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Dating in the time of narcissism

Posted Sep 16 2010 8:25pm

I like to think of myself as a generally positive person, but I have my pet peeves. Self-absorption is one of them, although I’m guessing I can act in ways that seem self-centered to others.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed others acting in ways that seem narcissistic. The visitors to the church next to my house who park extending two feet into my driveway. The woman at exercise class who put her bag on top of mine along the wall, meaning I would have to move it when I needed to get my weights out, when there was plenty of other space available for her to put her bag.

However, it’s in the dating word that this self-focus can be glaring. In the span of a week, two of the men who have shown interest in me have committed what I consider egregious acts of selfish behaviors.

Last week I hosted a small pot luck dinner party. Potential suitor #1 called a few days before to RSVP and asked what he could bring that didn’t require cooking, since he doesn’t cook. I suggested he bring a few bottles of wine, explaining no one else had volunteered that. He thought that was a superb idea and said he’d see me two days hence.

The appointed gathering time came and went. The other guests arrived with their contribution One brought a bottle of wine. After waiting an hour, we decided to eat without Suitor #1. I checked my cell phone numerous times thinking he would call to explain his absence. He never did. Not that evening, the next day, nor yet.

I scratch my head wondering how could someone who knew they had a key component to a small collaborative dinner party fail to arrive, and then to not even call to explain himself. Might he have had some emergency? I am tempted to call, but think he would have reached out if this were so. If/when he ever does call, I have my first words ready: “I’m glad you’re out of the coma, as that’s the only acceptable explanation for your not showing up for a small soiree to which you knew you were bringing a key component.” I doubt he’ll call back after that.

Today, another example occurred. Potential Suitor #2 and I have met several times and speak regularly even though we live 1000 miles apart. He’s flown to visit me a few times. On an upcoming trip, I was going to be changing planes in his city, so before I booked the ticket I called and asked if he wanted to rendezvous and if so, I’d arrange for a very early flight into his city, and a later-than-needed flight to my destination. He thought that was great, telling me he knew the perfect restaurant where we could linger for hours and enjoy each other’s company.

I sent him my itinerary with flight information.

I texted him when my flight landed telling him I’d arrived. Nothing back. I called when I exited the secure area. Voice mail. I texted again, nothing. Called again. Voice mail. I waited 30 minutes and tried again. I decided he forgot or changed his plans and forgot to tell me. I entered the long security line and headed toward the gates. I had 4.5 hours to kill.

Two hours after our appointed meeting time he called. He had forgotten. He apologized profusely and said he’d be right out to the airport, a 30-minute drive. I said I was very upset, as I’d gotten up at 4:00 to take the earlier flight when I could have taken a later one. I’d been waiting for him for 2 hours. He shouldn’t bother coming as I wasn’t in the mood. He said he understood why I was upset and apologized again. We hung up.

We all make mistakes. We forget. We’re not as organized as we should be and something slips. I’m willing to forgive if it happens once in a blue moon, but only if the person has some deposits in their Bank of Grace. Both these men had made promises in the past they hadn’t kept. Usually that’s enough for me to cut ties. They are both intelligent, articulate, fun, and good conversationalists. I gave them grace in the past. But these transgressions are the nails in the coffin.

We all know that someone’s behavior screams the kind of person they are. Yet if we like them, we allow them grace, which can be kind. However, if their self-absorption happens way too often, no matter how interesting they are, we have to respect ourselves enough to not let their less-than-thoughtful behavior stand. We have to cut the ties or they will continue, as it’s doubtful their behavior will change.

__________________

To see what other head-scratchers you may encounter, get your copy of Embracing Midlife Men: Insights Into Curious Behaviors .

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