Part 1 - Figuring Out What We Want In A Relationship

A relationship is where you should expect exclusivity from the other.

Dating is where you are testing the connection to see if the other is worthy of your exclusivity.
— J A Santosa
Dating is where you are testing the connection to see if the other is worthy of your exclusivity.

Dating is where you are testing the connection to see if the other is worthy of your exclusivity.

LENGTH: 10 minute read.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on this. I am a single person, just like most of you reading this.

However I have devoured a thousand articles, books and podcasts from relationship coaches, Christian pastors, psychologists and dating gurus alike.

I used to be embarrassed about this hobby, but, stuff it - I value having a God-honouring, healthy and fulfilling marriage one day, and I'm not going to be great at it by sitting around twiddling my ring-finger. 

So in the vein of figuring all this out together, I firmly believe that the powerful equation of:

(a) Really Knowing Oneself  

+ (b) Indiscriminately Meeting New People  

+ (c) Taking Responsibility For Your Own Happiness

(will equal)Knowing what we want in a committed romantic relationship.

 

If you're willing to continue reading, let me explain each part:

(a) Really Knowing Oneself

Closing the book of the past, so we can re-Kindle the future.

Closing the book of the past, so we can re-Kindle the future.

The Self Awareness/Self Respect Stuff Again:

(Read my post 10 Questions To Test Your Self Awareness & Self Respect to flesh out context.)

In relation to romantic relationships, though:

 

Self awareness is knowing what you need in a relationship.
Self respect is caring about yourself enough to demand it.
- Matthew Hussey

The self-awareness and self-respect journey has been long and arduous for me. For someone whose nose is always buried in self-improvement literature, I would say my blind spots were like camouflaged ninjas – ready to jump out and shock! me at any moment.

In other words, I think I know what I want in a relationship now. Alas I say this because I’ve had my fair share of heartbreaks, approached counsellors and mentors, and my experience has confirmed that what I want is justified and reasonable.

Yes I've been on many dates, and yes I've also created a life I love. And I believe these factors are in everyone's control.

TAKING STOCK

 I admit that I've overvalued really superficial traits in the past:

  • What kind of job does he have?
  • Does he like the same music?
  • Does he dress well?
  • Do we look good together in our Facebook photos? (I know, juvenile).
  • Does he come from a good family?
  • Do other people think we're a good match for each other?
  • Would my Mother approve?

Of course, what we desire our significant other to possess is the mirror of our own self-awareness.

We commit to someone whom possesses what we think we need, within the fence of what we know of ourselves. 

For example – I thought if we looked good together in our Facebook photos, we would be a glowing example to younger couples that would aspire to emulate us (even though myself and this particular boyfriend were only in our early 20s).

Smooth-sailing.

Smooth-sailing.

Or that if I was in a relationship with someone who had amazing parents, it would be a sign that when we were married, Christmas gatherings with the in-laws would be fun and smooth-sailing.

What I was not aware of, was that just because you look cute together, it doesn’t mean you'll communicate effectively (or respectfully) when it comes to sorting out problems (look at Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez).

Or with liking their family, the in-laws loyalty will always lie with their son/daughter and not you, for blood is thicker than water. I could say the same for my own sister’s future husband, as much as I might enjoy him as a brother in-law – my loyalty [within reason] will always be with my sister.

I know what you’re thinking so far – “Jess, how vilely shallow and petty you were.” And I don't disagree. I was missing hectares of self-awareness and used these relationships as a means to road test which traits I truly wanted.

And when those relationships ended after 2-4 months, their conclusions were met for irreconcilable differences regarding things like:

  • He would let his ex girlfriend call him everyday, and asserted they were only just friends.
  • He said he'd happily spend days on the couch eating donuts and had no real interest in providing for a future wife and baby.
  • He liked to check out other women while we walked down the street holding hands.
  • He was too pushy for physical affection.
  • He wouldn’t do what he promised he would do.
  • He’d shift the blame and call me unreasonable when I confronted him about being offended for a comment he made at me in front of his parents. 

As awkward as it is to share these things, reflection is necessary for growth, and I am relieved to be older, wiser and still single while I figure out who I am, what I want and whether that’s realistic.

(b) Indiscriminately Meeting NEW People

Being young, having fun, connecting with new peeps.

Being young, having fun, connecting with new peeps.

 

Be friendly to everyone you meet, but choose to only invest in a few.
- Matthew Hussey

In 2015 I was asked out by about 20 guys. Christians and non-Christians, younger and a bit older, studying and professional. The attention was nice, but I only agreed to go on a handful of these. (I don't have Tinder, in case you were wondering). 

I met some through Poetry, some through my gym, some through church, one online. I met one guy at Surry Hills Library (watch the poem "Hippocampus" about this) and he has become one of my closest friends. 

Before we go any further, I'd like to clarify the word "dating" so to avoid confusion:

The act of getting to know someone in a 1-on-1 setting to assess potential for romance and commitment.

This means going out for coffee, drinks, lunch or dinner. This means going kayaking in a group or for a stone-skip along the river bed. 

It can be intentional or rogue (but gentlemen, as a tip - women prefer it if you are upfront about your intentions). This means you may end up becoming great friends, enemies, lovers or 2 people who had 1 x 20 minute conversation over coffee a few months ago.

The dating and relationship definitions have been blurred. 

The dating and relationship definitions have been blurred

Going on a few dates does not mean you are in a relationship. That is very different. That is uniquely called "being in a relationship" and identifying the person you are in a relationship with as your "boyfriend" or "girlfriend". 

A relationship is where you should expect exclusivity from the other.

Dating is where you are testing the connection to see if the other is worthy of your exclusivity

I used to get way over-invested whenever a guy asked me out. Due to being a waiting-til-marriage kinda girl, and a traditionalist, the guys I dated would receive exorbitant amounts of thought about our potential future together, and this is before I even got to know them properly! I'd hardly say yes to many guys because I'd judge them straight off the bat about their marriage material quality.

So I advise: widen your pool. Just because you're meeting high volumes of people it doesn't mean you have to emotionally invest into each of them.

Learn to have fun by having light conversations about where to get cheap petrol, or telling a story about the neighbour's pug. Stop taking yourself so seriously. First meetings are hardly anything to go by. When was the last time you picked out your best friend from one chance encounter? 

Connection may happen instantly, but quality of bond is proven slowly over time.

Pursue your genuine interests in music, water-skiing, or Swedish house music and be friendly. If going to a matchmaking speed-dating pair-up with strangers event doesn't sound like fun for you, then don't go. But you can't expect to meet a kindred spirit/soulmate by sitting at home watching Netflix.

(C) TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN HAPPINESS

Clap alo-ong if you feel like, you-being-responsible-for-your-own-happiness is the truth.

Clap alo-ong if you feel like, you-being-responsible-for-your-own-happiness is the truth.

 

On the dating trail, each party is responsible for managing their own expectations.

For instance - Gentlemen, if you tell a woman you would just like to get to know her better over lunch, she shouldn't be picturing your wedding day and getting emotionally over-invested on the first date. However you will probably mislead her if you enter relationship territory without clarification - like kissing, introducing her to your parents, etc. 

Ladies - if he tells you he's not looking for anything serious, don't stick around thinking he'll change his mind and decide to suddenly commit to you. Mr Right is the sum total of compatibility of personhood + equal intentions.

You are completely in your right to tactfully ask what his intentions are. I used to think I was being too intense by doing this, but if it's asked with a casual, open-handed attitude about the outcome of what's happening between you 2, then a real gentleman would be more than happy to oblige.

I have said this in other posts, and I will say it again: 

As happy as you'll be in a great relationship, it is you who holds the magic pill to your own happiness, not your partner.
J A Santosa

So you do you, and let them do them.

BEFORE YOU READ PART II

So those are the first things we must evaluate before we're ready to jump into the getting-to-know-you coffee/lunch/dinner season. If you're already in the thick of it, continue reading anyhow.

In a nutshell, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What traits have I valued in the past? What traits do I value now?
  2. Do I know myself enough to be able to meet new people and know which ones to give more emotional investment?
  3. How am I growing to be better at healthy relationships? 
  4. Do I love my life? Would I be proud to give a person I was interested in, a grand tour of my life

I'd encourage you to chat about these things to your 3 closest friends. Choose people who have pointed out blind spots or aren't scared to pull you up. Choose well worn-in friendships. (Flatmates or travel companions are usually good choices also!)

Part II shall be out on Tuesday 10am EST. In it I will pose some more questions I ask myself when I am romantically intrigued by someone. Come with a mental check list of things that are important to you!

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