the key to the kingdom

One of the things I love about dating is how much it teaches you about yourself.  By having to explain and reveal yourself to someone new, you are often forced to see or discover aspects of yourself of which you’d been unaware.

I had an interesting conversation this weekend with a man whom I’ll call “Seamus.”  Seamus opined that people in a new relationship show all their best parts to each other in those early days, in an understandable and normal attempt to impress.  I agreed in concept, but then thought about that for a second and realized that, to a certain extent, he is wrong.  At least about me.

Because, the thing is, I don’t show the best of myself right away.  Of course, in some ways I do the same as everyone else does:  I use my best manners, pull out my cutest clothes,  flirt madly. But, in truth, I hold the best stuff back.

I’m not talking about my dirtiest secrets or my new tattoo or my secret fantasies.  I’m talking about the sweetest, most loving, most intimate parts of my heart.  The things I do and say and give to the men who have taken part of my heart with them when we parted.  With them, I am different.  With them, I am wide open and completely vulnerable.  With them, I don’t hide anything or hold back.  They get the whole me.

They get, as Seamus described it, “the key to the kingdom.”

Holding back the “key to the kingdom” is not about being scared, or being closed off.  It’s a conscious choice to save only the best parts of myself for the men who deserve them, by virtue of the fact that they have somehow become so special to me that they have earned the best I have to give.  These men are very few and far between.

I think, at this point in my life, I hold the key to the kingdom even more tightly than I used to.  Not only because I’ve been so hurt (although that is certainly part of it), but also because, at this age, it’s harder than ever to be special to each other.  There aren’t many “firsts” left — we’re not virgins, we’ve been in love before, we’ve been brokenhearted, we’ve been married, we’ve created children, we’ve established households — life’s milestones have been mostly shared with other people.  When I meet someone special, I can’t offer him some emotional or physical trophy.  But what I can offer him is a part of me that most other guys don’t get near.

Several of the men whom I’ve dated that haven’t received the “key to the kingdom” have known, of course, that I was holding something back, and have responded with varying degrees of frustration or irritation.  One man even asked me once, in exasperation, “Why won’t you let me really know you?”

The shame of it, of course, is that the men who do receive the key to the kingdom have no way of really knowing that their experience of me is special and not shared by every other man I’ve dated. After all, none of us can really know what our lover was like with someone else.  Was he as sweet and caring?  Did he call every girl this much?  Did he spend as much time with the others?  So, sometimes, my boyfriends will take for granted the things I do, not realizing that those things are gigantic billboards evidencing my affection for them.   But that’s okay, I guess.  Because when I give my heart, mind, body, and soul to someone I love, I do it because I don’t have a choice.  I do it because I am compelled to try and show him how much he means to me.  I do it because, when I’m in love, it makes me happy to feel really seen and completely heard and intimately known and none of those things can happen without me being open.

I used to assume that everyone was the same in this fashion, but I’ve realized that people are not all the same in any fashion.  Some people really are pretty identical with just about everyone they date.  They tell all the same stories, they reveal all the same things, they do all the same sweet gestures for everyone they are with.  Not necessarily to manipulate, but just because that’s just how they move through the world.  But dating has helped me realize that I’m not that way.  For better or for worse, I’m just not.  Maybe if I were, I would more have more numerous, successful relationships.  Then again, maybe not.

I’d like to think that someday I’ll meet a guy who will understand and appreciate that the way I am with him is different and special and an ode to how awesome I think he is.  And when I offer him the “key to the kingdom,” he’ll cherish it and protect it and fight to hold on to it.

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14 Comments

Filed under dating, love, personal growth, relationships, single mom

14 responses to “the key to the kingdom

  1. Very well and cogently written. Could not agree with you more.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John

  2. Mmm, I guess I am the same. I haven’t fallen in love many times, but when I have, I gave all of myself… There is something so great about this, I miss it actually.
    I hope Seamus can get that key perhaps, and if he does, that he’ll treasure it.
    x

    • Hi Lady E,

      I know what you mean about missing it… a huge part of what I miss when I’m not in love is the ability to share that much with someone else. It’s such a amazing thing when you connect like that, isn’t it?

      • Communication is everything. I have a new love in my life. Our first date was 21 hours long and we did not even have sex but talked non stop. Did share a bed for the evening but did not have sex but just talked all night. The sex is also great.

        John

        • That’s wonderful, John! Good for you!

          First dates that surprise you are one of life’s sweetest moments. I’ve had a few that far surpassed my expectations and really grabbed my attention in a way that I could not have anticipated. Sounds like you’ve got one of those. 🙂 Enjoy it!

  3. I think your approach is tricky to implement but, ultimately, the most rewarding for you and your beau. Hold back too much and he might drift away before he realizes you have depths that haven’t been plumbed (and I mean this in the cleanest sense). Give yourself over too easily and you also risk over-investing too quickly if he’s going in a different direction to you.

    I’m sure you have the wherewithal to handle this approach delicately.

    There are open questions for me personally from this idea of yours: In my marriage, I gave all of ‘me’ for a long time. I’d only done that once before. But, how much did I hold back over time as a result of the problems that weren’t fully resolved? Did holding back some of ‘me’ over time affect the outcome in some way? Is there any meaningful difference betweent the way men and women approach relationships that requires that this idea should be implemented differently? Something for me to ponder…

  4. SD, I think that the question of what we hold back over time is a completely different post (maybe you could write it!)… Here, I was only talking of the initial holding back that determines how deep the relationship will ultimately go. But I think what you’re referring to happens much more often, and certainly in nearly every marriage that ends in divorce, I would think. I suspect that both partners in those marriages are guilty of holding back later on, in one way or another, to one extent or another.

    • That’s a good follow-up. In fact, perhaps the deepest hurt occurs when one person starts holding back and withdrawing and the other does not. The adjustment is that much harder for the unprepared and we probably see examples of that in this community of blogs. Maybe in my own case, I was spared some of that pain by the difficulties last year that preceded the actual announcement that my marriage was over. Even the “I think this going to end soon” ponderings were not indicative of a certainty, but happened to steel me a little for the actual announcement.

      As you point out, maybe the long-term view is worth a look as a post of its own.

      The funny thing is, for reasons of my own, I had planned to post tonight in a general way on the same topic you just did. You beat me!!

  5. I wish I was more like you. I tend to give myself away way too freely.. and therefore I’m easily hurt because I make myself vulnerable. I jump in head first… I hate it.
    Good post!!

    • Oh dear, don’t be so sure that I don’t give up more than I should sometimes. Even when I hold back the big stuff, I’ve definitely been known to give up too much of myself to guys who absolutely shouldn’t have gotten past the first date…. We all do it. Sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes people fool us. It’s just human nature so don’t beat yourself up too much about it. I think it takes a lot of mindfulness to really hold some things back until you’re sure that this person is worth it. It’s so much more fun to just jump in! 🙂

      • I’m with you girls. I too have given way too much to men I should not have bothered with. I wasn’t even in love with them, so I don’t know what it is… Just being daft? 😉

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