Right now all three of my girls are fairly obsessed with watching reruns of "Sex and the City". As I watch the shows with them, (and marvel at the phenomenal writing!), I wonder: "What is the dating show equivalent for today?"
Given that much of my practice is filled with women in their 20's and 30's who are either falling in, out of, or whom are on the 'lookout' for love, I often serve as a 'relationship coach' where the whole 'mating and dating' thing' is up for analysis.
Yesterday in fact, Connie, (not her real name for obvious reasons), was complaining that there doesn't seem to be any one book that single handedly deals with the prototypic New York City, or 'Urban Woman' looking for tips on mating. "There are great and funny books out there, like Steve Harvey's 'How to Think Like a Man', or the one written about 'Settling', but there are no books that really hit the nail on the head on how to figure out moving from your 20's, when one can basically 'date up a storm' or go from one relationship to the next, to the 30's at which point we are getting serious and want a longer term thing."
It's the 'age old' quandary for women: we have our biology to contend with. Whether we choose to have kids or not, our hormones can be ordering us around, with the inevitable result that we start to think of 'mating up' by our late 20's, early 30's. I figure that if our biological clocks struck midnight at 55, we'd have a much more relaxed attitude about this whole thing! But how boring that would be, right, if men and women were thinking alike and on the same time-table, take all the fun out of life, right?!!
As we Connie and I began, I asked her to make a 'wish list' for a mate: "Good looks, tall, smart, funny, interesting, good family values, financially well off, ambitious,..." Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?
Fabulous, right? Who doesn't want fabulous, or to HAVE IT ALL? In fact, isn't that kind of embedded into our culture, that we work and strive, and 'workout,' to create the 'PERFECT LIVES'? Isn't that the fantasy we love to buy into? Of course the truth of it is that we all have a 'misery loves company' side of ourselves looking for the tarnish and tragedy along with the glitz and good fortune; that is the secret behind those celebrity magazines!
So, here is a little, or not so little secret. You've got to get the idea out of your head that you will get absolutely every single thing on your list in a man, and that there are people who HAVE IT ALL. I can tell you that in all certainty, from the job that I do; things that appear to be FABULOUS on the outside, are not necessarily so. Or at the very least, there are the negative aspects to any positive. There is always the bad with any good. No biggie. No need for guilt, or hand-wringing. It is not a comment on the decision you made.
So, rather than feed into Connie's fantasy that of course she should 'go for it all', now mind you, this is a gorgeus, smart, and talented girl who you would look at and think : "She has it all", I proposed the idea that she needed to figure out what piece of 'FABULOUS' she would be willing to trade off. Height? Weight? Looks in any way? Money, ambition, good career? Good values, family, kindness? Hey, it's your dating and mating life, you get to pick the variables.
FIGURE OUT YOUR NON-NEGOTABLES, YOUR NEGOTIABLES, AND THE TRADERS.
Connie found this idea not only relieving, but hysterical. She had always felt so pressured that she was supposed to HAVE IT ALL, and that if she didn't get it, that she was a failure.
Next step was to dig through her dating history to get some idea of what the reality was looking like. This would give some clues to help lead Connie toward her 'NEGOTIABLES' that she might be willing to 'trade-off'. Despite putting certain qualities at the top of her list in the past, she realized now that those particular qualities had never really worked out for her, or, as she puts it: "Those guys always turn out to be "douches'! She began to really 'get', that the former attributes that had always been at the top of her list, and had drawn her in, were not necessarily looking like NON-NEGOTIABLES any more. A NON-NEGOTIABLE was now the guy who wasn't a "douche"!
Bad news, good news: These answers won't be in any self-help book, and it is where your creativity and individuality come in. This is no cookie-cutter, or "Follow this path, take these steps and you will get to your pot of gold", kind of guide.
But, here is the good news: IT'S YOUR LIFE! No apology or justification necessary. There is no need to be politically correct! Given that truth, if you follow it, you will get the mate that really works for you, and it is doable! Despite the odds, and the worry that there are hundreds of fabulous 30-something girls out there going for the same fabulous guys.
Here is your guide:
1) Picture your life forward, and try to realistically imagine how you will feel given a particular scenario.
2) Take off your "This is how I want to see myself" glasses, and again, see yourself HOW YOU TRULY KNOW YOURSELF TO BE. If you are a 'dyed in the wool' feminist but know that you will end up wanting to kill a man who depends on you financially, don't just fantasize that somehow it will 'work out', if the guy truly doesn't have a clue or an interest in how to earn a living! If you want to see yourself as the most open- minded girl who has dated every ethnicity out there but lands up realizing she needs to mate with a guy from a similar background, go for it!
3) REPEAT AFTER ME: "I DON'T NEED TO APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT I NEED AND KNOW MYSELF TO NEED AND NEED DESPERATELY. BUT I WILL GIVE UP SOMETHING THAT I CAN LIVE WITHOUT." If you know that you truly won't mind having a companion who earns less money than you, that is your NEGOTIABLE. If you need TALLER THAN YOU over anything else, go for it. If you don't care so much about that but know you need someone who has a great sense of humour, go for that. Figure out what your non-negotiable is, that piece of 'fabulous' that you have to have, then pick what you can 'live without' and can now 'trade-off'. You can have more than one, don't worry. But don't get too greedy!!!
Last piece here, the column I call the 'Traders'. This is your 'play money'. Your bonus chips. These are the qualities that if you get them, you are thrilled, but you can trade them in for others. It's kind of like: "I'll take 'paunch' and trade you 'bald'. You get the picture. These are the 'TRADERS'.
Now I know I said all that "this is your life and you get to pick your choices thing," right? Yeah, right. One thing I will tell you from a 30 year history with one man and raising three kids though: Kindness needs to be a NON-NEGOTIABLE.
Because you're worth it.
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