What do you do when the one you’re dating wants to save the world? Alison Tedford tells us why dating an advocate can be the best thing ever.
In the world of online dating, I’m often asked what I do for to give back to the community as part of getting-to-know-you small talk. Ultimately, the conversation lands on mental health advocacy, something that is incredibly important to me. Reactions are mixed: intrigue, admiration and thinly veiled reluctance. Sometimes, I’m approached with caution. Inevitably, there are questions.
Am I one of “those” advocates? Will dating me result in being injured by a waving placard? Will our first date be spent chained to a tree in a threatened rain forest? Will bail money be required? Will our future home end up overtaken by stray cats?
I’m left to explain why dating an advocate can be the very best thing ever.
You, me, me, and the world
You see, advocates care about things outside of themselves. There’s enough narcissism in the world. Choose someone who is not always focused on number one. Whether it’s saving the rain forest or rescuing animals, advocates have empathy and consider the impacts choices have on others. This gives them the ability to consider how their own choices will impact you. It’s all about transferable skills. You want to be with someone who is habituated to care, and who cares deeply.
If you are the adventurous type, they can help expand your worldview. You will learn things you never knew you never knew. Advocates will teach you, if you will listen. They are used to educating, sharing information and are accustomed to meeting people where they are in their knowledge base. They know how to move past misunderstanding by telling you what you need to know to say yes. They are used to answering a lot of questions.
Why wouldn’t you want to date someone who is willing to give? Advocates give of their energy, time and emotional resources to the benefit of others. They learn the delicate balance of giving while keeping enough for self-sustenance. That balance is important in a relationship. A strong sense of boundaries acquired through advocacy will safeguard your relationship from creeping resentment.
Yes! We can! Date, that is
Even when things get tough, and resentment creeps in, people who advocate are optimistic. They believe no matter how big the problem, it can get better. They see potential in situations. Advocates are forward looking, eyes fixed on the horizon of the new day about to dawn.
When they see things, they speak up. You don’t have to wonder what they are thinking, they will tell you. They aren’t ones to let things pile up, they see the impacts of aggregated injustices in their work. That open communication will ensure everyone is informed and there’s no question as to the status of your relationship. They aren’t going to treat it like a game and not tell you the rules.
Advocates are used to not winning all the time. Over time, they learn to lose with grace. The answer isn’t always yes, but effective advocacy comes in building relationships and not burning bridges when the answer is no. They have heard “no” more than you can imagine. They hear “no” because they ask the questions.
How to choose the next best world changer
Choose someone who is solution-focused and knows how to ask for what they want. They know it’s not enough to complain that a situation is unjust; they need to present a solution to resolve it. Their communication is goal-oriented and they can get to the point. They are ready with an elevator pitch at all times. They think ahead so the conversation can be as strategic and effective as possible.
They don’t just work smart, they work hard. Advocacy is hard work, as are relationships. Advocates are used to working hard to shape the world they wish it could be. They know nothing will be handed to them, and that joy and bliss take a little bit of elbow grease. You want to be with someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves for you. You want someone who is used to never giving up on something that’s important to them just because it’s more difficult than they anticipated. They know nothing good comes easy.
When the good comes, advocates know how to celebrate. They know how to savor a victory. Advocates bask in the glow of a win and remember the people who helped get them there. They know how to stay humble, because even in victory, they know there are rougher roads ahead. They can enjoy the moment and the things they have worked hard for.
Advocates understand gratitude intimately.
Love and compassion
Something else advocates are closely acquainted with is compassion. They can apply self-compassion when they recognize they have done everything they can and they know how to extend it to others. Compassion is vital to a relationship and it’s a habit. You want to be with someone who makes a habit of being compassionate.
Compassion is valued, because advocates know they need it too. Even when you fight for what you think will change the world, sometimes you are wrong. You go down the wrong path, you say the wrong thing, you dream the wrong dream. Sometimes people get hurt or you get lost and have to ask for directions. Date someone who can ask for directions and admit they are wrong, even with the very best of intentions.
Even when they don’t get lost, it’s not always going to be an easy road to travel. The person you love will sometimes get discouraged, tired, and will need someone in his or her corner. They know they need that, and they will understand when you need it too. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, and they are on your team.
They know what it’s like to be part of a team, which on the most basic level is what a relationship is. Nobody can change the world alone and advocates know that. You want to be with someone who is a team player, someone who understands the value of an assist. Advocates know how to watch their teammate’s backs and the value of working with others.
So date an advocate. To answer your questions—no, you don’t need bail money. No, our future home won’t be full of cats. No, you don’t need a helmet to keep you safe from waving placards.
No, we won’t be chained to a tree on our first date…I have a three date rule about that sort of thing. You’re safe.
Photo: Val Kerry/Flickr