Falling in love looks so simple from the outside. There’s that instant attraction between two people, and soon they’re talking, and hanging out, then hanging in… At some point, couples either join, or separate and start over. There’s not much to it,… or so it seems.
I admit, I’ve followed this same routine myself time and again with less than stellar results. None of these relationships seemed to stick, even though everyone assured me it was possible. I wondered if there wasn’t some special trick to getting it right? Did others just have better luck than me, or was I missing some important step along the way? Curious, I took some time off from dating to find out what relationship experts say about this seemingly simple process…and to lick my wounded heart.
Holing up, I read a dozen or more dating/relationship books, and they ALL prescribed the same advice – getting clear about what you want in a partnership before the next opportunity comes along. They suggested making lists and narrowing them to the essentials, the must-haves, the red flags, the deal-breakers. They assured me this clarity would prevent me from dating the “wrong” people and help me find someone suitable for MY life interests, dreams and goals!
So now, with said list in hand and back in the dating scene, what do I do when faced with a real-life dating offer? I’d like to know at what point in this whole “falling for” process do we whip out the now tattered checklist and take the time to compare whether this new love interest measures up to the criteria we prepared for just such an occasion?
I’m asking because I’m beginning to feel that once we’re blinded by our romantic feelings, it’s just too late to really see things clearly. Is it better to make the decision before getting involved at all. I’m wondering, when do we make the call?
For example, this very month I’ve made upfront decisions with three different people who I felt didn’t match what I was looking for. It was tough. When you want to date, it doesn’t feel right to be saying NO so often. Having been a “listen-to-your-heart” kind of girl most of my life, it feels weird to let my head have the final say in the decision process. AND I’m finding that even though my mind’s made up, my heart still wants to hold on…not to any one person in particular, but definitely to the potential of partnership and being part of a couple. When the prospect of love comes walking so closely, it can be really hard to let logic have the upper hand.
It makes me wonder how often we overlook our “established” criteria and go ahead with coupling just to keep from feeling lonely?
I’m admitting this technique is so new to me and I do find it very hard. It’s like saying no to something you actually do want and it feels wrong and weird, but if I plan to compromise my ideals on day one, what good are they anyway? I might as well settle for the next good-looking guy who shows any interest at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating just being picky, because I know the mind can be supercritical and might indeed rule out almost everyone, given that no one will match our desires exactly! Rather the “what I need in a relationship” list is more a reminder of what matters most to you in partnership and a chance to take the time early, in the first few days/weeks to determine if the list of yes’s and no’s you put your heart into will even be able to be met by this guy or girl.
The truth is, despite what all the experts say, using our logic is NOT how we were taught to “find true love” in America. Hollywood would insist that feelings should always win over logic, so we’re trained to use that strategy whether it has worked for us or not. Deciding on whether or not to date someone based on a predetermined set of criteria might seem sterile and a bit unromantic, but then why do so many specialists recommend adopting these standards (and sticking to them) as a successful path to finding the “right” person? Clearly, it’s not a perfect science as most of the books, online advice, and relationship seminars might indicate, but it’s better than not knowing at all what you desire in a mate.
When it comes right down to it, we’re really just talking about finding a balance – getting your head and your heart on the same team with one goal – to win at loving yourself enough to care whether a person meets your criteria and standards before letting them be a significant part of your life. Keep in mind, getting involved in a relationship/partnership is an important life decision (like moving, or taking a new job), not just something that happens to you – something out of your control. Relationships impact us!! They change us and the course of our lives. Dating anyone should be a head AND heart decision. After all, both will have to live with the person you’re choosing!