I've talked about my often-disastrous relationships in a number of my columns, and every time I do, I get dozens of messages from people asking me to elaborate. Not that I'm an expert -- it's more like how you see a guy come screaming out of the woods covered in bees and you ask him where he found the hive, so you can avoid it.
So, the most common question I get (besides "Will you please stop sending me pictures of your penis?") is "How do I know if this is the one?" which I think is a stealth way of asking me, "How can I avoid the hellish divorce that haunts your memories?"
Well, if you want to avoid the bees, I say you should always keep in mind ...
If you try to pet 49 stray cats, and all of them embed their claws in your forearm, you're going to assume that the 50th will, too. Even if it's purring and rubbing all over your ankles, you bury your hands in your pockets and punt that fucker like the winning field goal at the Super Bowl.
Since most of us don't find our "true love" on the first shot, we're cursed to endure attempt after attempt at connecting with people who we normally wouldn't allow into the trunk of our car, let alone our personal, emotional space. After a while, we learn that dating equals pain ... and I can't speak for women, but guys tend to emotionally shut down to avoid that pain. They build a phony version of themselves to send on dates on their behalf, learning to fake their way through simple smalltalk in hopes of constructing a panties rug at the foot of their bed.
Works every time, baby.
The problem is that if you wall yourself off from every single person you meet, the chances of skipping right past the one who is actually compatible with you are near 100 percent.
Every woman I dated since my divorce several years ago felt the cold, dead disconnection behind my witty banter. Everything was just an act. Women were allowed on the porch, but if they wanted to see the living room, they had to look through the windows.
What? Don't judge me, man.
There are several ways to do this, but the result has to be the same: it's you getting to a point where you can share the worst parts of yourself and not judge the other person when they do the same. This is why meeting on the Internet works so well for some people -- they actually find it easier to be open and honest with a faceless person. For other people, they try dating somebody they've already become friends with -- they were at the party where you accidentally pooped yourself in high school, there's no need to pretend you're suave. Or, maybe you just date somebody long enough that those barriers all fall down one by one, against your will.
I'll still never live down the time she saw me without my shirt on.
In my particular case, three years ago I met a woman named Shaniqua Childpuncher (who for privacy's sake we'll call "Emily"), but not in a dating situation. We were just two people who made dick jokes with each other online, with no real plans for hooking up or even flirting for that matter. Since we didn't have any of that stuff at stake, we didn't have to worry about censoring ourselves or using the "date voice." We could be open in the way that friends are when sharing crude jokes -- baring disfiguring emotional scars and everything else. No subject is off limits in a conversation like that; the old addictions, horrifying relationships, the vices and embarrassing childhood photos (her pics came complete with boyband posters on her bedroom walls, mine were from the time I was in an actual boy band). It progressed from there. We've lived together for over two years now, and not once have either of us considered that this might not be the right thing.
Obviously my exact process doesn't work for everybody -- I don't doubt that there are dudes who meet girls at night clubs and/or costume orgies who, over time, bring down those barriers and actually get honest with the person they're sexing down, instead of vice versa. The point is that you have to get past the stage where the relationship depends entirely on how well you're hiding your flaws from each other.
"No, there's nothing wrong with my nose, why do you ask?"
Of course that involves a certain amount of trust, which means ...
I can't tell you how many friends I've seen fly into jealous fits because their wife had gone out shopping 45 minutes ago, and it normally only takes her 43 minutes. They just know she's out fucking someone else. Even after she returns with a car full of groceries and a timestamped receipt, they can just smell the extra dicks on her.
I used to be like that. My ex used to work as a bartender at a shitty pub. Before heading out, she'd put on makeup ... which she never did when she was off. I'd look down at her low-cut top, and I was absolutely certain that before the end of the night, she'd be nailing some dude right there on top of the bar. Some nights, I'd make her change outfits.
"No, you're not going out wearing fruit again. Go change."
It used to cause major arguments because my reaction was directly telling her, "I don't trust you." And I didn't. Even when I knew that the difference between $20 and $120 in tips was showing a little extra cleavage and that it was part of the job, in the same way that this job involves me talking a certain amount about my dick.
You're not born with the ability to trust -- as a newborn baby, you screamed your head off the moment Mom left the room, for fear you'd been abandoned. Trust is learned. I never had a reason to trust someone in my younger years, so my default position was to assume the worst. She's working late? Yeah, working some dude's dick! Going out to eat with friends? More like going out to eat with multiple dicks slapping her boobs! The other person's actual track record had nothing to do with it.
"I have to go. No, I'm not fucking dudes in front of the kids."
It wasn't until I met Emily that I really felt secure, and it goes back to that openness that I talked about earlier. When someone bares as much dirty laundry as we both have, you don't really feel that they have any room to hide anything. If she's shared this much of herself with me, she couldn't hide something even if she wanted to. So if she told me that she was going to take a few days to go to an undisclosed location for an unexplained reason, I'd be totally fine with it. She's earned the trust, and this time I'm man enough to give it.
And don't storm into the comments telling a story about how this one time your mistrust paid off ("She told me she had to be on the road 10 months out of the year as a door-to-door cock inspector, but I suspected she was really having an affair and I WAS RIGHT!"). I'm saying that if the mistrust is there, the relationship is fucked either way. Either they're not trustworthy, or you're not secure enough to let your guard down even if they are.
When I was younger, I used to think it was impossible to be friends with someone you're dating. The friendship would kill the romance, right? Since friendship is about doing boring shit together, and romance is about fucking on the hood of a Trans-Am while Def Leppard is playing on the radio?
But in my later years I've realized that every successful relationship has this point at their core: If you take out the romantic connection, those two people would still hang out like nothing had changed. Well, besides all the dirty, filthy fucking.
"Just checking you for body lice, buddy."
I was never friends in past relationships because I put the "butterflies in my stomach" feeling first, and the possibility of touching boobs second. I don't really remember a third priority on that list. When I hung around women, I'd say what I thought they wanted me to say. If they weren't into my hobbies, I'd never mention them. I modified my warped sense of humor around them to be whatever watered down version I thought they'd find acceptable. At every level, everything about our connection was contrived.
You can't make a relationship work unless you actually enjoy each other's non-sex company. If that sounds like rock-stupid obvious advice, then you don't realize what a massive number of married couples didn't follow it before shopping for rings.
"I hate you so much it actually gives me an erection."
And please, please note that when I talk about enjoying the girl's company, I am not referring to that breathless worship where you think she's a magical goddess, where you feel the gut butterflies every time she walks past and you go aaaawwwww every time she farts. Pop songs have taught you this is what it's all about ("Every Little Thing She Does is Magic"? Fuck you, Sting, your songs are full of bad relationship advice). If you're still in "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" mode, you don't even fucking know this person. You're still treating them the way you would treat a celebrity, projecting onto the real person a fantasy that lives in your head. Anyone who says they're still feeling the butterflies after fifty years of marriage needs to see a cardiologist because there's some serious medical shit that needs fixed right goddamn now.
I don't want to make it sound like you have to be friends first and then start boning from there -- this leads to a lot of awful friendships where the girl thinks she has a good male buddy and the guy thinks he's inching her closer to his boner. That friendship is never genuine because they both have very different ideas about what's going on.
And neither of those ideas end with an orgasm that isn't self-inflicted.
But it works for some people and it did work for me. I was friends with Emily first and not only did I regularly unleash every retarded joke about balls that popped into my head, but our entire friendship was based around it. For instance, one of my most passionate creative pursuits in life is playing sports video games and thinking up profane names for the players. She joined me in spending hours in front of the character editor in NBA 2K, creating Point Guard "Hunchfuck Clusterbutt" and Center "Browncock Shitdents," laughing until we couldn't breathe. She made me sit down and watch the entire run of Battlestar Galactica (and I'm a guy who previously went most of a decade without watching TV). We liked hanging out, is what I'm saying.
And that thing people get in their heads, that friendship and relationships are opposite things, it's hard to explain but it's a different flavor of friendship, one where sex can break out at any time. Maybe we need a new word for it (and something less clinical sounding than "compatibility"). But no matter what you call it, that connection is the core of the relationship. Not the sex, not romance. And it's not just the ability to tolerate each other in between the fun stuff.
"What do you not get about this? When we're not fucking, you find another room."