The Paragon

If you’ve dated long enough, you probably have one. I mean The Man Against Who All Others Are Measured. (For men, it’s The Woman Against Who All Others Are Measured. But we’ll take this from the female perspective because that’s the one with which I’m most familiar.)

It was probably when you were young. You went out with what seemed like just another man. Only you dated for longer than usual. Three dates turned into four turned into five turned into six. You really liked him. You enjoyed his company. You shared his values. You could really begin to see a life with him.

Then, out of nowhere, he dumped you. For murky reasons you couldn’t understand.  “I don’t think this will work.” Or,  “I’m not feeling that spark.” Or, “I’m not ready yet.”  Or, most inexplicable of all: “I just don’t think you’re the one.”

You were devastated. Bewildered. Hurt. And worst of all: wronged. Because he was wrong. You went so well together. You were meant for each other. The more time passes, the more convinced of this you become. His blemishes faded with time or acquired the glowing charm of eccentricity, while all his best traits shone with an ever stronger light. And nobody – absolutely nobody – measures up to him.

You go out with other men. Lots of other men. They’re not as tall, not as bright, not as nice, not as funny, not as handsome, not as successful, not as promising, not as courteous or gallant or sartorially sophisticated. You go out with them once, and then, just to be sure, you go out with them again. But no, they’re still not as tall, bright, nice, funny, handsome, successful, promising, courteous, gallant, or well-dressed. Truth is, they’re not even your type. Not what you’re looking for. You know what you’re looking for. Because once, long ago, you found it.

You let them walk you to your door. You let yourself in. You tramp slowly up to your room and slump on the edge of your bed. And you think about Him. The Paragon. The Man Against Who All Others Are Measured.

You tell yourself that one day he will realize his mistake. He’s been dating for a few years. You know this, because you keep tabs on him. Sometimes you even walk down his block. Just in case he’s looking. You know that soon it will dawn on him, and he’ll realize what he gave up. He’ll secretly ask someone to suggest that you go out again. You’ll say, “With him? We’ve been out already.” You’ll consider it, nonchalantly. And you’ll say, “Oh sure, why not.” And wedding bells will ring.

But until then… you kick off your heels and peel off your tights and go to sleep without taking your makeup off.

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19 thoughts on “The Paragon

  1. When you were with this “paragon” you were actually yourself and not just 2 people both awkwardly sitting, filling silence with small talk and making sure you don’t say anything embarrassing or seemingly stupid.
    And so after each failed date, you remember how you actually dated a guy and looked forward to spending time with him and now you are back to……square one. More than just wishing that things worked out with the “paragon”-it’s wishing you could have that type of relationship again.

  2. Let me play Devil’s Advocate for a moment: Have you ever been the one to go out with someone four, five, six times and realize that as wonderful as the person is, you’re just not feeling it? It happens. It stinks to be on the receiving end of the “not feeling it” but would you want them to stay with you just because you think all is fine and dandy? A paragon is nice memory but nothing more. How great that relationship was is nothing more than a dream. Reality is when two people decide that being together is what they both want.

  3. I am a long time lurker on this site but decided to break through the barrier….
    I am a long time shidduch-dater but until recently, and especially this current guy, have never come even close to someone who fit what I needed in life. Almost all my dates were almost an “anti-paragon” if that even makes sense. Perhaps the person against whom I found what I didn’t need in life. The entire process has been a soul-searching endeavor that has helped me grow and mature. (I also found a different sort of shadchan). But now, I am finding it difficult to stay logical. Emotions are starting to take over and I just feel kind of lost. How does one know when they have met the right sort of “ideal” man? I guess this kind of rolls into the whole “if I had a good friend of the opposite gender, this date would fit into that category but I just couldn’t marry them” dilemma…

  4. “they’re still not as tall, bright, nice, funny, handsome, successful, promising, courteous, gallant, or well-dressed”

    Y’know, if a guy wrote, “the girls i am dating now are not as thin … pretty…or well-dressed”, he’d be considered shallow. Is there a bit of a double standard here?

  5. I’ve been there. I always thought I would be the sort of person who, if rejected, would say “Well, who needs you!” And now I realize that I am all bravado. I would fantasize, for years, the same exact way as you, only to see his engagement on FB or OnlySImchas – and think “THAT’s who he ended up with?”

    While pictures aren’t everything, whatever I’ve gauged from the sort of girl the paragon married was that he was not looking for someone like me, even though I thought he was.

    When one paragon marries, then another one comes along to take his place. And then I tell myself to snap out of it, because if he said “bye bye,” then despite his claims he is not looking for anyone like me.

    But in the meantime, I still can’t stop myself from having relatively innocent daydreams.

    But take off your makeup, woman!

  6. I agree that all long-time daters have a “paragon”, but I think this is where real, mature priorities come in. I think that when one is truly emotionally and mentally ready to get married, he or she can finally hone in on the two or three essential qualities that he or she TRULY needs in a spouse. Then, one finds a person with those few qualities — while the paragon may still lurk in the back of one’s mind — those nagging feelings are pretty easily disregarded. However, I think a number of daters (not all, but many) are stuck requiring dates to match up with unsubstantial and/or unimportant requirements — and that’s when the paragon, who had all those dumb qualities, still plays out in ones mind.

  7. But I agree that when one comes home from a horrible date with a guy who is weird by any standard, oh yes, that paragon guy is totally the fallback. My last post referred to when a guy is actually normal.

  8. Random Shadchan:

    “they’re still not as tall, bright, nice, funny, handsome, successful, promising, courteous, gallant, or well-dressed”

    vs.

    “the girls i am dating now are not as thin … pretty…or well-dressed”

    The latter is not exactly on par with the former. If he had said, “Pretty, bright, funny, promising, charming, personable, well-dressed,” perhaps it would be comparable.

    The whole package vs. pretty face.

  9. Theres another side to the coin- the who girl dates a guy who is everything she is looking for…but she is the one who ends it. Because she doesn’t feel it. It’s in her head- she knows he is perfect for her- but her heart is not telling her the same. And every day she eats herself up deciding if she should go back to him, and make him the one… and maybe something in her heart will change… or maybe it won’t. But she gave him up. In the meantime she dates other guys but their not for her like he was…he is still her paragon…

  10. Bad4,

    I know what you are talking about. Having the Paragon in play is difficult and hard. But wishing that he’ll be available, come date you again, leave his wife and come find you etc etc is not helpful. This is usually (not always) the person that you have to move past and beyond in order to be open to dating other people. If you stay thinking about the Paragon and measuring all others against him, it is much harder (sometimes impossible) to get married.

    I touched on this in a post I wrote entitled ‘How To Determine Who to Marry’ (link here.) My Paragon was not someone who was good for me. It was hard to move on from him and be open to dating others, or marrying others, including my husband. It was something that took a lot of work. But I think it was worthwhile. Obviously every situation is different – but this might be something for you to try to focus to move beyond, if possible, so that you can be open to others. And it will be really hard and painful. I wish you good luck…

  11. This relationship that you cite as a Paragon never existed except in your mind. You were overlooking key parts. I know that it’s hard to see this — easier to know intellectually than to feel emotionally — but the part of him that led him to say that he just wasn’t into it means that he’s just not emotionally available. I have had Paragon relationships, and it was only when the reality hit me over the head — such as when I visited his parents and saw how abusive his mom was towards his dad, and how I’m like his dad, and he’s like his mom — that I realized how hopeless it was. Only when I could explain his detachment in such concrete terms, stemming from emotional abuse in his parents’ marriage, and while he was aware of the abuse and he claimed to want to fix it, he was still showing signs of becoming like his mom, I just gave up. It was still really hard to give up, but I could see that the relationship was impossible. But in other cases where there wasn’t such a clear sign that this guy was emotionally unavailable and unlikely to change, I did keep that Paragon idea for awhile.

  12. Depressingly accurate description of my dating life on all accounts. The guy stole my heart and although completely flawed tattooed the status of “perfect” across my young impressionable mind. I still can’t understand why I still think of him even though logic tells me it was an emotional trick played on a clueless young girl.
    Four years later, I wish he would get married already, then i can finally completely forget him.
    or at least i hope so……….

  13. also its completely different when a guy does it to a girl. He completely leads her on with compliments and chivalry ie o you must be cold here is my coat or i LUV the shape of your eyes ( and yes thats exactly what he did to me)
    pretty sure when a girl dates a guy and is unsure she makes her feeling pretty clear all along.
    most girls dont act gaga over a guy and then dump him unexpectedly

  14. I had a Paragon once; I compared every other girl to her. Then I met my wife, and realized how much the paragon pales in comparison to my her. Could be that’s what it takes to get over it.

  15. My only criticism is that sometimes there are “paragons” who are legitimately good. Maybe someone broke up with someone else for the wrong reason. Maybe the relationship didn’t work out because of external reasons (i.e. distance).

    In certain ways, if it was legitimate, I’d compare it to someone who was married to someone great before, but then is widowed. At the end of the day, no matter how good that person might have been, they have to move past it to open themselves up to new opportunities, no?

  16. Princess Lea:

    “The latter is not exactly on par with the former. If he had said, “Pretty, bright, funny, promising, charming, personable, well-dressed,” perhaps it would be comparable. ”

    The “… ” was meant to include the other adjectives listed here, between “thin”, “pretty” and “well-dressed”. (I traded her “tall” for “thin”, since that is a more common thing guys look for.) I can’t imagine that if a guy were mooning about some thin, pretty, well-dressed girl, even if he mentioned all the other attributes, people wouldn’t come down on him for being shallow and placing too much weight (no pun intended) on externals.

    I’m just sayin’…

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