Like many people, I’m looking for a relationship partner. I’ve had a devil of a time trying to find the ‘perfect’ guy who’s got it all – someone sexy, independent, humorous, has interesting hobbies, and with whom I can have deep, meaningful conversations.
At first, I wondered if I was having trouble because gay people are in the minority. Since the vast majority of people are heterosexuals, they must have an easier time finding relationship partners, right? That may be true to a degree, but some of my closest friends are straight people who seem to be having as much trouble finding the right guy or girl as I am.
I can only conclude that finding the perfect relationship partner isn’t straightforward – gay or straight.
Why is that? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll share what my experience and intuition tell me. I’ve been in a number of relationship situations, from a one hour stand to discussing the “M” word. I’ve learned what not to do the hard way. Hopefully this means I’ve got a few things figured out for next time:
Have realistic expectations
I’ve made lengthy laundry lists of qualities my future partner must have. Then I realize I’d have to place a special order with God to create this perfect guy. Either that or I’d better pray humanity moves forward quickly with android technology. The likelihood of meeting anyone with every single one of those characteristics is slim, not to mention he’d also have to be interested in me.
Then I ask myself – do I have friends that are ‘perfect’? Do any of them meet every single criteria for an ideal friend? I enjoy the company and support of my friends very much, but I wouldn’t use the label ‘perfect’ on any of them. I appreciate the quirks and quarks of my friends, and accept that I’ll enjoy different kinds of interactions and experiences with different friends. I’m not looking for a be-all-end-all when it comes to a friend, just someone that I enjoy talking to and spending time with.
When it comes to friends, we can overlook many ‘deficiencies’ and quarks as things that make our friends special and unique. But we expect so much from our relationship partners. Maybe that’s because we grow up in a world where the general expectation is to partner for life with the perfect ‘soul mate’.
Granted, we need to set higher standards for relationship partners than friends. We spend a lot more time with relationship partners. It’s easy to appreciate the eccentric qualities in our friends because we’re not around them all day. The same ‘quality’ in a relationship partner we see day in and day out might draw our disdain and contempt.
I’ve learned not to expect perfection, but I’ll set the bar based on ‘must-haves’ that are non-negotiable in a long-term relationship partner: a guy must be really smart, open-minded, take care of himself, and be nurturing. Nothing else is set in stone. Erin Pavlina has a great article about making a (small) list of essential attributes.
Think with the right organ
It’s hard to think straight in the early stages of a relationship. So many of our hopes, desires and expectations are at play that’s it’s difficult to think rationally about the person we’re with and whether they’d make a good partner.
When you start a new platonic friendship, you can take things slow and see where they lead. I find ‘taking things slow’ to be very difficult when intimacy and sexual attraction are involved. A new relationship can consume my thoughts and attention, to the point where I’m not thinking logically or intuitively at all about the situation.
Many a time I’ve found myself in a relationship with someone that I wouldn’t otherwise be friends with. But I was attracted to something about him – his face, his accent, or his totally lick-able and cuddly body. Those might be great reasons to have a sexual encounter. They don’t work well as the basis of a relationship. Eventually I realize I’ve been thinking with the wrong organ
Hold on to your power
I’ve often caught myself saying “I would love to do X, Y, and Z if I had a boyfriend.” As though having a boyfriend is a pre-requisite for enjoying life, pursuing hobbies/travel plans and otherwise being happy.
Ironically, it would be a turn-off to me if I met someone that said “I’ve been waiting for you to come along – I’ve been wanting to do P, Q and R, and now that I’ve met you, I can finally start living!” That’s a lot of pressure to put on a potential relationship partner.
Who would you find more attractive? Someone who gives their power away to an idealized vision of a relationship, while putting a lot of stuff on hold, waiting for the perfect perfect to come around… or someone who takes charge of their life and their power, finding ways to enjoy themselves regardless of relationship status?
Maintain a healthy level of closeness
Many couples expect that their lives will practically merge - they’d live together, do everything together, make decisions together, etc.
But it’s not the only way to have a healthy, long term relationship.
My friend Sonya Sidky introduced me to the concept of “Living Apart Together“, or “LAT” for short. It’s an arrangement where the two partners live in separate living quarters. There are varying degrees you can take this – separate bedrooms, two halves of a duplex, or totally separate houses, sometimes in different parts of town or even different cities. The point is that every time you see your partner, it’s a fresh experience that neither party takes for granted. Each partner has their own space to design and keep their own way, thus avoiding conflicts over preferences in color, furniture or tidiness. Your relationship is an addition to your own, autonomous life – and you don’t have to deal with each other’s differing living habits.
LAT relationships aren’t for everyone – although they have been growing in popularity. The varying degrees and flexibility of LAT could give many couples good reasons to think about their living arrangements, given the potential to enhance many of the desirable aspects of the relationship, while avoiding situations that can cause boredom, frustration and resentment.
I’ve never lived with a relationship partner, and generally haven’t felt the desire to move in with anyone, despite the fact that I still imagine my future-self living with someone in a long term relationship. I wonder how much of that has to do with conditioning from society.
Expect the relationship to last as long as you care for each other
People change, things change, places change. ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ can mean giving a lot of power and energy to the keeping the relationship going – often when it no longer makes anyone happy to do so. Expecting to stay with someone forever puts a lot of pressure on a relationship, and raises expectations to sometimes unrealistic levels.
Enjoy a relationship so long as mutual feelings of attraction last – but accept that every relationship has a finite life span that doesn’t necessarily extend to the end of your life.
Once I thought I may have met the person that I’d stay with ‘forever’. We didn’t make it till the end of the year. But I grew so much and in hindsight I’m glad we didn’t stay together. Today I’m grateful for the experience and have no regrets.
Above all, enjoy
As spiritual beings, we’re here to meet, interact and enjoy each other’s company. Know what you want, but be realistic. Think things through with your brain and intuition. Don’t give away your power, and know that the end goal of a relationship doesn’t have to mean a shared home and a shared life for as long as you live. Care for and learn from each other. When it’s time, part ways. You might meet again on the other side, or in another lifetime