A friend of mine found himself instantly and achingly attracted to a woman he met at a business mixer. She was an accomplished young executive, like himself. An extrovert who never met a stranger, like himself. Interested in politics, well versed in novels and music, beautiful and confident to a point bordering on cockiness. Like himself.
The attraction horrified him, especially once he realized it was returned.
She was single. He was married.
Every bit of restraint practiced in this relationship, he figured, would have to come from his end.
Their friendship – he told himself that’s technically all it was – meandered along an exciting, minefield laden roller coaster while his wife’s quiet, predictable, home routines irritated him. She laughed at sitcoms and made Pinterest casseroles. She listened to the same music their children did, without irony or shame. He wasn’t sure whether she’d voted in the last midterm election. For a while he didn’t notice all the truly lovely things she did, like design and hand sew their daughter’s prom dress and build a playground for handicapped children at school.
Every minute he spent with this other woman – and he never dared spend a minute alone with her – his brain was caught in a loop: “I married the wrong woman. But my children. I can’t leave. Maybe she’ll leave me. I married the wrong woman. But my children. I can’t leave. Maybe she’ll leave me.”
And every minute he spent at home – and he found more and more ways to avoid being home – his brain was caught in an inverse loop: “Where is she right now? Someone more interesting than me. I am such an asshole. Of course she’s with someone who isn’t me.”
Had my friend not been married, I think he would have figured out much sooner what all of us single people figure out when we run into someone who is impossibly like ourselves: Crushes are vain. Love is a complement.
He would have saved himself some guilt and curiosity by seeing that the attraction was merely a reflection of himself, someone he’d been missing for awhile in the busyness of raising kids, advancing his career, and establishing his name in the community.
There is truth in our attraction to the opposite, and I portend attractions of this nature are stronger, more sustaining and better for us long-term than quick, sudden instances of familiarity like my friend experienced.
They are also much more challenging, of course.
We have to work harder to understand people who are not like us. We don’t automatically know what will set them off and turn them on, and why. And why not. Nor can we expect them to know us without explanation, either. It’s just harder, and sometimes we’re too tired for all that. But in the longterm, there is so much more to offer in those kinds of relationships.
My friend already knew everything there was to know about his crush. In a way, he had known her his whole life. His wife, on the other hand, offers a new mystery around every bend. How much more interesting for him.