Do you know who you are, and what you want from a life partner?
Are you afraid that by voicing your needs you will drive him (or her) off?
This from my friend Bridget’s new book, Feed the Need:
Years ago, as I was getting back into the dating scene, I read a book that forever changed my life: Fearless Loving by Rhonda Britton. As a result of this book, I took ownership of my needs in a relationship. One of the exercises in her book instructed me to come up with a list of what I was looking for (my needs) and challenged me to never compromise on the Top 5. They were the deal breakers. Do not pass “go”, do not collect $200, stop-right-there-features.
And I put them to the test. I not only carried them in my mind, but I discussed them openly. As I got into a relationship with someone and we started that “what are you looking for” conversation, I had my five and I made them known. I put them right out there. When it became clear after some time spent getting to know the other person and our “fit,” I would have that “talk” and they always knew which one (or ones) of the five that were not “there” in the relationship.
Why was this important? Because I took full responsibility for my needs and didn’t lapse back into a pattern of taking on the frustration or disappointment as my own or something I had to “fix.”
(If you’d like to read a wonderful guest post she wrote about boundaries some time back, click Here.)
This passage got me thinking about all the wasted years I spent camouflaging my true nature in order to appeal to a man. How I tuned into, then attended to his every need, forgetting mine in the process. Then, how I beat my head against the wall trying to make the resultant, untenable relationship somehow work.
People-pleasers and/or those of us raised in alcoholic households are experts at determining what others want from us; but remarkably shitty at identifying and communicating what we require from them in return.
Because we question our own value, because we’re afraid that, if we are truly known we’ll be deemed unworthy, we think the key to a successful (read safe) relationship is to be pleasant and agreeable, an undemanding passenger, a really good sport.
Eventually the law of reciprocation kicks in. Sensing the huge cost to us, we expect payback. When our partner fails to display the same mind reading abilities, our resentment grows. We decide they just don’t care. We suddenly feel trapped. The clock starts ticking.
By the time I met Walt, I was sick of pretending to be someone I was not. I was done with suffering in silence with a beatific smile, and faking interest (God save me if I ever have to sit through another football tutorial!), and in toning my personality down, all in the interest of appearing palatable.
After years of running my own household, and of embracing my accomplishments AND quirks, I had come to the freeing realization that I would rather be alone than try to make some dumbass see my worth.
I knew from experience (and Match.com) that I could slip into a pair of heels, slap on a little lipstick, and attract a lot of men who had no business being drawn to me. Innocent men—competitive bowlers; shy, sensitive poet types who smoke clove cigarettes; and Star Trek enthusiasts—who I, through sheer force of personality, would crush like bugs.
Even before I took that seat at Starbuck’s with my mocha Frappuccino, I was armed with my list of needs. I was clear on what, specifically, I needed in a partner. I wasn’t there to win over a new man; I was there to conduct a 60-Minutes-style interview with an interesting candidate, a la Diane Sawyer.
Here were/are my top 5 deal breakers in a romantic relationship, those qualities I required in a mate:
- Ambition: Not just wanting to get ahead financially, but needing to do and be much more. Someone who is confused by the word satisfied, who has to look it up in the dictionary.
- Intellectual curiosity: A thirst to learn more, to explore topics in depth, and to natter on incessantly about random subjects, like the history of salt, and the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Preferably over the breakfast table. Someone who considers reading the ultimate pleasure, ranking right up there with sex.
- Athleticism: Having been married to a coach potato who continually wondered aloud what the hell was wrong with a person (i.e. me) who could not sit still for five hours straight in front of the television, I need someone who ritually moves his body. A man who swims or climbs or runs or hikes or bikes or wrestles alligators. Obsessively.
- Self-possession: Confident, grounded, aware, opinionated, a leader, positive, likes himself enough to laugh at his own flaws, hard to insult.
- Lovingly demonstrative: I’m all about quality time and acts of service. The Five Love Languages would describe me as an insecure, bottomless pit.
Of course, I could give you another 35 preferences, but like Bridget notes, these were/are my stop-right-there features. And because I knew what they were and could communicate them with humor and ease, I ended up with a wonderful man who fits me like a glove.
If you do not know what YOUR top 5 deal breakers are, figure them out. NOW.
(If you’d like a helpful list of things to consider, click Here.)
Then get REALLY good at owning them, and discussing them.
They do not make you, or others, right or wrong; they simply represent the truth of who you are.
Save yourself, and everybody else, the grief.