Monday, May 1, 2006

It's not you, it's me.

If you're single, here's today's question: what if the reason we're single is us?

I read today's "Dating & Relating" column after checking my email (and deleting the spam), and it was actually quite helpful in its recitation of the things to watch for when seeking a mate. I've copied just the list here - please visit their website to read the rest of the column *, which was interesting:

10 signs your date’s a keeper
By Karen Salmansohn

1. Is your date kind, respectful and appropriately generous to waiters/waitresses, bus drivers, sales clerks, etc?

2. Has your sweetie confessed to any immoral behavior: Cheating, stealing, lying, inappropriate aggression? If so, how much reflection on this and desire to change has this person shown since then?

3. Does the person you’re dating have any addictions: Drinking, gambling, shopping? Does he or she want to change—and is he or she working to make change happen?

4. Does your honey have a lot of lasting friendships—or hardly any?

5. Does your date always tell stories about bad dynamics he or she experiences with other people? Or does he or she seem to get along easily, even swimmingly, with others?

6. Does your sweetie comment on news stories with a sense of empathy and awareness, or is he or she low on expressing compassion for all that is going on in this world?

7. Have you witnessed your date doing small acts of kindness (leaving a very big tip for no apparent reason, helping someone with his or her shopping bags)?

8. Does this person donate time, money and energy to good causes/charity?

9. Does your honey value self-growth—and show this by being open to hearing your grievances, accepting responsibility for problems when merited, and sharing with you how much he or she values learning lessons in life?

10. Does your sweetie truly value open communication and know how to listen? When you’re upset or need nurturing, does this person deal with the problem at the speed of life... or shut down/stonewall/attack/condescend? Basically a relationship will survive not based on how well you get along, but by how well you don’t get along. A couple is only as “strong” as how well the two individuals can deal with their weakest moments together.

I read through this list thinking, this is pretty good - I can watch for this stuff. Then it dawned on me: the guys I've been interested in and with whom I've shared at least a meal or two exhibit the good traits; they just don't exhibit them with me. And it makes me wonder: how do we learn to attract good people to us, and more importantly, what makes them stick around?

It's not just being a good person yourself, no matter what the lists tell you, because (this blog to the contrary), I actually do behave kindly, respectfully and appropriately generously with waiters/waitresses, bus drivers, sales clerks, etc. My life is not characterized by stealing, lying, cheating or too much aggression, and I'm not addicted to anything that I know of (although chocolate was not on the list).

I don't have a lot of lasting relationships, but I attribute that to lack of experience rather than other reasons, and I don't spend a lot of time talking with others about bad relationship dynamics - that's what blogs are for! ;) I mean, when you moved around as much as I did, anything beyond about 2 years is virgin territory - sometimes, it's easier to repeat the same patterns because they're familiar than to take the risks (and make the mistakes) associated with learning new ones.

After all, when everyone else learns all this stuff in their youth (i.e., between the ages of 10 and 15), they see someone in her 40s and think she should already know, without bothering to find out whether that's an accurate assumption. Just like with money, it's easier to learn when the stakes are lower - how much easier to mess up when you're talking about a skateboard or ice skates, instead of mortgages and car payments!

As far as the rest of the list goes, I do leave good tips (not just occasionally - I know how hard those waiters and waitresses work), and I have the other stuff covered, too. I also know that part of the issue is trust: if you don't trust other people, then you're not as open, and therefore, getting to know you is a lot more work, but the flip side of that is the old poem "Children Learn What They Live."

Perhaps the point is going to have to remain that in order to develop good relationships, we still have to sow the seeds, water, weed out the bad plants, and wait for the harvest. That's about it. Hope, patience, a positive attitude are all good ways to get through the waiting, but there is still waiting to be done. We'll see.

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