“It’s really I think a new form of oppression for the women. Because it’s a complete bind and a double message. Go out, do what you want. Accomplish. Achieve. Be a success. Actualize yourself. Be a professional. Be independent. Find a man. Find a man. Find a man. And unless you find a man, there is a hole in your life. There is a hole in you. I really think this is on a cultural and political level, it’s a backlash on women. In a pernicious way because it doesn’t state it.” —Esther Perel, best-selling author on relationships, psychothereapist and TED Talk speaker
One of the most popular topics readers email me about is . . . not relationships, romantic relationships that is. Now that may be because I am rather private about this part of my life which is one of the aspects of living simply luxuriously and therefore my personal stories and tales of love aren’t shared, but what I have also discovered is that many of you too have discovered something I want to talk about today regarding love, more often than not, when we pursue it, it flees.
However, that is too simple. And so even though I don’t receive a lot of emails about romance, I think there are many that may want to ask, but do not, questions about this part of living a full life: love, romance, why is it is so . . . confusing and should I be thinking about it this much?
I was listening to Garance Doré’s podcast a couple of weeks ago as she was interviewing psychotherapist Esther Perel on the topic of her successful book and TED Talk Mating in Captivity, and I immediately wanted to address the topic of love and relationships here on TSLL.
The quote above was shared at the end of their interview, and I highly recommend you listen to the entire 60 minute conversation as they cover a wide array of topics from relationships, how men and women get along, as well as a comparison of men and women’s relationships in the United States versus in Europe. In particular this part of the conversation, for me, was absolutely fascinating.
But most significantly this quote prompted me to address something that has been on my mind for the past year. A common question I would receive from those who learned I was moving to Bend, but most were not from Bend themselves, would ask or I should say state, “It will be so much easier to find someone in Bend (implying a romantic pairing, even though I was not actually close to any of these people for them to know the workings of my dating life) or after having arrived, the question “Have you found someone yet?”.
Now, while I know they meant well, and I clearly came to understand that they are equating happiness with finding a romantic partner and merely want me to be happy based on their definition, if you are a long-term reader of TSLL blog, you know this is not a “You complete me” site. Rather it is a “I complete me” site. No, there is no Jerry Maguire story-line going on here.
My response was and is, no, I moved to Bend because I fell in love with Bend: the lifestyle, the contentment it allowed me to foster in my everyday life, and thus I fell in love even more deeply with my life and the people, the entire community I am building and feel fortunate to be a part of.
Some people understand this, some people don’t, and maybe I am ignorant to the mind-blowing bliss that is awaiting me should I find myself in a romantic relationship that blows my mind, but I would argue, when you truly fall in love with your life, that . . . that is a truly mind-blowing experience and I wish each and every one of you have the opportunity to experience for yourselves. Should, as Esther Perel states in a quote shared below, you have a romantic partnership, it will undoubtedly add to the quality of your life if indeed you are in a place to appreciate and understand how to foster and attend to it.
So today, let’s talk about what we should stop doing and what we should start doing when it comes to love and romantic partnerships, and by so doing improve the quality of our everyday lives and invite even more love and contentment into our lives than we ever thought possible.
1.STOP shopping for your partner and START building a life you love.
Yep, I am going there. Online dating. Jamie Cat Callan speaks to this topic in her first book and a handful of articles in The Atlantic magazine discuss how online dating is becoming more common, but at the same time shifting many of our mores and affectedly dividing us even more. More to the point for me, it is the objectification that doesn’t sit well. I’d rather not shop for my partner like I shop for a pair of designer shoes during the fall sale season.
Instead of shopping, start building a life you love and you will begin to interact with and meet people with similar passions and curiosities. They may not be romantic pairings, but they will be people that see your authentic self, and not your résumé online of what you are shopping for.
2. STOP looking for a fix and START fixing yourself.
“The better person you become, the better person you will attract.” —Anonymous
None of us will ever be perfect. No one who we enter into a partnership will be perfect, but what, when considering yourself, were you not pleased with in your past relationship (friendship or romantic)? Were you too quick to anger, jump to jealousy, not trust or understand why you were drawn to the wrong people, or needy people or emotionally withdrawn people? Whatever it was, be the detective that will help you understand yourself better. This may be something you can do on your own, or you may look to a counselor to help navigate what you don’t understand. Either way, take the time as it will pay dividends in all arenas of your life.
Part of relationships is learning to understand the person we are with, if they allow us in, but a very crucial component, is taking the time to understand ourselves. One of the best tools you can cultivate is to learn how to communicate well: respectfully, thoughtfully and clearly. We’ve talked about this a few times on the blog: the five love languages (come to understand yourself and your partner’s strongest forms of communication) as well as how to have a healthy, productive conversation with anyone.
3. STOP limiting yourself to one relationship that is worth investing in and START building a community of love, support and respect.
“I think we have been sold an ideal that your life is incomplete if you don’t have a romantic partner . . . but the people who are single with a solid group of friends are continuously still hoping and thinking this is the holy grail, that this is the thing that completes a life and I think that it creates a misguided hunger. I mean it’s an amazing experience. I am 31 years with the same guy. But my friendships, my relationship with my brother, my relationship with my parents . . . I have a network of relationships that nurture me. [My romantic relationship] is an important one, but it is not the only one for sure.” —Esther Perel
At the beginning of 2016 an entire podcast episode of The Simple Sophisticate focused on the importance of strengthening our social well-being. Some of us will have many, some will have a handful, but the key is to build a social network, a community, that allows all of our needs to be met without relying on one person to be everything. First of all, this is an impossible responsibility to place on someone’s shoulders, and secondly, our lives need balance.
As Esther Perel speaks about in her interview with Garance Doré, if her husband becomes like a brother to her, in that she relies on him for everything, tells him everything, he becomes like family, and he can then not be her lover, her sexual partner, etc. It is healthy to realize what each of our relationships provide us with and not to expect more than they can give. So too, we must give what we can, and communicate clearly what we cannot. Each relationship, as you might imagine, will be different depending upon the individuals who are involved.
4. STOP having expectations and START stretching and realizing the vast possibilities that were never considered.
Let go of the script in your head of how it is supposed to go, how quickly a relationship must move along and just begin to make authentic connections with others. Set boundaries, but be open to new opportunities. Let yourself be curious, see what or whom you are drawn to, take your time and see where it leads you. This takes courage, but you do have this strength within you.
5. STOP seeking what someone can give you and START putting love out into the world.
“If you would be loved, love, and be loveable.”―Benjamin Franklin
In Alain de Botton’s new book, The Course of Love, the main take-away for me (of which there were many) was, “Love is a skill, not just an enthusiasm.” If we wish to be loved, we must know how to love and be willing to love. As we know, it is not a one way street. And the love giving is not just to the person we hope will love us in return, but to all people. It must become how we live, how we go about life. And who wouldn’t want to be around such a person, even if only as a neighbor or an acquaintance?
6. STOP seeing being single as something to be fixed and START seeing life as the once in a lifetime opportunity to leave your legacy, improve the world, inspire someone to find their path or simply make their day brighter, easier or more enjoyable even for a moment.
7. STOP thinking about your biological clock and START diving deep into your life.
When we look at men versus women, the clear difference is a woman’s biological clock. I am not disregarding this, but often it is because we are so laser focused on what we think we need, on what we think must happen, we shut the door on unexpected opportunity. Loosen your grip on life, come to understand and be more at peace with uncertainty. It may just surprise you and open your eyes to a life of even more wonderful amazement.
8. STOP trying to be perfect and START being you, really you.
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” —Coco Chanel
Dig deep for your courage, begin to let go of what others may think and jump in to show the world who you really are. The followers, those who play it safe, have nothing unique to offer anyone else, but you, and me alike, have unique gifts, passions and talents that the world is hoping we find the courage to reveal. This is your magnet.
9. STOP looking to fill what are perceived to be the gaps in your life and START observing and expressing gratitude for all that is already in your life.
I am just going to let Oprah be the teacher here: “The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get.”
There are many ways to live a fulfilling and contented life. Sometimes we begin to follow a path of how to live that is unconsciously someone or something else’s idea. And you have to ask yourself, if it doesn’t sit well with you, if something feels off, go back and start doing the nine things mentioned above and stop doing the former. Trust me, your anxiety will decrease, your everydays will become far more fulfilling and believe it or not you will become a beacon that attracts all sorts of amazing wonderful people into your world for potential friendships and romantic partnerships. Enjoy the journey rather than trying to control the outcome, and begin creating a life you are passionately in love with no matter what state your romantic life may be in on any given moment.
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