Tag Archives: commitment
How do we learn how to select our life partners? How do we learn what a loving relationship is? Most people would say there is some learned knowledge from our families and some ingrained impulse from our biology. I was born with baby fever, and an intense desire to further the species. This biological urge has dominated my search for a mate. I may have been overly focused on finding a good father for my future children that I have neglected to consider who would make a good partner for me, irregardless of children.
My informal sex education was a weird conglomeration of information, like that of most people. Before I ever had a personal interest in boys and sex, I knew I wanted kids. My own mother told me that I have wanted kids for as long as has known me. And I wasn’t very picky about where my babies came from either. In elementary school I had a strong conviction that I would find an abandoned baby in a basket on my way to school one day. Around that time, my favorite book was Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink in which two sisters (ages 12 and 10) and four babies they were carrying for end up in a life boat after their ship starts taking on water. If you had asked me then what five items I would take with me to a desert island, I would have said four babies and a crate of condensed milk!
In fifth grade, I checked out The Miracle of Life from the library to watch at home, just for fun. The science of pregnancy fascinated me, and still does…part of me wants to be pregnant just to study the phenomenon first-hand. My class watched the film later that school year, and I felt so mature, and probably a little superior, that I had already seen it, and hadn’t been grossed about the ending…or maybe they didn’t even show that to us.
Discussing pregnancy and birth never made me uncomfortable until I started to associate them with sex. I must have known how someone got pregnant, but I cannot recall the specifics about when or how I learned what sex was. The topic of sex began to embarrass me and I became kind of prudish. What I think happened was I was implicitly raised to believe certain topics were meant to be private, not talked about openly, and this included sex. Consequently, once I knew how babies were made, I was always shocked when someone would announce enthusiastically that she was pregnant. What I heard was a loud admission that she and her husband had had sex! When my mother got pregnant through IVF, it was hard for me to say the word, “pregnant” out loud, even though in that case sex was not the direct cause. And to this day, I still immaturely think about sex every time I hear about a new pregnancy, I am just no longer embarrassed by the topic.
In high school, I stopped watching any television or contemporary movies as an experiment, preferring musicals with the likes of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. Considering how PG these films are, and since sexuality was not really discussed in my home or with my friends, I had to get my misinformation about sex elsewhere. Spurred on by my budding sexuality, I developed a proclivity for nature documentaries about the mating behaviors of animals. I was especially fond of the ones on birds! See some prime examples below:
In the life of birds, it is the males who try to impress the females and the females who select their mate when they find the one with the most impressive voice, plumage, or nest. The males never seem to care who their partner is as long as they have one. As for infidelity, animal males may impregnate many females, but the females are not blameless either. Some female birds cuckold their mates into raising the children of another bird (named for the cuckoo bird). So, I think I got the impression that men are supposed to attract me and I get to keep the one I choose!
Unfortunately humans are not birds, and our mating rituals are much less straightforward. I have “chosen” many men who I was convinced would be good fathers to my future babies. But when these partners opted out of our relationship, I was very confused. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I was fulfilling all my responsibilities as a partner, so how could they choose to leave?!
If I am honest, I still do not understand why anyone decides to end a serious relationship, be it a friendship or a romantic partnership. I have always stood by my choices without question. The more I realize my choice is not all that matters, the trickier it is to trust myself to again attempt to choose a mate.
I had a good first date last night and so I plan to see the man again. But I am scared that I do not know what qualities might make him a good choice. All I know at this point, is that I was attracted to him physically, we had fun, and we agree about what kind of relationship we want as far as we could discuss it in one night. Although, I wish I was a female bird who could make a quick decision and be done, I am trying to remember that I am a female human and there are more factors to consider than voice, plumage and nests.
So, dear Self, be picky like a bird, but take your time with your evaluations…be patient like a human, but have a clear idea of what you want…and please do not choose someone just to pass on your genes with…human love involves so much more! Keep going on dates, see who is out there. But love before offspring. Love someone for yourself, and see what comes from that. You have a human form in this incarnation, so love like one, and leave the birds to be birds!
Your Past Self
Creating lasting relationships seems to challenge many people these days, while they are just as adamant as ever that they want to be in one. A committed partnership still seems to be the goal. Many people have written about the changing face of marriage and family. We are seeing people marry later in life than before, wait longer to have children, co-habitat more often and for longer before marriage…etc. Yes, I see this happening too, but I do not want to analyze it as a phenomenon for fun, I want to analyze this trend so I can improve my chances of finding someone who wants to get married and have children about the same time I do in life.
Since I have recently created a new online dating profile, I have had the opportunity to read the descriptions of what single men want in their own words. What a fascinating body of knowledge. To research this would be incredibly interesting! Now, before I continue, I want to acknowledge that I am aware of research that states you cannot determine your compatibility with accuracy based on just reading through online profiles of potential matches. However, I do believe that there are some characteristics that will sway my decision in the direction of not wanting to meet them. I am looking for a partner who wants to be as dedicated to our relationship as I am, desiring a relationship for the same reasons.
At this point in my life, I have realized I am ready and willing to be in a committed relationship, one that I hope could last for life. This has been something I have always wanted for myself, but it was not until maybe two years ago, that I knew I was ready for it. And even then, I did not fully recognize that my partner has to also be truly ready for that as well. This seems incredibly ignorant of me, but no one has talked me through relationships in a way that addresses all these interesting facets.
The advice I have always gotten about love, has always seemed a bit superficial or approximate…never truly on its mark. For example, I have been warned to look out for red-flags, but somehow never received my list of what they all are; I have been warned that the partner who cares the least has the most power, while being encouraged to be vulnerable, to love with my whole heart, but never told that power has no place in a true relationship. Thankfully, I have heard enough advice, enough contradictions, and had my heart broken plenty, so I do not need advice from outside. I have all of the necessary knowledge inside myself.
Some of that previous advice was about how to avoid co-dependency (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency), a big, awful, scary term meaning the state of a relationship where people are not together for love but because their happiness depends on fulfilling the needs of the other or of controlling the other. It is love gone twisted! My last relationship was beginning to take on some co-dependent tendencies…mainly on my part, and I can see how it happens, even to the best of us.
A partnership is about being “co-______”…so if the blank is not dependent, than what is it? “Co-independent?” That sounds pretty nice, but it is not the whole picture either. “Co-creators?” Hmmm…that isn’t awful, but it is more than too. What do you think about the terms, “co-dedicated?” I am liking that one!
After a few failed relationships where I felt like the least powerful, because I cared the most…I started thinking I was asking too much of my partner to love me as much as I loved him. When you are being told to protect yourself because you wear your huge heart on your sleeve, what are you actually being told to do? I just heard, “don’t love so much,” “don’t show him you are that interested.” My reaction: I lowered my standards, giving more people the chance to love me, while I kept loving as hard, as deep as I had done before.
This is not the answer either though. While I kept loving the men in my life with as much enthusiasm as always, I had stopped loving myself enough. Lowering one’s standards is basically admitting you are not deserving of what you want…it is basically self-harm. And hence we come to a state where I am off balance, not grounded in self-love, so it is easy to tip over into co-dependency, where you derive happiness from the other, from the act of loving them, but not from yourself or really from your partner either.
My intention was pure…I wanted to commit myself to a life of love and partnership. My understanding of how to achieve this was been misguided. First, self-love should be maintained and cultivated so one can come to another individual grounded and balanced. There is a sense of stillness and calm that I feel when I describe this sense of being. When you are in a state of still connection with your inner Self…you can then recognize the same sense of self-awareness in another. These are the partners to seek out for a relationship where co-dedication can truly occur.
Past advice has hinted at this, but never sunk home for me. I have been told many times to make sure I can give myself what I need rather than seeking it from others. This has seemed deliberately cryptic! My Mind could not wrap itself around this. Now that I am coming to this truth on my own, I simultaneously marvel at how simple it seems now while also acknowledging that I could not have been convinced to understand this earlier. Perhaps there is a way to address this disconnect in understanding the advice given on love. Somehow all the advice is not helping people truly grasp the concepts until they come to it on their own anyway.
It feels wonderful to finally understand what a relationship should look like, on my part and my partners. My standards have risen once more.
This feels like the tipping point; I was like so many others, all desiring love and relationships, but being so very ignorant of all that it entails….until now. I now see that both people must put in their equal share…of love and dedication, of resources, of time. I am now ready for an equal relationship The profiles I have been reading online often can indicate when someone has also reached this point. They have tipped from being boys who want some girl to love them into men who want to love a woman who loves them.
Maintaining this balanced partnership means living on another tipping point. Relationships must be actively participated in to keep the balance. When one partner starts to refuse to do her share or the other offers to do more than he is required, the balance can tip from co-dedicated to co-dependent. I am beginning to see that by my willingness to love so much and do so much, I forced my partners into a co-dependent role. I took away their opportunity to be equally dedicated. What a humbling epiphany!
Self-love can help us all stay grounded, allowing balance and stillness into our relationships.