In Carmel over Thanksgiving with my person. Opposites attract.

How a skeptic found love with an astrology believer

I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to be an aspirational dater. I had a graduate degree, so I wanted some one with one or more better degree(s). Some one with more resources than I did, who was more knowledgeable about a lot more stuff than I knew.

But really, I wanted someone whose life I could co-opt.

I needed someone with a great career because I didn’t have one of my own, and wanted to be inspired. I had so few friends after being widowed that I wanted to adopt someone else’s. And I was so adrift, I wanted someone with a rich framework of connections into which I could slot myself.

I was looking into the pond, but unlike Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection, I was obsessed with how I reflected off other people.

I followed this pattern for years, but no one I dated worked out long-term. Many of those guys with great career successes didn’t have much time for a relationship. Some were mansplainers, assuming we both knew he was the smart one and I was relegated to being the audience. Just because someone was successful didn’t mean he was caring or or considerate or less emotionally messed up than anyone else.

Then I fell for someone who was wrong for me.

He had a perfectly good job, but his passions lay outside his career. It didn’t define him. He was a natural athlete to my klutz, a professional ski instructor whereas I avoid anything where it feels the ground is rushing up to meet me. He believed in a benevolent higher power. I did not. He thought the universe did, in fact, provide. I thought it had a complicated personality bordering on hostility.

Worst of all, he believed in astrology. For the record, he’s a Scorpio, I’m a Leo, and, according to astrology sites, this creates an incredibly passionate relationship between two strong personalities…but again, I don’t believe in astrology.

When he contacted me, I thought we had no future together, but he was just so nice, texting me photos of sun rises from his morning runs with cheerful little notes to have a great day. Even though I don’t do cheerful or sunrises or runs, morning or otherwise. Not only was he nice, but he was also great-looking, which I guessed would manifest in self-absorption.

His profile said, “May you find friends and lovers and more,” which to me sounded far too optimistic. I tended to go for guys who were driven to succeed, cared little about fitness, and cultivated dark sides that they loved to talk about.

My first real date with Mr. Opposite was a day long drive around some beaches in Marin with stops at his favorite restaurants. At the start, gave me a little gift book he’d bought for himself in Santa Cruz with drawings of the beach and quotes about the ocean. I did not own anything like it, but I was charmed by his thoughtfulness. And by the way he said he wanted me to have it because he knew I liked being by the water. Most importantly, he was comfortable giving me something that was special to him without worrying whether I’d think it was silly.

I discovered he was great listener who was emotionally intuitive. He was a visual thinker with a flair for home decor. That type of smarts is often underestimated in a world run by standardized testing. I had no long-term hopes for us, but I liked him so much I kept going out with him. He always greeted me with a huge, toothy smile like he was really happy to seeing me. (Not that I had to guess, he actually told me each time how he was looking forward to seeing me).

After our dates, I felt as if I’d basked in the sun for a few hours. It just felt great to be around him. And I realized the men I’d been dating weren’t as pleasing to be around as he was. Nor did most of them have his lovely manners. Nor his innate happiness.

I had a revelation: my type of allegedly smart wasn’t any fun

No liking stuff that wasn’t intellectually stimulating or cleverly esoteric. Rejecting the power of affirmations and positive thinking out of a sense of misplaced wisdom. Not feeling like I was enough as is. (Hence the aspirational dating).

Being with him made me feel like I had so many more choices. I didn’t have to be a cynic.

blog a lot about finding love online through perseverance — find more profiles, check messages daily, meet people in real life — but the real difference was being open to someone outside my usual range. And I accomplished the almost impossible: finding a happy, not disillusioned middle -aged single person!

I think many daters make the same mistake that I did: limiting our criteria to people like us. (“Must love atheistic existentialism, the films of the nouvelle vague, and early but not later Haruki Murakami.”)

Or we seek out the super successful because we think they’ll provide better lives for us. I had to figure out my own career and connection issues, and limit my search to finding love instead of a course in self-improvement. But I also realized I wanted more, more sweetness, more respect, and more availability, with a hell of a lot less superiority. Love became a lot easier once it was just love.

We can throw away our lists without abandoning our values.

We reject people with different philosophies when, in reality, do we really want someone who thinks the same way we do? Isn’t it more interesting to learn new ways of being? For me, being with a positive thinker is wonderfully cheering, even if it isn’t something I’ve yet to adopt. It’s lovely to sit by the water and just be with it, like he does, instead of checking my step count every five minutes.

Sure, we can still want someone loyal and smart and compassionate and not super self-involved, but that might not look the way we thought it would. They might have a different kind of job or income or personal style than we initially required. And that gives us a far greater pool of prospects while, at the same time, allowing us to find people with the core values we wanted in the first place.

Your person might very well be out there, they just have a different job or a different wardrobe than you expected. They might have a different view of the world. And that might be all to the good.

May you find friends and lovers and more.