April 27, 2009

On Mating and Relating

Ever seen Singles? Remember how Bridget Fonda's character has a laundry list of qualities she'd like in a significant other? In the end, she narrows it down to one:

"Someone who says 'bless you' when I sneeze."

When I was younger (I mean, way young - like elementary school age), I would say things like, "I want a guy with Kirk Cameron's eyes and Jason Bateman's smile" and so on and so forth. (This was before Kirk Cameron became crazy religious, by the way.) Of course, I never really made a serious list. When the time came, I just jumped right into mating and relating.

Like so many others, I made a lot of mistakes and suffered a lot of heartbreak as a result. As much as I hate to admit it, I was a typical female looking for her white knight. I really wanted to be saved. I fell madly in love several times, only to have the relationships blow up in my face - and while yes, I had the horrible habit of choosing emotionally unavailable men, I was also horribly to blame because I placed each of these unsuspecting men on the highest pedestals possible. Because of all this, there were (are) two important things that I learned from all my relationship failures.

1) It is unfair to your partner to hold them to the exact same standards you hold for yourself.

2) It is unfair to expect someone to fulfill every single one of your needs all the time.

I see people placing these expectations on their partners (potential or actual) all the time. God knows I've certainly been guilty of it and will be, I'm sure, for the rest of my life. I'm not perfect; I definitely sometimes expect things of Roy that are unreasonable or unfair. But really, when I think about it, there are only two things that I need in my marriage in order to feel secure and safe:

1) There needs to be a willingness on both sides to realistically try to satisfy the emotional needs of the other. (This does not mean that Roy has to squeal and act like a girl with me when I need girl time, although let's face it, it would be awesome to hear Roy squeal for once in his life. It does mean that if I am sad and turn to him for love and support, I would appreciate his being there for me - as he always is.)

2) There needs to be a willingness on both sides to communicate openly and honestly. (This doesn't mean that I'm going to tell Roy I had a sex dream about another guy every single time that I have one - I still believe in personal privacy. But it does mean that I will tell him all kinds of other things.)

Roy and I are completely different people. I think it used to matter to me that someone be into the same stuff I was into or have the same friends, but as I've gotten older, I've realized that it's more interesting to be with someone who is different than me than to be with someone who is very similar to me. I think it's great to share interests - for instance, Roy and I both love reading and writing. But he reads mostly fantasy and sci-fi, and I read stuff that isn't fantasy and sci-fi. We both like movies and TV shows - he cringes when I watch One Tree Hill, and I leave the room when he turns on Battlestar Galactica. It doesn't mean we're any less compatible than that couple who likes all the same things or who has all the same friends. It means that we're still individuals, not just two halves of a whole. And in the spirit of individuality, we have separate friends and go do things alone or with others sometimes. Sometimes I need a girl to squeal with, and he needs a guy to act manly with.

Ultimately, I think that emotional availability and open, honest communication are what really matter in a relationship (to me). How tragic would it have been if I would have written Roy off based on superficial differences? I wouldn't have gotten to marry the Cutest Husband Ever, that's for sure.

So what do you think? Did you ever make a list of desireable qualities for your future mate? If so, how well did that work out for you? What are your must-haves in a significant other?

Tell me all about it, please.


Bex said...

Hmm very interesting. I never made a list per se, but I knew what I wanted. I wanted someone that would complement me and keep me grounded. Definitely some who didn't take themselves too seriously and that made me laugh. And, importantly, someone I could see being a great dad.

phairhead said...

As I'm fond of tell EVERYONE, I had to dig through a lot of dirt before I got to the treasure.

Chronically single, very down on myself, had relationships w/ men in my head, and similar to you, Leslie, dated emotional unavailable men and then having my heart broken in 1000 pieces.

I moved back to my home town in upstate NY and placed an ad on craigslist. Chris asked me out twice before I went out w/ him. I refused 'cause he had tatoos and he liked heavy metal and Stephen King. I thought "ewwwww what a loser!" And then I finally agreed to go out w/ him. And I realized all that surface bullshit stuff doesn't mean a damn thing. And I breathed. And he doesn't fit into some weird qualification list I kept embedded in my brain. He doesn't let me get out of stuff 'cause I'm lazy and he challenges me. And I'm crazy about him and I plan on marrying him. And as you said a few months ago "I want to bottle this feeling."

inflammatory writ said...

I think there are many things that make our relationship work, but the most important is that we are always on each other's side. It's so, so important.

Crazy Daisy said...

Interesting. I'll have to think on this and get back to you... i might even end up with a post about it.

Angie Eats Peace said...

I never made a list, but I knew there were things that would be definite deal breakers. I need open communication and honesty.

I agree though that you can not expect someone else to meet ever single emotional need you have. That is one hell of an expectation, and what good are to someone if you can not meet some of those needs on your own?

Joy said...

I really enjoyed this post. I agree with so much of what you said about what truly is or isn't needed in a relationship.

To answer your question about lists, it's funny how things work out. I'm horrible at journaling, I probably have 10 started diaries amounting to, at most, 50 entries. :-) However, one of them from when I was 12 listed ten qualities or things I wanted in a guy. One was superficial (at least 6'4") but the other 9 were having a Monty Python humor, things like that. First on my list was being Christian.

I was so focused on that aspect, I ended up dating many guys who were Christian in that they professed to be one and went to church but were so not Christian, it wasn't funny. I finally came to a point where I took that list and honestly asked myself what it was about those things that I wanted. What were the actions and reactions that would make me glad I chose a Christian or MP humorist?

I ended up finding the perfect-for-me guy. He doesn't profess to be Christian but is more Christ-like than most of the Christians I know. Same with other things on the list, he embodies what they meant to my 12 year old self even if you can't affix the label. And, yes, he's even 6'4". I ended up with what people told me I would never find, my 10 item list.

Of course, that was the end result of trial and error and knowing how to be my own person. I wouldn't change the list or the journey for the world.

Myra said...

Really like this post, fwend. Really thoughtful and thought provoking. I actually had made a similar list once. If I can find it, I will share it with you.

Crazy Daisy said...

I posted about love on my blog in a response to your post! Thanks for the thought provoking blog!!!

JennB said...

Digging the post.

I did have a list, but it was more a list of things learned. I think on the list was stuff like "must treat mother nicely" and that got added after dating a guy who called his mom some terrible stuff. If that makes any sense. I had the list framed and in a spot I saw a lot. It was a reminder to myself not to settle. Maybe I'll dig out my last list and post it. I bet it's interesting.