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Monday, July 25, 2011

Modern Dating and the Measure of a Relationship

"What do you think of the modern, single man courting women today?" he asked me from his computer, where it was safe to communicate while his wife was in the other room.

I replied "He's lazy and selfish with unreasonable expectations.  That's the short story, but so are women."

I realize I'm about to generalize and paint a bleak picture, but stay with me for a minute and we'll get through to the other side.

As a single girl my whole life, it was apparent to me that most of the single men who are swimming around in the dating pool were deceptive and exhausting. They were there for a reason, I concluded. They were the rejects.  They're playing a game in order to look good in the eyes of their target long enough to make a connection... naked. They start all over again as soon as the afterglow has faded. New day, new target. Of course their object of desire must first meet their criteria; usually above average good looking, sexy, have her own money, car, place, love to cater to his fantasy and make him feel like "the most interesting man in the world." She should be a "good girl" in public and a "naughty girl" in private and she should be agreeable with all of his thoughts on whatever subject he chooses to have an opinion about. Her reward for her unique charm and delightful companionship will be an invitation into his bed! A return phone call or text will only occur if she played the part convincingly well and he is considering a second round where they can get together someplace convenient for him with no purchase required. (Of course she could invite him over and whip something up, just so long as he doesn't have to pay for it.) He says he just wants to keep it simple, uncomplicated...he's tired of the "scene". He's absolutely convinced he's the prize and she's the lucky winner.

And single women? Well, they have their own set of "rules" and list of non-negotiable standards by which all potential suitors must measure up including above average good looks, a level of wealth above their own, an impressive career, excellent manners, be very well groomed and smelling handsome, have unwavering patience, respect for her and everyone else (wait staff, her friends, her kids, her pets), be generous - offering to take her anywhere she wants to go, compliment her looks, her talents, her intelligence and find her so incredibly irresistible that he can't believe his extraordinary luck in finding her! She'll then let him take her out on several dates and only after spending an acceptable amount of money spoiling her and endless hours engaging her in fascinating conversations will she consider allowing him to worship her body. And he'd better be good at it...and then he'd better propose.

The ugly truth is that both of these awful examples are ridiculous, of course, but I know people just like that and they actually believe they will find "the one" and live happily ever after. In fact, they're so sure of it, they're completely appalled that they are being kept waiting because that's the way it's supposed to be - "Everyone has a soul mate so where's mine Goddammit, and why is he/she taking so f*cking long to show up? And no, I shouldn't have to compromise on what I want, I'm worth it!"

I'm still not sure where this sense of entitlement comes from. Did our parents teach us that we were so deserving? Did our previously unfortunate relationships shape our inability to see how imperfect we really are while holding others to such unreasonable standards? Did Oprah and the self-help love gurus convince us that we should seek potential partners armed with our lists and our rules?

I don't know where it came from - I don't care. All I know is that I don't believe anyone is entitled to anything. Ever. And when it comes to love and relationships, one is very lucky to find someone they are compatible with, find attractive and who will put up with them. There is no guarantee or sure formula for finding and capturing the heart of another. Just appreciate it when it happens, if it happens.

How do you know when it's true love? I think that the romantic relationship is best measured by the way the other person makes you feel - about yourself.  It isn't about looks, money, status, common interests, background, none of it.  All are less important than who you are when you are with them. The successful ones are those that have you being the best person you can be such that you surprise yourself, in a positive way.  It's about choosing your partner everyday, over and over again. It's about who you've become because the other person inspires and motivates you in a way that you grow into your best self and reciprocate by being the best partner to the one you love.  If two people can do that for each other, for a while or for a lifetime, that's a great relationship - and it's rare, not guaranteed.

As for marriages and commitments, the best relationships are those that are created by the two people in them; not by society, government, religion, history or culture. A marriage is a contract and it should be flexible and work for the two people in it, just like any other contract.  It shouldn't look the same for everyone.  We're not all alike.

Personally, I'm really not interested in dating single men. I much prefer the company of attached partners, and I know that doesn't sound right, but I do and here's why; they're gracious, they're romantic, they're always up for a good time, there are no strings attached and they come in small doses, over and over again. I don't want to keep them. I just want to enjoy our time together and then go back to our lives, separate from each other. That works for me. I'd rather be single and be happy than be in a relationship for the sake of being in one, that's for sure. And if I ever get lucky enough to meet someone that has me thinking it could be "true love", then I will embrace it.

And for those who are single, my best advice is this; embrace it. Totally wrap your head and your heart around it. Be the best single you can be. Enjoy the banquet and find your happiness in what you already have instead of wishing for something you don't. Because it's not about having what you want, it's about wanting what you have.

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