October 8, 2013

Tips from a Gentleman: The Other Woman Was Me.

Love-Life Logic for the Humans on Earth

And we’re back!

After a short eight-month hiatus, your ele-gentleman is back in action. These are real questions from real people, though all names are changed and some phrasing is edited for clarification and readability.

As is traditional, here is your recommended soundtrack. Without further ado, let’s get straight to the good stuff.

“[Dear ele-Gentleman,]

I find myself running into this phrase directed directly at me: “You are so intense!”

I feel at times as if this is my tragic flaw, or my gift in which I am able to have experiences that I can literally feel to the bone and express outwardly with little regard to its level of intensity. I am realizing the world is not always about “feelings” and some are frightened by the display of them… This has probably been a reason for a few “good byes” in my life.

How does one tone themselves down in intensity and still live in the moment?”

Ahuh. Ahuh. Yes, I’m familiar with this predicament. Personally, I experience this most profoundly at live music events, especially those featuring funky horn sections, where I become entranced, lose all sense of social propriety and dance like my life depended on it (which, in fact, it very well may).

When the show is over I am drenched in sweat and have the wild-eyed look of a man who has been to the mountaintop of exhilaration and is now stumbling back down into town, wanting to tell of the wonders he’s seen but no vocabulary exists to describe such scenes.

So what can I tell you? We are intensity-junkies.

You say this intensity has been the cause of some good-byes in your life. This is presumably because the other person couldn’t or didn’t want to handle the raw force of your presence.

My question to you is, would you have it any other way? Is there any person for whom you would sacrifice your naturally extreme relationship to life?

My guess is that the answer is no, and that is as it should be. You don’t need to tone yourself down. Don’t compromise your quality of experience just to please others. There are perhaps more skillful ways to channel your enthusiasm, but please don’t ever douse your own flame.

Using the example of a concert, I find comfort in knowing that me dancing like a crazy person is rarely the weirdest thing anyone will see or do that night. Worst case, people assume I’m on drugs and judge me from a distance, or else approach me wanting to know what I’m on and if I have any left.

These are generally the two archetypes of people you will encounter: those who are put off by the apparent fierceness of your energy, and those who are drawn to it.

So long as you are doing no harm, you need not worry about those who are put off. It says little to nothing about you, and everything about them. They are thinking: how dare she express herself so freely when I remain so contained! Who does she think she is, embracing this crazy moment that way? She must be crazy. I’m going to go wash my hands and make sure my shirt is tucked in straight.

The people who are drawn to you are obviously more your crowd, but this is where you must practice careful discernment. In this group are the vampires and the instigators. The vampires will feed off your enthusiasm until they’ve sucked you dry—then, typically, when it’s you who needs a little boost, they are nowhere to be found, having gone to find a fresh source off which to feed.

The instigators represent the opposite end of the spectrum from those who run away. They feel similarly threatened by your bounciness but instead of retreating into their shell, they are inspired to confront you and manipulate your abundant energy to their advantage.

To deal with these types, you must use your energy field as a shield. As many of us know, your body extends far behind the edge of your skin. You must learn to manage this auric field so that those who would penetrate your bubble and disrupt your fun are basically made to bounce off. This is not a combative stance, but a supremely loving one, wherein the instigator will experience great discomfort by bringing their aggressive energy into your peaceful (though raucous) bubble.

Somewhere in the mix, there are those who will match or sincerely enjoy your enthusiasm. It may be the person who starts a playful dance-off that ends with a lot of hip-bumping and jumping up and down. Just as often it’ll be someone who stands relatively still but likes to bask in the bigness of your bubble and fetch you water when needed.

I recommend that you not underestimate this person, and would suggest that this may be the sort of partner with whom you can thrive. Those still waters run deep, and a slow, steady partner who can nonetheless keep up with you will provide a comfortable container for your big, excited out-bursting.

In summary, focus on seeking the experiences you desire, regardless of whether they are too intense for others. Just keep shining, and you’ll be fine. At the same time, be aware of how hot you burn and how it affects others. Be sensitive to those in your orbit who appreciate your fire, but also need their own space to cool off.

Make sense?


“[Dear ele-Gentleman,],

I was in a love triangle, and “the other woman” was me. I was not the one being cheated on. I was doing the cheating with a former boyfriend (“Brendan”) while he had a girlfriend (“the bartender”).

Being the girl that was, in Brendan’s words, “the best cake in town,” gave me a certain flippant attitude toward cheating. Then there were times that “the bartender” was getting the relationship perks I did not. I was the sex kitten all men procure in their heads at one time or another—but I think I wanted to be the girlfriend too. Variety is nice. 

I know I went to the darkest places during this triangle. What is the nature of these beasts?? Please tell me what you know!”

Well I’ll tell you. Infidelity is one of those things that only makes sense to the people involved. Just because the practice runs rampant, does not mean cheating can be objectively justified. It cannot, and for me, it is fundamentally unforgivable (link NSFW).

When you say love triangle, I want to imagine all three of you undressed getting weird together. That is obviously not the case, but I would prefer if it were. As it is, it doesn’t even sound like anyone is having very much fun. “The best cake in town” is all very nice, but not if it ruins your appetite for family dinner.

The situation is poisonous. Of the three of you, only the bartender has her integrity intact, and that’s only because she’s being duped. That’s not fair to her, and I imagine it must cast an ugly shadow onto your relationship with Brendan. It can be played off as all fun and games, but both of you know it’s not quite right.

With an ex, there’s a certain comfort and preexisting connection that can make the whole affair seem easy, and ultimately innocent. But by indulging each other, he is sabotaging his current relationship, and you are sewing seeds of which you will be loath to reap the harvest.

It is perhaps easy to lay the majority of blame at his feet, since he is the one secretly undermining a supposedly exclusive relationship. Nonetheless, you are a willing participant in this dishonesty, and therefore complicit in the betrayal.

Assuming, on the most basic level, that you are one day hoping to create a stable, loving, monogamous relationship with someone, this current course of action is obviously counterproductive. That is a big assumption though, and you are in no way required to submit to such cultural norms. Deviation from the common dyad does require a more developed level of communication though.

In relationships and in life, there are really no rules except for what you can negotiate. Whether appealing to the mercy of a judge, hashing out the terms of a new contract, or establishing an open relationship, quality communication requires tact, delicacy and ideally, non-violence.

Managing expectations is the name of the game. If Brendan was honest (and clever and supremely charming), he would have let the bartender know that she is not the only lady in his life, and established suitable expectations from the start.

Nothing is necessarily out of bounds until you’ve drawn agreed-upon lines on the playing field. Even then, nothing is set in stone, but any adjustments must be made in the light of day, for all to see and understand. Otherwise it’s manipulative, interfering with people’s free will, and that’s a big no-no.

I hear you saying that there were aspects of this arrangement that you enjoyed, and others you did not. Perhaps the combined sense of freedom and intimacy was refreshing, but then it sounds like you were left wanting some of the tender attention and together time that a steady partner provides.

I am here to tell you that you can have it both ways! Again, all it takes is clear communication and setting boundaries.

First, figure out what you really want out of a relationship. This is the first step, because until you know what you’re looking for, how are you supposed to find it?

Having identified some desired parameters, perhaps with your next romantic intrigue you can ask specific questions early on and determine whether or not your two sets of expectations are compatible.

My friend Amy has recently taken pains to abolish her list of qualifications for the men she dates and found great joy in the process. However, I believe there is a happy middle ground. You don’t need a long detailed list of career accomplishments and personal features that must be checked off in order to figure out whether or not you and another person are on the same page.

Knowing what you want means you can recognize it when you feel it.

You say you went to the darkest places in the course of this triangle. Good, that means you’re likely to have really learned something from it. Be grateful for the experience and move on immediately. Take the lessons learned regarding what you do and don’t want in a romantic partner and apply them from now on. There is always more learning to be done, but before too long it gets boring and embarrassing to have to repeat the same silly lessons over and over again.

Okay, lecture over. Sorry to get a bit pious on you, but people’s hearts are to be handled with care, and there are too many wonderful people going unloved at any given moment to waste time with less than the best you can get. From the sound of it, everybody in this situation deserves better.

Playing around with a person who is dating someone else reminds me of Groucho Marx’s famous line, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” It may feel flattering that he still wants you, but ultimately you don’t want to associate yourself with such behavior.

Abandon evil company immediately!

Okay kids, enough for now. Until next time, be well, be kind, and send along any loving conundrums you’d like to offer for conversation.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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