Hot Pursuit: When You Scare Away Potential Lovers

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6f/Blindfold_%28PSF%29.png/256px-Blindfold_%28PSF%29.png

“I can’t wait.” Three words that get us into a lot of trouble. Especially in the hot pursuit of love.

Waiting is difficult. Think of the doctor’s waiting room or waiting for a traffic light to change; waiting to be interviewed or waiting in line at the grocery store. Zen practitioners tell us that these situations should not be seen as annoyances, but rather opportunities to learn patience. Indeed, there is something in that point of view, especially if you are trying to win a potential lover.

Timing counts (pun intended). Lots of questions to answer: how often to call or text, how quickly to display affection, and when to say that you have feelings for him or her.

I’m not talking about how soon to kiss or make love. As difficult as these decisions can be, many people are not troubled by outward physical acts. Rather, the issues I’m raising have to do with showing that you care, saying that the other person means something to you, not just as a sexual partner or to pass the time enjoyably.

Extremes of behavior tend to be dangerous. The anxious young lover either holds back to prevent self-disclosure or rushes in to show that he thinks the beloved is everything; that before her arrival the sun didn’t shine, the birds didn’t sing, and life was not worth living. Sometimes it causes the desired-one to run screaming into the night, as far from you as possible.

She is right to be scared if you believe that she is the center of your life after spending just two evenings with her! Pedestals are expensive and your love may have a fear of heights! The faster you run after her, the faster she will run, without the possibility of getting to know anything good about you and developing affection on her own time schedule.

Unfortunately, when you do feel this kind of urgency, the full-throttle pressure to chase your freshly-anointed favorite is almost unbearable. It is hard not to say what you are feeling or betray your emotions in some other way: by multiple purchases of candy or flowers, writing poetry, and over-doing the compliments — all with a perpetually melting gaze, the kind that puppy dogs give to their mistresses. You become so enamored of the other that your soul just aches upon hearing her voice and her smile at you makes you want to cheer.

Get a grip if you can — a big if there, my friend. Some restraint is usually necessary to give the relationship and mutual feelings time to develop. How will you know whether it is appropriate to disclose your feelings? There are usually signs that indicate when the person you fancy shares your sentiments, at least a little, and wants you to proceed. Some people probably will offer you lists of those signs. I will not.

Why? First, because if you are inclined to say the premature “I love you,” it is almost impossible not to. It just might be in your nature to walk out on to that particular plank. Secondly, I don’t have a list for you because the signs can be indecipherable without a lot of experience (and sometimes even with it).

Even more, because one needs the practice of figuring another person out. Making a fool of yourself and having your heart broken are a part of growing up and growing older. What is more, even if you know the signals, when you are in love your heart makes you do things that your brain thinks unwise.

If you keep making the first move and it always falls flat, time to get some therapy. The same would be true if you never take the risk. We all need to allow experience to instruct us.

Still — hearts were made to be broken. Romance can be a train wreck, but that dangerous ride is the only transport to a destination we long for. As Bart Giamatti said, “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” Interestingly, he was talking about baseball, but he might as well have been speaking of falling in love or anything else about which we care about deeply; and where the dream of winning is not yet fulfilled.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on,” Shakespeare said.

Dreams of love are like flowers — they need to be planted and watered; some good weather and some time to grow. Do not try to pick the just-opened bud too soon.

Do your best, but don’t expect to get this right. We humans are actually pretty bad at seeing into someone else’s soul. As terrible as it is, everyone needs some heartbreak — it helps you grow in maturity, understanding, and compassion.

Remember, almost everyone recovers.

Try again. Somewhere, somehow — someone may be waiting.

The top image is called Blindfolded Boy Chasing Another courtesy of Pearson Scott Foresman, sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

17 thoughts on “Hot Pursuit: When You Scare Away Potential Lovers

  1. Thank you. This came just at the right time. It’s the first time I’ve heard anybody speak of these feelings like is and with such compassion. It really helps. I’d love you to explore this more.

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    • drgeraldstein

      I’m delighted to hear that this was helpful. If there is something more specific that you’d like me to comment on, I would be interested to know what it is. In any case, thank you for your comment.

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      • Hello. My goodness – I have a list of things I’d like you to write about! On this theme, I would love you to write more about your gentle reminder to ‘get a grip, if you can’. What can you do when you are amidst the burning heat, and just want to do everything you describe so vividly? When the oxytocin and other such chemicals are coursing through my body, it just seems to me that I’m not myself, like I’m not even in my own body. I suppose I’d also like to discuss what to do so you don’t blow it, even if you’ve had a shaky start… I’m actually talking about someone who I just want to be friends with, despite our mutual attraction (circumstances decree that we can’t be a couple, so I don’t want to lose out on a potentially great friendship, despite it now seeming that I’ve frightened him off). Another theme that often comes to my mind is the feeling that you are just too much for people…

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      • drgeraldstein

        Well, to begin with the question of how to deal with the passing but intense events of daily life, you might want to look at this on Stoic philosophy: https://drgeraldstein.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/old-but-useful-thoughts-a-stoic-guide-to-life/ I’ll write more in a bit on one other of the questions you posed.

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      • drgeraldstein

        Here is the second part of my answer to your very interesting comment. Take a look at this: https://drgeraldstein.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/are-you-too-emotional/ In part, it deals with the question of whether a person might be considered to be “too much” for others — that is, too intense. This post and the one I mentioned in the previous email may give you a start on some possible answers to the very important questions you raised. Feel free to ask more if you wish. Take care.

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      • Dr. Stein, is there any way you could write about what to do when it seems like everything is going wrong? About those times when you start to pick yourself up, but, time and again you are dealt another blow?

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      • It is something I’ve touched on in a number of my posts, though I haven’t dealt with it in a single essay. Let me give it some thought. One of the suggestions I’ve made in the past has to do with trying to remember difficult situations in your past, why they ultimately did pass and didn’t defeat you, and what are the personal qualities in you that allowed you to persevere. You might also ask yourself why you didn’t give in to the reverses. I hope this is useful, if brief. You might also take a look at some of the older things I’ve written. You never know what you might find. Best wishes.

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      • Yes – thanks. I recall the article you are referring to. I guess most of your writing constitutes a response to my question. Your lovely article ‘lost and found’ is also helpful. It’s just that I’ve suffered 3 major blows in the last 4 weeks and 4 in the last few months and, whilst I can sometimes apply the wisdom I read on your site to difficult situations, it becomes more and more difficult when your physical resources are also becoming very depleted with so much persistent trauma. Repeated trauma can put an extra strain on the coping mechanisms you are deploying for the first blow… Just wondering how much I can take before I break, or whether it is still possible to avoid breaking no matter what happens (I suspect you can).

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      • While I can’t say anything directly about you or your situation because we’ve never met, many people have survived under the most difficult and hopeless circumstances. Think of John McCain and John Stockdale (the latter whom I’ve written about), both prisoners of war. Nelson Mandela is another name that comes to mind. I believe Angelina Jolie and the Coen Brothers have also produced a new film on a similar man. Not everyone has this capacity, but it can be encouraging to realize that a number of people do. We are the survivors of survivors — all of us. Take good care of yourself in the things you can control is always good advice. Most of the worst events are time limited even if, when we are in the midst of them, they seem to have no end. Get professional help if you need it. Best of luck.

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      • A very belated thank you for your reply, Dr. Stein. Just after I wrote, I suffered yet another blow that I wasn’t expecting at all. The love of my life then died (two days ago) and I’m now immersed in grief and emptiness. I am also expecting another death of a loved one within days, weeks at the most. I do keep thinking about the courage of Nelson Mandela, the others you mention and the extraordinary Viktor Frankl and that does help, so thank you for the suggestion. I’ll watch that film too. I just hope nothing else happens after the upcoming death, so I actually get some space to do some repair work.

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      • My condolences. Friends upon whom to lean are enormously important in situations like this. The random and sometimes terrible hand of fate can seem to have no heart. Do think, too, about counseling and medication if you find it just too much.

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      • Thanks. I think I just need to get through it and let it pass, rather than medicate it away. Im not sure what a counsellor could possibly say – I’m inconsolable. I’ve faced lots of death, but never experienced grief like this. I now know that “uncontrollable grief” is not just a phrase we use, but a thing in itself. I feel attacked by grief, it rises and I just have to let it die out until the next attack. My other experiences of grief weren’t like this (in fact, my beloved mother died recently too, but I managed to accept this). This experience is totally different. I feel like I’ll never be able to reconcile myself with this death.

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      • Death tends to separate one from the world of the living and seemingly untroubled. I don’t know if you feel this, but if you do, therapy — simply having someone care and listen — may help you to overcome this given enough time. At least I hope you do, with or without therapy. Best wishes and, again, my condolences.

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  2. Thank you very much for being so generous with your time and help – I genuinely appreciate this. I am going to take time over your posts this eve. I appreciate the reminder in your Stoic post that life can be simple and that externalizing overly is unhelpful. The Marcus Aurelius quote ““Do not waste the remainder of thy life in thoughts about others etc” is now on my quotes list. I did chase up your recommendation about looking at Zen as I am currently enduring the agonizing wait for my friend to contact me and read this useful reminder “this will pass like 10 days”. In other words, it will be tough, but nothing you can’t deal with. If you have any thoughts on waiting (a massive philosophical and existential theme I know), then I would appreciate them too. I’m probably allowing my self to be too decentered as I wait, but , even with an awareness of how unhelpful one’s actions are, it seems difficult not to get drawn into them. Waiting is causing me pain, decentredness and embarrassment. And yet I wait…. Thanks again to you.

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    • drgeraldstein

      I suspect that unless one is a Zen master, waiting is tough for all of us. That said, looking into meditation might be useful. It won’t solve the present issues confronting you, but if you stick with it (not an easy thing) it will likely be helpful in many similar situations in the future.

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  3. Thank you. The calm, compassionate and informed reminders I’ve found in your posts that emotions can be integrated into one’s life without them taking over are enough. Sometimes, you just need reminded of this, even if you knew it somewhere anyway. The power of the objective listener to help you refocus is immense. I look forward to reading your site in the future and thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom on it.

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