be ready for the heady fall? After a while the jokes, I’m “just teasing,” began to feel like distancing techniques. And I got tired of always having to let the jokes roll off my back. If I rose to the occasion, and bantered back, the results were ALWAYS BAD. She loved to dish it out, but couldn’t stand to have some of her “teasing” tossed back at her.

So when she continued to push and pull, I began to feel a bit scraped up by the pushes. While my romantic heart is resilient, and my “casual” commitment was in place, I was wanting someone to fall in love with. I guess I still am. And if that object of affection is freaked out by the very idea of love…

Okay, so how is a stoic man attractive? Because he is unavailable? Because he needs winning? It’s not me, but I could learn to be more reserved. If I wanted to. I don’t. Moving right along…

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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reference: All the good ones are married – Skinnyandsingle

image: romantic moment in amsterdam, monique broekhuisen, creative commons usage

Learning About Sex and Dating As We Go Along

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 7.55.42 AMI learned a couple of things yesterday that turned a light on in my brain. In the spirit of self-examination, and self-deprecating humor, I thought I would share and illuminate them for you as well.

Learning #1: Dating is not marriage. In fact, dating (which I admittedly don’t know much about) can be shut down by getting too serious or too future-plans oriented. As my schedule and future is quite flexible, I was surprised how quickly my “relationship” concepts changed yesterday when confronted with a challenging dilemma. On one hand I had met and “dated” an amazing woman. One the other she was telling me how our closeness and chemistry was freaking her out. And my reaction to the fourth letter in a series of Dear John letters was to accept her appraisal that we weren’t really all that well matched.

Perhaps I just wasn’t listening, I thought. She was trying to be clear with me, we were not really a match, and she was in no way ready to be a couple. Wait, what? “Okay,” I responded. “I am disappointed, but I will accept your judgement.” And that night I went to sleep saddened that I had missed or lost an opportunity for growth, and maybe some more great sex.

I’m not sure what I dreamed about, but I know my inspiration was a lot lower when I woke up the next morning. And even after two cups of coffee the bright enthusiasm was not returning. How close do we have to get in the early stages of a “relationship?” (Oh, the R word.) What if we just kept it casual, and “dated?” But wait, hadn’t I just stated that the “long-term potential was critical to my plans” in a previous post? Hadn’t I just sent her the Dating a Single Dad post?

I was imagining giving her a quick exit. Another one of my strategies when given a less than enthusiastic response, has been to withdraw all energy towards that person and use that momentum towards some creative project or goal. So I was initially quiet when she texted me a nice “You’re great, it’s not you” message. I took the confused feelings and dug into my writing for the entire day.

But something stuck in my heart. Something didn’t feel right. I was not the cold type to just freeze someone out, when the spark and energy had been SO right. By 10pm my resolve or strategy was cast aside and I texted back.

“You did not do anything wrong. I’m not mad, I’m disappointed. You too were great. Namaste.”

And then I headed back off to dreamland, at least feeling like I had proposed the repair that might mean friendship, even if my heart would be at further risk of attachment.

And again some transformative sleep brought another level of acceptance and peace, so that when she suggested playing tennis the following day, I was excited and open to the idea. I measured my response and checked in with my heart. I would keep it within renewed boundaries. If I didn’t venture my heart perhaps I wouldn’t be so dependant on her response.

Learning 2: 90% of our relationship hangups and aspirations are in our heads, and perhaps it’s okay for most of them to stay there. See, as I was professing “going slow” and “openness to whatever” I was ramping up my activity in a way that said, “Let’s do this! Let’s be together. Let me be a step dad to your son, I’m a great role model.”


Even that was too far for me. My imagination, my internal romantic clock had gotten off and I was shooting way ahead of our relationship and knowledge of each other.

Learning #3: Stay in the present. When you get ahead of yourselves you tend to idolize or catastrophize in your visions of the future. And the future is NOT where it’s at. It’s about being open and honest with the time you spend together and learning what works and what doesn’t.

In my past, jumping too far into the WE was disastrous. And this moment was no different. But now, we had no driving desire to make plans, only driving DESIRE. It’s important not to confuse desire with love or marriage. Desire is critical to the success of a relationship, but the R comes a lot later.

I don’t have much experience in the D (dating) post divorce. The game has changed and my intentions and priorities have changed. I am full of contradictions. That’s okay. I may profess that I’m only interested in a Relationship while also saying I’m all about going slow. While the two things aren’t mutually exclusive they do present internal conflicts rather frequently.

But I am also a learning individual. I can adapt and make changes in my plans and trajectories. So while I was thinking I had lost orbit and was shooting away for some new destination. I may have been only slowing to the gravitational pull of this amazing lady, and learning what her fears and passions were as well. By trying to adhere to some map I had of what I wanted, I risked another journey into  the dark aloneness of outer space.

Today we played tennis. That’s enough.

My new mantra: Reset, review, and repeat what works. Stay present.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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