(This article I wrote originally appeared in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, May 21st, 2010 edition)
In the movie “It’s Complicated,” Meryl Streep plays Jane, an ex-wife who falls prey to the seductive suggestions of her narcissistic ex-husband, Jake, played by (who else but) Alec Baldwin. The other suitor, Adam (Steve Martin), has only his nice-guy disposition to offer Jane, and is that enough? It’s her job to get her head straight and pick the right one. Of course, we all know who she chooses – this is Hollywood – but real dating is something else.
Considering the dating process, watching the movie got me thinking about how we sometimes say we want one thing, but we’re really feeling something quite different inside. Sometimes, we’re saying we want a good date, or a good man or woman, but we’re still holding onto our past pain and hurt in our hearts. Our dating behavior, and our hearts, then end up split. Going out into the dating world, we communicate mixed messages to the people we go out with. We become unpredictable and erratic, both to ourselves and to our potential partners when it comes to commitment or healthy decision-making. We don’t know what we want, or aren’t listening to ourselves, so how do we expect others to?
It’s hard to really be invested in the dating process when we’re closed off to love. If we take a step back and look objectively at our situation, it’s often our minds saying we want growth and a new partner, yet our hearts are filled with a lot of fear and pain about having been burned before. Sometimes we haven’t worked through the emotions and grief associated with a previous relationship’s heartbreak, and every new dating experience may then accumulate the thin residue of that broken heart.
Months or years can go by, and we can stay stuck where we are. Love is passing us by, and we feel helpless to stop it. We want the happiness associated with love and partnership, but still want to blame the opposite sex for being goofy or cruel. Not that they can’t be, but to keep the conversation stuck there is to not admit what we can do to change our current situation. We fail to take responsibility for ourselves, especially for clearing out the emotional blockage.
I’m not saying there aren’t certain negative truths about dating, because there certainly are. Frustration, confusion and anger are often byproducts of the crazy nature of dating, but we can work through those if we want love, and want to stay open to letting love in. Dating is not an easy process whatsoever, especially if you’re coming into the dating scene after many years of being committed. It can be scary and alienating, and might make you question what you got yourself into. It can leave us questioning many fundamental things about ourselves.
Clearing the emotional blocks to our happiness is a hard task. It requires introspection and a little hard work. It means letting go of some of the types of thoughts that have employed our misery. It’s easier said than done, of course, but sometimes we need to work through the grief that someone has left us, or worse, abandoned us for someone else. We have to work on our own well-being and worthiness, and boost our own dating self-esteem. Because for every stereotypical guy or girl – for every Jake – there is an Adam out there.