Wednesday, February 8, 2017

kisses that wake princesses, glass slippers, and valentine's day

last night i took part in a life coaching call with a company i've done some work with in the past.  i really respect their methods and approach.  however, the call tonight was on love and relationships, in true february spirit, and let's just say i was not impressed with the advice espoused.

"you have the pussy; he should be chasing it! he's obviously not the one."
"he should be able to handle you talking about marriage on the first date if that's what you want. he must not be the one."
"just decide what you want now.  if it doesn't seem like he meets it, he's not the one."

um feminism.  um that's crazy.  um think outside of the box.  AND STOP SELLING THIS STORY OF "THE ONE."

selling a mythology that each person has one perfect person out there waiting for them is problematic in several ways:

1) it causes people to measure partners against unrealistic expectations.  no one is perfect: making sure that someone checks off every quality on a certain list is impossible.  holding someone up to this list, or expecting them to always behave in a way you expect is damaging for a relationship, but also constrictive on potential happiness.

i'll admit that i had a list.  i had a list i kept in my diary that was constantly revised through my college years, and i wouldn't date people that didn't meet every qualification.  one of the obvious problems here is that people change, so even if someone meets every checkbox when you meet, there's no guarantee that they will forever.  when i was only dating based on my list, i limited myself, but i also hurt relationships i was in.

my now ex-husband once asked me, while engaged, if i would still love him if he stopped running and put on weight.  i didn't answer for a while, and then said that i would prefer he kept running.  he looked at me, horrified, and said he would love me no matter what i looked like, no matter how much weight i gained over the next 70 years.  i often wonder whether he ever forgave me for that.

once our marriage ended, i started dating again.  outside of the university environment, i found that the types of people i was encountering were less likely to meet every single qualification i had set for a partner.  specifically, i felt that education was important, and i wasn't willing to date people that did not have college or advanced degrees.  but, eventually, i decided to ditch the list.  and, as it turns out, some of my most beloved relationships in the past few years have been with people that i would not have even gone on one date with in the past.

2) it causes people to stay in relationships out of fear.  thinking that there is this "one" person that is a "soulmate" creates a situation where, once in a relationship, we are fearful that there isn't someone that is a better match, and that we should stay with this current relationship that seems ok.  but, again, people change.  or new aspects of them are shown over time.

i was married.  i thought i would be married forever.  i didn't think divorce was even an option.

but i became miserable in my marriage.  and my husband did too.  i am so thankful that he had the courage and the love-based mentality to leave our marriage.  even though ending a relationship can be painful, staying in one because you think you should, or because you think "but this is THE ONE, right?" is not the answer.

3) it causes people to think that one person must meet their every need.  listen to me: no one person can meet every need you have, except yourself.

no other person can be your everything.  in any romantic relationship, expecting one person to shoulder all of your burdens, to respond to your every desire, to anticipate your every need, sets up a cycle of unhealthy dependence.  social networks (both offline and online) are there for your support: family, friends, and colleagues can serve in these roles.  all too often people abandon the use of their networks once in a long-term monogamous relationship, expecting their partner to be their "be all end all."

i've done it.  i've gotten into relationships where, sure, i still hung out with friends, but i didn't go to them with problems.  i stopped the more regular everyday interactions with them and relied on casual social drinks to keep the sense of friendship alive.  but imagine fostering those relationships simultaneously!  yes, it's more effort, but building networks around ourselves is so valuable.

i date and love more than one person at a time; i keep my network full of people who support me and care about me.  but the relationship model isn't what is important: it's that you're constantly honest with yourself and your partner.

i challenge everyone to let go of the myth of "the one," whether you consider yourself to be with that person or not. be with a person you love for who they are each day.  if you're single, look outside of your pre-defined qualifications and explore what else might be possible.

and, partnered or not, surround yourself with love, however it shows up in your life.

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