Each Person Is A Prism, Part 2: Valentine’s Day Edition | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Each Person Is A Prism, Part 2: Valentine’s Day Edition

Well, as advertisers are helpfully reminding us, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  For me, as for many other people, this can be a time of irritation.

This isn’t because I’m what our culture calls a “single guy.”  I enjoy that, actually.  It’s because this is the time of year when I get to hear people lament how long it’s been since they’ve been “in a relationship,” or since they’ve done whatever other romantic thing they think they should be doing.

One Person’s Romantic Comedy Is Another’s Horror Movie

The most frustrating part, when I listen to these people, is that they don’t seem to be paying attention to what they actually want.  Instead, they’re measuring themselves against what they see as the culture’s expectations, and blaming themselves for falling short.

“My friends are all married,” I hear (and I’m sure you’ve heard) people complain.  When I hear this from someone, I try to respond compassionately.  But I have to admit, sometimes I just want to caustically remark:  “that makes perfect sense — after all, the rule is that you have to do whatever your friends do!”

And, of course, there are people (mostly men, but not exclusively) who will be able to tell me, to the month, day and hour, how long it’s been since they “got laid.”  Hearing this, it’s all I can do to keep my inner Captain Sarcastic from spitting out:  “true, if you don’t ‘get some’ soon, you’ll lose your place at the ‘jock’ table in the high school cafeteria!”

The saddest part of this, in my experience, is that many people stay dissatisfied even if they do find what they say they’re looking for.  Trying to live into somebody else’s vision of how romance or intimacy should be, I think, is a recipe for suffering.

What Do You Really Want?

If someone is griping to me about their “singlehood” (at least, I think that’s the right word), and they’re really willing to explore the issue, what we’ll often discover is that they don’t even want to be married, “in a relationship,” or whatever else, right now.  They are hurting because they’re telling themselves it’s wrong not to want those things, and beating themselves up.

In my experience, when people become willing to admit that lack of desire, often it’s as if a weight lifts from their shoulders, and their bodies feel lighter.  What’s more, amazingly enough, sometimes acknowledging they don’t want intimacy actually opens the way for them to want it again.

Why?  I think it goes back to what I talked about in my post on “finding compassion through selfishness.”  We’re all made up of a bunch of different parts, or, as some put it, “selves” or “energies” — the aggressive part, the solitary part, the outgoing part, and so on.

Calling Out Our Doubts

As I put it earlier, the way I see it, each person is like a prism — something that breaks up a beam of light into the colors of the rainbow.  Sometimes, we don’t like one of the colors — the anger, the hurt, or something else — and so we cover up the prism.  The trouble is, when we do that, no light can get through.

We all, I think, have a part that wants connection with others.  But we also have parts that are cautious, hurt, untrusting, and so on.  When we tell ourselves it’s not okay to feel afraid or unready about intimacy, and we push the hesitant parts of ourselves down, we can cause ourselves a lot of pain.

I’ve found, both in myself and in talking to people, that it can be so liberating when we acknowledge the areas where we’re uncertain, and it can actually help create the connection with others that we’re looking for.

9 thoughts on
Each Person Is A Prism, Part 2: Valentine’s Day Edition

  1. Sara


    Well said Mr. Single Guy! I agree that people need to think about what they really want in a relationship and I don’t mean just the sex! I think everyone needs to consider what’s really important to them and the reasons they want to be a relationship or partnership.

    I know too many people who get in relationships simply because they can’t stand to be alone. While this happens with both men and women, I think women are more likely to stay in a relationship that doesn’t suit them because it’s a “relationship” and they don’t want to be alone. Personally, I think everyone could benefit from a period of time of living by themselves before committing to a relationship. Learning to live happily alone is, to me, a very important life lesson:~)

  2. Evelyn Lim

    I laughed when you said, “one person’s romantic comedy is another’s horror movie.” It is so true. I have friends who are happily single. They lead a full life and make no excuses for the choices that they have made. Good for them and you too!

  3. Evan

    Valentine’s Day, sigh. I’m afraid I missed out on the romantic gene. I keep having the idea to write a post about romance being a form of manipulation, so far I haven’t been game.

    Connecting through our uncertainty and vulnerability have been extraordinarily powerful for me – though I still don’t find it easy.

  4. Jannie Funster

    Very extra-good, Grasshopper. You have snatched some pebbles from some one’s hand, I can see.

    White light refracting we are indeed.

    And now a poem in honor of this very very fine post.

    Valentine’s is but a plot.
    Some lament for what they’ve not.
    Some jump off cliffs to keep up with the crowd.
    Some play their Neil Young way way way too loud.

    But wait — that last line doesn’t fit with this post.
    So to thy happy singlehood, I now make thee a toast.




  5. Chris - Post author

    Hi Sara — I think that’s a great point, that a lot of us will hang onto people and groups just for the sake of avoiding the feeling of aloneness, when in fact getting familiar and comfortable with the feelings that come up when we’re alone is key to becoming free to make choices that get us what we deeply want.

  6. Chris - Post author

    Hi Evelyn — that sounds like a great place to be at — making no excuses for the relationship choices we’re making now, and that we’ve made in the past. I think that’s the path of growth I’m on right now — being able to acknowledge my “imperfections” and “faults” to people I’m with, and moving toward deeper intimacy and vulnerability as a result.

  7. Chris - Post author

    Hi Evan — yeah, I don’t find admitting my uncertainty easy either, but one thing I will say is that it can be a huge turn-on. Maybe the risk inherent in admitting that the situation is awkward, or that I’m feeling something really intense, is actually the source of turn-on, attraction, or whatever other term we want to use. By contrast, I suspect the reason I find the usual small-talk about what I do for a living, etc., boring because it is risk-free — I know how to give the spiel about how what I do is great, and so on, but I’m not going to be able to show up as rehearsed and prepared to talk about how I’m feeling in this moment, particularly if it involves sexuality.

  8. Chris - Post author

    Hi Jannie — I’ve been called a grasshopper many times in my life, but never an extra-good grasshopper. I think that is like advancing to another tae kwon do belt and I am glad that I have proven worthy. That inspires me to keep on searchin’ for that proverbial heart of gold.

  9. Hilary

    Hi Chris .. I’m sure we’re a prism of each other with different colours blended, singled out etc .. but I have to say I’ve always been happy in a relationship, or without one – as now .. I’m content with myself, but have been called way too independent … now I feel like I’d like someone around as I get older .. but I’m happy for the moment & we don’t know what will happen. I’d rather be single and happy, than married and unhappy .. I guess I’ve always trodden my own path .. rightly or wrongly …

    Cheers .. and I love Jannie’s term of endearment!! Happy times .. Hilary

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