It is easy to get caught up in our checklist of “needs” for a relationship, but it is much deeper than that.
Several years ago a friend shared this passage from the book Attachments with me. It struck me then and every time I’ve read it since, it makes me pause and think. It hits close to home when I think about dating and relationships.
“He knew why he wanted to kiss her. Because she was beautiful. And before that, because she was kind. And before that, because she was smart and funny. Because she was exactly the right kind of smart and funny. Because he could imagine taking a long trip with her without ever getting bored. Because whenever he saw something new and interesting, or new and ridiculous, he always wondered what she’d have to say about it—how many stars she’d give it and why.”
It is a perfect summary of what I’ve been looking for in a relationship. Probably what we are all looking for really. I spent years trying to figure it out, what works for me, what doesn’t, what are the deal breakers and must haves. Now, I’m not so sure that is the right way to look at things. Of course we have qualities we are looking for and things we know fit better with our beliefs and approach to life. But often those are just boxes to check on an application and are just surface things, the ones that are easy to find or easy to fake.
Dating again after divorce, I began to realize my perspective had changed, not just on what I want in a partner but how to identify those traits in people. It has been clear the real stuff, that lies much deeper in our souls than we let most people see, is the place to look in other people and to share of yourself. It isn’t just the photo on Tinder or what we write in our Match profile.
Of course it all starts with physical attraction and the easy things to have in common…music choices, favorite books, hobbies, etc. But the people we truly connect with become more of those surface things the deeper you dig. The books they choose become much more interesting…because the person telling you about it cares deeply and thoughtfully about why they choose that book. Their hobbies are much more enjoyable than you may have first thought because the time you spend is with them, not the activity you choose. The reason you can’t wait to see her doesn’t start with her beauty…it ends with it. It starts with her ambition and confidence and grows with her sense of humor and kindness.
By no means do I have it all figured out. But as I’ve met people and dated I regularly look at this passage as a reminder of what the relationship should be and how we fit in each others world. Can I be me? The real me, not the profile written to sound interesting or the perfect ideal of a dad and his two daughters. But the real person that questions the choices he makes about his career and struggles with deep stress from co-parenting very strong willed children. Can I be that guy and still be comfortable with her?
I’ve always been guilty of getting caught up in feelings…in excitement and chemistry. Not that these things aren’t a big part of attraction, but what this passage reminds me is the goal is much deeper. It isn’t tied up in how does she make me feel…it is far more: how do I feel about myself when I am with her.
I’m more convinced now than ever before that this exists. Does this contribute to a lasting relationship? We’ll see. But I believe it is absolutely the starting point.
Photo Credit: flickr.com/erin kelly
Also by Patrick Sallee
An Open Letter to the Woman I Want (A Man’s View)
Online Dating Has Turned Us Into Unicorn Hunters
To My Daughters: You Are More Powerful Than You Ever Imagined