On the happy occasion of my 24thwedding anniversary I look back on the journey that brought me here with gratitude for every single experience. I wasn’t always grateful for each experience as I had it, but I feel gratitude now looking back. I dated for over 20 years, and even had one short marriage, before finding my life partner. I dreamed I would have a great love in my life and I never gave up on that dream despite many heartbreaks and setbacks. There were times I doubted myself; I had to grow in many ways in order to have the open heart that could receive deep and lasting love.
How, as a person who could not sustain a relationship past a few years, and couldn’t keep it good for more than one or two, have I sustained love over a quarter of a century? Some say I just got lucky, and no doubt I am lucky, but there were also decades of learning and growing, which still continues. In looking back to how I got here, and being a person who loves a list, I decided to share some lists that summarize what I learned in my 20 years of dating and relationships prior to my marriage.
Ten Things I Learned on My Journey to Love
- The Universe has its own timing.
- In order to have a meaningful love, have a meaningful life.
- You can only attract your right partner when you are being your authentic self. There’s the saying, “I’d rather be disliked for who I am than loved for who I’m pretending to be” and I honor the truth in that.
- Co-creation is a powerful tool – partner with the Universe (or whatever you call the thing that is bigger than you).
- Take ownership and responsibility for the experiences you are having. Your outer experience is a reflection of your inner reality. (If partners don’t value you, check your own beliefs about your value. If everyone lies to you, how are you lying to yourself? Etc.)
- Relationship challenges are our opportunity to learn and grow. And the opportunity to clarify what we do and don’t want in a relationship.
- Everything is energy and like attracts like. If you don’t like what you’re getting then look at what you are putting out energetically in your interactions.
- Respect the power of telling the truth, even when it is hard.
- Never give up. Your darkest hour can be the turning point. The worst day of your life (a devastating breakup) can ultimately become the best day of your life because it is the day that sparked your reinvention.
- Act in faith and take the next step. You don’t know where your journey will ultimately take you so you have to trust that each step is a necessary part of the journey. If you are walking around in circles and having the same experience over and over, look back at Step 6 – what’s the lesson you are missing, the pattern that’s repeating? Ultimately, when you settle into a wonderful relationship with your right partner you’ll know in your heart, “I am grateful for everything that has brought me to this moment.”
Have some fun and enjoy the journey. Have lots of adventures and unique experiences. Try new things. Learn new things. Go new places. Not every person is the one you’ll spend your life with, but value and enjoy getting to know a variety of people.
Remember – “Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” –Margaret Lee Runeck
Quit “looking for love” and instead remove the barriers to love that live inside you. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”–RUMI
Ten things that have to line up for love and life partnership.
Love can be based on physical attraction, but life partnership requires a lot more. When you are done with lust and infatuation, and start to get serious about a relationship that is a long-term commitment, hold onto the physical attraction and consider the rest of this list.
- Timing – where you are in life and what you want now.
- Temperament. There’s some flexibility here, but constant arguing indicates a basic incompatibility. It’s no way to live and is a top reason couples divorce.
- Interests (It helps to have some overlap in things you both enjoy, and also good to have separate interests with different sets of friends and colleagues).
- Desire for kids (don’t assume you’ll change his mind).
- Absence of deal-breakers (know your deal-breakers and don’t ignore them). Substance abuse, chronic financial problems, infidelity, abuse, fitness level, level of desire for sexual intimacy, wanting children, etc. I lost many years believing a man who loves me will change for me, or that my love would change him. Compromise on the small things, but hold out for what’s important. Wouldn’t it be better if he could find someone to love him as he is, and you found someone who is a good match without requiring a major overhaul?
- Respect – demonstrated mutual respect.
- Healthy relationship with money. (You don’t have to have the same amount of income or the same spending habits, but a big disconnect with how you each handle money is another top reason for divorce.)
- Shared life goals.
Ten capacitates you need for well-functioning relationships.
- Ability to give love and receive love.
- Ability to let go of always being “right” and always winning the argument.
- Ability to find balance.
- Ability to trust your intuition.
- Ability to tell the truth.
- Ability to stay true to yourself in a relationship.
- Ability to get past the fear of loss and fear of the unknown.
- Ability to bounce back, shift the energy, find resilience for the inevitable ups and downs.
- Ability to know what you need, and ask in a way the allows the request to be heard.
- Ability to create a good life, with or without a partner. Don’t wait for a partner to live the life you want. Two people that both have a full, rich life can come together and share new interests, new groups of friends, and new adventures.
The Unlucky 13 – These Were My Deal Breakers
I learned this list the hard way. If I had known these things up front I would have saved myself a lot of tears. In my case, I had to try on different relationships and experience the contrast between what I did and did not want. I had to learn how to pace a relationship and get to know the person before I was head-over-heals infatuated. Note: I dated men, so I use “he” but these apply equally across gender.
- He loves to party, every time you see him he’s using alcohol/drugs, and he finds any alcohol and drug free activity boring.
- He is mean or rude toward other woman – ex-partners, service people, co-workers, or family – with demeaning and disrespectful talk.
- He is “all in” with the relationship before he even knows you. He wants to move in, pool finances, plan extravagant travel together, even propose marriage based on the fact that he’s crazy about you, all after a couple of dates. Don’t hesitate to slow down if he pushes your pace; if it is going to be wonderful it’ll still be happily humming along as you spend time together over a period of weeks and months.
- He is such a free spirit or artist that he has complete disregard for keeping commitments or showing up on time. He likes to keep all his options open and “go with the flow” which means you’ll see him when there’s nothing better going on.
- He is super possessive. Especially if he likes to keep you on the defensive about your friends and activities, and treats you like you are cheating. He is projecting his own cheating onto you. It may be flattering for a minute, but know that there is no bigger red flag for domestic violence.
- None of your friends or family like him; he expects you to push away friends and family. “It’s just you and me against the world.”
- He can’t manage his temper, loses it over little things, and gets physical.
- Does not live within his means.
- It’s all about the grand gesture. He likes to make a big show and get a lot of attention for doing something grand, but he does not come through on day-to-day thoughtfulness, courtesy and respect.
- Little details don’t fit, and his life story doesn’t add up. You catch him in small lies. Please do not ever disregard your intuition when it is telling you something is wrong.
- This is a new one in the era of online dating – meet him in person very early on, and if he’s not willing to do that, forget it. Also, if first contact is lewd and sexual, forget it.
- He has the attitude “the rules don’t apply to me”. He can’t hear the word “no”. You see him lie to or cheat other people. This pattern of behavior tells you you’re with a very antisocial, self-involved, and narcissistic person. In my experience, it does not end well. I got to the point I would throw out a “no” on some small matter early on to test whether “no” would be heard and respected.
- He appears to ask your opinion and offer you a choice, but ultimately you always end up going to the restaurant, movie, or activity he chooses, in the time or location that’s best for him.
For other people, geographic location, religious beliefs, inability to run a marathon, or kids from prior relationships might be deal breakers. I learned to ask very explicitly “are you married” and “do you have kids”. I was amazed at how many men could simply forget to mention these important details in early conversations. If he lies in the beginning, even by omission, he’s a liar. He need not divulge everything about his past on the first date, nor should he. Allow for the possibility that everyone has things from their past they’re not proud of; that we all change, grow and evolve. But a direct question deserves a direct and honest answer.
I completely quit using the term soul mate and replaced it with my right partner. The affirmation below worked for me. As soon as this declaration was in my consciousness, and became my intention for the partner I wanted, my love life changed radically.
“I draw to myself my right partner, the soul whose love serves my soul’s highest potential, the soul whom my soul enhances to highest potential. I draw this partner to me freely and lovingly as I am drawn to this partner. I choose and am chosen out of pure love, pure respect, and pure liberty. I attract one who attracts me equally. I seek and am found. We are a match made in heaven to better this earth.”– Julia Cameron, Heart Steps: Prayers and Declarations for a Creative Life.
If you don’t like that affirmation, create your own. There is power in asking the Universe for what you want in direct and affirmative terms.
And here is a list of 3 books that I wish had been written while I was dating.
- He’s Just Not that Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo.
- Have Him At Hello by Rachel Greenwald.
- The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
There it is, lists, quotes, books, and thoughts on love. I could write at length about every item on every list and tell the story of how I got to that awareness. I might tell those stories at some time in the future, but for now, I hope these lists get you thinking. Sometimes it is awakening to the realization of your one Achilles heel that changes the trajectory and outcome of your journey. I wish you all the best.