On my 27th birthday, my best friend (who at that time was just a guy I’d recently re-met after we’d both moved to San Francisco a month earlier) drove me up to the top of Twin Peaks and stopped his car. We looked out at the beautiful lights before us and the city we’d come to call home, and he told me to wait a minute, then went to his trunk -- and came back with a birthday cake, full of lit candles. He sang “Happy Birthday” to me, and my jaw dropped -- my friends never remember my birthday, let alone bring me cake. He then went on to tell me that over the last month while we were getting to be good friends, he realized that he had more than friendly feelings for me and was wondering if I felt the same. It was an incredibly romantic gesture -- but I felt no romantic or sexual feelings for him at all. Zilch. I was very honest with him; I’m sure it stung a little, but he got over it and we remained great friends.
Over the next two years, I watched him fall for the same girl over and over: charismatic, energetic, full-of-life women who wanted to sleep around and be rootless. Which would be fine - except for that what my best friend wants more than anything in the world is to be a married father. He’s a traditional guy who believes in traditional gender roles. And he will be the best dad ever -- that is, if he can ever manage to fall for a woman who wants the same things he wants in life. He’s not doing anything to seek out this woman; rather, he’s putting his happiness in the hands of fate, as most of us do. As we’re told to do by every romantic comedy ever made.
He complained to me for years about how no women ever liked him back because he was just “too nice.” He’s not a Dr. NerdLove Nice Guy ™ -- he actually is a nice person -- but he chooses the wrong people. He looks for his “type” instead of women he’s actually compatible with. I finally told him this recently after he and his fiancée broke up because she’s not ready to get married. And while I was telling him that he should specifically be on dating sites looking for women who want a serious long-term relationship and children, it hit me: I am absolutely fucking terrible (I'm sure most of us are) at taking my own advice. My whole life I, too, have been dating people who I was immediately physically and mentally attracted to because they were my “type” instead of looking for people who want the same things I want. And as I was recently forced to figure out exactly what it is I do want*, I thought it might be an excellent idea to use that to my advantage.
This year I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with a couple of men who I would never have pictured myself with, and they’ve both been really wonderful experiences. I feel cared for and valued, and much happier because of it. I finally started seeking out people who have a similar communication style to me and who want similar things in a relationship instead of just expecting people to fall out of the sky in front of me. And surprise! It’s working. Intentionality is a beautiful thing.
The moral of the story is: Figure out who you are and what you want, and specifically and purposefully look for people who also want these things. Because amazing things can happen when you do.
*I used the questions at the end of the chapters in More Than Two; seriously, I cannot recommend this book enough.