Perhaps the biggest mistake I made in the past was that I believed that love was about finding the right person. In reality, love is about becoming the right person. Don’t look for the person you want to spend your life with. Become the person you want to spend your life with.
In relationships, it is always so much easier to look at the other party, and shine a light on the aspects of that partner that are causing friction. This perspective enables all of us to feel pious and holier than thou. But the harsh reality, when viewed objectively, is often times so disparate from our own myopic vision.
A romantic relationship is truly a hand mirror in the possession of someone who is vibrating at a high enough frequency to be capable of looking at it honestly and using what they see to self-correct and grow. In the dating experience we are able to learn so much about ourselves through our interactions with others. We are privy to thoughts, feelings, emotions and sentiments that guide us in countless directions. Some people make us instantly feel a certain way, and others… not so much. But all of them are teaching us something about us. Likes, dislikes, attractions, annoyances, communication styles, intelligence, mindset, philosophy, politics and so much more.
It starts with chemistry. Chemistry is the overall vibe, the essence of the attraction. It is either there, or it is not. Most people seem to know this within seconds of meeting the other party. We can call this physical attraction, but it is much more than physical. It is the essence of the person that communicates on such a deep level that we are either feeling it, or not so much. Obviously the attraction for a romantic relationship happens at a hormonal level and that is either there or it is not. If it is not, and you hope that someday it will be there, the chances are slim for that to transpire. Other qualities may pull you into the relationship, but in the end, the chemistry is there or not.
What I want to discuss is beyond the initial chemistry because we really cannot control that. Attraction is attraction. End of story.
But what happens if there is attraction on both sides and a relationship proceeds? What carries that relationship long term and what are the mitigating factors that can find their way into a budding romance and direct the course for the future?
I have had two very long marriages. One for 17 years and one for 12. I am still dear friends with both of my ex-wives. They know I would do anything for them in a heartbeat. It would only take a call or text and I would be on my way. So finding myself single (again) in my 50’s was one of those moments of taking full inventory and trying to assess what was so broken that seemed to prevent me from going the full term with a relationship.
When you are able to look deep within, and really own the parts you play in making friction in a relationship, you can discover how and why you are instigating the drama. This does not mean that you are causing the drama, or that the fault that needs correcting is yours to correct. Two people make the relationship and both need to be fully engaged, self reflecting, self correcting and open in their communication as to make the small problems a discussion that lead to evolution in the relationship, rather than to push them under the proverbial rug and presume that they will auto correct.
This lead me to write a book that I have yet to finish. I called it Brian’s Brain (dumb title as a placeholder) and started to map out the art of positive psychological manipulation. First, for those of you who think manipulation is a negative word, it is not. Manipulation in its first use in the dictionary is: the action of manipulating something in a skillful manner.
My book was teaching how to empower other people to help you get exactly what you want. Again, that sounds evil, but it is exactly the opposite. Here is a simple example to make a point. You and your spouse sit down at a table in a restaurant. You have 45 minutes to eat before the movie starts and you want fast service. But this moment, you look around and there is a shortage of waitstaff, and the ones who are working, are doing double time. When your waitperson arrives, you can either berate them for how long it took for them to get to you, or the exact opposite. You can commiserate with them and let them know you see how overwhelmed they must be and ask if they think there is any chance to eat and make the film, and if so, what would they suggest you do not order, because it would take too long. This seems trivial but it is absolutely not!!! I am vehement on this point. If you try to communicate in this fashion, you win the other party’s respect and they wish to help you because you were genuine, you have validated their perspective, and honorable in your method of communication.
I think this last paragraph is one of the most important lessons I have ever come to learn. I cannot stress it enough. If you are in a stressful situation and your spouse comes home and you need something done, such as taking the trash out… if you berate them by making them feel how stressed you have been in your day, you push them away. If you let them know that you see that they may be in their own world of thoughts and needs, and ask sweetly for them to do something in a way that makes them feel understood, you are far more likely to get the outcome you seek as well as a deepening of the relationship.
I think this is one of the most important lessons I was ready to teach, but was not leveraging to my best capability in my relationships. Those who can’t do, teach. So at 51 and single again, it was time to understand all of the numerous qualities about myself that alone in the mirror I could not deny and figure out what I was willing to do in personal growth to be worthy of a relationship of magnitude.
I am the last person to provide insight as to the ability to make a lifetime relationship work. By definition, that ship has long sailed for me. I am however, very capable of explaining how and why we are most definitely required to look very deep within to understand what makes us a bad fit, and where we are willing to draw lines in the sand that we know we will not cross again.
I am now 62 and still single. I realize that a huge part of the reason for this is that I have evolved so far from who I was at 51 that I will not allow myself to attract into relationships that are destined for paths I have already traveled. That lesson can be perceived in 100 explanations. The reality is that once you really start to know who you are and who you have matured into being, the prospect of replaying an older chapter of your life with similar variables from which you have evolved, just does not pose the same attraction that it did decades earlier.
For me, one of my core issues used to be that I hated being single. I hated being by myself (especially on holidays) and I hated dating. I wanted to bond. But the reason to bond was to eliminate the loneliness. So let me tell you that as life went on, I started going for longer and longer stretches of just being alone. It was (and sometimes still is) excruciating for me. Sometimes you just want someone to connect with on that emotional level and find that inexpressible quality. But what finally happened is that I discovered that being alone is just fine and that I have great experiences that I manifest as a result.
Being alone does not necessarily mean you are lonely, and being lonely does not necessarily mean you are alone. That is a core truth.
I close this highly personal diatribe today with the same thought as the premise. If you really want to be successful in a romantic relationship, you MUST start by becoming the person YOU want to spend the rest of your life with.
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