I’ve seen a lot of dating and relationship articles making the Facebook rounds lately. There’s never a short supply of these things, but the ones on the social media circuit tend to be the kind that drive me nuts. They’re too romanticized, too demanding, or too generalized. There are even articles telling religious people who they should and shouldn’t marry. I’ll save you the time and tell you these basically say, “Make sure they believe the same things you do,” which is short-sighted, naive, and arrogant to the point of being useless and stupid. Outside of that, there’s nothing here that you couldn’t find in hundreds of other articles like “make sure they don’t have a cherished collection of machetes and hockey masks”.
The human need for connection and relationship is a natural, universal one among us. The problem arises when we go for a long time without it and we feel that need more and more acutely. We tend to get desperate and make bad decisions about those with whom we seek connection. We even start thinking there’s a formula to it that will all but guarantee success for us. That’s just the sort of bullshit that unnecessarily complicates the whole thing and throws our lives off balance. Surely there’s a better way to go about this business. Here are a few of my ideas for a balanced, realistic approach. I should preface this by saying that I’m not currently in a relationship and you’re probably about to find out why.
1. Establish your personal non-negotiables
Maybe you’re a vegan or you’re really into working out and you want to find someone who won’t want to knock the shit out of you for constantly talking about it. Perhaps you have strongly-held beliefs about the global shadow government deploying genetically-modified super soldiers to turn the country into a police state and you’re looking for someone you can really connect with while building a fortified bunker and gathering survival rations. Whatever your thing is that’s above and beyond general considerations like doesn’t scream profanity at babies and doesn’t get drunk and hump gardening tools. It’s important to you, so make room for it. If it’s a real non-negotiable for you, then don’t negotiate on it.
2. Make a list of ideal traits
Envision the perfect mate for yourself. What do they look like? How do they dress? What’s their vocabulary like? Do they actually answer your messages? Spend some time with it and write down everything that comes to mind.
3. Now throw that list in the trash
You know how you feel when someone tries to impose their notions of perfection on you and makes you feel inferior when you don’t measure up? Same goes for you, snowflake. Those list items are nice-to-haves, but that’s about the extent of it. You’re very likely to get several of your preferred traits in a single individual, but not all of them. Don’t take a hard line here and plan on bending a lot. Otherwise, go ahead and invest in lifetime supplies of lotion, liquor, and comfort foods.
4. Get brutally honest with yourself
Are you intensely wanting a relationship with one specific person? Make sure they’re not just a challenge or conquest that you’ll toss aside when the novelty wears off. Do you feel incomplete without a significant other? Get that shit corrected. You won’t find anything in a relationship that neither of you bring to it. If you bring a bag that’s half full of neediness and half full of nothing, you’re going to burn the other person out and be back to square one in no time. Is marriage the end-all, be-all to you? Ask yourself why you’re placing ultimate personal significance on it or why you’re convinced the goal of every relationship is to file joint tax returns and cohabitate until somebody dies. As many people have said, it turns out that it is just a piece of paper. It’s not all worthless drudgery, but it’s not mystical or magical either. There’s Hogwarts for that.
5. Balance, Grasshopper
There’s a difference between what you can control and what you can’t. The biggest thing you control is putting your best genuine self forward. You don’t have to lose 20 pounds or get a six pack as a prerequisite. I’m not talking about faking anything either. That kind of thinking is garbage. Know yourself, know your strengths and limitations, operate confidently in that, and don’t sweat the other stuff. You can’t control how others respond to you, so don’t try. You can have some influence over it, though. Let’s face it – the guy who files all his teeth to sharp points and tattoos his eyeballs jet black isn’t going to get the guidance counselor job. Be yourself and be prepared to receive mixed results. Perfection rarely even happens in movies anymore. Don’t put that stress on yourself.
6. Be flexible and allow yourself to be surprised
People are messy, widely varied, and often unpredictable. That includes you. It’s not a bad thing either. As far as I can tell, there’s no exhaustive atlas for life. You can’t always know what’s around the next corner, but don’t let that stop you from finding out. Check your gut and try not to do anything glaringly stupid, but don’t be afraid to take chances either. It might turn out to be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. Any social situation is a minefield. If you can navigate it in a way that enables you to enjoy it and not get your ass blown off, count it as a win. And if you end up with a new phone number or two in the process, bonus points.
Relationships are part of every human life. Go ahead and analyze, ponder, and plan. Just don’t forget to relax, live, and enjoy!