As a young woman, I was ill-prepared to distinguish between relationships with real potential and the other kind. My favorite therapist, Dr. Ed Wortz—who was also my dreamwork mentor—gave me a hint:
If you listen and watch carefully, people will tell you which type of relationship it is.
It wasn’t long before I noticed plenty of material to test out Ed’s pronouncement.
At that time, I was intimately involved with Monty, who offered what I thought to be a relationship with terrific potential. He taught environmental studies at the college level, and my work was all about promoting conservation and renewable energy resources. What’s more, I believed that he was emotionally mature, because his father was a Freudian psychologist. Dismissing my reservations about Freudian psychology, I envisioned life with Monty, my future husband.
Monty lived about fifty miles away, and my work occasionally brought me to his town. After meeting with a few members of the City Council one day, I joined him and our mutual friend Jim for dinner at the home of one of Monty’s colleagues, Linda. Over the course of the evening, I followed Ed’s suggestion. Listening and watching carefully, I noticed that Monty and Linda had a great deal in common: they were both extremely reserved and self-assured, and they had similar tastes in music, art, and literature.
Feeling unsettled–okay, jealous–I tried to ease my discomfort by befriending Linda. When we had left the table and were having coffee and cookies, I stood in front of her, intending to initiate a conversation. She promptly took a step back and turned sideways. I find it difficult to communicate from the side and at a distance, so I stepped forward and again moved in front of her. Once again, she took a step back and turned sideways.
Puzzled, I stepped forward once again, and she again stepped back and turned sideways. You see the problem? I wasn’t capable of understanding Linda’s body language. But I was capable of watching it, as Ed had advised. And by the time Monty brought the bizarre non-conversation to an end by announcing that he needed to get home, I had finally learned to read the message that Linda’s body language was shouting: my hoped-for friendship with her had no potential.
After mulling over the events of that evening for a few days, I wrote Monty, telling him straight out that I thought our relationship had a lot of potential. The wiser part of me knew that it just wasn’t so. But I wanted to be sure.
Monty’s response arrived in the mail about a week later: he would have to think about whether or not our relationship had “lots of potential. ” The signature line was “Cordially, Monty.”
Even with that, I clung to my “happily-ever-after” fantasies about Monty until my friend and neighbor Lynn spoke the truth:
“Cordially” says it all!
Tara’s Writing Studio