Communication is the most important part of any relationship — Oprah says it, Dr. Phil says it, and there is actually a whole ton of truth to it.
I met this guy, let’s call him Jacob, at Rosh Hashanah services (our bubbes were in no way involved with this setup). He and I seemed to really click, and pretty soon we were talking until all hours of the night. We went to Wal-Mart once and it was the best date I’d ever been on, simply because I felt like I could truly be myself around him.
After Wal-Mart night, though, everything just started to change. He started shutting me out. I knew something was going on, but he was not telling me anything. I kept thinking back, analyzing every word, every gesture, every breath I took in front of him and wondering what I did to scare him off.
Three weeks after the big freeze, I worked up the guts to tell him how I felt. I am actually pretty proud of the way I did it: I happened to “casually” mention that my grandmother was still trying to set me up with her friend’s grandson — true — but that I liked someone else. When he started getting awkward and mumbling, I just pointed at him (trying to be cute and flirty, but probably looking like a huge moron) and he got super excited and confessed he liked me too.
I thought things would change. (Who knows, maybe he would take the relationship to the next level and take me to Star Market for our next date.) In reality, our “relationship” continued in the same dead silence. Sometimes I even wondered if that night was just a dream.
That is not to say we never went out, but the few times we went to dinner or the movies together, he was always at least 15 minutes late, even though he lived in the same building, and his head seemed to be elsewhere about 40 percent of the time. At the end of one date he actually told me, “Normally I would say let’s do this more often, but I have a lot on my plate.”
I believe that was the one exception to his “no direct communication” rule.
After a couple months of this, I decided to confront him. I had this whole little speech planned about how if he has no interest or time, he should tell me, but if he wanted to continue the relationship (or whatever we had) he needed to make more effort. It was Oscar-worthy, and he — of course — promised to make more effort and swore he was still interested.
But he went back to his same old tricks.
I knew I needed to end things. I am not proud of the way I did it (deleting him on Facebook and from my phone), because it was immature and left a whole mess of loose ends. The fact was, though, since he was not talking to me, I did not feel like I could talk to him. The lack of communication ended things just as they had always been: messy, complicated and with too many unanswered questions.
Eleven months later, when my lack of closure was getting in the way of a relationship I was trying to build with somebody else (stay tuned for next week, folks) I called him and told him how he had hurt me by being a brick wall wearing a yarmulke. He reacted in a perfectly gentlemanly manner. He apologized and finally, finally explained the problem: He had been busy struggling with academics — was, in fact, on academic probation.
He acknowledged he should have told me what was going on and that it was not going to work, but that he was just so excited about the relationship he wanted to try.
I am glad he saw the error of his ways.
I still think about the universal lesson in this simple example: how much heartache could have been spared had he been open with me right from the start.
Last week: Stop playing against the deadbeats
Next week: The disadvantages of friends with benefits