It was my sophomore year in college, in Sociology 101, that attraction was explained to me in quantifiable terms I could understand. We were told that the secret to love is really nothing romantic, but very practical; people are drawn to those who possess something they want. Our professor explained that our friendships are based on meeting people who have a skill, personality type or ability that we want to have. In one 50 minute class he simplified finding the love of your life down to finding the person who does the things you want to be able to do most.
There are a lot of ideas from college that I didn’t retain, but this teaching stuck with me. I had suspected it all along, but on that day it was said out loud, in a classroom, solidifying my suspicions. I began to see relationships as transactional, a measured give and take, where I needed to have plenty to offer so I could attract the best friends. I realized that all I had to do was everything well. I needed to be all the things that a person wanted to be. I learned that I shouldn’t show my true self, and certainly shouldn’t share my doubts in myself, because who wants that?
I had learned to be a consumer. To shop around for the best deal, deciding who could give me the most without my paying a lot for it. I was drawn to the smoke and mirrors of seemingly deep friendships that were actually quite empty. This was apparent when I was unable to contribute to the relationships for a time, and they disappeared. I am guilty of walking away when my needs were not being met, as well.
It took years for me to see that although we live in a consumer driven society, I don’t need to consume people, weighing who has the most to offer me. I need to connect, to commune with those God places in front of me, asking what I can offer them. It means me showing my real self, fears and doubts and all. I’m not great at this, I have wisps of success from time to time, but I am aware of it and feel it when my motives are wrong.
I don’t blame my college professor for my misguided view of relationships; the fault is mine for receiving what was fed to me without question or pushback, and then holding onto it for a long time. I only wish I had listened and retained as much in Biology.
Does this sound like anything you have experienced? Have you seen the difference between consuming and communing within your marriage or friendships?