It's Not You, It's Me

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I'm still thinking about the latest offering in Katie MacAlister's Dragon series, Dragon Fall. The title refers to the male protagonist, Kostya, a proud Black Dragon, and leader of his Sept, who's been used and abused by a former flame and has sworn off women in any sort of serious capacity. In other words, he's got commitment issues. So when our heroine, Aiofe (EE-fuh), falls for the Black Dragon, he is determined not to fall for her. This, of course, creates a challenge that many women couldn't resist. I know. I used to be one of them. 

"It's not you, it's me."  I don't know how many times I've heard that line, or some variation. Conversely, I can't count how many times I've used it to offer a nice but unsuitable guy a "soft landing" and the salvation of a bit of face. And because I've used the line so often, I know that everyone who uses those words has incredibly brown eyes. You know, from being mired in the shit. So when I've heard these syllables pass the lips of a man I liked and wanted, it's made me sad. And then it made me mad. And then it made me think. Uh oh. You know what that leads to...

Have any of you ever seen the 1958 film Indiscreet, with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman?  No?  Run, don't walk. A funny, charming and very entertaining movie. Anyway, the central tenet of the story is that Cary Grant is a bachelor who pretends to be married and unable to get a divorce. Why, you may ask. Because, he explains, if he were to tell women that he won't get married, they will simply redouble their efforts to ensnare him in matrimony. When he tells them he is married and can't possibly get a divorce, they don't even try. Sneaky, huh? It's not you, it's him. Sure it is. 

Why do women want men who don't want them? I am convinced that if my first fiancé hadn't refused to marry me for so many years we would have broken up much earlier and I could have spared myself years of suffering.  But no, he had been married once, it hadn't ended well, and he was determined to avoid making the same mistake twice. So what happened, you may wonder. Well, I'll tell you even if you don't: two months after we decided to get married (and I say it this way because he never actually asked me--he told our mothers that we were thinking of getting married later that year--and the whole thing kind of snowballed from there), I decided that I didn't want to marry him after all. In the end, I just wanted him to want to marry me. 

On the surface, this is not a story that speaks well of my character. But I wasn't a duplicitous or malicious person. I was simply (and sadly) clueless about myself, my wants and my needs.  At the time, I didn't know myself at all. I was quite lost. And while I didn't treat my fiancé too well, that probably made us even, so we'll chalk the whole thing up to interpersonal skills that were egregiously lacking on both sides. Takes two to tango, after all. 

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the one with commitment issues was me. So it was true, ironically enough, it really was me, not him. In that case. But, simultaneously, it was him and not me, too. There are lots of men who push women away, and there is no shortage of women who love them. There are books written on the subject, so it must happen quite a bit, and not just in fantasy novels. 

What does it say about a woman when she continually goes after men who are not available either emotionally or for other reasons?  Nothing good for her, that's for sure. Usually it indicates some serious deficiencies in the woman's self-esteem department. Women who pursue men who reject them often feel as if they (the women) don't deserve love and loyalty. We believe we aren't good enough to "get" a man, so we create self-fulfilling prophesies to ensure that we don't.   

Some women (but not me, thankfully) pursue (or accept) married men--perhaps on the grounds that they believe they don't deserve a man of their own, or they don't deserve to be the main event. Those situations are always tragic and rarely end well (I've never understood why a woman would want a man who's left another woman for her--if he can leave one woman, he can leave another--but I'm told by a good friend that I'm wrong about this--I hope so, for her sake). Falling in love with a married man is the epitome of becoming emotionally attached to someone who is unavailable at the most concrete level possible. Some of us are more subtle than that. Or more in denial, a concept with which I am well acquainted. 

For me, it was important--apparently--to believe that the commitment issues were all my boyfriends' problem--it took a long time for me to realize I was the one with the ring phobia--which was why I kept choosing men committed to staying uncommitted.  As long as I could blame someone else for my inability to make it down an aisle or to an altar, I could delude myself that I was desperate to be a wife and mother and assume the mantle of domestic goddess for the rest of my days and it was only that the men I picked wouldn't put a ring on it. 

In the end, it took finding and falling for the love of my life to smack some self awareness into my head and start to help me get over myself.  Love is a powerful motivator, and, as it was for Kostya in Katie MacAlister's fun tale, the stubborn are no match for true love. Dragons fall and so did I. Thankfully. 

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