Hot Pursuit: When You Scare Away Potential Lovers

“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.