"I Suspect That Rather Than Your Boyfriends Being The 'Bad Element' Of Your Past Relationships, In Some Way You Were"

In movies, a male protagonist is often gifted with the magical power of seeing directly into the soul of a woman with whom he's had virtually no contact. In the real world, however, when a guy purports to do this, words like "stalking" and "armchair psychoanalysis" come to mind. Which, of course, brings us to "Doug" and "Kate," who met in a 2-month training seminar. Doug, naturally, saw his soulmate in her breasts eyes, and asked her out repeatedly, finally inviting her to what she thought was a group event and what turned out to be a one-on-one of cheezy romantic gestures and overplanned scenarios. When she then declined further invitations, he showed up one night unannounced, begging for her to be his girlfriend, and then whining for sex. She turned him down on both counts, but then got her own, personalized psychological profile for free!

Dear Kate,

This is the only email you'll get from me unless you wish otherwise. My intent is not to harass you. I want to say some things.

First, I'd like us to stay in touch. I would like this to be "au revoir" and not "adieu." You've given me no signs you want this, but then communication is not your strong suit, either. I don't know what you think. I do know I enjoy your company and consider you "my kind" of person. This is a rarity and something I value. While I have friends, nearly all my close ones scattered with the four winds a few years ago. Now at grad schools across the country, they make it back home infrequently. Most of my co-workers, meanwhile, I have not forged close ties with. There is a disconnect between me and most people. So I extend the hand of friendship to satisfy a need for close relationships with people. That is my motivation, if you want to know it. You're returning soon, same as me. It would be nice to hang out. That annual hike I told you about will happen Wednesday or Thursday. I know you would love it,and I think you would like my friends as well. Let me know what you want.

Regardless, our afternoon will remain a fond memory, and I wish you all the best. I hope things do work out for the best. Professionally I foresee doors opening for you. You certainly made the right moves on this trip. Whether you will achieve fulfillment across the board is less sure to me. Yes, yes, you claim you're happy, and perhaps you are. But the more I think about that one peculiar choice you made that sets you apart from, oh, the vast majority of humanity, the more I don't buy your characterization of it. It bothers me, so I'll share my thoughts on this as well. It may be more self-indulgent for me than beneficial for you, and more personal than you want to get, but so be it.

It strikes me that your having dated jerks in the past is not the issue. Obviously such relationships are bad. More pertinent are the nice guys you claim to have dated but with whom it also didn't work. At the time of our discussion, I was thinking, "My God, what did they do to her?" I asked about that, but you wouldn't go there. Now I see other possibilities. Someone as intelligent and strong as you, Kate, seems unlikely to be unable to overcome the hurt others have caused. No, you should be able to triumph over that sort of thing. You should be able to tackle this problem as you would any other—instead of throwing in the towel, as you in effect have done. But it occurs to me that everyone among us is vulnerable to our own insecurities, our own weaknesses, our own deeply ingrained habits of thinking, feeling, and acting that can be the hardest circumstances to change of all. In short, I suspect that rather than your boyfriends being the "bad element" of your past relationships, in some way you were. You were the one constant factor. I can conceive of nothing more likely to cause you to despair. If in each relationship either you were the one rejected or you saw some aspect of your nature as otherwise the cause of things not working, nothing could more sap your resolve to get over it and try again. This, if true, really is sad, the word you used to describe how people feel when you tell them of your choice. The psychological consequences of such internal conflict would be the painful of all. If this is the case, I would just like to say I understand something of what you may be wrestling with. For what that is worth.

Maybe my hunch is wrong. Either way, for reasons of your own you have rejected what many rank most highly among the things that make life worth living. I am tempted now to give you arguments why your chosen alternative will not be sustainable in the long-run, but I will spare you. I recognize there is no point. I'll stop now. Reply if you want to.

Yours fondly,
Doug