[This is going to be the final installment of this series. It pretty much sums up my whole view of relationships, though the preceding installments are useful for more tactical approaches to dating and relationships.]
Be the person you want to attract and be in a relationship with
It’s never, ever, ever, ever about the other person. Not even that one time.
This is the sad and good news. Sad because accepting this holds us responsible for all of our failed relationships, courting nightmares and people we attract. Good because nothing is wrong with the universe. There is no shortage of good men or sane women. Our childhoods did not irreparably damage us. We are the problem and solution. We hold the key to your pasts, presents and futures.
An easy way to demonstrate this is by looking at how we often seek qualities in a partner that we do not possess ourselves. I know scores of fat, out-of-shape guys who deride women for not being pretty and thin enough. I know scores of women who complain about men being irresolute and uncommitted yet engage in relationships with these same men, even though the women know they are not what they want; in other words, they are irresolute and uncommitted about what they want.
Focusing on other people’s faults always seems to make ours disappear.
If you want a fit partner, exercise. If you want a more worldly partner, travel. If you want a partner who listens, listen. If want more mature partners, be mature. If you want greater commitment, commit to what you want.
Perhaps you think you are the things you seek. You think you are responsible, healthy, or whatever trait you’re looking for in a partner. Yet you attract irresponsible, unhealthy, etc. partners—or none at all. Instead of asking yourself if you might be the problem, conceding that you may have blind-spots about yourself, you blame the other party. You sooner declare a global drought of suitable partners than look at what it is in you that continually attracts and creates what you seemingly don’t want.
I write “seemingly” because we always get what we want, even though it seems like we don’t. The problem is what we want unconsciously trumps what we want consciously. Our want to feel important, look good, be comfortable, be right, secure, not change, not be alone and so on, trumps and undermines our want to be happy, healthy, generous, etc. Don’t believe me? Look at your relationships and who you attract into your life. They are the evidence that this is true.
Many of us will point to our families and friendships as evidence that we aren’t doing anything wrong. Because they work so well, it shows that we know how to be in healthy relationships. The only logical conclusion is that there is a good-man or sane-woman shortage.
Family, friends, co-workers and other non-romantic relationships show us who we are, but not in the way romantic ones do. If relationships are like mirrors for who we are, then family, friends, etc. are like a mirror you pass in the hallway—useful for straightening up and checking yourself out. Romantic relationships are like those cosmetic mirrors, where every pore and imperfection stands out. Our romantic partners and prospects show us what we really think about ourselves, what we are really willing to accept out of our lives—not some intellectualized concept we talk about with friends.
This close-viewing is the promise romantic relationships hold. It’s hard to find out so much about ourselves without this level of intimacy. Living a life filled with only friends and family, it’s easier to stop short of full self-knowledge. The level of closeness inherent in romantic relationships forces people to do one of three things: confront themselves, impose an uneasy stalemate or abandon ship. If you’re ready to take a deep look at yourself and really free yourself, few situations are more conducive to that than romantic relationships.
Also realize that just because our partners and prospects don’t match up with the misbegotten notions we have about ourselves, this inconsistency need not be a deal-breaker. We need people to work our shit out with. It’s preferable to do it with someone who’s more-or-less on the same page. It’s delusional to think you’re going to find someone without problems. The key is to find someone with complimentary problems and wants to work them out with you. This is actually the best part of my present relationship: we both have shit, but we use each other to work that shit out.
This is all a long-winded way of saying keep the attention on yourself. Like everything, courtship, dating and relationships are inside jobs. The perceiver and the perceived are the same thing. You want to attract a great partner? You want a great relationship? Be a great person.