TL;DR people: this is not about vans, I swear.

Last week I retired Matilda, my most beloved van, about whom I’ve blogged in the past. She’s my favourite van in the whole wide world, and I could was lyrical about her many outstanding qualities, but that’s not the point of this blog.

I bought ‘Tilda in 2014, sight unseen, because my old van had died a terrible and sudden death and I was stuck. I paid £350 for her, and I might have overpaid. She’s a good old van, but she’s older than some of my readers. Around the same time, a friend of mine also bought a van. There was nothing the matter with his old van, but ‘it was time for an upgrade.’ He didn’t get any old banger, either: he got himself one of those new pickups who look like a Transformer on ‘roids.

We both need vans for the exact same purposes: getting to and from work, moving dogs, and weekend camping trips. He spent over 50 times as much as me for a tool that does precisely the same job. From my point of view, that makes him a bit of a silly.

Of course, I’m completely missing the point. To him, a van is not just something to drive. It’s something to be seen driving. It’s beyond a status symbol: his ego is wrapped in his vehicle, and that totally changes the nature of the game. If I bear in mind where he’s coming from, all his vehicle-related decisions – upgrading unnecessarily, spending as much as he could borrow, buying new, etc. – make sense. If I ignore how connected his ego and his vehicle are, though, I cannot parse let alone predict his vehicle-related behaviour.

So bloody what? I hear you ask. Well, the same thing applies to many, if not most things in life. We may think we are embarking on the same quests, wanting the same things – relationships, careers, homes, families, etc. – but actually we often want them for completely different reasons. And it’s those underlying reasons that will determine how we will go about our quests.

Significantly (for me, at least) this applies to dating, romantic relationships, and romantic rejections. People come at them with very different interests and priorities, and if we ignore these differences their behaviour can surprise and confuse us.

My goal when seeking a mate is “finding someone with whom I can share a mutually agreeable amount of time and space without wanting to hit him with a brickbat too often.” It’s about whether we can make each other happier, overall. My ego is not wrapped up in the ‘quality’ of my mate, and I particularly don’t care about his perceived social value. As a result, rejections tend to have effects on me somewhere between ‘Meh’ and ‘I wish I was dead, but I’m sure I’ll get better’ depending on how invested I was in the person in question. However, they never offend me.

I have to remind myself that, for a whole bunch of people, that’s just not how it works. People whose egos are wrapped up in the quality of their mates come at relationships from an entirely different angle. They seek to confirm or improve their social standing by being seen with the right person. Their motivation may push them into ‘upgrading’ if the opportunity arises, or rejecting their partner if their ‘value’ drops. It may also cause them to undermine their partner’s efforts at improving themselves: if they improve too much, there’s a risk that they will seek an upgrade.

This also affects how they take rejections. Regardless of how politely these may be presented, they are almost bound to find them offensive. “How dare they reject me? Do they think I’m not good enough? What will everyone else think now?” They project the kind of thinking they do on others, assuming that we all come at the issue with the same frame of mind, and react accordingly.

From my point of view, it’s idiotic for them to do that. Yet I’ve been doing the exact same. It’s beyond pointless for me to be shocked when people’s behaviour does not match my expectations, when my expectations are based on me completely ignoring where these people are coming from.


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