How often have you heard someone say “I would like a relationship, but it’s too much trouble to find one.” “I just got divorced and I don’t want to make the same mistake again.” “When will I find someone?” In order to have a relationship that works, it’s necessary to be ready before you enter one.
This sounds like the first lesson for LOVE 101, but if we look at our national divorce rate, you can see that the failure rate is significant. In fact, I seriously doubt that many people consider their readiness for marriage or relationship of any sort. The average dating scenario goes something like this. He is attracted to how she looks. She is attracted to his energy and productivity. They start dating and eventually she thinks it might be a good idea to get married. He goes along because he is sure it’s going to get him regular sex and then all their friends and relatives get excited about their wedding. They have a big celebration and then they start to realize there is more to marriage than eat, sleep, and sex.
I worked with couples and divorced clients for a while. It was obvious that they were in various stages of post-relationship survival. Their finances were in a shambles. Some were broken-hearted, with no self-esteem, out of work, wondering what to do about their rent and utilities payments and seeking coaching about their relationships. Many, I think, were planning on having a new relationship rescue them from impending disaster. Being solution oriented, I started looking for the causes which led to thinking about parameters for readiness in relationship. What specific standards and status should be the baseline? What exactly constitutes readiness? What is definite is that nothing is definite. So where do you start? It’s what led me to my current clientele, the starting over, gun-shy, walking wounded, romance re-entry singles.
Let me tell you what I have discovered in the past 20 years. The first step is desire. You must decide that you want to have a relationship. The desire to be part of something is manifested in relationship. You can’t be “in” a relationship unless you want to be. Partnership demands a serious time commitment, one-on-one conversations, planning, dating, socializing, compromising, making love, having sex, playing, working, sleeping, having children and raising them, shopping, cleaning house. Granted, some of these things you would do even if you were not in relationship. However, once you are seriously committed, as in living together, every one of the above -mentioned tasks involves agreement and participation by both partners.
Even prior to living together, finding someone you are willing to try being in relationship with is practically a full-time job. So many of the people that I talk with in my work tell me “I just don’t have the energy to go through the process of dating and getting to know someone well enough to feel comfortable being authentic and intimate.”
Don’t you agree that many people settle for what they have, even if unsatisfying, just because it’s too much work to change it?