I’m overhauling how I decide who gets my time.
The traditional “what do you have in common?” isn’t doing it for me. I don’t care if we’re both writers or we’re both 5'2 or we both love Taco Bell. Sure, those things are nice, but I’ve had those things in relationships — and those relationships still failed. What gives?
I think there’s a lot more to a successful relationship than chemistry or shared interests. I think there’s even more to them than shared values.
How do I feel around this person? Do I want to feel this way forever?
Feel goes beyond the nice butterflies-in-the-stomach way you get when someone cute smiles at you. It’s more personal than that — it’s your confidence, your sense of self, your identity. Are they seeing you as you? Do you feel like you can be you in your full, unadulterated glory? Do you feel validated as you?
Some of the ways this manifests itself negatively are so obvious. I dated a guy who was delightful in many ways — but when I said something, he almost always changed the subject or didn’t respond to what I said. Sometimes he cut me off. He never asked questions.
But some are more insidious. With some guys, my jokes fell flat more often than not. Some made me feel like they wouldn’t talk about sex even after they got married. Some made me feel I needed a full face of makeup just to be around them, even if they never said as much.
In big and little ways, I spent a lot of time with my wings pinned.
I don’t want to feel that way anymore.
So here’s what I’m asking myself after the first date to decide if there will be a second:
Do I feel heard?
When I spoke, did he respond? How did he respond? Did he remember things I’d said previously and reference them? Did I ever feel like I was talking to a brick wall?
Do I feel free to be dorky?
When I said something ridiculous or did something bizarre, did he embrace it or look away? Did I feel like it was okay to be a bit ridiculous, or did I feel I owed him an apology? Could I be open about my interests, even when they are by no stretch of the imagination “cool”?
What happens when I’m honest?
I’m a mental health writer. I’m open about having bipolar and (probably) ADHD. I’m open about having been suicidal. I know these things are heavy so I don’t start the conversation with them, but they are important to me and they inevitably come up. How does he respond when I talk about these things?
Do I feel the need to impress him?
This has far less to do with what a guy consciously says or does, and more to do with how I feel when I’m around him. Do I feel like I have to work hard to get him to like me? Do I need a full face of makeup, my best dress, and my best behavior to keep him interested? Or do I feel like I’m enough in whatever form I show up in?
Does he give his attention/time/energy freely, or do I have to fight for it?
No one is worth fighting for.
Read it again.
No one is worth fighting for.
If they aren’t as excited about me as I am about them — if getting them to find time for me is a struggle, a constant, unreciprocated effort on my part, then it’s not the right fit. I can’t force anyone to want to give me their time or attention if they don’t want to give it. And if I do force them, then I’m left feeling like they give me time as an obligation, not a gift.
Life’s too short to feel like an obligation.
So far in 2020, these questions are serving me pretty well. It’s a lot easier to vet dates when you have a stronger sense of what your dealbreakers are, beyond “Do they actively do hard drugs?” and “Have they committed more than 10 murders in the past fiscal year?”
What questions are you asking yourself?