Recently, a friend posted on Facebook, asking for thoughts on dating as a thirty-something, how age has changed our needs and priorities. I didn't respond to her post, but it has been on my mind all week. It really got pushed to the forefront when I found my copy of Neil Clark Warren's Date or Soul Mate, while cleaning out the garage.
Date of Soul Mate is one of those books that I had resisted, even though it was highly recommended by several friends. I never thought that I needed a dating self-help book, plus the whole Eharmony tie-in, was eye-roll inducing. It took awhile, but at the end of last year, I realized that I knew how to attract good guys, but not necessarily guys who were good for me.
With the exception of one mega-jerk that I dated immediately after my divorce, I've always dated nice guys. I am still friends with most of them, as the splits were more of a recognized incompatibility, rather than a true dislike. I seem to pick guys who make good friends, but don't provide what I need in a partner. Conversely, I am sure that I am unable to fulfill their needs too.
My friends noticed this pattern. After the break-up, I always heard how much they liked the guy, but knew that it was doomed. "He wasn't right for you", like a broken record. Sometimes friends know what you need, more than you know yourself. Listen to them.
I finally caved and read the book last year, when I was at a low point. I was done with just going on dates and meandering, I wanted someone with real potential to be a life partner and I wanted to be that person for someone else.
The magic in the book is that it prompts the reader to really think about the qualities that they need in a partner. This isn't stuff like he needs to be rich and handsome. It's deeper than that, Warren lists many qualities and prompts the reader to assess which of those qualities fits their specific needs. There is no mold or perfect answer, as everyone has different values and needs.
I took the exercise to heart and really assessed the list, analyzed past relationships and thought about both what I really wanted and really needed to make me feel fulfilled. This extends beyond what you want in a relationship, it is about what you want your life to be and finding the right partner to help you achieve mutual goals. It's a life manual, not a relationship book.
Warren lists hundreds of attributes and the exercise is to par them down to top ten things you need and ten that you won't tolerate. Here is the list that I came up with last year, the verbiage is all taken directly from the book.
1.Communicator – I must have someone who is good at both talking and listening.
2.Sense of Humor- I must have someone who is sharp and who can enjoy the humorous side of life.
3.Verbal Intimacy – I must know that my partner likes sharing his deepest emotional thoughts and desires.
4.Strong Character- I must have a partner who is honest and strong enough to do the right thing.
5.Kind – I must have a partner who is gentle and kind.
6.Patient- I must have someone who can handle life’s frustrations or momentary setbacks with a patient, steady demeanor.
7.Conflict Resolver- I must have a partner who will work to resolve rather than win arguments or conflicts in our relationship.
8.Exciting – I must have a partner who isn’t afraid to take a risk and who sees life as an adventure.
9.Emotionally Healthy – I must have a partner who is emotionally healthy and able to share a stable life with someone.
10.Adaptable- I must have a partner who is able to adapt to life’s surprises.
1.Cynical- I can’t stand someone who generally sees the world from a cynical perspective
2.Angry- I can’t stand someone who can’t manage their own anger, who yells or bottles it up inside.
3.Denying- I can’t stand someone who is unable to accept blame or see fault is his own actions.
4.Worrying- I can’t stand someone who easily looses perspective and constantly worries.
5.Hypocrites – I can’t stand someone who holds a double standard for his actions and those of other people.
6.Victim Mentality- I can’t stand someone who continually sees himself as a victim.
7.Childish- I can’t stand someone who is not emotionally mature.
8. Judgmental- I can’t stand someone who finds fault with everyone and everything.
9.Undependable- I can’t stand someone who fails to come through and is unreliable.
10.Arrogant- I can’t stand someone who is obnoxiously cocky.
I really thought this list through when I created it and when I met Dan, about a week later, I was upfront with what I wanted. A year later, I can say that he was upfront with me too, as he has made an exceptionally great partner, just like he was dreamed up from my list! It doesn't mean that everything is perfect, but it's pretty darn close.
I will offer a word of caution- If you ask the universe for a partner that is adventurous and spontaneous( #8- Exciting), be prepared, you just might get more than you bargained for! This year has been a fun, roller-coaster ride that has pushed me outside my comfort zone many times.I kept the book, because it really does extend beyond being a dating self-help book. I think that it's a good life guide and one that will warrant a reread and reassessment in the future. It really makes you assess your priorities.
It's also provide a good lesson in thinking about how other people communicate. I've found that it has given me tools to be empathetic towards friends and family members with different priorities and needs. It has helped me to become more assertive and a better communicator. I've always struggled with being an effective communicator, but with Dan, I've made a lot of stride in this area and it has helped with family issues too.
In response to my friend's question, I feel that dating in my thirties has made a shift with regard to clarity. My past relationships and failed marriage, have all made me see what I need, what type of person I want to be and where I want my life to head.
It's been hard gained through experience and some heart break. I wish that I had learned these lessons earlier than my mid-thirties, but it just didn't happen. I am a bit envious of people who know what they wanted/needed from a young age. I've really struggled with this, as it's difficult to go after something, when you don't have a clue of what to chase. I feel like 2012 was a year of tremendous personal growth and that it is continuing into 2013. The relationship is solid, the next step is figuring out some sort of career path... any good book recommendations?