Are you relying on your relationship to make you happy? Do you wonder why it isn't working?
If you're anything like me and 99% of the people I know, you have an active imagination about how awesome you could be, "if only…" If only you were a lottery winner, thinner, in love, had your dream job, got divorced, became a parent... the list goes on. We all tell ourselves stories about how there is one (or more) external factors to our happiness that, once conquered, will make everything else better. As a matchmaker, I hear a lot of the following statements from singles who are looking for a loving relationship but haven't yet found it:
1. "Being in a relationship will motivate me to be more kind, forgiving, compromising, etc…"
Have you ever heard that expression, "wherever you go, there you are"? If you are unable to compromise (or only do so begrudgingly, holding onto resentment that you didn't get things your way), guess what? Finding that "perfect person" doesn't magically transform you. If anything, the vulnerability and intimacy that comes from a long-term, committed relationship only amplifies existing negative emotions and insecurities.
Relationships are amazing teachers, but what they reveal can only be addressed by us. If you are unkind, selfish or inflexible and you manage to find someone who still chooses to commit to you, you will bring that same behavior into your relationship. The comedian Chris Rock has a joke warning women that when you meet a new man, you are meeting a representative who says and does all the right things, but after awhile he goes "bye-bye," and the actual man appears. The same goes for all of us — you might be able to put certain behaviors in check when something is new, but eventually the real you will make an appearance for the long run. Shouldn't the real you be healthy, confident and positive?
2. "If I were married, I would never do _____________."
One of the benefits of being single is the comfortable seat of judgment you can sit in as you evaluate other people's relationships. You look at your sister, your boss or your best friend and you say: "I can't believe she's putting up with that," "If I were him, I would walk out the door and never come back," or "I'd never let myself gain 50 pounds after getting married. What a bait and switch!"
The truth is, you can't always know for certain what you would or wouldn't do under specific circumstances. You also don't know for certain what goes on between two people behind closed doors. Besides, it is much more productive (and attractive) to focus on what you do want and to make that happen in your own life than to sit in judgment of others. Our judgments of other people say a lot more about how we feel about ourselves than they do about anyone else.
3. "When you find the right person, everything else falls into place."
We can all blame Hollywood for our collective cultural delusion that relationships (even great ones) don't take work. Some of the longest-married and happiest couples I know still have their challenges. They are committed to making it work and so they find a way, but that way can take a long time and multiple failed strategies. Being in love doesn't mean you don't get angry or don't ever feel hurt, misunderstood or unheard. The high you feel from falling in love might temporarily put your job woes or parental issues on the back burner, but sooner or later they will be back.
If you are relying on your partner to make you feel good about your body, what happens when he/she is too distracted or exhausted to give you the constant affirmation you desire? If you feel disrespected and angry when someone cuts you off in traffic, do you think these same emotions won't be triggered by your husband repeatedly forgetting something you asked him to do? What if he eats the last piece of cake that you were saving because it's your favorite and he doesn't think it's a big deal? What if your wife sets the thermostat to 75 degrees because she's freezing but you are sweating bullets? These examples are all small life annoyances that can trigger us all — not to mention the big, tough stuff that arises in life.
Whether you are single or not, the work of being the person you aspire to be begins and ends with you. You can't rely on a relationship to make all of your dreams come true, so stop lying to yourself about your "future self."
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Do you think you've changed for a relationship, or do you plan to change once you are in one? Leave your comments below!
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