Celine was just starting to date again after a difficult breakup. She was feeling anxious because she didn’t want to go through another unhappy relationship, but she didn’t trust herself to make good choices. She sought my help in learning how to discern a promising relationship from one that is bound to fail.
In Celine’s last relationship, she had been pulled in by Gary’s ardent pursuit of her. She had wanted to go slower but didn’t listen to herself. Instead, she gave herself up to Gary’s attention and compliments.
“Celine, my experience with men who come on strong right away is that they are often controlling and needy. Is that what happened with Gary?”
“Yes. He seemed so loving and open at the beginning, but once we were in a committed relationship, he started to pull on me for time and attention. He became critical and angry and petulant when I didn’t give him what he wanted. How could I have known all this at the beginning? What should I look for now that I’m dating again?”
Celine had gone on one date with a man named Mark. After this first date, Mark emailed her, saying that he wanted to spend a lot of time with her and go on a trip with her.
“Shades of Gary,” she said. “This is a red flag, right?”
Celine and I explored some of the red flags as well as some of the signs of a promising relationship.
SOME RED FLAGS
Comes on strong at the beginning of the relationship.
Becomes angry, critical or withdrawn if you say no.
Becomes logical and tries to talk you out of your feelings or your experience. Tries to make you feel that you are wrong for your feelings or your position.
Talks on and on about himself or herself and doesn’t ask you much about you, or is uninterested when you do talk about yourself.
An older man or woman who has never been married and has been in a series of broken relationships.
Numerous broken marriages.
Has an abusive background and has not had therapy.
Has abandoned his or her children.
Not open to learning from relationship conflict.
Participates in addictions that are unacceptable to you – smoking, drinking, drugs, addictive eating, gambling, TV, and so on.
Has few friends.
Judgmental of self and others. Talks about self and others in disparaging ways.
Is possessive and jealous. Gets upset when you do your own thing.
Totally different views from yours regarding religion and/or spirituality.
Few interests and hobbies.
Celine and I discussed the fact that you get what you see.
“It’s not that people can’t change,” I told her, “but you can’t change them. If he is not okay with you the way he is right now, then don’t pursue the relationship. If you are an on time person and heis always late, don’t expect this to change. If it’s not okay, then don’t pursue the relationship. Same thing with weight, being neat or messy, being a free spender or being frugal. These issues can become huge problems in relationships because people expect them to change and get very upset when they don’t.”
SOME SIGNS OF A PROMISING RELATIONSHIP
Shows respect for your feelings and needs, even when they are different from his or her feelings and needs.
Is able to be empathic and compassionate.
Is interested in what you have to say and in learning about you.
Is accepting of self and others – non-judgmental.
Is open to exploring conflict and differences of opinion.
Does what he or she says he or she will do.
Cares about being responsible for children from a broken marriage – has not abandoned his or her children.
Takes responsibility for his or her own feelings, health and well bring. Does not make you responsible for his or her feelings.
Is financially responsible. Does not expect you to take care of him or her financially.
If divorced, takes responsibility for his or her part of the difficulties.
A person who was in a loving relationship and lost their mate to death. People who have been in loving relationships generally know how to have loving relationships.
Has friends that you like.
Talks about others in caring and supportive ways.
Has interests and hobbies that are fulfilling to him or her.
Similar religious or spiritual path to yours.
Is supportive of you doing what brings you joy. Feels joy for your joy and pain for your pain.
Can laugh at mistakes. Has a good sense of humor.
Has balance between work and play. Knows how to work hard and how to have fun.
Before you can find the “right” person, you need to become the right person. Doing your own inner work so that you can fit the descriptions above for a promising relationship is the first step in finding a loving relationship.