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What Are *You* Holding Out For?

“Just for the record, one night with me and you’d remember it for the rest of your life. ”

“I’m sure I would. But, out of curiosity: how…exactly?”

“You’re a smart man. How do you think I landed such a rich husband?”

“I never really thought about it. You mean….”

“That’s right. I’m just that good.”

“Big Bang Theory”

Since today’s blog is about relationship advice, I will begin by saying that I am not a good source for relationship advice, unless you’d like to know more about the phenomenon known as feeling sad because you’re consistently being rejected by people you thought liked you. I am so good at this phenomenon, apparently, that my analytics tell me when people Google “You’re attractive, but you’re not my type”, they end up on this page.

I kid you not. Yesterday, I broke up with Domino’s. Today, I am now even being rejected by Google.

WTF, Google? This is how you let me know you don’t like me as much as I thought you did?

Anyhow, I’m blogging about love and relationships again today, because I came across one of those annoying articles on Yahoo! that people are so fond of posting, and women are largely fond of reading to remind themselves how they’re “working on their self-esteem” when truly, they’re looking for reassurance that “If I look hard enough, there’s a person out there like this that meets some of these criteria and will totally like me.”

Articles like this annoy the crap out of me, and I don’t know why, except there’s something formulaic and unrealistic about all of them. So, I’ve taken the liberty of rewriting the article to reflect my particular view on the “11 Things Every Woman (if you’re really a girl, you’re 16, and don’t need to be reading this doesn’t apply to you.) Should Hold Out For.”

The first flaw in all these articles is that they’re written to a specific demographic, namely straight, monogamous, marriage-oriented women. No matter what your orientation or view on relationships, most women (and men, for that matter) want the same thing on a fundamental level: to be loved in the way they *should* be loving themselves (but probably aren’t.) So, I am replacing the typical “guy” with the more generic “person”. If you’re looking for more than one partner, the same criteria likely apply, and if you’re happily against the institution of marriage, never fear—”holding out” doesn’t mean waiting for the right person to marry. “Holding out”, in my definition, simply means not settling for someone who doesn’t bring the right things to the table because you’d prefer not to be alone. And, for all my poly readers, this applies to you, too: adding a secondary partner who is fundamentally incompatible with what you need from a relationship just out of novelty is demeaning to everyone involved. “Holding out” simply means knowing what you want, what you’re worth, and having a somewhat realistic view on human relationships untainted by chick flicks and advice columns. (hehehehehe…the irony!)

So, that being said, here goes:

1) A person who is truly interested in what you have to say. Every list you’ll ever read says a sense of humour is the best quality you can find in a person, laughter is the best medicine, and someone you find funny is much more endearing than someone you find smart, good-looking, or a great cook. Respectfully, I disagree. We live in a world of quips and one-liners, 140 character texts and “keeping things light”, and the result is that the more easy it is for us to connect, the less often we truly do it. If you find someone whom you find not only funny but intriguing, and who is willing to talk as well as listen, connect as well as superficially entertain, you’ve found a gem. This is number one on my list—if we can’t connect easily, or I find myself having one conversation and you’re hearing another, or you’ve shown you just don’t care about certain aspects of my life, my interests, or putting in the work necessary to click on some deeper level, it’s not going to work. Humour is a part of this, yes, but it’s like isolating one crayon in the whole box and saying it’s the most important. The whole range of emotion is significant in life. You want the whole box of crayons, even the garish neon colours.

2) A person who will “get” you. Sometimes, these articles get it right, and this one is on point. It’s not about finding someone who will laugh at your jokes or who can complete your sentences. It isn’t even always about finding the person who thinks just like you or feels just like you or acts just like you. That person may quickly drive you insane. When you’re on the same page in life as another person, it’s intuitive. You just know that you mesh, and it’s a step in the right direction. Nothing is more frustrating than a relationship where you’re constantly having to explain every thought or feeling. Innate understanding is cool. When someone “gets” you, you just know it. It doesn’t make it easy, but it’s a fundamental building block.

3) Someone willing to be involved in your life, and vice versa. “A Guy Who Will Attend Your “Lame” Things”? Really, Yahoo!? If you care about something, it’s not lame…it doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend’s wedding, a night at the ballet, a political rally, or whatever else you’re into. You should be proud of your interests and accomplishments, and you should run at the first sign that you’re with someone who minimizes them. Likewise, this requires you to be willing to be supportive and interested in someone else’s life. A relationship is not a fusing of identities, but it is a sharing of worlds. If you’re not willing to do that for someone, that person either just isn’t right for you (it can be really hard when you have absolutely nothing in common), or you’re not actually ready for the committed relationship you think you want. I remember once telling an ex-boyfriend, an architect, that I wasn’t interested in reading the books he gave me on the subject because they were “boring”. I realise now the level of immaturity that showed on my part (cut me a little slack here; I was 21 or so.) I also remember falling out of love with one person and immediately becoming infatuated with another simply because I met someone who shared my interests and cared about them, whereas I was used to someone stuck inside their own comfort zone. Bonding is powerful stuff.

4) A person who will do “nothing” with you…but will also expand his or her horizons. Some people are, by nature, less laid back than others. Some people need a certain amount of time to do nothing, where others always have to be on the move. Some people are constantly exploring, while others like a certain level of comfort zone protection. I’d argue that this goes back to finding someone who is on the same age as you are. However, if being around someone and not doing anything makes you feel nervous or awkward, or silence makes you feel insecure and unloved, you need to take a step back and evaluate your relationship. Are you really “connecting”, or just doing stuff together all the time? Trust me on this one. There’s a huge difference.

5) A person not afraid to express his or her feelings about you. Yahoo! says to hold out for a guy who will give you a gift or card, but years of reading on psychology has taught me this is BS. There are a number of different ways in which human beings express emotion comfortably, and in which they find it most significant to receive that emotion in return. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking for the person who was going to write me heartfelt and romantic letters, because that’s how I communicate, and that being constantly touched, hugged, or kissed didn’t evoke the same response from me. However, that’s simply a difference in how people communicate and feel love. Physical expressions of love don’t mean much to me; I largely distrust them. Yet, for others, they’re the cornerstone of a relationship. I wouldn’t discard someone who is a sucky gift giver in your eyes, because you value expression of love via objects. All it means is that person likely communicates love differently. Talk with your potential partner about how you communicate love, what you find romantic, what means something to you.

6) Someone who gives you a sense of security when it comes to being loved. Again, Yahoo! says “A guy who will say he loves you”, but it’s not always that straightforward. Some people are of the opinion that actions speak louder than words, and hearing “I love you” doesn’t create that level of trust and security. There are different ways in which different people express their love and ability to be loved. Knowing that about one another and understanding those differences is key. For instance, I don’t say “I love you”, and it’s difficult for me to hear. You have to know me better to know why. Does it make me any less loving or any less capable of being committed toward someone? Hardly. I’m one of the most loving people you’ll ever encounter. The fact I don’t say those words doesn’t diminish that in the slightest. It just means I have emotional baggage, and if you care about me, you should take the time to learn about that.

7) Someone for whom you have respect, and shows you respect on a daily basis. Most of the things people do to harm relationships annoy me because they’re plain disrespectful; lying, cheating, putting another person down, making someone feel insignificant, putting your own needs first all the time…they’re all synonyms for “I care about you, but I care about me more.” And while a certain little bit of that is healthy, natural human nature, too much of that means a relationship is becomes disposable, an accessory, something that exists for your benefit. It’s impossible to be in a healthy relationship with a narcissist. Don’t accept disrespect from anyone, because you can and will find someone who values and respects you enough not to treat you that way. And, certainly, don’t disrespect others, because taking advantage of someone else’s love is something that hurts you as much as it does the other person…and karma’s a huge bitch.

8)Someone with whom you have good chemistry. Like emotional connection, chemistry is elusive. You may want it to be there, but it just isn’t. When you gravitate toward another human being without wanting to know why, that’s chemistry. When you sense you want to sleep with someone you barely know, or aren’t even that attracted to on a physical level, that’s chemistry. Call it pheromones, hormones, biology, whatever..there are things that attract people to one another on a physical, intellectual, and emotional level. Beware any relationship where all three aren’t present. Chemistry is often the easy part. Understanding it and making sense of how it fits into your relationship with another person…well, that’s another thing entirely. There have been many people in my life with whom I’ve had chemistry, but the other pieces didn’t fall into place, or there were too many extenuating circumstances. That’s why I write poetry instead of mistaking infatuation for the love that’s going to come along and magically change my life. ;p

9)Someone who agrees with you on travel. This one, I have to give credit where credit is due. This has always been a HUGE problem in my relationships; I like a certain level of stability, but also the freedom to explore, travel, have adventures. I haven’t, in a very long time, dated someone who wanted to or was able to just get in the car one weekend and go on a random road trip. It has made me doubt all these relationships…because I know eventually, I don’t want to live where I live for the rest of my life. What a well-known personality tests calls “openness to new experiences”; well, I’m big on that one. Yet, I attract people who are very much the opposite. I almost always travel alone. It makes me a little sad; sometimes, I want that romantic vision of someone with whom I can see the world and share adventures. This is one of those topics that reinforces my worldview that perhaps I am the kind of girl who needs more than one “someone”.

10) A person with similar family goals. Anyone who jumps into a relationship where one person wants kids and the other doesn’t; one loves animals and the other is allergic; one has a family that doesn’t accept the other…well, it’s inevitably a no-win situation. Asking people to sacrifice fundamental pieces of who they are, or waiting for them to change, isn’t something you’re entitled to ask. There are people out there with similar views on these things, and you will inevitably find one. Don’t make the mistake of trying to mold yourself into another person’s idea of a soulmate. No relationship that works was ever built on illusion, or losing aspects of yourself in the process.

11) Yahoo! says “Wait for someone who sees you as you want to be seen”. I don’t know about this one. I’m with Victor Hugo, who said “The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves; or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” You may want to be seen as the most perfect person to walk the planet, but it doesn’t mean your soulmate is one who is going to feed your delusion. :P While you certainly should never settle for someone who sees you as less than you are, being blindly idealised is also a recipe for disaster. (see: muses and manic pixies.) If someone can see through layers of artifice and protective walls and proper behaviour and posturing to make yourself look as good as possible, and love the spirit that lurks underneath, that’s someone worth waiting for. Don’t be disappointed when you discover it comes around rarely, as most people can’t see through that many layers of crap, and most of us don’t want to be seen in a way that leaves us vulnerable. Find someone who sees you as you are, as you once were, and as you’d like to be. It’s probably one of the best keys to finding a soulmate that’s out there.

Why, you might ask, am I an authority on relationships and romance, when my own life has been one of chaos and colourful stories? I’m not married. I have plenty of relationship woes and dramas and unwise choices that epitomise my life. Why do I think I know people better than Yahoo!?

Easy. You don’t get to be this colourful without learning a thing or two about human beings along the way. Trust me, if you really want love in your life, it’s going to have to be a lot less pretty and a lot less bullshit-free than every dating advice column you’ve ever read. Before you seek advice, just as before you seek love, the old dictum of “Know thyself” is more than apropos.

Oh, and Google? I can totally do better.

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