What makes me think I could start clean slated? The hardest to learn was the least complicated – Indigo Girls
I sit, along with four married/partnered girlfriends, at a table in a bar, in between happy hour and the late hours reserved for the young ones and notice we are all talking about the same thing: relationships and dating. From the two ladies who have been in the longest relationships at the table comes the same theme: I didn’t know it could be this easy. I find myself nodding my head as I sip on my vodka and hear my friend next to me let out a frustrated “hrrmphh”, likely responding to her current non-easy dating situation. When did we start believing dating had to be so hard? And does it? It has been said that we fulfill our own expectations by manifesting them. That is, if we expect something bad to happen, it will. If we find a way to believe that something good will happen, it will. Well maybe that may be an oversimplified viewpoint, but you get the idea. I listen curiously as my friends describe their relationships in the early stages – the first dates, the milestones like meeting family and I chuckle as they share their amazement in how they waited for the other shoe to drop. Yet it never did. Yes, stuff came up. Yes there were misses, small breaks in the relationship. But then there was communication and repair. Reconnection. And for the most part, the misses were few and far between. And far away from any deal breakers, like inappropriate boundaries with other women, being secretive, or shut down.
This makes me think about my own current dating situation and has me looking at it with the same wonder I have felt all along: is it really this easy? I am reminded of a breakup book I read after a disastrous breakup, Getting Past Your Breakup (Elliot, 2009). In the chapter on Moving On, Elliot describes what love is and what it is not. She explains that love doesn’t hurt. Love isn’t passive aggressive – doesn’t push you away and pull you back in. Love doesn’t cause you to lose things: friends, sleep, hobbies, your appetite or health. Love doesn’t make you wait, worry, or wonder (Elliot, 2009). Love doesn’t need to apologize very often but will when it’s necessary. As I read this for the first time, I remember thinking: how did I make it 41 years and not have this clearly described in this way until now?
I look around at the couples scattered amongst masses of singles. I wonder if they are as happy as it seems from this angle. While the past 15 years have given me the opportunity to date some amazing women, create lovely memories, and grow into the person I am today, they have been marred with a lot of heartache and disappointment. I married a woman and stayed with her for 6 years after she cheated on me the first year we were together. And never took ownership of having done it. I fell for and dated several women who, no matter how amazing they were or how much I wanted them to be the one, were just not compatible with me. In each case, this incompatibility revealed itself very early on, and I buried my head in the sand and refused to see it for what it was: just not meant to be. And so, like many other times in life, I opted to try harder, hang on tighter, and in the end, suffer longer, and inevitably both of us suffered longer than if I had simply acknowledged the reality of our relationship for what it was. It’s no wonder I long for some dating guidelines to help me be less stupid in love.
Based on Elliot’s descriptions of love, I create a checklist for myself as a reminder and flag it in my journal to come back to as I go about dating. I vow to re-read my checklist before getting into a relationship or staying in a relationship with someone.
|Is she consistent?|
|Is she kind/loving?|
|Can she communicate?|
|Does she make your life better?|
|Do you rarely worry, wait, wonder what will happen?|
|Do you keep your voice, your friends, your health, your sleep, your appetite?|
|Is it easy|
|Does it not hurt?|
|Are you focused on you?|
|Do her actions show love?|
|Are you putting up with something?|
|Are you accepted and loved for who you are?|
|Can you be yourself? Your best self?|
|Does she make your life larger?|
|Do you feel SEEN, and HEARD, and VALUED?|
As the evening winds down and I hug my friends goodbye and make my way back to my car, I realize that at this point in my life I am willing and able to see things for what they are, just as they are. There have been many moments in the past where I have simply realized, sometimes after years of trying, that there is nothing for me here. This person isn’t going to change. Or we tried really hard but just aren’t compatible. Or their behavior is literally shouting at me that I am not a priority and I have no choice but to finally accept it. Or or or. I’ve learned you can’t make someone value you who doesn’t. You can’t make someone see you who won’t or can’t. You can’t make someone show you love the way you need if they aren’t capable of it. Or you can’t communicate what you need. And you definitely can’t make someone love you if they don’t. As I plop down into the seat of my car and rest my hands on the steering wheel, I let out a sigh. I look on as a couple shouts at one another in the parking lot and I can’t help but look up and whisper a silent “thank you,” in gratitude that at least at this point in my life, dating is the new easy.
Kim Baker is an educator, freelance writer, and blogger whose writing explores dating in the digital age. Drawing on 20 years of dating, she redefines dating through the lens of mindfulness and connection. Kim is writing a dating book that offers a spiritual approach to dating, beginning with self-care. www.sdwritergirl.com