"Perfect" love isn't real.
By Banu Sekendur.
As a teenager, I was addicted to romance novels, most of which had a strong sexual tone in them. Inside the pages of those books was a world where men and women gave in to the hard-to-repress, intoxicating animal instinct despite all the naked signs of emotional unavailability and immaturity in both of the potential partners-in-crime.
Unfortunately, I didn't have Morgan Freeman in the background whispering the truth to me in his godly voice.
When I was thirteen, my room was full of posters of rock stars with long hair. I wanted to marry Sebastian Bach and make out with Axl Rose. I am surprised that my dad allowed me to have those up when my brother didn't have a wall full of pages of Playboy. But that's another topic for another article.
I was no different than millions of women who found comfort in the idea of a perfect man who would never make mistakes, hurt her, or act less than he could be. I confess to still finding an erotic pleasure in projecting all these aspects of perfection on attractive and talented movie stars just like I did when I was a teenager. My pretty little head started to fill up with these fantasies.
The effect of this self-nurtured brainwashing was more devastating than I could have imagined. I had not learned conscious love. I learned scripted love from the books I was reading and the movies I was watching, which gave me no real relationship skills at all.
I had no idea what people did after they "fell in love" with each other. Just like we have no idea about what happens after Julia Roberts was rescued from the streets by steaming hot Richard Gere, who buys her that fantastic dress. They were the Brad and Angelina of those days. It sure felt good to watch that happy ending. It fit the script of the books I had been reading.
Yet, I had never had a "happy ending" like that. There was something wrong with this picture.
Fast forward to six years ago, I'd gone from 13 to 33 and I was sick of being alone, rejected and feeling like I could never experience a hot, inconveniently delicious romance that rocks my world. I decided to write a "My Ideal Partner Wish List."
I created this Frankenstein prince by composing sentences that painted a picture of someone who would sweep me off my feet and heal all my wounds. Are you laughing yet? I am. I am now. But I wasn't laughing then. I was dead serious.
I had underestimated how much Hollywood had influenced, and even eclipsed, my heart's authentic desires when it came to identifying what I wanted in an ideal partner. As I was sitting in my bed, reviewing my wish list from 6 years ago, I was a little appalled.
There was an undertone of entitlement in my wishes. They sounded more like demands than requests or desires. My "Ideal Partner" list looked as if I was ordering a custom healing balm to soothe my inner aches and pains. It didn't look like I wanted a partner to grow with or explore life with.
On top of that, it seemed that I wanted someone who would not fart, burp, blink or ever disappoint me. Ha! If I can't promise those things to someone else, then it is hypocritical to expect that, right?
After reading the "Ideal Partner" wish list I'd written six years before, I felt like crap for a few days. Seeing how shallow I had been, not even that long ago, was hard to swallow.
Once I called compassion into the picture and looked at the belief system I was unconsciously swimming in that caused me to write that list in those terms, I was free. My expectations, thus disappointments, were based on beliefs I had innocently picked up as I was growing up. Making a new, updated list that reflects the person I am today felt like the cathartic next step. So I sat down to make a new "my ideal partner" list.
This time, the list came from a place of knowing myself deeply. I knew my openings, my unhealed buttons, my must-haves based on my core values. This felt different than the requests of an unripe, wounded princess throwing a tantrum. By now, I had had enough experiences and relationships to have a decent second draft of the qualities I need my partner to have in order not to disrupt my existing happiness and even balance out some of my rough edges.
We can't define people by lists and expect them to stay that way all the time. People grow, change, and shed old skin at unpredictable times. My purpose of making this list was to get closer to myself by getting clear on who I am and who would complement me (not complete me.)
My old list from six years ago was about having someone love me enough for my pain to stop and for joy to come back into my life. That was my truth then. This new list was about my experience in the relationships just as much as what I had to offer to them. This one feels better. It is more aligned with who I am today and can facilitate the path of my becoming a better version of me by attracting a partner who is ideal for me.
I now understand that a partner is not a miracle cure for all my problems. He is not responsible for how good I feel about myself, or for adding a skip to my step (though the right partner probably will.) He is only responsible for his happiness and his choices. There is no item in my wish list that requires him to be a certain way for me to be happy. He is off the hook. Yet, I let myself desire what I desire.
I no longer play games, hide myself, distort my intentions or give myself away in exchange for someone's continued attention. I may have been run down by life one too many times, but while I was on the ground, I picked up pieces of me I will never give away.
This perspective applies to men as well. It is not only women who are brainwashed by societal stereotypes around what an ideal partner needs to be like. Sometimes we wreck otherwise good relationships by these distorted expectations that don’t really bring true happiness but an ego satisfaction at best.
I can now freely explore new relationships, discover new layers of my femininity by dating different types of men, and apply everything I learned to make the best of each experience. Once I shattered the image of the perfect man and let go of the idea that I have to find "the one" to live happily ever after with, I started enjoying life more.
Now, dating is more about experimenting than trying to lock down that perfect man whom I can have kids with. I can tell you for certain that I like this way better.
In the light of all of this, would it be too bold for me to invite you to review your "my ideal partner" list? You might be in for a better adventure than I was.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.