This past weekend I was sent three different articles on dating and marriage from some Washington DC locals. One article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tracy-mcmillan/why-youre-not-married_b_822…) was telling women things they could do to get a husband (Stop being angry, selfish and slutty!), another (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870440900457614632172588944…) was blaming the dire dating situation on men for not having the responsibility they once had in previous generations (the article claims they are either slacking and playing video games or acting like frat boys well into adulthood instead of getting married, having a child and owning a home), and the final article (http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-02-09/news/dear-single-women-of-nyc-it-…) was placing the blame on women for being perpetually single (‘it’s not him–it’s you!‘ and ‘stop having unrealistic expectations of a rom-com fairytale romance!’)
With all this conflicting information who is to blame? Men? Women? The media? You? Unfortunately the answer is not simple, much like almost everything else in life. There are always a myriad of factors that contribute to the outcome of a situation. Of course it’s great to take personal responsibility, work on yourself and figure out how certain baggage you have may be contributing to finding a good, stable relationship…but that doesnt mean making the effort towards self-discovery will give you the magic wand that will ensure you will find that relationship. Of course women can stop enabling men who treat them poorly by not allowing them to do so. However, that doesn’t mean enforcing more personal boundaries in your dating life will make it easy to find the right person either. We can point the finger at men for being ‘players’ or not growing up fast enough, but as a male colleague in Washington DC pointed out to me, women are statistically equal to men when it comes to falling behind on reaching the benchmarks of previous generations (both men and women are living at home longer, going to graduate school, starting careers and marrying later). We can tell women to be less angry and less picky but that seems like a cop-out and an unrealistic solution to an issue that is much more complex than that.
The point is, every situation is different and every person is different. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. We can’t put people in boxes and tie them up in a neat little bow and we certainly can’t give them generic formulas or theories that will solve all their problems.
In my experiences working as a therapist with some clients who struggle being single or in relationships, I can honestly say that both men and women need to focus on what’s important (both when choosing a mate and sustaining a relationship). Many people put way too much emphasis on having intense passion and chemistry with their partner. While this is an important factor it is by no means the most important. I can’t tell you how many people become deeply disappointed when the honeymoon phase is over and the mundane reality of every day life kicks in. There is actually nothing wrong with settling into a comfortable and safe relationship– in fact, it provides the opportunity for the relationship to grow into a deeper and more lasting love. It becomes a different kind of passion but it is one that is based on something real and true.
For singles, it is important to remember when looking for a partner that the most important thing is character. Is this person loyal, emotionally generous, kind and unwavering in their support for you? Are they genuinely interested in who you are? If the answer is yes then these qualities are the foundation of a good relationship that is safe and trusting. The other stuff is icing on the cake. A strong connection or chemistry with someone by no means equals a healthy and positive relationship. Too many people ignore their needs and happiness because of an addiction to passion and chemistry.
In any relationship in your life, remember what truly lasts. When it’s all said and done and everything has faded the only thing you’ll remember and cherish is how much someone loved and cared for you. March to the beat of your own drum and find out what works for you as an individual but never lose sight of finding yourself the loving relationship you deserve.