I thought I might share some of my thoughts on relationships. I’m going to try to keep this at a PG-13 level and this advice is not intended for novices. I did not settle down until I was in my late 30′s and have been in a successful relationship for the last 13 years. Therefore, I think I can speak with some degree of authority. I thought it might help to share my “wisdom” with some of you who may still be playing in the minefields of dating.
If you are young and just starting out, this is not for you. My advice to you is to make your own mistakes and learn your own lessons. If you still think some enchanted evening, you may meet a stranger across a crowed room, etc. You are starting where I started. And that did kind of happened for me. It just took 30 some years for me to meet Steve at a Gallery fundraising event. And a couple of more years before we really connected for good. Good for you if it happens sooner. However, it is very rare for this to happen early in the game. Some of us have many and varied lessons to learn for ourselves on our journey before we are ready for Mr or Ms Right. These are merely the lessons I learned myself along the way to that “Some Enchanted Evening”.
First of all, some people will tell you every relationship is unique and/or there are many types of relationships. This is not true. I found you could– and should– determine pretty early on which of three primary categories into which a relationship might fall. These categories are:
- People you sleep with
- People you date
- People you marry
Correctly classifying new relationships is key to managing your relationships successfully and avoiding drama and unnecessary heartbreak ,on either side, as things progress.
The first category “People you sleep with” can be tricky. These are usually people you are wildly attracted to, but who are totally inappropriate for either long-term relationships or, perhaps, public knowledge or co-mingling with your friends. Face it, you really shouldn’t be messing with these people in the first place. These relationships can be lots of fun, for a while, but you have to keep your perspective. You know these people may be gorgeous, amusing and fun, but you know, deep down inside, you really have nothing in common with them. Deep down inside you also may know, or suspect, that you don’t share the same values, interests or intellect. Proceed with caution here and never let your heart, or lower regions, confuse your brain. These are the most limited types of relationships and must be recognized as such.
The second category is more problematic. ”People you date” are people who you could possibly move to the later category of “People you marry”, but you have to observe them very closely. Sometimes these relationships are of a time and place– High School and College romances are frequent examples. This category also includes gay men dating straight women- or vice versa- while they work things out as to who they really are. This category usually also includes workaholics, who value career above all else, and are thus not marriage material. Sometimes this category includes people who see you as part of category 1, but whom you have incorrectly classified due to insufficient initial information. If this progression from Category 1 to Category 2 occurs for you both, good for you. That is also rare. Overall, Category 2 is a category for temporary relationships where one or both parties knows or suspects it will not be a “forever” thing. Relationships in this category may be very rewarding and may last a long time– years in some cases– but they ultimately cannot last and will not result in a committed relationship. While these relationships can be great fun socially, you must manage expectations so that it does not result in unfairness or hurt to either party. Be careful here…
The third category, “People you marry”, is the rarest and most hard to find acceptable people to populate. To be in this category, both parties must be able to envision spending the rest of their lives together and building a life and a home together. This takes a very different skill set from the previous categories. You normally progress to this category from category 2, but seldom directly from category 1. You need stringent qualifications that must be met to put someone in this category. You must never, ever compromise.
My partner, Steve, is fond of saying that, when we met, he had three minimum qualifications for this category:
- The person must have a real job– with benefits such as insurance and a retirement plan.
- The person must have their own, nice place to live-not with their parents, for example.
- The person must have a college degree, at a minimum.
These requirements are a very good place to start. Of course, I passed the test for him as he did for me. If you want to build a life with someone, you must be practical and think things through because in these relationships, the stakes are higher as you will ultimately share finances, property, pets and perhaps, children.
Most importantly, for this category, you must share common values and interests. You have to be able to talk to each other about anything. You must be able to be honest with each other and to trust each other completely. You can’t be walking on egg shells or in fear of discussing important topics. You must be sure they have a strength of character that will get you through both good and bad times together. They must understand the word “commitment” and be willing to work on your relationship every day by making your thoughts and feelings part of their every decision making process. You have to have mutual respect. With this foundation, you can move forward.
In any event, the most important thing is to follow your heart, but never ignore your head. Sex and infatuation are wonderful, but must be recognized as such. They don’t last forever in their original form. They mutate over time.
You also have to recognize that people don’t really change and you certainly can’t change them, so be sure you know what you are getting and categorize accordingly. Then determine how to proceed.
As the old saying goes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. But I think there really is a prince- or princess- out there for each of us. You just find them when the time is right– usually when you least expect it.
Take this advice for what it’s worth. This is how I saw the dating game and what I learned along the way. It worked for me and I hope it might help others still out there in the trenches.
It’s better advice than you’ll get watching “Sex in the City”….
Repost from my other blog: www.lostinthe21stcentury.com