I’m going to tell you a story about a man I dated named Jacob.
Jacob was a textbook extrovert. He had a loud, infectious laugh, and an irreverent sense of humour.
He preferred the company of men – that was clear from the outset. He had an enormous group of friends, and an active social life. Part of me envied it.
But emotionally, he was completely withdrawn. I dug and dug hoping to find something, though I didn’t know what exactly. But I hit concrete. As I looked at him across the table at a restaurant one night, certain he hadn’t listened to anything I’d said for the last 20 minutes, I realised, “This is it – this is all there is to him.”
I didn’t break up with Jacob, of course. I just lived with the growing sense of inadequacy, knowing that nothing I said could ever keep his attention.
And after Jacob and I broke up, I dated ‘Jacob’ again. Not Jacob the person, but Jacob-the-type.
There was something very familiar and comfortable about The Jacob. I knew exactly what I was dealing with.
The thing about The Jacob, was that he did pursuing. I never had to leave my comfort zone. The Jacobs of the world come to you.
And then one day, after I’d been single for three years and had sworn firmly off The Jacobs, I began wondering about the men who, literally and figuratively, stood behind Jacob. The ones who don’t find approaching girls so effortless.
Albert Einstein famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”
And when it comes to dating, we’re all f*cking insane.
Problems that are familiar are problems nonetheless, and I knew - intellectually - that The Jacobs were not good for me.
If I were meant to date a Jacob, I wouldn't have ended up so desperately single, with countless awful dating experiences.
My comfort zone was small, and inevitably sending me around in circles.
The thing is, it is entirely possible to fall in love with the idea of someone who is not nice to us, or good for our long-term happiness. We fall in love with what we hope they will one day become.
And that is the fundamental difference between chemistry and compatibility.
When it comes to choosing a partner, the majority of us have no idea what we're doing. For most of human history, in the words of Mark Manson, "marriage was arranged by the parents... because they were the ones with the objective perspective on whether their kid was marrying a fuckface or not."
Advertising, romantic movies, weddings songs and every other scrap of popular culture, have worked hard to convince us that love is meant to hit you over the head with unparalleled intensity. It's meant to take your breath away, make you trip over your own feet, and consume you so fully you feel like you might be going mad.
And that is a lie.
A friend said to me once that what you want is the kind of love that gets stronger everyday. At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about.
But you get that from dating someone you're compatible with.
If you've always gone for someone who's an extroverted, rugby playing, boys-boy with two dogs and three siblings, then try something different.
You might not feel the chemistry immediately - and it's not because it's not right. It's because it's not familiar.
What we think we want and what we actually need are often two different things. And I know which one makes you happier.
Right now, I'm dating Thomas.
Thomas is an introvert. He has male friends, but probably prefers the company of women. He is better one on one than in a group. He makes me laugh harder than I've ever laughed.
Instead of digging and finding concrete, I've come across water, and I can't see the bottom.
When I met him, I didn't fall in love at first sight. In fact, I wasn't sure. Early on, we went to the movies and he cried. I didn't know what to do with that. I had no compass to navigate a relationship with someone who was in touch with their emotions.
If I'd met him at a pub, or a friend had described him to me, or he'd popped up on Tinder, I would have dismissed him immediately. He is the complete opposite to my type.
And it is for that reason, that I'm happier than I've ever been.
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