I admit that I struggle with the general idea that one has to “qualify” in order to get married. There’s this list of things that single women are given and expected to accomplish before they are ready to get married. We tell our girls that boys will always be there and to get their education first. You’re expected to work on yourself, do fun things, finish school, pay off debt, and get a decent job among other things before you qualify for marriage. Now granted, my story is different in that while I’ve always wanted to get married, I had a feeling that I would be on the road less traveled for a long time. I just didn’t anticipate how long it would be. I was hoping for 25 but now I’m pushing 30 without any actual potential mate on the horizon. I find it frustrating when I’m told that there’s something that I’m doing wrong or just haven’t done yet that makes me unqualified to be married. I see people all day, I’m a good listener, I can hold an emotionally safe place and challenge the perspectives of others in a way that is non-threatening and supportive. I’m the sole provider of my household of one and while I’m not rich, bills do get paid and I travel once in a while. I recently completed the highest educational level one can achieve (PhD) and yet the Universe still apparently sees me as unqualified for a mate. I’m all about doing the work but shit, being alone gets old after a while. I’ve learned how to self soothe and what to do to calm myself down but there are times that I’d sell my soul for a hug and the knowledge that someone has my back. Yes, I’m approached by guys but so far they aren’t ready for anything serious or want me to finance their lives and take care of them. Neither is an option I want to live with. It sounds corny but I want to matter to someone. Really matter. I haven’t found that yet and the older I get the less optimistic I am. It’s just exhausting and tiring doing it alone all the time and while I’ll always do what I have to do, I wish things were different.
Recently I’ve seen a lot of social media posts about people getting engaged and also getting married. However, there is also a lot of the opposite. I saw an individual posted on social media how much it hurts to find out that you meant nothing to the other person after thinking that you meant the world to them. An author whose page I follow also posed a question asking if people are tired of dating and the overwhelming response to the post was that most people had given up on ever finding a significant romantic relationship. I wasn’t too surprised to read the responses and I found that it was easy to relate to what people were saying. While I think that’s it’s wrong to say that there are no good men/women left in the world, it would be stupid not to acknowledge how difficult it can be to “find” a normal,stable, and fairly sane person. Dating in today’s world is not as glamorous as it is in the movies and there are hundreds of unspoken rules and expectations that one is expected to just “know.” Let’s face it, it can be a hard world for a hopeless romantic. Dating can easily turn into a cycle that’s similar to fishing where you catch fish but keep throwing them back into the water because they aren’t what you’re looking for. Personally, I find it annoying when people talk about how your perfect match is “out there” and that you have a kiss a lot of frogs in order to find your prince. I don’t know if it’s really worth all that hassle.
Not too long ago I had the opportunity to brush up on my therapy skills and put them into practice. Like anything, there are certain things you forget when you don’t have to use a certain set of skills consistently. While it’s easy to get back in groove (like riding a bike), the process requires additional preparation and planning. Something that stood out to me was the role of vulnerability in a successful intimate relationship. We have an impact on each other and walls are sometimes necessary because they serve as emotional protection in the face of real or perceived emotional danger. A certain amount of baggage typically comes along with two people entering a relationship. It’s not about finding a “perfect” person but more about choosing someone whose problems and emotional baggage complement yours. Vulnerability requires a certain amount of trust in the other person. The lines of communication have to be open without any topic being off limits. It’s interesting to witness adults in a variety of situations shy away from being assertive and discussing expectations about an uncomfortable topic. When I think about being vulnerable I think about watching dogs play and fight. Typically one dog wins when the other one surrenders by laying on its back and going belly up. It’s literally a position of vulnerability as it exposes vital organs leaving the dog at the mercy of its opponent. But it also signals the end of the fight. I think it’s important to remember that getting to that point of vulnerability takes time with human relationships. But it can be so worth it in the end when both people can communicate on that level without feeling attacked or judged.
I saw this picture and initially laughed but then got annoyed almost immediately afterward. When I finished college I had a decision to make. I could go the safer route and look for a job right out of college or I could pursue a graduate degree. I knew that I had a better chance of getting married if I just had a bachelor’s degree. But I didn’t want to put my life on hold for something that I wasn’t sure would happen. I was 21 years young and without any hint of a significant other in sight. So I moved across the country, and started and completed a masters degree. But let me back up a bit. From a young age I was taught that good men looked for women who went to church and were active in some capacity. So during my masters program I found a church and started being active by singing quite often and taking on small responsibilities. Religion or maybe I should say church going, isn’t usually a man’s favorite pastime. It’s usually overrun with women with emphasis on emotions. We can’t forget that there’s a double standard for women. They are taught that if a man truly loves them he will respect them by respecting their vow of abstinence or celibacy until marriage. I have a theory that this kind of thinking lends itself to unrealistic expectations and very very bitter women. Needless to say, my “experiment” on getting a significant other was not successful and seemed to alienate myself even further from any serious prospects. I’ve never been one of those “I don’t need a man” women, but I can certainly understand some of the emotions behind it. An education can make women more critical as they will only pay attention to men that are on the same education level as them. I don’t think there are many women who want to feel like they are marrying down. Strike one. A very strong traditional religious mindset where you believe that you only need God and that’s it. Couple this with a belief that good men are only found in church and will be happily celibate until marriage. Strike two. Let’s not forget about having a career and trying to move upward. Women in this position are usually planning to put child bearing off for a while because they want to be at a good place in their career. They put in long hours, they don’t date, they buy houses and drive nice cars. While they may be lonely, that feeling is remedied by more work and by girlfriends in a similar position. No man required. Strike three. There’s a hard truth to the picture and it’s not pretty. Perhaps it’s time to rethink some priorities and some expectations. Myself included.
Not too long ago I ran across this intriguing article . You can read it for yourself here. Maybe it’s my background in therapy and couples counseling that made this article really grab my attention. The basic premise of this article is that the person you marry can determine whether or not you’re successful in life. I’ve seen this happen firsthand in my work with couples. You have the ambitious partner and then the one who wants their partner to spend more time with them. While they deserve to have the attention of their partner, they totally miss the concept of how to make their needs known without nagging or appearing needy. Meanwhile the ambitious partner doesn’t understand why this is an issue. They are working hard for the benefit of the family and in many cases also happen to be the partner who is either the primary breadwinner or the one who makes substantially more than their partner. There is a breakdown in communication because of the priorities of both partners and the lack of understanding on both sides. The article discusses a study done that showed that people who have conscientious partners tend to be happier, make more money, and are more satisfied in their careers. Makes sense to me. The key to all this is getting conscientious partner and more importantly, BEING a conscientious partner. This is something that a lot of people fail to think about when deciding to have a future with someone. There’s not usually a conversation between partners regarding expectations of the relationship and what each person prefers in terms of support. Two can definitely better than one but not when they aren’t on the same page.
Like most unmarried young adults in my age bracket, I have a list of the things that I want in a significant other. Over the years this list has evolved from a paragraph to four pages single spaced in Times New Roman font. The list has been influenced by many things including past experiences, the observation of relationships and marriages, and the couples I’ve seen in therapy. It’s updated each year and undergoes a makeover with new details and ideas of what would be best. The thing about growing older is that it’s easier to become more set in your ways. As a result of this, the list of things you don’t want to put up with becomes longer and longer. There’s less room for flexibility because you feel like you’re on a countdown and you don’t want to have to try it multiple times to get it right. There’s less patience and a more purposeful intent. So the list sits there. Collecting dust on the hard drive of my computer. The funny thing is that while I rarely take the time to refer back to it, I still know and remember what it contains. The challenge with making such a list is that you have to leave room for reality. No one is going to be perfect and that’s something that I’ve always taken into consideration. Rules that were absolutes have not become preferences instead of deal breakers. Of course there’s the basics; love, respect, won’t beat me black and blue, and can be assertive. But then there are other things that would just make life easier in the long run. Everyone doesn’t come from a traditional two parent home and while that might make life a bit easier, it’s not something that I expect. The great thing about the list is that it lets you make decisions about people pretty easily. You can cut out a lot of unnecessary drama and save yourself heartbreak and time because you cut them off at the beginning because they didn’t meet criteria. One double edged sword in my case is that I’ve met my list. An individual who embodies all four pages single spaced of expectations, criteria, and preferences. Which, by the way, is not an easy feat. While I would never go as far to say that this person is the embodiment of perfection, I will say that they have some core character traits that align perfectly with the list. It’s been one thing to meet the list and another thing to interact with the list and have conversations. Does The List know that they are the list? No. And the jury is still out on whether or not they’ll ever get that information. However, maybe that’s the nature of the list. The fear of messing up a perfect fantasy with an imperfect reality that results in the admiration from a distance without action.
One thing that I hear from time to time is that good men don’t exist anymore. Hearing this assertion both irritates and annoys me because it’s usually said by someone who is bitter and still scarred from a previous experience. And while I get that this opinion usually comes from some sort of frustration, I don’t think that it makes a lot of sense. Logically, if you say that there are no good men left, you have to actually know what a good man IS. This definition of a good man should not be generated from a romance novel or some tear-jerking chick flick movie because it’s unrealistic. I think that a lot of women are caught up in this Hollywood/romantic novel ideal of a knight in shining armor that has no flaws, a six pack, and a very comfortable six figure job. I’ve never had any problem locating decent guys and that’s actually an accomplishment considering the fact that I live in the middle of NOWHERE. They are rare, but they exist. You just have to know where to look and also WHAT you’re looking for. But you have to keep in mind that a lot of times a good man may not always be the best looking, most outgoing, or the most attractive. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that he actually exists. It just may not be in the packaging that you want.