When you imagine your dream job, you likely assess what you've chosen in the past in order to gain a better idea of what you need in the future. It's time for you to put the same care and preparation into your personal life and figure out what you want next by creating your 'love résumé.' This trip down memory lane may not be completely pleasant, but cataloging your past relationships is a necessary step toward finding the right love for you. Hopefully you'll have some good memories to go along with the more painful ones.
Filling Out Your Love Résumé
How far back should your love résumé go? Forget the kid in the third grade who kissed you under the jungle gym. Was there someone who really mattered to you and played a significant role in your life in high school or college? That person should be counted. Go with your own definition of love. As long as it's romantic love, it counts. Even if it was only a short relationship, feel free to add it on -- especially if your dating pattern has been a series of short, intense relationships. If you had a two-week affair and consider that person the love of your life, who else but you would know? By all means, write it down. No one else will see this, so check your ego at the door and write the truth
To fill out your resume, try the following format:
Column 1: Write the names of each of your loves.
Column 2: Physically describe all of your past loves. For each, write down the first three to six adjectives that pop into your head when you think about that person. For example: "Peter: Tall, blond, bearded, snazzy dresser." You're not going to be graded or judged. Just write down your quick, instinctual thoughts.
Column 3: List adjectives that describe the actual love relationships. Again, write down the first three to six descriptive words that come to mind. Was it fun? Volatile? Miserable? Romantic? Chaotic?
Column 4: Write down which one of you ended things. And keep in mind that the answer may not be simple. The first person to be forthcoming may be different from the one who started setting the relationship up to fail. Was it really you or your partner who threw in the towel?
Column 5: Take time and think about the personalities of each of your loves. Did their personality resemble either of your parents' personalities? If so, write that down.
Analyzing Your Résumé
Look for patterns and themes. You'll recognize past mistakes, particularly the repeated ones. Do you have a story that explains your making the same poor choices over and over? You need to start your new dating life knowing what you do and don't want to repeat. So what should you look for? Learn how to analyze your answers for each column below:
You wouldn't take a job because you liked the office building.
I asked you to list the physical characteristics of your past loves so you could see if you have a distinct physical type. If you have one or even a few types, you have a problem. Chances are that you, without even really thinking about it, are shopping only for that type and are eliminating other potential mates. When you have a type, you only see people with those characteristics. You only see stunning blonds, buff bodies, or dark, brooding troubled types. If you go out looking for only a few types, the odds are already stacked against you.
What you see isn't always what you get. The short, skinny guy might end up being the rock, or the less-than-good-looking man could be the best lover you could ever have imagined.
"Typecasting" can be another way of stalling.
Describe the Relationship
Typically, people have all sorts of different relationships, but for some, there's a distinct pattern of relating that they fall into over and over again -- arguing a lot, for example. If the same dysfunctional pattern keeps repeating itself, then it seems likely that you were an active participant and perhaps at least partially responsible for the situation. If this is the case for you, consider taking a dating break and use the time to search for the deeper feelings behind all of the arguing. If you don't halt the problems on your end, no matter how perfect your next date may be, it's a good bet you'll end up self-sabotaging.
Maybe there were some things in past relationships that really did work for you. Maybe when you look back on certain people, you have a rosy glow and kind of miss the feeling from that particular relationship. That's good, but don't get too melancholy or immediately start looking up old lovers. There's usually a reason a relationship didn't work, and the truth is that when you do the work required to find the person that's a good match for you, the new reality is much better than the old ever was.
If your past relationship had been the right one, it probably would have worked out and you wouldn't be reading this book.
Who Ended It?
This is usually a mixed bag. Even if you ended most of the relationships on your list, there will often be at least one where someone dumped you. Or, if you were left most of the time, there's probably at least one relationship that you ended up leaving. It's unusual to find a relationship where only one person is unhappy and things end "out of the blue." But even if somebody appears to have left without a hint of intention, that's unlikely to be true. When your partner is dissatisfied, you almost always know -- even if you're not fully admitting it to yourself. You may notice less attention, fewer complements, lower availability and definitely less loving and lovableness. If you feel like your mate is pulling away, you very well may be right. The question is for how long. All men can go into caves and be distracted by problems, outside pressures, not feeling well, or a personal obsession not connected with you. But if this is a sign of dissatisfaction, he still won't be all that attentive when it's over and will have a new reason (excuse) for why he is less loving.
If you did the ending in the majority of your relationships, perhaps you're choosing mates who are "right now"-- without much possibility for a future. Perhaps you knew you could never rely on these lovers, so even if they left you, you don't miss them that much; your heart just wasn't engaged and there wasn't much logic in your choice. You might be miserable for awhile about being alone again but that comes from not having someone, not just missing the one you broke up with.
If you usually get left, then you may need to open your eyes. You're likely choosing people who either aren't sufficiently interested in you or aren't sufficiently interested in a long-term relationship. It's time for a wake up call: you're the one who is fearful of commitment. You are picking the very ones who are best suited to helping you stay single.
Did They Remind You of Mom or Dad?
How many of your past lovers resembled one of your parents? If either your mother or father have a spectacular personality, then someone who reminds you of one of your parents may be an appropriate choice. More often, however, a parent clone won't be your perfect fit. It's easy to confuse love and familiarity. And familiar may be exactly what you need to avoid in your relationship future.
This confusion is easier to recognize when we take a look at some extreme cases. If someone was physically abused, neglected, or emotionally abused by a parent, they may be drawn to the personality of the abusing parent with a strong urge to prove themselves. They go find another cruel, negative person to try to win over. However, there is no such thing as a happy ending here; not only does this not solve the real problem -- an insufficient sense of self-worth that keeps you from confronting your past and clearing your present of abusers -- but the new severely critical mate will never be pleased. If you frustrate them by getting one thing right, they'll just find something new to criticize.
You know you're on the track of mature love when you're not trying to replicate a parent or choose the extreme opposite of a parent. Your goal is to choose someone who fits you now and for the future.
What Did You Learn?
The earlier relationships outlined on many love résumés are often the ones that don't make any sense at all. Most of the time, these early relationships are ineligible for marriage, inappropriate and look like practice material because they were practice material. If this is true, realize that if you don't change something to break the cadence, you'll just be adding another name to the chart without getting any closer to a goal of a committed relationship.
On healthy charts, you can almost draw a line between past mistakes and where you figured it out and suddenly started to date "eligibles," the choices who could be keepers. If you have drawn that line, and the first person on the other side doesn't work out, don't panic! It's easy to feel that the first is the only one in the whole, wide world. That's because in your experience, this person is the only "eligible", marriage-worthy one in your whole, wide world -- so far. But the truth is that there are still plenty of fish. You just haven't been fishing in the right body of water. Once you realize what you're looking for in a soul mate, it's much easier to know one when you see one.
Follow Janet Blair Page on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dr janet page