Knowing, Believing, Trusting
Today brings us to the first of a few concluding posts in this Dating Wisely series. Over the last couple months, we’ve considered 13 concepts to help you identify your goal and make every choice support that end…or you simply won’t make it to your desired destination.
The difficulty is 1) knowing yourself; 2) believing in yourself; and 3) trusting your strategy will get you what you want.
To figure out who you are, you might start with figuring out where you are on the tough-minded/tender-hearted continuum. When you figure that out, you’ll likely be attracted to someone on the opposite side of that continuum, at approximate the same distance from the center. That means you’ll have to accept who you are and you’ll have to accept someone who’s different than you are.
So that’s a start to figuring out who you are. There are also a plethora of values inventories out there to help you identify your emotional map. There are no right or wrong answers here, any more than there are right or wrong places on the tough-minded/tender-hearted continuum. But the values you have and the values your date has won’t be exactly the same. For example, you may place a higher value on gratitude than your partner, and s/he may place a higher value on generosity.
Wherever your values are different, you will have some tension. No worries. Take it slow, and make sure that you aren’t committing to someone whose values so completely clash with yours that you won’t be able to accept the other without trying to change him or her.
Learning My Values
Let me offer an example. I used to value control, so I used to pursue the men I was in relationship with, because I was concerned that they would leave me if I didn’t. That never worked to get me anything but passive men, which isn’t ultimately attractive to me. After many years on my healing journey, I finally made it to a place where I just let a potential love interest pursue me. Many did, and it still took almost 10 years to find one man whose intentions and capacity were compatible with mine.
I also learned that rejection wasn’t so bad when I simply accepted myself. I didn’t need someone else to affirm me then. I learned to accept that rejection simply meant the relationship wouldn’t have worked in the end anyway. I no longer needed to pursue dead-end relationships, and I came to trust the process, whether that meant I’d end up with an intimate partner or not.
After I learned about intimate connection, I couldn’t settle for anything less. Most of the singles I met (men and women) said they wanted the same thing, but after being around them for a while, I learned that most didn’t know how to achieve that, so they bumbled around making all kinds of choices that didn’t serve the ends they said they wanted.
Living My Values
By the time I met Brad, I was clear about who I am and the kind of relationship I wanted. I knew, for example, that I don’t do casual sex, and I don’t do sex with someone with whom the relationship isn’t exclusive. I made this clear to Brad on our first date, and that was appealing to him, even though he would have slept with me much sooner than I was ready. If I had believed that sex was necessary to secure his interest, I would have made a choice that didn’t serve my long-term goal to be solid in relationship. He tells me that because I was different from any other woman he’d ever met, he was willing to wait as long as needed. In order to “separate me from the herd,” he says, he suggested that we commit to an exclusive relationship after four dates. I agreed.
Once it was clear that I wasn’t just another girl on Brad’s dance card, our relationship was able to progress to a deeper level. Prior to that, I kept my pre-commitment boundaries clear, while still offering my emotional warmth. Plus, I had to allow enough time for me to pop the STD question without too much awkwardness. When you sleep with someone, you sleep with everyone they’ve ever slept with, and I had to be sure I wasn’t going to get a gift that kept on giving. (Incidentally, the two men I dated before Brad lied to me about their STDs. Both had one.)
Knowing who I am, communicating it clearly to my dates, and being confident that my strategy of making every choice match my desired goal increased my market value for the kind of man I wanted to be with. We teach people how to treat us by creating the conditions for that to happen, and by not settling for anything less.
Dogs Don’t Meow
Brad tells me that I’m the only woman he’s ever known who didn’t project my issues and expectations onto him. I’m sure I haven’t been perfect in that, but it certainly has been my goal to simply accept who he is without trying to change him. If who he is isn’t right for me, the only option for me is to not be in the relationship. I don’t have the right to try to change him. Plus, I don’t want waste my energy trying to make a dog meow. I learned in my marriage what a futile effort that is, and I promised myself never to do that again. If that meant losing a lot of potential relationships along the way, so be it.
Tomorrow we’re going to continue wrapping all this up so that you can get out there and try it out.