So maybe I don’t know a WHOLE lot about SUCCESSFUL relationships/dating, but I’ve been doing it for a while now and I’ve learned some things so. . . here they are.
Before you even decide to BEGIN a new relationship there are a few key ingredients you should be looking for before you make the leap.
Start with the Self-Love
Before you even consider entering into a romantic partnership with another human being, you should be pretty well comfortable with who YOU are as a human being FIRST. Ain’t nobody got time to be fixing you up, honey! That’s your own job! If you’ve got any lingering “issues”, please, for the sanity of yourself and your soon-to-be sweetie, DEAL with them! Of course, I understand that we all have our issues and the mountain of minor ones will never ALL be resolved, but I’m talking about the big ones here. Sort out those skeletons in the closet so that when those little minor issues come up in the relationship, they just seem like adorable little quirks for you and your partner to figure out together.
If you notice a trend of going from one relationship to the next, pause for a minute next time to give yourself time to reflect. It’s very easy to fall into the ebb and flow of “serial monogamy” but if your last relationship dredged up anything that might need some processing, you should consider taking a step back and focus on yourself for a bit. Work on who you are outside of the “relationship equation” so that you can be even more solid the next go around.
My point is, you’ve got to do this hard work to be able to begin a relationship as a whole person. If you don’t absolutely LOVE who you are, how will anyone else? This doesn’t have to be an unconditional 24-7 kind of love, I don’t even think Oprah’s capable of that, but if you can’t look at where you are in your life and be happy with the person you are and the path you’re on, perhaps YOU should be your top priority for now – not someone else.
Que sera, sera
“What will be, will be” I swear this is my mom’s favorite piece of relationship advice to me on any given day. I will admit that this broken record approach of hers might be merited. . . If you find yourself being impatient, always acting as “the first”, or perhaps your friends have told you to chill out over a person a few times – you may need this sound bit of advice. Yes, there is a time to act, and no, I can’t say with certainty WHEN that is, but if the potential for a relationship is starting to break ground – give it room (and TIME) to grow. According to my mom, if something is meant to come of a connection between two people, it will happen inevitably. This is easy for her to say, having been married to my dad for 42 years at the time he died in 2011, because she’s had that ONE partner, nearly her entire life – but I’m trying to apply it to my own life as well (easier said than done!). I don’t know about the concept of fate, but somehow I can reconcile the belief that things happen for a reason – and I apply that here.
So if you’ve got a potential partner, or maybe some missed connection, just wait it out. Keep yourself busy with activities/people/places that make you happy. Don’t just wait around. Now, if you’ve given the relationship in question a good amount of time, space, whatever, and there’s still inaction – I don’t know what to tell you then. You can try to “act first” but beware that you may get hurt (this has been my M.O. most of the time, and it does hurt when the answer is “no”, but then you’re not left wondering “what if” – I HATE being left in the “wondering” way more than I dislike dealing with the “no”). Keep in mind that once you receive a “no” in any way, shape, or form, you had best respect that and move on.
Know Your Non-Negotiables
A friend of mine once pointed out that with each newly ended relationship, we come out with at least 1-2 more “non-negotiables” which we can use to more easily sort through potential partners. A “non-negotiable” is something like “they’re voting for Trump and that’s not cool” or “they have to be ok with two babies, three cats, and 5 goldfish” – whatever those MUST HAVES (or absolutely cannot haves) are to you. From the 2.5 year relationship I learned the non-negotiable of “trust without thinking” (see below) and “must be a feminist” – these things may change definitions over time and from person to person, but if there is something that REALLY matters to you, you should not give that up for someone. If it’s something like “must have a nice car”, well now, perhaps you could look at their other attributes and see how much that single one really does matter to you. If it still REALLY matters, then put it on your list!
I’ll admit here that there’s some grey area with this. Ok, A LOT of grey area, read my post on Negotiating the Non-Negotiable here. As I said, these can be flexible and they can change over time. If you want someone who doesn’t smoke for instance, perhaps you’ll consider someone on the premise that “one day they’ll quit” – that’s all your call. Maybe use some of the point above and give the new relationship a little “que sera, sera” treatment to see how things shake out those first few months. You may just find out that your own non-negotiable is in fact, 100% opposite of what you thought!
Trust without Thinking
DO NOT ignore your gut! So many times I have seen friends ignore their initial instincts “Yeah, they seem a little off, but they’re super cute so it’s cool, yeah?” only to have it bite them in the ass shortly after (and by friends I mean myself included). Use your own initial reaction, as well as that of your friends (TRUST THEM! They’re thinking way more clearly than you are!), to gauge potential partners. If you get the sense of “red flags” please for the love of your heart, pay attention.
The best relationships I’ve had are the ones that came from either friendships or the “refer a friend” method. Either way, these partners were vetted – I knew they were legit GOOD people. That’s part of the reason I dislike the idea of online dating so much, you have NO IDEA who this person really is, and even your gut can lie when it tells you to trust someone implicitly. But when you’ve been referred by a friend, that potential partner usually comes with some recommendation and at least a little backstory.
With any new relationship it’s important that you are able to trust that person outright. If there is any cause at all for you to doubt that person, what’s the point of letting yourself open up to them? That’s why I call it the “trust without thinking”, it’s on some subconscious level that you instinctively know you can trust this person with your personal stories, and eventually your heart.
Obviously that list isn’t exhaustive, just a brief collection of my most recent lessons. What have been your most valuable lessons in relationships recently?
BONUS to look for: “The Flutter”
My mom’s pretty adorable sometimes and recently she outdid herself. We were talking about relationships (in which she gave me the que sera, sera speech) when she asked me if I felt “the flutter” with someone. I asked her to clarify, thinking I pretty well understood what she meant but I really wanted to hear the “mom” explanation. She went on to describe how she felt every time she saw my dad (and then any time she sees someone who resembles him from afar now after he died – which is heart-breaking) when she would get this feeling like a breath caught in her chest from excitement. Or when you smile just thinking about someone. The heart skipping a beat feeling. I think it’s a universal feeling, maybe all just a little different from person to person, but for my mom it’s that breath of excitement caught in her chest for just a moment.
Of course, it’s very easy to start a relationship this way – there’s almost always an initially exciting attraction that causes your heart to race when you think about that person. But my mom’s point was that her feeling STAYED, through 42 years – 2 kids, countless arguments, deaths, moves, 9/11, and into the aging process when your metabolism slows and your wrinkles get deeper. So if you’ve found someone, dated them for a bit, found out that maybe they snore or quote cartoons more than most people, and you still feel “the flutter”, then you might have someone worth keeping around for a while.