I haven’t gotten on my soapbox in a while because I have been preoccupied with planning my wedding and spending time with wonderful fiancé. This weekend he wasn’t feeling well so he stayed at his parent’s house and I stayed at my house and had a lovely Shabbat dinner with a group of single friends. After we discussed politics and careers we moved on to dating. When I used to give dating advice, I would always qualify my dispensation with the fact that I have yet to have a successful relationship and that should be taken into account. Now I have the most amazing relationship and I want to share with you what I am doing differently and why this works.
Relationships are about who you are with and how you interact with each other.
Who: Most of us have a list of traits, accomplishments and qualities that we want in a partner. I wanted someone who was at least 5 inches taller than me, runners build, has at least 1 academic degree and lives on their own. My current partner is none of these things and it doesn’t matter. Our personalities match. He is only 2 inches taller than me and has a wrestlers build but I am attracted to him so it doesn’t matter. He is currently doing an associate’s degree at a small college but is an autodidact who taught himself marketable and interesting skills which allow him to have a good salary and do work he enjoys. He lives with his parents but he is an oldest child and takes care of his family, not to mention, staying home and working allowed him to save in ways I never could as an independent woman. Throw away your list. Be open. You never know what you might find.
Even more important than how he beat my list is our life goals. We both want a religious but chill large family and we both want to live in Israel and have meaningful careers. This means we aren’t competing with each other or giving up our dreams in order to be with each other. We can support each others goals because we want to same things. You don’t need to be exactly the same and you need to be honest about which things you can bend on and which things you can’t, but neither person should have to break their dreams to be with the other. If your life goals match and your personalities mesh, you are paving the way to a good relationship.
How: My fiancé is an excellent communicator. He has taught me a lot and now I want to share it with you. Relaying your thoughts and desires to another person is hard, and it is equally hard to understand the thoughts and desires of your partner. However, in my experience most people when they are dating make it even more difficult by playing games, being opaque and hiding behind emotional armor. The trick to this communication thing is to ask and to answer. Seems simple, but I for one never did it correctly before I met my fiancé. At my dinner last night there was a debate about whether you should text or call after a date. After my first date with my fiancé, when he texted me, he asked if it was ok and what I prefer. He also told me he enjoyed our date and asked me what I thought and if everything was ok. There was no uncertainty, simply because he asked. The questions are useless though if you don’t answer honestly, it takes two to tango. There are no rules about which gender asks the questions and which answers, ideally you both ask and both answer honestly.
It is also important to discuss what you both want from the relationship, not just ten months in but on the first date. Gone will be the uncertainty of whether this is just a hookup or a possible spouse because you will have discussed it and then decided whether it is the right thing for you. If you are willing to let this person into your life and possibly take your clothing off with them, you should be able to ask them what their intentions are and to share yours. Seems like it could be awkward, but allowing yourself to be intimate with another person will always be awkward, so at the very least, be practical, turn the lights on so you can see your target and stop shooting in the dark.
I also cannot stress enough that people are all delicate and insecure. Men and women alike need to be reassured that they are attractive and loved many times a day. Women are often the culprits in destabilizing their relationships by not complimenting their partner enough, mostly because women are not educated to do this the way men are. Women are shown that men are tough and don’t like the mushy relationship stuff and men are taught that if they compliment a woman, they might get to sleep with her. Neither are really true. What is extremely important in a successful and healthy relationship is to take the time to notice the good qualities in your partner and to point them out to them. Are you attracted to the person? Great! They aren’t a mind reader, tell them. Do you love the person? Awesome! Let them know. Are you in a committed relationship and you already told them you love them once today? Good for you! Tell them again.
Extracurricular: Let the f*%k go of the little things. This is hard because people are annoying and everyone does little things that are frustrating to their partners. Some things are worth pointing out politely and working on, most things should just be let go. He can never find the ketchup in the refrigerator? Laugh it off. She bites her nails? It doesn’t really matter. If you are petty you will be both be miserable. This doesn’t mean you can never criticize your partner but if you do it should be said in a loving way and come from a supportive place. It should also not be a constant aspect of your relationship. It should be a once in a while thing. It should be done respectfully, because you love this person and want to help them be the best version of themselves and not because they are inconveniencing or annoying you. They are human, they have faults. You are human and you have faults. At the end of the day, the only person you can change is you.
Extra Extracurricular: Infatuation is chemical but long term love is a choice. If you want a monogamous relationship, once you choose your partner, you have to every day, wake up and say to yourself, I am going to love this person I chose. And then you need to make your daily decisions based on the fact that you chose to have a loving, committed, monogamous relationship and exhibit loving behaviors and be generous with your partner. (This may also apply to polyamorous relationships but having never explored that avenue, I am not qualified to comment.)
Getting down from my soap box now and working on my guest list. See you all at the party in March!