By internet definition this is something that is “not open to discussion or modification.” In my current world this is something that hinders the development of a relationship, in other words, a deal-breaker.
Dating at 22
Ahh, to be young, most likely tipsy, broke, and relatively care-free again. Recently out of college, blindly following a budding career path, living for the weekend, and barely a thought of what comes after paying rent next month. At 22 I decided to move to Denver, I wanted to take my BFF with me but she wasn’t ready so instead I ended up taking my boyfriend at the time with me. He was fun, creative, outgoing, kind, hilarious, weird, and. . . he DANCED. Those were all super important things to me at the time. The relationship ended while in Denver thanks to a combination of me being a young jerk with bipolar and warranted trust issues. That was a good two years of drunken debauchery – which at 22, why the hell not?
The Non-Negotiables at 22
Ok, let’s be real here – I was 22 and honestly didn’t really care much about the future so why would I limit my partners based on anything other than the simple question “Do I like them?” Also, he danced. Not professionally or anything, but like ridiculous 80’s danced in the middle of the dance floor without any care in the world – SWOON.
Dating Marriage at 27
Ok, it’s been 5 years of learning from life. Well, I should have been learning but instead I was just kind of stumbling through my existence in a bipolar mess of extended depression with spikes of mania – not the best way to experience it. Very long story short, at age 26 I ran into a high school sweetheart who had joined the military, I moved to a depressingly remote area to be with him, it was not an actually happy or successful relationship by any means, thanks to my bipolar (random bad ideas and the lack of thought to stop them) and his willingness to go along with it we eloped and got married at a courthouse literally 5 minutes from where we lived. He then got deployed as my dad had a stroke back home. My dad ended up dying two weeks later due to horrendous complications from the stroke. Meanwhile the “husband” (so weird to say still) was deployed and I had to maintain a happy facade whenever we could Skype because, you know, he was in a war zone and all that. So, after 4 months of “Why am I doing this?” he returned and I already had the talk planned out, I wanted to divorce. Yup. That was my romantic life at 27. On a scale of one to even, I just couldn’t.
The Non-Negotiables at 27
At this point, with this person, I had learned that I wanted someone passionate about something, ANYTHING. I needed someone who needed more out of life than just coasting with the status quo. I learned that physical attraction is an absolute must – I’m not talking the shallow “They’ve got to be SUPER HOT” but a chemistry of sorts, an electric pull. I also realized with this person that I didn’t want someone who was addicted to nicotine. The partner I was with at 22 was a smoker, which is how I started smoking in the first place, and the partner at 27 chewed nicotine gum ENDLESSLY. I have one of those deep-seeded childhood issues with smoking and despite the fact that I’m an on-again off-again smoker, I decided that dating another smoker was not going to be good for me (I believe they call that an enabler). I hate admitting that I was a COMPLETE BRAT with this partner and that I took advantage of the regard that I was held in, but I did. However, I can say now that one of my non-negotiables is that my partner must be someone who can and will stand up to me when merited. I have a strong personality and I can be pushy (yeah, yeah, I know) but with years of practice I have learned to tone that down (still working on it), but I need a partner who has thoughts and opinions of their own and stands up for themselves.
Dating at 32
Ahh, to be in the NOW. I’m happy for the most part. My life has been a choose your own adventure story that, even if I could go back to a previous page and pick a different path, I wouldn’t want to. I have Life Things to figure out still and I’m a work in progress – isn’t everyone? In the past 5 years I’ve spent most of the time being single, a few dates here and there from online dating sites, a few months with a very sweet but very conflicted individual, a couple years in a relationship with a complete fraud, and a few weeks recently that I’m still figuring out. Most of my friends are married and settled into their coupled lives, some with kids, some not. One commonality among all of those couples is that they have chosen quality partners, not a single one has a sub-par spouse. My BFF and her unicorn of a husband (as in he’s rare and wonderful) were apparently recently discussing me and my singleness. They contemplated what my “perfect partner” would look like and jointly came up with no clear picture. I tried to figure this out as well during one of our long conversations when I came to visit her recently. I came up with nada. No clue. This concerned me at first until I considered it further and realized that this is probably the best approach to finding a partner in crime. I have no idea what they’ll be like, but I trust that I’ll figure it out when I do find them. And then we shall go on the biggest non-crime crime spree ever, or maybe just hold hands on that ride from my dad’s favorite Jerry Seinfeld quote.
“Life is truly a ride. We’re all strapped in and no one can stop it. When the doctor slaps your behind, he’s ripping your ticket and away you go. As you make each passage from youth to adulthood to maturity, sometimes you put your arms up and scream, sometimes you just hang on to that bar in front of you. But the ride is the thing. I think the most you can hope for at the end of life is that your hair’s messed, you’re out of breath, and you didn’t throw up.”
The Non-Negotiables at 32
Here’s the deal, I’m beginning to think that this concept of a non-negotiable is complete BS. Nearly everything in life is situational, right? I actually dated an ex-heroin addict (who ended up not being over that addiction, lesson learned) which to me SCREAMS of non-negotiable. But I entered into that relationship knowing the truth and it was a lovely relationship for the time that it lasted – there are some solid good memories. I wouldn’t have those memories if I didn’t allow myself the chance to explore (negotiate) that potential. Have you ever heard of “self-limiting beliefs”? They’re nasty little things, usually on the subconscious level, where your mind is convinced that there are these made up limitations so that you believe you cannot achieve XYZ because of these utterly made up limitations. Perhaps that’s what a non-negotiable is, a relationship-limiting standard/expectation/belief that only serves to hinder the potential progress of what could be an amazing relationship. It’s something to consider at the very least.
Where to go from here
Umm. . . I have no idea. I’ll continue to follow my heart and see where it leads me. I’ll do my best to suspend the non-negotiables because they’re just a construct after all. I’ll be honest with myself and others. And most importantly, I’m just gonna be over here, doing me. You do you, you do you.