One of the prime lessons of my work teaching about relationships is to be authentic. The idea that you will find your sustaining love when you dress differently, talk differently, act differently, and do different things in places you really don’t enjoy is ludicrous. I’m all for seduction and luring in partners, mind you – but I follow Arden Leigh‘s dictum of doing so by turning my own natural traits and gifts up to eleven. I’m never going to have washboard abs again (I did, once, for about 15 minutes after I got done with Marine Corps boot camp) but I cut a dashing figure in French cuffs and a fedora. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on gifts, but I can give the gift of time and attention, providing my partners with enjoyable company.
In other words, I am convinced that by playing to my strengths, doing the things that I enjoy, I will find a kindred spirit, someone who also has complementary strengths, enjoys those things, and rather than having to find a transition from the bar scene to trying to find a TV show we both like we can just continue to enjoy the things we already love, enriching the experience even more for each other. The empathic joy of watching your love enjoy themselves? Absolutely incredible!
How do you know if you’re ready for it?
Let’s face it, we are all works in progress. It’s not like we wake up one morning and say “Ok, I’m done! Perfect!” If you do look in the mirror and say that, well, congratulations; now you can start working on that narcissism. It’s funny to me when I hear people say “I’m looking for someone with no drama/baggage/issues.” I just shake my head and wish them luck, because, honey, everybody’s got them.
I believe possibly the best we can hope for is someone with a matching set of baggage, or perhaps a better capacity for dealing with “drama” (which is also known as “life”). It’s not about trying to find someone without issues. It’s about finding someone who is on the right track in dealing with those issues, and might even be able to help you deal with your own.
That’s why relationship counselors all over the world keep on harping on the same word: communication. You want to do better in your relationship, or in your next relationship? Take classes on communication. Read books on listening, on non-violent communication. And then realize that even the people who write those books and teach those classes still get in knock-down-drag-out door-slamming dish-breaking shouting matches, because it’s hard to remember those rules when the blood runs high in righteous defense of “I-know-I’m-right.”
Relationships, also, are always works in progress.
There’s nothing that says you have to be ready.
Sometimes the purpose of self-analysis is not to tell yourself you’re ok. Sometimes the result of that internal navel-gazing is the realization that there are parts of your psyche that need work, need shoring up. Healing may be needed from past wounds, or habits that have proven destructive in the past need to be overcome. Or habits that would have proven constructive need to be developed.
Regardless, sometimes beingÂ authentic means saying no, even when that person appears and seems to be everything you have been looking for. Having the strength to hold back until you are ready is one of the best gifts of integrity you can give yourself.
I’m not saying it’s fun. Among other things, it’s likely that no matter how genuine your explanation is, it’s going to sound like the trite “It’s not you, it’s me” that has become a sad clichÃ©.
Like most clichÃ©s, it’s rooted in truth, though. That’s how it becomes a clichÃ©.
And your own little voices will second guess you. They will berate you, saying things like “You should get over it! You should move on! You should be ready! You should be more brave!” Prudence and cowardice are often mistaken for each other, and you have to have cultivated a practice of finding that deeper voice in order to give your authentic self the love it deserves when it says “No. Not yet.” It helps that the voices usually use those words like “should“; makes it easier to tell the difference between the authentic self and the layers that our conditioning puts on us.
One of the voices, though, will try to convince you that this is the only chance you’ll ever have. That if you don’t take the leap, take the chance, if you don’t move forward now you will never ever find that kind of chance again.
I would like to tell you with certainty that the voice is wrong. That if it’s meant to be, it will happen, no matter what, or you will always be able to find someone just as good somewhere else.
But…I won’t lie. I don’t know that for certain. All I know is that there is some solace, in the loss, in the struggle, with the knowledge that you are acting from your authentic self.
Sometimes that just has to be enough.