I don’t like it when people take me on merely a first impression. People are too complex. Ok, I think I am too complex. I don’t believe you meet me once and understand who I am nor my motivations, desires, values or needs.
Someone told me if you listen very closely at the beginning of a relationship, the other person will tell you who they are. But you have to listen very closely and based on my experience you have to want to hear that truth. Think back, that girlfriend that you could never figure out mentioned quite fleetingly “but I don’t want to just use you, to get through this rough emotional spot… I mean… I really care for you…” How about “I either stay way too long in relationships or leave too early.” Did you pay attention to “I’m commitment phobic so when I feel that pressure… well when I did with Suzie, I ended up naked in a hot tub with someone else.”

For each of our own reasons we hear these things and filter out that red flag. Ok, let’s call it a red flashing light. We take the good qualities we see in someone and we overlay with this flashing red light. We take that piece of information and discard it – when it’s really crucial. The hardest part is balancing the good with the bad, particularly when you want to buy what this person is selling – and trust me, everyone sells.

What I am finding is it’s taking far longer than I had imagined to really get to know people. Even at 40, I didn’t realize this before. I thought as I got older, this would get easier. Naively I thought as others aged around me they would drop the crap and get honest. I have found dating and relationships *seemed* easier in my mid-twenties. I was most likely just younger and not putting as much thought into them.

I’ve also realized people aren’t as into self-improvement as I am. While I look at my patterns and truly want to change, there are those who merely throw up a label as a warning and disclaimer. From that moment on, they claim no responsibility for their actions or reactions. The emotional shrapnel and bodies they leave in their wake are a mere consequence of those who wandered into the path of this poor person who’s been wounded… who has been hurt by others… who carries this cross… and refuses to grow up like the rest of us and get therapy.

And on that note, I realize I am the one that needs to change. When I pay attention the stories have similar plots and the endings are starting to look the same – and I can make some changes on my end about that. Most importantly, I can change what I pick. I can heed those red flashing lights in the very beginning. When I know it’s important that someone is considerate and I say “I’ve had a bad day” and the other person responds via text with “yeah, me too” and seven other messages come in about their bad day… finally signing off with a “Good night baby”… I can listen to that still small voice that says to me, “I want more”. And – it’s okay to want more.

One thing I’m finding as time goes by is my gut is getting better… that still small voice speaks to me a lot – tells me about that cover, and as I get to see more of the story, most of the time, I’m right.