Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

July 18, 2007

The Role of a Lifetime

I have this tendency to be a terrific "buddy," or "pal," or sidekick (see The Buddy Comes Out to Play entry)...whatever you want to call it. I do it well. I admit that a lot of this is my own making. I've always found it much less taxing to be the smart-ass sidekick whose job is to chime in with something witty every once in a while. It's much easier than having to actually carry the movie if you know what I mean. Hell, I even got a trophy for "Best Girl Friend" in 8th grade because I was so good at playing the part.

In college, when I had the self confidence of a flea, I elevated this to an art form and managed to completely hide myself behind my leading-lady best friend. Of course, years after college it all came out that she was hiding behind her own self deceptions.

Today, after some therapy and just living life, I get it. I'm good enough to be the lead in my own movie. But I think when it comes to relationships I sometimes slip back into this supporting part. Especially when I get scared.

When I first started dating Wine Guy I was the absolute box office star of my own romantic comedy. I loved the attention, relished the compliments, and thrived off of the romance that I finally knew I deserved. This was a big change for me and it felt great.

But things calmed down a bit and the drama subsided, and I've been noticing lately that my leading lady is starting to get overshadowed by that old sidekick role of mine. I've been generally confused as to why this is happening, but today I think I came up with some sort of explanation. See if it flies with you.

Wine Guy has had several long term relationships and, from what I can tell, they all had a "best friend" quality to them. Don't get me wrong. I think that's terrific. Only Child and I had that same kind of relationship and that is why he and I can still be friends today (and why Wine Guy and Ex-Wine Gal are still good friends). But the thing is, Only Child and I became, in my opinion, too entrenched in our friendship. So much so that I think it cost us that invaluable spark that makes you think this relationship is special enough to be "The One."

In contrast, my relationship with Naval A-hole was all sparks and no friendship. So when he decided the sparks were dying down, he gave me the kind of goodbye you give someone you shared an elevator with for three floors. Not the painful goodbye you would endure for a dear friend.

So now I'm stuck in this potential no man's land. I'm glad Wine Guy and I are comfortable with each other and still manage to have that sexual spark that makes us officially "more than friends." But I'm realizing that this leaves me feeling like I'm treading dangerously close to "buddy" territory. Like the only difference between me and his other good girlfriends (of which he has many, all of whom I like) is that we happen to get naked with each other at the end of the night.

If we want to avoid this slippery slope, I think we need to discover that middle ground between what I had with Only Child (and what he had with Ex Wine-Gal) and the surreal, sparkly glow of what I had with Naval A-hole (without the A-holeness of course).

Here's the issue boiled down (and it should apply to everyone seeking "the One" in my opinion): How we treat each other and feel around each other needs to be exceptionally different than how we treat and feel with anyone else.

Of course, I have yet to articulate any of this Wine Guy. I probably should now that I'm able to actually understand what it is I'm feeling (unless perhaps he reads this himself, or one of his friends who reads this blog spills the beans). But I don't know if saying it will actually result in anything. Can you tell someone, "Hey, treat me exceptionally, would ya?!" Don't they have to kind of come up with that themselves?

I am trying to follow my mom's advice (she is a shrink after all), "Turn it around. Do for him what you want him to do for you." And I'm doing that as best I can. I just hope I can keep that smart-ass sidekick occupied with something else in the meantime.



Kelly said...

My current theory based on recent gutwrenching breakup is this: Always keep him wondering what on earth you'll do next. As long as he feels like he hasn't quite figured you out and doesn't quite know what you're going to do next, he'll keep treating you with exceptional care and attention. You're a dangerous vixen who goes hot and cold at unpredictable moments and he gets really excited when he sees you because you make him feel like he's caught something rare, valuable, and slightly scary! Men like to chase. So give them their chase. Even when you're already caught, keep changing the locks. Everyone can play this game, even the sidekick. Sexy you & Sidekick you and take turns dangling the bait. They may act like they don't like being teased but they do.

Melissa said...

That's a tough one. I don't think "sparks" last, but you should both feel on a regular basis that you are appreciated by the other person. Taking your Mom's advice might "teach" him how to show appreciation in ways that are acceptable to you. In a way, this goes deeper than how you treat each other, but also how one views life. Does he regularly think about and appreciate the positives in his life? Perhaps this would be a good time for him to take stock. We're all very fortunate to have each other, and we need to show it...somehow.

bailey said...

Straight up,--I don't like Kelly's advice. Any relationship you have to play a game in isn't "the One" you should be in forever. I guess I witnessed some of the am-I-your-buddy-or-more battle and now I understand more of where it was coming from (I was at a loss at the time). I'm going to go back to all the other things that have been going on. Has Wine Guy helped you in a caring/"exceptional" way with other crises? Or just like anybody's buddy would? Do you feel exceptionally about him? Is that part of the battle? Are you spending so much time together you can't get outside what is going on to take a more objective look at things? Again, I think you've been way too hard on yourself...and, yes, you can tell someone how you'd like to be treated. Maybe Wine Guy is in a relationship pattern with these ex-es and you don't want to be in that pattern. Go for it! I bet you'll be surprised by how much you'll get for your honest communication.

ptwelve said...

You are brilliant. It is very true that the way you feel toward each other and treat each other is what separates this from every other relationship in your life.
I am so totally rooting for you two, at the three-month mark and beyond.

Anonymous said...

You have really verbalized just what it is that makes a relationship special and more than any other kind of "love"...Being willing to go out of one's way in order to please that other person just because you know they will be pleased..but I think it's important to understand that there are times (lots of them) when life is just ordinary and hum-drum and each of you has to accept those times but still trust that the "exceptional" designation continues to apply to each of you even if taking a break..I suppose that is what's called "trust"

Michele said...

I know this will sound corny but I went to a Jewish seminar once on relationships and the speaker said the most important thing in any relationship is that you respect and are proud of your partner. If you can't look at your parter and say those two things, then it isn't a good match. I applied it to my then boyfriend now husband, and while I don't AlWAYS feel that way, I am generally very proud of him and do repect him because he is a great person. Does that help?

Dating Trooper - Dating is Warfare said...

Thanks for all your perspectives everyone! Not only does it feel great to get support from my "virtual friends", but I value each of your opinions and am taking them to heart. Michele....respect and pride in your partner are terrific guides. Thanks!

Green Daze 44 said...

I agree with the statement of respect and being proud of each other. I dated a guy for 2 years before I got married to my current husband and I respected his decisions and opinions. I was his first long term relationship after getting a divorce to his ex of 19 years, so he didn't want to get married, so I moved on. I was madly in love with him.
Anyway, I moved on and later married the guy I've been married to for 10 years now and am about to leave. I don't respect him, don't trust his decisions and am not proud of him. I have felt like this for a long time. I realized that I have never felt those things about him and just overlooked them at the time. I thought we had enough in common and we would be fine. I realize now how important it is.
As I once told a friend who was said she was tired of feeling lonely and trying to MAKE a realtionship work, "It's very lonely being married to the wrong person too."

Dating Trooper - Dating is Warfare said...

Hi Green,
Thanks for passing along what sounds like painfully earned -- but valuable-- advice. I expect you've got a big few months ahead of you but at least you are following your heart.
Thanks for sharing...