Friday, June 10, 2011

Where are the Fireworks?



I found a write up of a dating experience this morning that sounds all too familiar.

We shared a wonderful evening, never dull and very comfortable. Even the moments of silence weren’t awkward. We ended the evening with a cocktail and as we were saying our goodbyes, he leaned in for the good night kiss. He delivered a perfect little kiss on the lips; the perfect end to a perfect evening. An evening that should have left me weak in the knees and with butterflies fluttering; however, I felt nothing. No sweaty palms, no dry mouth, nothing. I drove home wondering what was wrong with me. Why didn’t my boat float? Where were the fireworks? The fireworks and butterflies are my favorite part of the dating pastime.

Am I broken? Do I need to seek professional help? Is there a pill for this? If so, sign me up because there must be something wrong with me to feel, well, nothing. I carried on in denial for several more dates. I figured that if I just “will” it hard enough, the butterflies would migrate into my soul. The fireworks would appear. Yet, after each perfect date with this wonderful man it became clearer that the migration would never happen. No matter how much I wanted to burn with desire, I never felt so much as a spark. After the fifth date, I called it off. He told me and I could see very clearly, that the spark was there for him. I didn’t want to be a tease or waste his time. I would love to have continued to go out with him as a friend, but that was not what he was looking for, nor is it what he wanted from me.


What is it with the "fireworks" anyway? Scroll through a thousand online dating posts, ask a couple dozen friends, go on a dozen dates, and you'll find that most of us are, either consciously or unconsciously, looking for fireworks. Hot chemistry. That mad attraction that we can't soak enough of up.

And when we meet someone that doesn't, for whatever reason, elicit it from us, many of us will move on. Fast. Even if the person otherwise might be a great partner.

So, what gives?

In my own experience, the relationships that started with hot, passionate chemistry died a quick death. The fire brought us together, but once it cooled a bit, we really weren't a good match for each other. Some psychologists argue that such passionate, fire-filled beginnings often are coming from matching wounds from the past. That the coming together isn't about love and longevity, but more about co-habiting dysfunctions hoping to heal each other. Most of the spiritual teachings I study also caution against believing the stories we have around desire, precisely because they are designed to get us to go out and pursue whatever it is that is desired.

Related to this is another set of issues. We want it All to happen Now. We don't want to "waste time," and find out later that someone "wasn't right." But how can you know, if you don't actually take some time to get to know someone? An hour and a half over coffee or dinner isn't enough to get to know anyone, but you'd be hard pressed to find a roomful of singles who don't believe that these days. Furthermore, in addition to being impatient, many of us fail to register more subtle passions for another because we're too busy looking for, or "trying to will," something that will burn a city block down when/if it comes.

Now, the woman above seems to have given it a shot. She went on several dates. She questioned herself. She recognized the many great qualities this guy had. I probably would have considered breaking it off myself, worried that I might end up leading the other on.

At the same time, because she was pushing so hard for the fire, I wonder if she might have missed the slowly building hot coals beneath the surface.

And this also points to the ways in which relationships have become, for many of us, so compartmentalized and narrative-bound that we fail to experience the myriad of depths available.

Perhaps you spend a time with someone where a level of passion never develops, but which is filled with wonderful memories none the less. Or perhaps you go for the hot, sexy romance, but stay awake to the fact that it's likely to fizzle out at some point. Or perhaps something else happens all together.

Fireworks are totally fun and exciting. But even the best displays end fairly quickly. Sure, they can, and do return, which is wonderful. However, no lasting relationship can really be built upon heat alone.

5 comments:

  1. I totally agree that those relationships that start off with that intense, loins-afire thing tend to burn out pretty quickly. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me! But now I find myself RUNNING from it when it does happen. Knee-jerk reaction? Perhaps. How long does one give a person for this to develop? 2 dates? 3 dates? Where is that happy medium?

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  2. I've been thinking about this a lot, especially because I've had an array of experiences. I had a 12-year-marriage (ending in death) where there were never really fireworks from the chemistry perspective, but it was exciting in other ways.

    Next, I gave a super-compatible guy a shot, even though I never felt even a little chemistry. That was a mistake, and shouldn't have gone beyond a few dates.

    But then, I met my current fiance, and the sparks really flew. I now understand why people go off the deep end and make really bad decisions based on this. Fortunately, I think we were both mature enough to take it for what it was, while making sure that the really important things that make us compatible in the long run were also present.

    The chemistry doesn't mean it's going to be a bad relationship. It just means you need to be aware that you might not be thinking straight for a while.

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  3. Yes, I do agree that hot chemistry doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a flame out experience. I try to remain open in the beginning, regardless. But I tend to be slower to act on any chemistry there might be. Learning to not act on the fantasies about how good a kiss or sex might be has been an important skill for me.

    "Where is that happy medium?" I don't know exactly. It probably is a little different every time. Sometimes, it's clear you shouldn't be together right away. Other times, you have to spend some time getting to know each other before you're awareness about the situation becomes clearer, one way or another.

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  4. I'm a butterfly chaser. New relationship energy is amazing and fun and all too brief. I have finally come to the point in my life where I am happy in my marriage and have the freedom to experience the fireworks and the butterflies in an open and honest fashion.

    I still have jealousy issues every now and then, but I think the right decision has been made.

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  5. it's so true, almost every dating situation which will start amazingly well will certianly end up amazingly bad for both of us!! at least that's what's happening to me.

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