Written by Ahmad Jooma (Co-host: The Authentic Dating Series podcast)
It’s understandable that, after what feels like a lifetime of failed relationships, upsets, broken promises and heartache, you feel guarded, and the need to protect your most vulnerable and prized possession: your heart.
The pain of others not treating you correctly: being brash, harsh and uncaring with what you know to be the softest part of you: your love.
And in your desire to circumvent the rivers of emotional turbulence and rocky waters of embarrassment and shame, it would be logical if you became strategic on your path to finding an ideal relationship – where the summers seem longer, evenings more dreamy and each moment with your beloved person is sweeter than the last.
You may have turned to the hopeful idea that if you pinpoint exactly what your beloved will look like and can list their every detail then on some level, either deliberately or magically, you could sift them out of the sea of other less-suitable suitors — And after long last… you will find yourself in companionship with your perfect match!
The only problem with that idea is there’s plenty that can go wrong. From my own experience of playing the beguiling game of ‘seeking miss perfect’ — I noticed that getting exactly what I want doesn’t always equal happiness.
The big issue here is: do we know, for ourselves, what a good partner looks like? Are we the best judge of that — because what if we’re wrong? What happens when what we want doesn’t align with what we need?
The phrase: ‘I got what I needed, not what I wanted’ is often praised for that very reason. So, if we’re possibly wrong about what we want/need – how can we ever expect to plot a course to a perfect relationship?
(Don’t worry – there is hope – keep reading!)
Creating a list of dating must-haves is a flawed strategy. Because its underlying origins are based on what you do not want – more specifically, what you wish to avoid experiencing!
The following illustrates our very simplistic patterns around pain and how most humans deal with it: “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice then my guards are up and they’re not coming down unless prised apart with a crowbar.”
Regarding pain, we tend to keep vigilant and seek to avoid any potential of letting painful events happen and in doing so, we become beleaguered in our hopes and dreams of finding love.
Some, if not all of us, find ourselves behaving bitterly thereafter; quick to turn down opportunities at the slightest hint of incompatibility. We nurture the idea that finding love “is hopeless” and we allow that idea to grow in our minds.
First, we tell ourselves a story about hopeless love based on our painful experiences and soon we’re sharing this tale with others and it has become ‘just how life is’. Cemented in reality, proof of this story can be seen everywhere we look:
“She was too high maintenance”
“He isn’t trustworthy”
“It just wouldn’t work out – I can tell”
Now, perhaps you’re right in some cases, maybe once or twice. But are you always right about every possible suitor?
Reoccurring prejudgements are an indication of a well-formed story. No list of desirable partner traits can change this
self-fulfilling prophecy. Finding the perfect partner – or getting specific on every detail that you do and don’t want out of a relationship – won’t help!
The key is to get clear on the story you’ve been telling yourself and others around you about relationships.
You most likely and strongly believe this story is helping you and protecting you. But this story is interfering with the end-result: a relationship with someone you love, and being loved back.
It is surprising how many people are unaware of the impact that their past experiences have on their current relationships (or lack of it).
Life is a continuum where everything you ever experienced and the decisions you took as a consequence, shaped who you are today.
Even those decisions long-forgotten e.g. when you asked your crush out and they said no! — That became part of your story of how the world is for you – and especially in romance and dating.
Even decisions when you were 2 – 4 years old. Decisions never again reviewed to see if they’re still valid ones to live by – now as an adult in midlife.
One of the beautiful things about being an adult in midlife is that it’s easier to look back objectively because sufficient time has passed and in that time you’ve grown wiser and stronger. You now know that what used to terrify you, like the boogeyman or dark basements, don’t have the same scare factor.
So, perhaps it is time to review your story about yourself, love and dating before hoping to find the perfect match; so you can avoid all the problems you previously experienced in life. And in doing so, you’ll realise that those problems, much like the boogeyman, are no longer real problems.
This is an important first step in transforming your relationships: including the relationship to yourself, romantic and all others. It begins with acknowledging and letting go of the old story. In doing this you make space for something new, unknown and exciting. This might feel unnerving at first when unhinged from your old story and perceptions of yourself.
I’ll explain what you can do with this unknown space:
Can you remember being a child and wanting something for the pure pleasure of it – you existed in a state of innocence where new colours, sounds and lights would captivate your attention – you were naturally curious, inquisitive and everything was possible. This was a very natural state of being.
When you let go of your old story – you realise everything is new again and you can focus on what you would love – without it being smothered by predictions and expectation based on the past.
When the past is over and you are present in the moment – two things happen simultaneously:
1. You can discover what you enjoy and desire – no longer weighed down by old this is just how it is for me.
2. You meet people with a sense of curiosity and find out who they are – no longer judging and dismissing them on a whim.
An important factor that changes here is your focus.
Whereas before you puzzled over how to find your perfect match with a stringent checklist of must-haves. (which was masking your fears and attempting to protect yourself from being hurt!), now your focus is truly on meeting someone you can be in a relationship with and enjoying the process. You feel more free and confident in yourself.
- ‘Must-have’ lists detailing your perfect partner are counterproductive.
- Your old relationship story is interfering with you having the relationship that you desire.
- Letting go of your old story allows you to create something new from an entirely new focus.
Becoming familiar with your ‘old story’ is a key step to unlocking the relationship you truly desire. So here’s some simple homework for you: Consider the last 7 years of your life and plot the major romantic encounters you had. Write briefly:
- How did the encounter(s) begin?
- What did you experience?
- How did the encounter(s) end?
Note the similarities in your encounters and how they made you feel. The pattern you see and emotions experienced make up important parts of your story.
To learn more:
Listen to the podcast ‘The Authentic Dating Series’ on iTunes and all platforms:
Podcast link: https://apple.co/2LB7VRK