Holistic health includes relationship health, and at some point or another this topic ALWAYS comes up.
Different kinds of dating strategies walk in my office door: complete aversion to dating, dating for fun, dating for temporary external fulfillment, or dating out of obligation. They all have their place, but they don't rank anywhere near the "soul vitamin" category – there's little to no lasting nourishment to be found in these circumstances.
Dating for a purpose definitely isn't for the faint of heart and takes some fortitude. It takes knowing what makes you happy and expecting nothing less. It means sitting with yourself and may even mean weathering a bit of a dry spell, but the payoff is awe-some. It's about clearly knowing what you want up front so that you're not spending time in needless pain. A good place to start is knowing your 5 non-negotibles, 3 deal breakers and 1 green light.
The 5 Non-Negotiables
The problem with partnering up isn’t that most people settle; it's that they don't take the time to riddle out exactly what they want in the first place. They have a general idea, but it mutates depending on the situation, or they overlook certain missing qualities in their potential partner because "they're really cute" or "super nice." Serial killers have been known to be really cute and super nice as well.
Other people have a partner requirement laundry list a mile long, which can be just as problematic as having no list at all. Overly extensive lists ensure that potential partners will never be able to deliver so you're almost willfully setting yourself up for disappointment. Because you need to approach dating with an open heart, overly exacting standards are really a hint that you're not quite ready - which is just fine as well.
The 5 non-negotiable are qualities YOU need in another partner to make the relationship work for YOU.
Your list may evolve and refine over time, but generally won't change. For example, when you're in your early twenties one of your non-negotiables may be that they're "beyond hot." Fine. There's no judgment to this list; no one is grading this assignment or looking over your shoulder. However, by the time you're in your 30s, that physical determinant may evolve to "physically fit" or "active," which is more about overall health and wellness than it is about looking good in a swimsuit.
There are three basic rules to writing this list:
- The first to keep your non-negotiables written where you can see them throughout the day. Put your list in your phone, tape it to your computer – you need to be exposed to it on a regular basis so that it begins to seep into your subconscious. You need to be able to see your non-negotiables (or lack thereof) a mile away.
- The second rule is that you never compromise. Many people omit things from the list because they don't think they'll find that particular quality in a partner, or they feel embarrassed about wanting certain characteristics. They may even believe themselves to be unworthy at some level. Want your mate to have an 8-figure salary? Fine. Hung like a horse? Fine. Compassionate? Great. Listens instead of waits for you to finish? Fantastic. This is what YOU need to be satisfied with a partner. Look at your favorite qualities in the people around you as a starting point and freewrite. Once you start asking the right questions, you'll quickly find you have a laundry list of what you want. It's up to you to prioritize. Look at your list to see what you can combine into a single item; you only get 5 items so choose wisely.
- The third rule is that the list needs to be written in the positive tense. For example, "isn't broke" should be reworded as "financially secure." It's imperative to focus on the positive; you don't want to accidentally call the negative into your experience because of poor word choice.
If someone has 3 out of 5, they're disqualified; 4 out of 5 is close, but still renders them out of the running. Even the most fabulously fun and gorgeous people on the planet aren’t good enough for you if they don’t match up. What often happens is you get involved, fall madly head over heels in love, and six months in start saying, "if only they…" That's not fair to them or to you.
Many of us, myself included, have gotten into relationships because we see the potential of something in the other person and fall in love with the idea of who they could be rather than who they are. So we work overtime to nurture them or groom them into our ideal partner. Not only is this exhausting, but it also dishonors the other person and where they are in their own journey.
The 3 Deal Breakers
Red flags are all too often overlooked, or we actively choose to ignore because we're attached to the outcome. We're invested in the idea of being in a relationship, of having a partner, or we’re scared that we're not going to get another chance. Sometimes our glandular system goes into overdrive while in the presence of this other person so we accept the excuse for the Band-Aid over their eye, a result of the bar fight they got into the night before.
Deal breakers are red flags which are not quite the same as an absence of a non-negotiable. For example, if one of your items is "generous" and your date stiffs the waiter, this simply means that they showed you a they're missing an item on the list and disqualified themselves from the running.
Deal breakers are things where a little voice in your head says, "whoa … not cool." This includes anything that makes you feel less than secure, makes you question your self worth, or that hints at bigger issues riding below the surface.
Not everyone has the same deal breakers. For some, non-monogamy is a non-issue; for many others, it's devastating. Some people thrive on long-distance relationships since absence makes the heart grow fonder; others need the physical presence of their partner on a regular basis.
There are two classes of deal breakers: lifestyle and behavior.
Behavioral deal breakers can be categorized as misdemeanors or felonies. Physical violence is a deal breaker by its very nature – such a big one that it legally falls into the felony category. Misdemeanors are things that we often willingly overlook, or behaviors we know we shouldn't accept because they’re demeaning – yet we somehow justify or excuse these anyway.
We often become so attached to a relationship out of fear of being alone, or due to our own low self-esteem, we let these issues slide (e.g., "I can't believe you actually thought that joke was true?! When did you get to be so stupid?") No more. Really, I promise you that you don't need to put up with that shit – especially if you bring the misdemeanor to your partner’s attention and he or she continues with it or even defends it. That's almost a worst-case scenario because it means the person is willingly offending. Run like hell.
Lifestyle deal breakers tend to be the most heart-breaking because they don’t point toward bad behavior or deeper issues – we often feel guilty for them. Imagine you start dating a firefighter who found his calling, but you wind up with insomnia because you're up all night imagining what might happen to him while at work. You have 3 options at this point: accept it, change it, or leave it. Because you can't change your partner, you're left to change your viewpoint about having a hero in the house so you can sleep soundly. If you really can't change your perspective on the issue, you need to leave the situation. This doesn't make you a bad person, doesn't mean you love them any less. It means you’re not compromising on your own joy, and although it’s difficult at first, that act will make you a glorious person to be around.
The 1 Green Light
This ultimate non-negotiable is kind of awkward because it seems old-fashioned, but really it belongs at the top of the list. The green light is when to have sex.
Daoist medicine and other Asian traditions are extremely clear about what happens during the act of coitus beyond the physical: Two bodies come together in rhythmic exchange and begin to vibrate together at a cellular level. There's more happening than the simple phenomena of the physical rut. When both parties enter into the exchange with an open heart, a willingness to give above that to receive, and a genuine desire to connect beyond the physical – sex can be mind-blowing.
But what happens if one person arrives with everything listed above, and the other rocks up with a closed heart because they have no desire beyond what they can physically receive? The second party isn’t present to the experience as one of alchemy; he or she showed up because their monkey glands are ready to get it on. Or maybe they're just not in a place to give that part of themselves to another. Or maybe they're present out of fear of losing the other person, or they use their body as bait to play mind games later on.
If your non-negotiables have been met and all deal breakers are absent, it's still not quite go time. The green light is the signal the other person gives to indicate they want to connect beyond the physical and they're in it to win it. Once upon a time, this commonly came in the form of a marriage proposal. Nowadays it's not so clear.
What's even murkier is that there's no time frame on this. I have a girlfriend who put upfront during the second date with her new man that he was facing a 3-month wait time before anything physical could happen – and damn if he didn't wait. That was her green light, an action that showed his level of commitment. Another friend was introduced to her man's family within a week of meeting. Terrifying? Yes. Committed? Absolutely.
This must-have is especially difficult because it means needing to gird one's own loins.
When one has sex beyond the physical, it means you're taking on that other person's energetic baggage. You already have enough of your own – do you really want someone else's?
The answer can be "yes" if you think they're responsible enough to keep carrying their load on their own. The answer should be "no" if there are any red flags that you'll be picking up the energetic tab. If you find yourself emotionally drained and exhausted after sex, there's a problem. A big one.
Knowing your 5-3-1 and understanding that you deserve to be somebody's Plan A - that you're never Plan B, is half the battle. The only person who can set your self worth is you - so set it high and expect the moon on a silver platter. If this sounds ridiculous or scary, it means you may not be ready quite yet; that you may need time to work on nourishing yourself so that you're dating to share your life rather dating to complete your life - only you can do that.
Have other ideas for finding love? Would love to know your thoughts - share 'em below!