Relationships aren’t Performance Art§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: September 4, 2007; revised: April 24, 2018; readers in past month: 496

Opera Rehearsal
Sforza Castle, Milan

Certainly I enjoy the artistic and performance aspects of a romance: playing the part of a wooer, writing poems, complementing the woman, generally doing special and romantic things to make the romance fun. However, this should not be the relationship. It should be one component of the activities that are performed and not who I am. There have been times when I have carried these methods too far, when they were expected or called for so much that they became the relationship. The relationship became a performance art that I was performing for the woman and possibly by extension for her friends so that she could show off to them, so that they could be jealous.

So what’s a fellow to do? Should I show no romantic interest in a woman, should I forego enjoying the wooing process so as not to build a false sense about who I am? Once I start the process, it’s hard to keep it to a minimum. I’m encouraged greatly by the woman. Plus, an insecurity begins in which I am afraid of losing her if I don’t keep it up. In time, gradually, more and more is expected so that a performance art is constantly in play and the real me is kept hidden. And then I begin to wonder if she really is interested in me, or just the character I have created. I grow tired of constantly playing my part, as well as feeling like I’ve wrapped myself in a costume and a mask and am living in isolation despite being with someone in a new relationship. Loneliness is never so great as when we surpress and hide ourselves from the ones we are supposed to love.

Obviously this is another case for which moderation is required, but it’s difficult to moderate something that helps me to win a woman in whom I’m interested. It’s difficult not to make use of all of my abilities, all of my resources to woo a woman when there is so much to be gained from the efforts: love, companionship, sex, etc. It’s even more difficult when I consider the immediate alternative is to stay home by myself and continue my life alone. I’m learning to be happy alone, but I’m not happy with being alone. I know that I have to trust in life to eventually lead me to the right relationship that is based on the real me. I know that by pursuing relationships like they are performance arts is not the way to go and only distracts me and delays me from finding a relationship that is well founded.

On the other extreme, in a recent relationship of mine, I started off with my normal wooing ways but was discouraged from this method pretty quickly by the woman. She distrusts the romantic arts, it seems. She likes it, but feels that she’s being tricked. Whenever I tried to be romantic and assertive, she pushed me away. Eventually, I stopped trying to perform for her. She in turn has greatly warmed up to me. She comes out of hiding and moves towards me when I do nothing to woo her. There have been a few times in which I have found encouragement in her warming and tried to resume my performances, but I have been discouraged each time by her retracting. So now we conduct this relationship with me appearing to be almost totally disinterested in her. Sometimes she seems hurt by this and I feel awful for it. I hate having a relationship in which I am to exhibit no interest. I had that in the final years of my marriage. Acting the part of disinterest leads to me believing that I am truly disinterested, which I may be. The result is that I’m alone in my thoughts and not connected with her, or rather, she’s not connected with the true me. It’s yet another inner prison.

It’s so hard to gauge one’s actions when in a relationship with another. It’s difficult to control oneself when excited about someone new: I tell you, I miss that terribly. I miss being excited about someone, about a new romance. I feel like I was denied that in this current relationship and now that she’s looking for it from me, I just don’t have the energy for it. A therapist once told me that it’s important that both parties be synchronized with each other in the relationship. If one is too far ahead in the relationship than the other, it doesn’t work. The one that lags behind becomes cautious and looks on the other with distrust: they can’t understand why the other is so enthusiastic so fast; they think they must be overly needy and have psychological problems. The one that charges ahead is frustrated and gets their feelings hurt that their affections are not being equally returned. Eventually, the one ahead begins to feel like a fool, questions whether they were mistaken in thinking that their feelings are shared. They both eventually begin thinking about finding someone else who is more suitable. The energy has gone out of the relationship. And for me, my energy has been drained with relationships in general. I keep hoping I will find it with the woman I’m with now, or that I will find a woman who will energize me again. So, I keep trying and I keep looking.