November 18, 2007

People always say nothing in life is worth having unless you've worked for it. Hard work pays off. Except when it comes to relationships. Or more specifically, relationships involving a woman with a strong personality.

The other day I was having coffee with a friend who was telling me about a failed relationship. He was going over it, trying to figure out what went wrong, and why, even though he loved her, he couldn't be with her.

I was sympathetic. Right up until he reached a conclusion. She was, he said: "Too much like hard work."

What does that mean? I began wondering what vaults someone into this undesirable category. The category that wipes out all other redeeming features. And once you're in it, there's no getting out. The more you try to prove you don't belong in this category, the more it re-enforces you do.

I felt bad for this woman I'd never met. I wanted to call her up and tell her to move on - quickly - because unless she was willing to get a lobotomy, the relationship was definitely over. And then, just as I was about to mount a defence on her behalf, my friend said, "You know what I mean."

Now I was confused. Was he suggesting I could relate to what he was saying because I have been in situations with men who were hard work? Or, did he mean I could relate to his decision because I have "hard work" stamped on my forehead. And that I have experienced my share of men giving up on me - and who can blame them?

Guess what? It was the latter. "C'mon," he said, "You know you're not the easiest person to be in a relationship with."

How would he know? We've never even dated. "You think I'm hard work?" I asked. He gave me a look. The look an airline employee gives a passenger who has just learned they're not getting an upgrade and is trying to argue there's been a mistake.

"You know you're difficult," he asserted. "It took six e-mails, three phone calls and a dozen texts to make a plan for coffee."

What's wrong with that? I'm conscientious. And therein, lies the problem. Everyone has their own definition of what constitutes hard work. What some people see as a headache, others see as a challenge.

If something is bothering me, I tend not to keep it inside. This might not be the way to go. Nothing says hard work more than a woman who starts conversations with: "Can I ask you a question?"

From now on, when someone asks me what I'm looking for in a man, I'm going to say: a good work ethic. That, and a high pain threshold.