When it comes to the history of my dating and romantic life, I’m not really in any position to complain. When I look around at the number of single female friends who are constantly bemoaning the lack of eligible dating partners and end up getting hooked up with people who clearly don’t treat them in a way of which they are deserving, I can both relate and not relate at the same time. Many of these girls come to me for dating advice, because my story is not theirs. It doesn’t make it a better or easier story, mind you, but just a different one.

I’ve never had problems meeting people. Perhaps it is because, as discussed in a different post, I take a different approach to dating and relationships, in that I don’t really invest myself in strangers. It takes work to get to know me, and anyone who is really interested is going to put in that work. Whether that way of doing things means I end up with a good friend, a lover, a committed romantic partner, a confusing yet positive life situation, or some combination of the above, what it does mean is that I don’t surround myself with people who treat me in a way that is less than I deserve. I am not disposable, a one-night stand, an object of amusement, or someone you wouldn’t want to hang out with, regardless of how our relationship operates. I’m pretty happy with that. The result is that I have some awesome folks in my life.

I also tend to be more open-minded when it comes to who I choose to spend my time with. Like everyone else, I have my superficial side, but things like looks, money, what kind of car someone drives, and what they do for a living is rather an afterthought when meeting someone. The thing that’s going to get me to call or e-mail the day after I meet someone is “It was awesome to meet you, because it seemed like we had a sincere emotional connection.”

If I’ve had a downfall in my dating life, or a masochistic tendency, it’s my penchant for falling for unavailable people or idealising impossible relationships. I’m rarely interested in those who actively pursue me with compliments and flowers and e-mails telling me how great I am. I’m appreciative, but whatever inspires someone to spend way too much time thinking about another person, that doesn’t light up that particular switchboard for me.

On the other hand, I have no tolerance for chauvinists who approach women as objects or conquests, people who are too shallow to care about anything other than getting drunk, hooking up, and never talking to one another again, and people who outwardly show disdain or disrespect. They say there’s a fine line between love and hate, but I know where the line is, and I’m not foolish enough to fall for anyone who doesn’t think I’m awesome.

No, my particular downfall is the person I *think* may be interested in me, but I’m not sure. Or, it’s the person I *know* is interested in me “but”, and “if only”. “If only I were single when I met you”, “If only we fit together better on a practical level”, “If only it weren’t impossible to make this work”.

I actually have awesome intuition when it comes to these things. If I *think* someone is interested in me, but they refuse to acknowledge that—because they don’t see it turning into a relationship, because they’re already in a relationship and trying to observe boundaries, because I somehow scare or intimidate them, because they’re playing a game where they’re counting on indifference to get my attention—I’m almost always right. And because I don’t take the most traditional approach to relationships, indifference and uncertainty does not dissuade me. It actually makes me feel more interested and more attached to someone who may or may not be the best choice for me.

A wise friend of mine told me it’s simply because I’m a natural-born huntress; I enjoy the chase, the idealism of a relationship that could be over the reality of a difficult, messy one that actually is. I enjoy the attention of those who are unavailable—friends who can never become lovers, lovers who can never become committed partners, committed partners who may not be lifetime soulmates—because I am at heart committmentphobic, easily bored, and enjoy the thrill of infatuation.

This may be true. For instance, I recall once taking a class every Monday, and looking forward to it because there was this guy, and I couldn’t tell whether or not he was interested in me. Yet, for three hours every week, I was interested in finding out. I wasn’t yet the person I am today, the one who’d just come out and ask, or actively pursue the guy, but I knew how to read people. I knew that if he were totally indifferent to my presence, I wouldn’t bother looking forward to seeing him every Monday. Yet, he never made a direct move. It was like a game, and one I looked forward to participating in every week. (As a side note, we did end up dating for awhile. It’s one of my more memorable and life-changing experiences, but we were far from right for one another. If people who are extremely opposite in personality and approach to life struggle to make it work, people who are effectively the same person struggle even more.)

I have another friend, one I’ve known for many, many years. I really don’t know if he’s ever found me attractive. Neither of us has ever made a move, or asked one another out when we were both single at the same time. Yet, for years, I’ve always been thrilled to run into this person when I do. It’s that weird thing that always makes you smile when you see someone, and you don’t know why. I don’t even actually think I’m attracted to him—he’s not my type, on so many levels. But I enjoy our friendship, and I enjoy the unspoken knowledge of “There’s something a little different in the way we relate than just being friends who get along.” If I *did* know he were attracted to me on more than an intuitive level, it would really create some weirdness and dysfunction and potentially ruin a friendship. Likewise, if I found out that over the many years we’ve known each other, he was never once attracted to me, I’d doubt myself, my intuition, and my ability to read others. Therefore, our friendship will always stay exactly as it is, at least if I have anything to do with it.

I also have people in my life who, in the world of polyamorous relationships, would (or have in the past), become ideal secondary partners. These relationships have oddly been the strongest, least complex, and emotionally fulfilling relationships/friendships in my life, despite by nature being something that should be complex. Sometimes, it’s just easy, and it’s because you know where and how someone belongs in your life, at least at a certain point in time. There is a certain freedom in those relationships that is important to me, and even during my monogamous relationships, I’ve somehow kept what I term “romantic friendships” in that particular space in my life. Yet, if we were both single, available, on the same page and in the same place in life at the exact same time, attempting to have a more committed, exclusive relationship would probably do irreparable damage to all the good things we share.(yes, lessons learned the hard way.)

Not all of the soulmates you encounter in life are those you’re supposed to consider white-picket-fence-marriage-and-babies material. People are in your life for different reasons, and if they’re unavailable to you on a certain level, it’s probably because they’re never going to fit into the convenient little space you wonder if they might—and it has little to do with other people, other relationships, practical obstacles, and whatnot. If someone is the right person for you, you’re going to move the world around to fit them in your life. Otherwise, you should be content with knowing they are meant to fit into your life in some other way…even if everyone’s feelings are utterly confused about the situation.

Knowing this does not keep me from being most interested in those when I’m not quite sure how someone feels about me, or what the possibilities are moving forward, or whether or not life circumstances will be subject to change in the future….but my intuitive sense and simple enjoyment of the time I spend with someone tells me there’s more to the story than “It’s really awesome that we’re friends”. This is a dangerous habit, one The Guy I Am Currently Dating would most likely prefer I did not have. I think I might consider myself a more monogamous person by nature if I did not have this particular tendency, and did not feel consistently energized and intrigued by the emotional uncertainty of these situations. On the other side of the coin, these situations and people always affect me on a deeper level than they should, so you think I’d want to stop developing serious emotional bonds with people who exist in my life as question marks.

The thing that always throws me is that I’m so infrequently wrong in how I assess a question mark situation, and the type of relationship I end up having with someone….or at least, getting some clear resolution on how someone feels about me.

Sometimes, the answer really is “It’s complicated”, and you need to learn to back off, let go, and have a less emotionally bonded, more platonic friendship…which is difficult, if you’ve never really shared that sphere of existence with someone before. It’s like learning to relate to someone in a whole new way, and it’s not easy, and it feels like a genuine loss for everyone involved. But, sometimes, if you treasure the friendship, it’s necessary (which is how I’ve managed to stay friends with a large percentage of ex-es who have moved on and are now married or committed to other people.) Somehow, it’s easier to move on when you know how the story ends than when something remains an eternal question mark.

Other times, the answer is “It’s complicated”, but there’s something beyond friendship worth exploring, and simply ignoring it causes confusion, emotional angst, and has the power to destroy a friendship. At some point, you have to take chances in order to find out what someone means to you, how they really fit into your life. I think it’s important to assess and appreciate all relationships for what they are, not what you’d like them to be, or how they most conveniently fit into your life at any given time. Sitcoms in the 1990′s loved to address this “friendships-that-are-more-but-nobody-ever-talks-about-it” dynamic; we were all intrigued by Ross and Rachel, Jerry and Elaine, Daphne and Niles. While the situation in real life is just as present and complicated, the answers are not always as black and white as in sitcom-land. It’s possible to fall in love with your friends, be friends with people you once dated, have lovers that are amongst your best friends but you’d never want to spend your life with in a monogamous relationship. It’s possible that most relationships are, a majority of the time, a question mark.

It turns out, I’m not alone. Women are, by nature, attracted to and most likely to be seduced by uncertainty. While many men I know have told me they’ve been attracted to me as a result of being direct and straightforward and not flirting and playing games “just because”, I’ve more than likely been attracted to them because they once existed as a question mark in my life, and there was a need for me to be straightforward, direct, and figure out intuitively how someone felt about me before making a move that can’t be rescinded. More proof that, on a fundamental level, men and women are wired differently and respond differently to different approaches by different types of people.

Sometimes, it amazes me that anyone ever gets together…or stays together…or has clear and simple convictions about the nature of relationships. I actually don’t know if anyone does. We’re all pretty much just winging it here.

But me, I’m hopelessly attracted to things in the shape of a question mark. Fortunately for me, most of life is just that. I’m unlikely to get bored with living anytime soon.