So, the other day I was having a conversation with a friend, and as is usual for me, while it was a “catching up on each others lives” conversation, I was also falling into the role of amateur psychologist. You see, after a string of trainwreck relationships that she had jumped into quick and deep, she had finally found someone “normal”. It’s not that in the past she had TRIED to get into relationships with psychotic and/or delusional people who on the surface seemed like normal, stable people but deep down were actually pathological liars, abusive freaks, or just generally slack individuals. No. On the surface, for about five seconds, these failed mates seemed to offer exactly what she was looking for: someone who was stable and established in life, who was done looking for drama and the next party in all the wrong places, and was looking for a like-minded individual to settle down with, raise children, buy a house with a white picket fence, and grow old and gray and happy together. The problem was, technically even sociopaths and child molesters want those things: so finding someone who WANTS something doesn’t really guarantee, on any level, that you find someone who is anywhere near capable of actually PROVIDING you with those things for any extended period of time.
Ok, so on to the new relationship. I was telling you she finally found someone who not only appeared to be stable and down to earth and ready for a committed relationship, but 5 months later hasn’t grown three heads and started worshipping Satan. Great!!! Right? Yeaahhh…no. Not so great. But why, you may be asking yourself. She found someone who actually has all those fantastic qualities she’s been looking for, she’s found someone who is great with her kid and loves her kid, and really, who is just all around great. Well, my friend tells me, everything is just perfect except..ugggghhhhhhhhh.
Ok. Now here is where the giant difference between an amateur psychologist and a normal person kicks in. Because normal people would take whatever their friend said at face value and evaluate that statement, and then that would be that. And then there’s me. Because I found out exactly what she thought was irking her about this new relationship, evaluated her entire track record of relationships, and managed to come out with a completely, though not unrelated, TRUE reason for what her problem is. And surprisingly, it actually gives a whole new meaning to “its not you, its me”.
Ok, in a nutshell, what’s her problem? Her new S.O. is too “in her face” and clingy and is useless at housework. After translating, this became “they rushed into the deeper stages of a relationship where they are practically living together, have isolated themselves from the outside world because they are always together, and now that she is unhappy with living in a magical world that only involves her kid and her new relationship her S.O. can sense her unhappiness and is worried it has to do with her lack of feelings and since she sucks at communicating this, and her S.O. sucks at GETTING her to communicate this without sounding needy and sucky, nothing is getting accomplished” and “her S.O. is not a mind reader and is not as type A and neat freakish as she is, and since she REFUSES to actually tell her what she would like or expect when her S.O. takes care of said chore, she is now terribly annoyed that all of the actual housework and maintenance falls on her shoulders, because instead of just asking her S.O. to do X additional thing when she sees its not done, she stomps around half in a tantrum and just does it herself”.
Ok. So maybe my translation doesn’t sound all that flattering. But it’s the black and white interpretation of whats going on. And I told her this. And she thought about it, and realized that maybe I was on to something. I mean, seriously, if you tell your kid to clean her room and she does some half ass job of it, do you just stomp around and do the job right for her, and somehow expect her to know how to do it right to your standards the next time? And if you rushed into the joined-at-the-hip thing waaaayyyy before you had the chance to get to know someone and grow true intimacy, comfort, understanding, and closeness with that person, regardless of the type of relationship it is (S.O., friend, family member, etc.) and regardless of how amazingly perfectly y’all fit together, would you not get sick to death of that person and wish they would somehow just disappear?
So I walked away from that conversation feeling pretty fantastic about myself. Another case solved, another psyche helped, another solution found. But then I started thinking about the little things I had brought up in the conversation…little things that at the time seemed like peripheral, mundane details were popping into the forefront of my mind. And I realized: just as in my mind, the little background details were most likely at the forefront of the problem. Because, really, isn’t it a slightly BIGGER problem that someone jumps from one committed basically living together relationship to the next? Doesn’t the problem really lie in the fact that someone intentionally refuses to communicate things that they need to be happy, rationalizing it as “well, they should just know, or they suck”, and then when they are pushed to give real answers that may actually help improve the relationship they respond by getting angry, or throwing out the good ol’ “if you don’t like it, there’s the door, buddy!”, or better yet, “GOD!!! Why are you always so whiny and needy!!!???!!” ?
In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, very likely, the ENTIRE problem was ENTIRELY on HER, not on her S.O. I mean, taking her perhaps jaded perception of the tone of what her S.O. has said, her S.O. sounds pretty damn ideal. Let’s list the facts:
- Someone who is actually not only willing, but ready, to settle down with you and be there for not only you, but your child, every day
- Someone who doesn’t need to run out and party or be surrounded by friends and entertainment in order to feel fulfillment
- Someone who will jump, no questions asked, when you ask them to do anything at all around YOUR house (because, playing house or not, they don’t officially live together, and therefore technically your S.O. really doesn’t have to do a damn thing around your place), or for you or your kid
- Someone who is very open and honest with you, someone you can trust completely to be faithful and respectful to you
- Someone who genuinely cares about your thoughts and feelings, so much so that they are willing to fight you tooth and nail and throw pride out the window and practically beg, just to get you to open up
- Someone who has all the other basic things you are looking for in a mate
- Someone you are attracted to, and that you genuinely like
Sooooooo….can someone please tell me the problematic number here? Like, if you actually wanted a serious, committed, and adult relationship with someone, which one of these things would totally be the dealbreaker…what? What’s that you say? You wouldn’t have a problem with any one of these things, and in fact finding someone with like half of these qualities would be a dream come true? Ohhhhhh….soooooo…then…its NOT them, is it? Maybe it IS you!
Ok, let’s be serious for five seconds though. Because this isn’t one of those situations where you get into a relationship and then you both end up wanting different things, or are in different places, or one person turns into some psycho fraud. This is a situation where you’ve found everything you think you’ve ever wanted in life, and it just doesn’t seem to really cut it. Is it because maybe they don’t have some OTHER quality that you didn’t put importance on until getting to this point in life and/or this relationship, and realizing that with all the psycho freaks out there you’ve forgotten that you once had desires and standards that were slightly above “God, PLEASE just be a normal human being, please please PLEASE let me NOT have to ever call the cops or have them called by the neighbors”? Or does it have something to do with the fact that the things you THOUGHT you wanted you really never did? Is it that what you wanted wasn’t ever what you actually needed and what would have made you happy? Or did you maybe kill the ability for this one to be “the one” because instead of actually building a real foundation and building real bonding and intimacy, you forced it by basically beginning your cohabitation before the spit from your first kiss together was dry?
Honestly, I’m gonna say E) All of the above. First off, and I just need to get this out of the way, I’m getting pretty sick of the 10 page checklist of qualities/standards that some have regarding what they absolutely cannot live without when looking for a mate. Because, really, since your ass is obviously very very single, and you have OBVIOUSLY never been in a relationship that worked out (because hey, if you had, why are you still single, right?) how in the world can you possibly have exactly what you would need in life from a mate to be happy and fulfilled and together forever so specifically pinpointed? Has it ever occurred to you that, with the exception of some things that you really DON’T want in a mate (think, drug or alcohol addiction, sexual/physical/emotional assault, an odd fetish that REALLY turns you off) how could you really know what traits, or what combination of traits, would make up your best fit. For example, my mother most of my life dated a certain kind of dude. But more importantly for the purposes of this story, she absolutely HATED men that drank, and she would NOT date an alcoholic. Sounds reasonable, right? Yeah well, just so we’re clear, if you were the kind of man who would come home after a long hard day at work and have a few beers (I mean, not even getting tipsy, just a beer or two to relax) my mother labelled you as an alcoholic and that was that. Yeah. Seriously. And then guess what? My mother, who has been happily married again for years now, is married to a man that, even during their courting period would have a couple beers when he was done work, sometimes IN HER HOUSE…yeah. She got over her silly definitions and rules and look what she got? A husband that worships the ground she walks on and makes her a terribly happy woman. But she only found that when she dropped all her silly preconceptions and just looked at things, and him, for how they/he made her feel and how he, the individual as a sum and not the individual parts, worked with her.
And seriously, as we can see by my friends example, simply finding someone who lacks those things you dislike will never be enough. In fact, there may be a reason why you have been attracting a certain type of person you are now trying to avoid. Maybe there are aspects to, in her case, the insanity and excitement and challenge, that you really need to not only be happy, but to push you to be all that you can be, and grow more than you’ll ever know. Maybe the problem with the trainwrecks wasn’t actually quality X but rather some other quality you’re sort of missing. Like, maybe what you really need is a person who is an independent party animal, but one who doesn’t have the drug addiction or psychiatric issues. Maybe what you need is someone who really doesn’t wanna play house and doesn’t want to settle down right away, so there’s a thrill there- the thrill of the chase, of missing them when they’re gone, the thrill that you get when that independent out 24-7 person actually chooses YOU to settle down with, because of you and the relationship you’ve built, and not because you’re conveniently safe and ready to settle down from day one.
Or maybe you did find “the one”, but in your eagerness to just enjoy the moment, you basically rushed it, and killed it. I mean really, there’s a reason why people dress to impress and put on their best behaviour for first dates- and during the “honeymoon” phase. It’s sort of like a trial run to see if, when you’re both at your absolutely happiest and best and most interested, if you have the underlying chemistry to annoy each other for the rest of your lives, without resorting to violence. Likewise, there’s a reason we reveal the bad, not so cute and not so endearing quirks about ourselves slowly over time. Its like, here’s my Ideal Self prototype. This is who I ideally am when everything is perfect. But, since we do not live in a perfect world, I am going to show you quirk A. First, it’s my cute quirks, or eccentric quirks, like my personal addiction to the playboy bunny (and I do mean the little animal head, not the porn stars, although I’m sure they are fantastic people), or my downright fear of plates, forks, knives, spoons, and most especially cups (which is why I have disposable versions of them all in my own house- I’m sorry, i think they’re gross…I don’t know how, I don’t know why. I just do. *shudders*). Later, I introduce the not-so-cute parts of me, like the fact that I am basically a super villain for the first 2 hours or so I’m awake, and anyone who has ever remained close to me in my life, parents and sister included, have learned to either stay the hell away for those hours, or have learned to take whatever extremely painful verbal abuse I dish out without batting an eye or getting upset, and then when I am suddenly a human being have learned to smile and be nice like everything is perfectly normal (that took my boyfriend a while to get used to: there is no apology afterwards, there is no reason, and there is no fixing it- yeaaahhhh…).
I can tell you one thing for sure though, and it’s something you should pay attention to. If your only reason for being with someone, or wanting to be with someone, is because you love them, you have a problem. If your only pro is “love” and you have the cons side flowing over to the next page, you’re definitely in trouble. Love definitely isn’t enough to sustain a relationship for the long haul. But, that being said, if one of the first things you list ISN’T love, you’re also up shits creek…and you left your paddle in another country. Being practical about a relationship doesn’t bode well for its future either, because really, we need love, we need that spark of “in love”, even if its only from time to time, only in certain little situations here and there, to honestly tolerate someone forever and ever. “She’s great…she’s responsible, and she’s stable, and she’s got her shit together, and she’s really intelligent, and she has..” yeah, see? Right there? That’s a list of attributes that is honestly doomed to failure. “Well, he’s got a fantastic career and a great education, he loves the opera, and he loves reading, and he’s a great cook…” yeeahhhh…still won’t cut it. Those should be descriptive things, when someone asks you to describe your S.O., not reasons why you are with them.
If your list doesn’t have things about the two of you, the interaction of them versus you and how that makes you feel, as well as love, as well as practical things, then you don’t really have the whole package, do you? Like “The way he smiles makes my heart melt” versus “he’s got a great smile, peeerrrfect teeth”….see how one gives you the idea that something about the smile actually DOES something special, whereas the other is just a nice attribute to list off? A list like “Her smile makes my heart skip a beat, and we can talk into the night about anything and everything…she’s just so brilliant, she’s always got me thinking about things in a different light, oh and did I tell you that she wants to be a lawyer, just like I do? She’s also pre law! Ok, and I know this may sound kinda dumb, but we both love watching old horror flicks while eating steak and eggs, and throwing popcorn at the screen at the cheesiest parts..speaking of cheese, did I tell you that…ugh, ok, I know…I’m rambling. But man, I love her…Seriously, i think she really may be the one, we’ve just got so much in common, and I feel like the best me I can be around her…oh and did I tell you? Remember how I always wanted to learn spanish? Wellll….as a surprise she signed us up for spanish classes! I start next week. Oh, and my daughter and my parents absolutely love her, my kid just lights up when she walks into the room”.
And if you seriously, honestly, don’t feel that way. Not ever. If your mate just seems like a smart, practical idea…then you’re probably just not destined to be. But I can tell you one thing: Every relationship hits rocky places. And every relationship goes through periods when it absolutely sucks. If you don’t wanna tell your S.O. about what’s bothering you, ESPECIALLY if its them, so that together you can work on it, then you probably really don’t want to work on it. You most likely want them to get fed up and leave, because if they are so “practically perfect”, your common sense is telling you not to let them go, while your heart is practically pushing them out the door. I’m telling you, the first time you ever tell someone if they have an issue with things that you are refusing to actually talk about (which is the issue) then they can leave whenever they want, its because seriously, you really want them to. In fact, maybe you were secretly hoping they would end up imploding like your failed relationships in the past, because you really, truly aren’t ready for that open and committed relationship…or rather, maybe you are, and maybe you just really don’t want one with them.
Good luck, and Godspeed,