Issue # 40 of 43
By: David LeClaire
In last week's column I stressed that I think it's healthy, and important for many reasons, to embrace being single and without a long-term partner. If you proceed through life as though you're incomplete and it's someone else's role to provide your missing piece, you're setting yourself up for trouble - and them for failure. Even though you may want to have that "special someone" in your life, seeing them as a bonus to an already great life is a powerful frame of mind to have.
But make no mistake, the basic nature of most humans includes an inner desire to be with others. As a child, we cried when we had nobody to play with. As a young adolescent, we obsessed over the boy or girl in math class. Even in terms of criminals, the worst punishment is solitary confinement, even though one's alternative as a prisoner is only time with other offenders!
You may go in and out of different states of mind when it comes to being single, depending on who you date, how long you're single, and how you approach the entire endeavor. I think it's realistic to assume, however, that regardless of where your head is at, the underlying reality is that you long to connect with someone, eventually, in an intense, passionate, meaningful manner. This need will result in your choice to spend time with "possible partners," which then brings about the challenge of identifying if they are a good match for you or not.
Every time I start writing or talking about choosing a partner, someone always chimes in, "But what if I don't want another relationship right now?" My response is, that's great! And when you're ready to get back into the mix, this will be more relevant to you then. Others say, "People put too much emphasis on being in a relationship. They need to be okay with themselves and being single first." To which I say, "I agree. But I'm not writing or speaking about that subject at the moment. That's a whole different ball of wax. I'm writing now for those who are actively interested in engaging with someone else." So, for those of you who are dating, or want to be, the next few columns are for you!
I don't believe there is ONE perfect partner for you out there. There are many different people that you could learn to love, who could provide you with the stimulation and affection you desire. But not all of these people would make a good "life partner" for you. Each presents a unique perspective, energy, style, and approach, of which certainly there are many good fits for you. And regardless of how good of a person he or she may be, whoever they are will indeed shape and color your world as you share your time and life with them. Because of this, I think choosing a partner is one of the most important undertakings one will ever become involved in.
To begin with, everyone knows evaluating a potential partner is difficult, since everyone is usually on their best behavior in the beginning. (If we only had résumés with our past lovers on it for references!) And, as mentioned in a previous article, there is a "Hope Blindness" issue when we sometimes overlook warning signs that we don't want to see. I believe in a few basic tools to utilize in this search, and feel that the time invested is very much worth it if it results in a good match with you and another.
Sit down with a cup of coffee (or beverage of choice), alone, and give yourself about 15-30 minutes to relax into this exercise. On a piece of paper start a list of what your "perfect partner" would be like. Visualize how you would like them to be emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, etc. Your list should include things like how they look at the world, what they like to do, how they would interact with you, what their lifestyle would be like, and so on. Don't hold back, this is not the time for caution or "what's realistic," or what you think is possible for you. One way to build this list is to consider your past relationships, i.e. what was great, what was missing.
Once you've run dry on ideas, refresh your beverage, and then take another look at this list. Now which of these items is ABSOLUTELY NON-NEGOTIABLE. Mark them by placing "NN" next to the items. Other items may seem important, nice, desirable, or optimal, but if the non-negotiable things were all met, you could live with not having these things.
Rewrite your list, putting in a neat column all of NN items. Then in the other column, re-write your negotiable list. Hopefully as you do this exercise you will keep your NN items to a minimum, otherwise it makes it harder and harder to find possible candidates! Anyway, keep this list in your wallet, and refer to it occasionally. When you may find yourself beginning to like someone or actually getting involved, pull out the list and look over your non-negotiable items. Do they seem to all be met, or have you been making excuses?
Now remember, this exercise is really only for people who are ready to be more pro-active about finding someone, attracting someone, or allowing someone into their life. If you're young and not ready for a serious relationship, recently divorced, or just not in the frame of mind to be too concerned, that's fine. For the rest of you, this simple, easy to do exercise helps you visualize what you're really looking for, and clarifies what you really need to be happy with your choice.
When I was single I did this list, it helped me be strong and firm when some intriguing possibilities crossed my path - but I couldn't avoid the truth that they were merely distractions, since many of my NN items I knew wouldn't have been met. Getting sidetracked into a relationship that may only provide sex or fun is fine when that's all you want, but when you're ready for more, while it may seem they may "tie you over," they can also suck all of your energy and time, and if they aren't healthy relationships, can also batter you emotionally, leaving you much more worse off and less of an attraction to someone more suited to you.
Remember, who you choose will make a huge difference in your daily life! Take it seriously enough to spend 30 minutes considering what lessons you've learned in the past and summarizing them in this list. If it's the time you can't seem to afford, think about how much time you will waste just on dates that are going nowhere.
Next week:Tune in for important questions to ask during your first few times together with a new prospect!
Building Bridges Table of Contents
Text © 1998, David LeClaire. Part of the original Sideroad.
More expert advice available at www.sideroad.com.