I keep telling myself that it's time to break up with Peter Baca, yet I can't quite bring myself to say goodbye.
For those of you who haven't been following along, Peter Baca aka Perfect Boyfriend is a figment of my imagination that I conjured up after yet another break-up a few years ago. At first, Peter Baca was a tool I used to stop myself from jumping into a rebound relationship - I would see a guy and immediately think "he's no Peter Baca." That way, I wouldn't get involved with a man because I had someone who was perfect. At some point along the way, Peter Baca became the standard bearer of what I want in a man and because I created him, he's my perfect match.
I wrote last year that I needed to pare down my Peter Baca list. While I tried to shrink my list down to very fundamental traits, such as someone who truly cares about the world around him, my expectations still quietly existed, and any semblance of traits that were on my Peter Baca list told me yes! This is it! This is him! Unfortunately, for every "perfect" trait, there is a counter-trait - some sort of behavior that is less than desirable. Because I was so focused on what was good about the person, I wasn't allowing myself to see what was wrong with the relationship. This has been the case with most of the guys I've dated in the last few years including F. and the most recent person I dated (more about him next week). Because they had traits that are genuinely good, I wouldn't allow myself to see that a relationship with any of these guys was a bad idea. As long as a few of my expectations were being met, I figured everything else would just fall into place. As long as I loved and held on and pushed and believed and focused on being happy and envisioning our life together, then everything else would work out.
I couldn't see the forest because I was too busy carving our initials on the trees.
My expectations are often rooted in ideas that seem perfectly sane - I want a partner who is supportive and intelligent. A good person who understands and accepts me and all my quirks and imperfections. I should stop there but then I begin adding to the list - loves good music, appreciates art -oh, no, wait, he should be an artist! He has to love good craft beer. He has to be able to carry on a conversation with my guy friends as well as my girl friends and he has to fit with my family. He loves good pizza and movies. The sex should be amazing. He has to be the perfect combination of manliness and sensitivity and be a feminist ally. Before I know it, I have a list of impossible expectations and no partner to meet them.
In my mind, expectations are a good thing. I have convinced myself that having high expectations means I won't settle. Unfortunately, I have confused expectations with boundaries. The importance of boundaries is this: there is a line that cannot be crossed and if it is, I will walk away without a second look. I've been so focused on having my perfect expectations met that I let my boundaries slide. For example:
Boundary: I will not date someone who says he isn't ready for a relationship and is trying to "find" himself.
Expectation: He has such beautiful views on the Universe and the spirituality that brings us together. That is exactly something Peter Baca would say. He also understands that because he's on his path that it will take longer for us to develop a real relationship.See the difference? An expectation I have is that my potential mate is in tune with the Universe - which is nice, but when I get caught up in the rhetoric, I miss the fact that my boundaries are being crossed. Granted, he probably isn't crossing them on purpose - they're my boundaries therefore I am in charge of maintaining them. I know what I want and I know what I have to do: stop, cut the shit.
The danger of a list of perfect expectations is that I have set my relationships up to fail - and when they do, I get sucked back into the ugly cycle of heartbreak, reflection, anger, all the while blogging about it and running to the safety of Peter Baca. I remind myself that "he" is NOTHING like Peter Baca and therefore was a waste of my time. I'm reassured and even justified that he just wasn't my person and I begin the cycle all over again - all the while never setting boundaries.
While I'm in a much better place than I was two years ago, I feel like I've regressed a little bit lately. I've forgotten about a lot of the important work I've done and I began floating along again, just waiting to be scooped up and loved by whoever. Last week, some friends and I laughed over my most recent break-up but they also brought up an important point - what the hell am I doing? If I know it's a bad idea to be with someone - if I see the signs from the get-go, then why am I wasting my time? Why do I keep allowing myself to repeat the same cycles over and over again?
There isn't one, easy answer, and while I know why I allow my boundaries to be crossed, I'm not ready to share some of those answers - it's hard enough admitting them to myself. Knowing and acting are two different things, however, and I often find myself not wanting to act. It's easier to live in the fantasy of Peter Baca (and the disappointment of men who don't live up to him) rather than take responsibility for my happiness. It's easier to be the victim of bad relationships than to be strong enough to avoid them altogether.
The beauty of all these lessons, however, is that every day is a new chance to practice having boundaries and love myself more than the idea of a fictitious boyfriend who is the result of a relationship I should have never even been in anyway. It's time, and as scary as it is, I have to say it:
Goodbye, Peter Baca, and thank you.
Next time: The Importance of Being Important