Last week was an interesting one for me. I returned to L.A. after spending a week in Chicago, mulling over a couple of conversations I'd had with a client while I was there.
I asked him if I could share his story with you, not using his real name and details of course, as I felt there were some lessons here that would benefit my readers. He gave me his permission to do just that.
So, we'll call him Jim for the sake of this story.
Now Jim is a very fortunate man. He's fifty, fit and financially sound. He divorced eight years ago, has grown-up kids and a couple of young nephews he loves as if they were his own. He owns his own business which he's built from the ground up, and which makes him a VERY good living. He plays golf, is passionate about cars, and takes vacations in Hawaii and the Caribbean. In short Jim lives the kind of life many of us would love to be living.
But of course something was missing. Love.
Jim needed to fill the space in his heart, so out and about he went to find a soul mate. He met women online and offline; through dating agencies and friends; through well meaning matchmakers and at professional gatherings; at the theater and even on a plane once. Jim dated some lovely women, but the problem was that none of them was PERFECT.
Jim by now was so set in his ways, that he didn't know how to make room in his life for another 'real person'--he had an image in his head, his dream woman, and none of the real, emotional, flawed HUMAN people he met, seemed to measure up to his 10 out of 10 vision of perfection.
And then he met her. Picture perfect, young, fresh, flawless. He fell hard, just like those avalanches I was talking about last week--completely, chaotically, loudly and MESSILY. Anyone caught in his path got swept away. She was the ONE. Jim moved heaven and earth to woo this delectable young lady, with the face as smooth and beautiful as a piece of fine porcelain. They started dating.
At first all went well. Jim swept her off her feet with lavish dinners, trips to the Spa, weekends away in Vegas, and even a surprise trip to Paris. He bought her gifts, jewelry and flowers every week.
At first she seemed to enjoy Jim's company as much as he did hers. They would talk intensely, laugh at each others jokes, have fun and of course make crazy 'passion.' But before too long, within a matter of only a few weeks, Jim noticed some troubling signs. She's was irritable with him, seemed distracted--bored even. She's make excuses not to see him on certain nights, and when she did, wasn't as affectionate as before.
And her demands got greater too. She was unimpressed with the one carat earrings, and under-whelmed with anything that wasn't from Prada, Channel or some equally prestigious brand name...
Jim started trying harder. More expensive gifts, more exotic trips away, a credit card with a $25,000 limit, and even a sports car. He took more time away from his business, a day here and there, and then a week, or even two. He'd go in late in the mornings, but was struggling to put his heart back in it at all...all he could think about was her, and the creeping dread that he was about to lose his dream.
He started driving by her house those evenings he wasn't with her, snooping through her pockets when he was. Jim got more desperate, she got more dismissive and disgusted with him, and the whole thing spiraled into a car wreck of a situation.
She left him of course. And Jim is still paying a heavy price. Not only did he spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to buy her affection, but he let his business go downhill too, and is now desperately trying to get back to where he was before he met her. It's going to take a long time. Lots of customers are not generous with second chances as Jim is discovering. He let himself go as well, physically, emotionally and mentally. His confidence is battered too.
Jim found out things about himself that he really didn't like: his poor judgement, his superficiality, his almost-adolescent grabbing for a girl half his age, his innate jealousy, his willingness to sacrifice his self-respect. He learnt how fragile the whole facade of his life had been, and how easily it could collapse. These are valuable lessons indeed, but I know Jim would rather never have had to learn them. Yup, Jim squandered money, friendships, peace of mind--even success--chasing vaporware.
Jim knows now that he was wrong-headed. He was thinking with his ego, and his libido, not his heart. That he mistook yearning, for loving. He tried to make something fit that was never going to, like shoes that are way too tight but you keep wearing regardless of blisters, pain and ugly rubbing, because you think if you persevere you'll finally mould those darn shoes to fit you. Yup, Jim was trying to make the wrong shoes fit.
I wanted to share Jim's story, as it's one that as a Life Coach, I see way too often in different versions and flavors. As more and more folks get divorced a great many find themselves single and hopeful that they will get a chance to find love a second, or even third, time around. Some carry a ton of old emotional baggage, others arrive at this place, mature and confident (just like Jim), but nearly all of them arrive with unreasonable expectations. Too many end up trying to force-fit their ideals into a too-tight shoe.
I am a great believer in soul mates. I know that when you are with the right person, it may not be all sweetness and light, you might verbally tussle with each other now and again, you may disagree on lots of things, you may enjoy different past-times, and have different ambitions. You may like different foods, have different friends, spend a lot of time apart, disagree on politics, and vacations. But I also know that NONE of that matters as long as you share a deep mutual trust, respect, affection and connection; an easiness and an openness so that whenever you are together it feels just like coming home after a long, hard trip; a sense of 'safeness' born of knowing that your back is covered by your best friend; a shared, quiet delight in each other that's hard to explain, but that seeps into your bloodstream, warms your heart and that you slip on like a favorite pair of snug, soft, comfortable slippers.
If you're struggling to decide if you're in the right relationship, just ask yourself one simple question: "Am I Trying To Make The Wrong Shoes Fit?"