I am not sure this gives a universal answer, but I could only give the one which suited me.
Meet Lauryn. She’s a great combination of brains, beauty, and personality. She knows what she wants in a potential relationship. Meet Steve. He likes what Lauryn represents. He wants to spend time with her. Lauryn is receptive to that, and they hit it off rather well. Lauryn sees his approach as an indicator that he wants to build further.
However, Steve says the very thing that thwarts her way of thinking: “I’m not ready to be in a relationship."
What constitutes as relationship readiness?
This really got me to thinking, not just based on the conversation I had with one of my very close friends, but also with my own situations regarding relationships. It also took me back to a lot of the blog entries I wrote, especially related to the Love and Loss Challenge.
So here is my own answer to Relationship Readiness.
Signs I knew I was Relationship Ready (from least important to most important):
7. I looked at other couples, and instead of thinking, “Get a room” (although some may have needed to), I thought instead, “That would be nice if that were me.”
When I was single, the last thing I wanted to see was anything related to coupledom. It wasn’t necessarily the relationships I were in that were big mistakes in the sense I was in those to pass time or to kill the lonely feeling, but the ones which had more meaning for me, where I knew I was heavily invested. It was the ones that started off wonderful for a very long time, but did a slow deterioration. When the pain was fresh, those visuals were bittersweet. However, when the healing was in progress, the visuals became less taunting and more inviting.
6. I knew that I had (or was willing to carve) time to do relationship activities.
People make time for the things they want to do as well as the people they want to engage with. If a person doesn’t want to do those things, it is easy to make slots of time “fill up” or disappear altogether. I found that out in my last relationship because that person didn’t have the time to spend with me, but had the time to devote to other things; I stopped being in the top running on the radar.
When I wanted to be in a relationship, my normal house cleaning schedule could be modified for a meet and greet at the park. When I wanted to socialize again, my favorite shows could be put on record rather than my having to watch them this instant. My texting and talking minutes would increase for someone I wanted to get to know better.
I knew I was ready when I saw making time for the relationship as a joy, as a balancing act in time which I tackled with vigor, rather than something stressful or feeling regretful because I could have been doing something else.
5. I could have conversations related to being in a relationship WITHOUT INSTANT conjures of those which brought me pain.
After my last relationship ended, I will be the first to admit there were quite a few things I was sensitive about. I had a myriad of emotions from acting like I was cool to having images of carrying out acts of vengeance.
It could be a simple conversation about a Chinese place, for example, and a person could mention a place where the ex and I had eaten—it had been dubbed “our favorite eating place.” The beginning stages of the breakup, I couldn’t even talk about that place without tearing up. For a while, I avoided even going there because the memories were just too much.
It could be a complex conversation pertaining to what others were going through in their relationships.
There was a period of time when I closed shop when people were coming to be for insight or advice. Not because I didn’t want to help but because I knew I couldn’t come from a truly objective place; it would come off as my being bitter. When you are on the dumped side of the breakup (which I rarely am), it can make one hypersensitive to similar things that others are going through. I didn’t want my experiences, spoken through acidic tones, to damper or corrupt anyone else’s, for even though the person may have been showing some of the same actions as the ex, it didn’t necessarily mean that person was doing the same things my ex was doing.
4. I’m NOT putting an UNREALISTIC expectation on his purpose for being in my life.
“You complete me…” Yes, that line makes one heart swoon and causes a few of us to get the waterworks (myself included), but when you really look at that line, it puts a bit of pressure on the other person. I am not feeling whole, but I am expecting another person to bring me to completion. What happens if that person fails? Then we are on the search for a brand new person…
I learned that looking for another person “to complete me” is setting me up for failure.
Of course, no one is perfect, but if I’m expecting another person to fix my dysfunctional relationship with my mom, dissect my insecurities and make them go away, wipe out all of my bad sexual experiences, and obliterate all of my bad relationships, then that is enough to stress out anyone. If one puts it that way, the next person will always fall short.
I know that sounds extreme, but when a person is asking another person to complete them, you’re asking him to make a brand new you, a better you. Plus, if the relationship doesn’t pan out, instead of looking at things you could’ve done better, it is way too easy for you to point the fingers at the other person. Why? Because this person failed at completion, therefore not making a better you, but in some cases, a worse you.
That pressure isn’t fair to the other person. Most of all, it isn’t fair to you. It takes the power away from you and puts it in the other person’s hands.
For me, being realistic in my expectation for the other person puts and keeps the power solely in my hands. I am responsible for making myself better, and the person I want to have in my life shouldn’t look at me as a fix-it-project but someone he wants to encourage and grow with. He should also be someone who is truthful enough and loves me enough to call me out when I’m being wrong.
When I became concrete in my expectation of the other person’s role, I knew I was ready to get in another relationship.
3. I was willing to put my challenges on the table, and rather than using them as JUSTIFICATION for NOT being relationship ready, I let the OTHER PERSON decide his role.
When you are telling someone about the challenges, why are you telling the person? If some of us are truly honest with ourselves, it’s because we are using them as reasons why we can’t be in a relationship.
For me, I could easily say it was the number of hours I was working (at the time it was a lot), the last relationship I was in (it was brutal), I was working on myself (true), and my health wasn’t the best (true). I would follow that by saying, “I am no good for anyone to be with.” That would cut a lot of possibles off at the head.
I knew I was relationship ready when I decided to just leave off the last line—when I just told the person my circumstance. Then, it was up to him to decide whether he could take it or leave it. There were possible that still walked away, but it wasn’t because I made the preliminary decision before him; it was because I let him make the choice.
2. I could feel comfortable enough in being my TRUEST SELF.
In relationships, there are compromises. You just have to be careful you’re not compromising too much of self for the sake of the whole.
The balancing act has been a challenge for me. I like for people to be happy. In most situations, when it came to being right or having peace, I would opt for peace because one has to pick her battles.
However, in my most toxic of relationships, I would look in the mirror and could not see my core self. I only saw the end result of what the other person wanted, what the other person wanted created. The person I saw made the other person feel better.
Once the relationship ended, although the person was gone, the end result was still around. I wanted to snuff out this shell of me which was remaining. It is easier said than done. For me, the longer and more toxic the relationship is, the longer it takes for me to fully detox. For me, being my truest self doesn’t have as much to do with not wearing makeup or looking all fancy as it does not having the mask in place, not playing the role of someone else.
For a while, I had been in and out of relationships without many breaks in the middle.
So when the question “Who are you when you are NOT someone’s mate?” surfaced, it was not only telling but a bit embarrassing and heartbreaking for me as well. How could I not know this essential thing with certainty?
When I reached that comfort of being my truest self, even if it wasn’t in alignment with others, that’s when the relationship readiness became amplified.
1. I WANTED, NOT NEEDED, to be in a relationship.
This and #2—virtually neck and neck with each other. I opted to place this at the top because for a significant amount of time, I felt like I NEEDED to be in a relationship. Whether it was the little play relationships (which I considered from 3rd grade to about 8th grade) to ones that had more substance (10th grade on up), I liked the feel of being important to someone. When the relationships ended, no matter how short they were, it was hard for me to deal with the loneliness. Plus, the activities I engaged in I did in coupledom, so I had a hard time incorporating some of them into the single life. Also, that whole stigma associated with “not having a man”. I didn’t know how to be single; I didn’t see many people who were happy being single—loving life, loving being with themselves…those were the people hungry for relationships.
Some of the relationships I had NO BUSINESS even making relationships because the building blocks for them were gravel. It took a while for me to get REAL with myself on that one.
Some of the relationships I shouldn’t have been in because the PAST HISTORY of the other person was flashing DANGER, but I thought I was the exception—that I had the power to change that person. If I loved the person enough, the history wouldn’t matter because my being in that person’s present and future would obliterate that. Sorely wrong on that one!
The turmoil of the last relationship made me just pause. Just stop. I had to because I was emotionally gutted. You could have seasoned me, put me in some oil, and fried me for dinner. That’s how tanked I was.
It was during this point where I decided I’d rather deal with the initial discomfort of having no one than chasing the euphoria of trying to be with someone.
My perception of being single began to change. I didn’t have to “dress more casual” because someone else felt inferior if I dressed up. I could go and come as I pleased without answering to anyone. I could save and spend money freely without dealing with the aggravation of carrying about another person.
My being Single went from being perceived as a Death Sentence to my Emancipation.
Not saying I didn’t have my moments when the old feelings didn’t pop up, but as I grew to accept being single—when I accepted the positives, not having a significant other mattered less and less. I just lived Life, and being in a relationship no longer was an ESSENTIAL.
My ultimate Relationship Readiness Stick: When I could look at a relationship and say, “If I have a Healthy You, then that’s fantastic, but if I don’t, that’s fantastic, too. I’m fine, either way.”