[This post got a bit long-winded, so I’m splitting it into 2, maybe 3 parts]
The issue of meeting a romantic partner has come up a lot in my life recently. I talk to countless men who can’t meet good women or men, women who can’t meet good men or women. Perhaps they are coming to me because I am (somewhat disbelievingly) in a healthy relationship with someone I am connected with emotionally and physically. They want to know what we’re doing.
I’m no expert, but I know some basic things that do and do not work in relationships. I was also single for a long time and had a certain facility meeting the opposite sex. I figured I’d codify what I know. These principles/guidelines are directed toward single people, but apply equally to people in relationships.
What do you want?
This is a huge issue for for both men and women. We have no idea what we want. Without that bearing, what happens is we meet someone and ask, “Does he/she like me?” Or we settle for someone who likes us rather than going for what we want.
Rarely do we ask, “Is this what I want?”
In these directionless relationships, a power balance inevitably arises. As a friend said, “In every relationship there is a junkie and a pusher” (this friend was a relationship nightmare for the record). The junkies wonder whether the pushers likes them and obsess about the pusher’s every action. The pusher’s attention is their lifeblood; it’s where they derive their power. The junkies diminish themselves, lie and generally piss away their lives in order to keep that power coming.
It’s hardly easier for the pusher, who most of us have been at some point. The pusher’s narrative goes like this: “I met/am dating/married to someone, but I’m not that into him/her.” The pushers persist in these relationships, not because they like the other person, but because they derive power from the dependency—a power they likely lack in other domains of their lives. But it’s a destructive power. The junkie is in servitude. The pusher is unfulfilled and neither party has what they want (unless you count not-being-alone as a desire).
A healthy dynamic is to treat meeting someone like making an important purchase. For example, when we shop for a car, we get the best car based on our needs and budget. We don’t purchase based on whether the car likes us. Chances are most people will not be the item we want. Find out what you want and don’t be afraid to shop around.
Don’t talk poorly about yourself
Don’t talk about your shitty job, fat ass or unfinished associates degree from DeVry. It’s not funny. It’s not disarming. It’s not “real.” It’s pathetic (I know because I’ve done it a million times).
Some self-effacing jokes are okay, but they have to be jokes, not veiled indictments against ourselves. Be kind to yourself, or better yet don’t say anything about your character. Let your behavior demonstrate who you are.
There is a caveat to this: if you are looking for people who find comfort in mediocrity, by all means talk smack about yourself.
Don’t talk about your past
This is a tricky one because most of us are still embroiled in our pasts. We have left wakes of physical and psychic damage from past relationships. We haven’t cleaned things up. We haven’t looked at our mommy/daddy issues. If these things are the case, our pasts will inevitably come up in conversation.
Deal with your past. Until you do, all your relationships will be condemned to a variation on a past-based theme.
Some of us have confronted our pasts but lack evidence of a future. For example, we’ve reconciled things with past relationship-models like our exes or parents, but we don’t yet have new models. If this is the case, the challenge is to shut up. Bridle your tongue. Don’t bring the past into the space. If it’s really the past, keep it there. Let something new unfold.
Talk about what you want to talk about
Several years ago, I was in my late 20’s and had returned to finish my undergrad degree. I was a part-time waiter as well. I loved my life; it was part of an amazing spiritual journey as far as I saw it. But I was ashamed of it in conversations because I thought I should have have been more established. I’d meet women and say something like, “Well, I’m finishing my undergrad, because, well, I really wanted to have closure on that part of my life. I’m also a catering captain—it’s a management position. I’m like a maître d’ for big events. It’s really cool. I get to go to all these interesting places around the city, see things that most people don’t….” I sounded like a tool.
The reason I sounded like a tool was because I was talking about stuff I thought other people thought was interesting—things like career, the neighborhood you live in, hometown, etc. I didn’t find them interesting (and later found most others don’t either). When I started talking about what was important to me, I started showing my best self. For example, I was (and am) into personal development and spirituality. When I talked about those things, I was animated and attractive. Not only did I meet women, but I met the right type of women. The ones who didn’t find that stuff interesting were not my types.
People are attracted to passionate people. It’s better to be passionate about something people don’t understand than be listless about something everyone comprehends.
If you do find yourself in a banal conversation, direct it in ways that exploit your best self. Listen for things you find interesting and run with them. An easier tack is opening the conversation yourself.