When I was dating again, not all that long ago, I made myself one promise.
Hindsight is golden. I know this because of some wonderful relationships I have blithely walked away from. I think back now and say to myself, that could have worked really well were it not for me. Why did I walk away from that person? What the heck was I thinking? Well, I wasn’t really thinking. I was young and had an appetite for the drama and chaos that young men and women are often drawn to.
If I could sit down today, and have a little heart-to-heart with me at age twenty five, here’s what I would say. (And, of course, I would probably ignore me.) But here goes anyway.
#1) Don’t Confuse Anger with Strength
Don’t fall for the brooding tough chick or dude thing. I had a girlfriend who wore a cat suit and danced like a whirlwind. All over our relationship. Between her anger issues and mine, it was a train wreck. Neither of us ended up feeling very good about anything. It takes real strength to support and care about your partner. It takes no strength at all to be angry.
#2) Drama is Not Passion
You know what I mean by drama. Declaring your rights and fronting up on your partner over every little thing. All that threatening to break up and arguing and flailing around emotionally does not create a passionate life. It is not the fire of real love, nor is it the deep resonance of true emotional connection. It is simple childish acting out. Drama will never make you feel empowered or secure. And what’s worse, it is a loop that will play in your life for as long as you choose to allow it to. The good news? You can stop engaging in drama relationships whenever you are ready. How? Just value playing nice.
#3) Dance with the One That Brung Ya
I had a great girlfriend. She was calm and kind and smart. She really liked me for who I was. She really listened to what I needed. She never made me feel uncertain about her commitment to me. She was ready and willing to explore her and my physical and intellectual worlds. So, naturally, I started looking around for something new. Because being treated right didn’t resonate for me. I needed to be unsure and scared, right? If being treated right bores you, run, don’t walk to the nearest therapist. Because you do deserve better and its probably standing right in front of you.
#4) Have a Little Self Respect
We have all faced challenges in life. Been dumped on, kicked around, and left hanging. As kids, things have happened that broke our hearts. Sadly, this stuff is so very very common. A lot of us are just flat out wounded. But someday a lovely man or woman is going to take a chance on you, and in that moment, you’ll have to decide who you want to be in love with. This wonderful new person, or that internal version of you who wants to go on crying and whining. You can’t love both.
#5) Ignore the Surface Stuff, Look Deeper
You don’t need a supermodel, despite what you might believe. Every man and women is remarkably beautiful. Every single human being has that angle, or moment, or action that makes them utterly enchanting. You just have to be willing to see it. We can learn to love and be aroused by a much wider range of physical attributes than we ever thought possible. So young me, when you look at the wide world of prospective partners and try to find what appeals to you, please, in god’s name, don’t reduce it about how he or she looks. Make it about how he or she behaves, thinks, and lives. Look for your sexual connection in safety and compassion, not just gloss and appearance. Looks grow commonplace over time. Compassion, humor and emotional connection just gets better and more exciting. Really. I wouldn’t kid you.
#6) Tip your waiter
People in your life give you so much every day. Notice.
#7) Forget the Golden Rule, go with the Platinum Rule
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not the best way to proceed. Try this instead. “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” Because not everyone wants season tickets to the Packers.
#8) Bring Your Best Self by Considering the Needs of Those You Love
We all think a lot about what we want in the world. But what really transforms our lives for the better is thinking in positive ways about what is expected of us. Doing for others teaches us how to connect and grow relationships. When you learn to bring your best self and consider the needs of those you love, you step outside of yourself and into the world of the relational. And brother, when you spot that behavior in a prospective partner, drop to one knee and get out the ring. Quickly. Because two people who both work to put the relationship first are unstoppable.
When I was dating again, not all that long ago, I made myself one promise. If I met someone who loved me for who I am, I would do everything humanly possible to keep that person in my life. This was about making a decision. A fairly simple one. But one with a clear goal. And one long long overdue.
So, Mark from long ago? Here’s my advice: learn how to enjoy being loved.
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