Create the Partnership You Want by Leading It
I was born in the United States in 1969 and had three sisters. I was exposed to the traditional fairy tales, such as “Cinderella” and “Snow White.” I read many Bible and other stories about women who were rescued by their princes. Yet my next-door neighbor and babysitter paid me to watch the soap operas she liked when she had to miss them for a doctor’s appointment. Plus, my parents had divorced–under not only the consent, but the recommendation of the Catholic Church. So, I was exposed to a very diverse world of relationships between lovers, partners, spouses, or whatever we call two people who choose to build lives together. The culture, law, ritual, and struggle have long fascinated me intellectually, and until a couple of years ago, they challenged me emotionally.
As we enter the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, many people around me are questioning themselves and their plans. Thus, it seems the perfect time to share a Third Ear Conflict Resolution (TM) exercise on the subject of partnership, which is what several of us actually seek when we are pursuing “romantic love.” Yes. The romance can be fun in the short term. Candy, dinners at upscale restaurants, flowers, limousine rides, and surprises make us feel special in the moment. They remind us that life has many amazing gifts, even for those of us who feel broken and unworthy of them. Yet these gifts and the memories we attach to them often fade, leaving us empty and unfulfilled. Perhaps what we really wanted was not to feel special, but to be special. That was what I discovered on my way to meeting the best playmate and partner I have ever had for the aspects of my life that I reserve for a very special man. (I also have playmates and partners in wonderful friends, who are extraordinary in their support and unconditional love.)
In June 2012, I was two years free from an eight-year “relationship” (definitely not a partnership in the way I wanted one) with a man who treated me as I saw I deserved to be treated. We are still friends, and as I told him, he was everything familiar yet unhealthy for me. He gave me the aloofness, manipulation and rejection I was used to from close relationships. It helped that he was also an addict. As ineffective as I was in dealing with addicts, I had many around me throughout my life. In my own ways, I understood how to live with them, even if they didn’t give me the partnership I wanted. He knew this and ultimately did the most loving thing either of us could do for me. He ended all but our friendship and left me to seek what I now have.
I didn’t use the process as methodically as I am representing it here, but I instinctively drew on the Seven Choices and the Five Actions to create the partnership in which I am now on PARR. I hope it helps you create what you seek, too, whether you are uncoupled and seeking or committed to a live with someone you fall in love with again each day.
STEP ONE: DEFINE THE CONFLICT.
My relationships with men who I wanted to be in partnership with often drained me emotionally and stole my focus from empowering the world with my work and loving others around me who were important to me. My desires and my results were in conflict.
STEP TWO: IDENTIFY THE INTERESTS.
I wanted to be acknowledged, included, and respected. I wanted to be stimulated emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually so I could keep growing and improving throughout my life. I thought that the hard part was to get a man to choose me, as that’s what most of the experts and stories told me. I believed I had to be someone else to “catch a man,” and I really didn’t like that idea. I knew I would get tired of being someone else, and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to partner up if giving up who I am was required. I feared that society’s scrutiny and suspicions about my sexuality would continue, yet I didn’t want to keep teaming up with men who weren’t compatible simply for the sake of appearances.
STEP THREE: PLAY WITH THE POSSIBILITIES.
If I could’ve have that conflict resolve in any way possible, I could have the partnership I want. I defined it in my online dating profile as:
A mutually loving and supportive sexual partnership with a fun, adventurous man who plays a big game in the world. This partnership might lead to cohabitation or marriage–with me.
I was very specific in this statement because I had mutually loving and supportive partnerships with my best friend from childhood, a prior work colleague who is now like family and several other wonderful people, but I wasn’t going to bond sexually with them because they were women, gay men or so much like family that it would seem incestuous and a little gross!
I was also particular about his characteristics and life vision, in part because I didn’t want mine to be postponed anymore, and I was clear that if there was going to be cohabitation or marriage, it was going to be with me. I had unknowingly been “the other woman” once, and I have prepared more than one man for marriage to their current wives. (You’re welcome. In all honesty, they were more compatible with you. Isn’t it great how life works everything back to homeostasis, or in balance?)
STEP FOUR: CREATE THE FUTURE.
This is not a fairy tale (although my two years with Peter sometimes feel like one), so I had to take a lot of small actions to prepare myself for the partnership I wanted. I was still carrying a lot of hurt from my dad’s absence from most of my life and some of the stinging accusations he made as he neared his death. I was still working through the distrust of people close to me because of some actions family members took when I was a child. I was still using past hurts as grenades to push people back when I felt too vulnerable. Yet I also knew that action was the only way to move me forward.
1. I posted a very clear and an online dating profile that was loving yet “unapologetically me.”
2. I truly accepted that, as my mom says, “There are worse things than being alone.”
3. I started doing things that I had been putting off for better or perfect times. I visited friends in Europe and traced some of my family history through France and Germany. I ran, took classes, went to plays or movies, and read voraciously. I started living my life in each moment instead of waiting for someday.
4. I went on dates with some nice men, but we were honest with each other. I had to clarify my definition of “sexual partnership” more than once and decline offers for only that sexual portion of what I declared that I wanted. I also had to stand firm in my commitment and be willing to pass on opportunities that might have been fun in the short term but that would likely lead me back to the same longing and hurt I had experienced for years.
5. I made dating fun. I didn’t wait for it to show up as fun. I asked my dates to choose something in the city that they hadn’t done before, and we did that together on our first date. As I told them that this way, even if we didn’t want to go on a second date, we could each check something off our goals lists.
STEP FIVE: STAY ON PARR.
On August 18th of that year, I made a date to visit The Intrepid Museum with a man I had cancelled on once before because I had an allergic reaction after chopping down a tree in my mother’s yard. He unintentionally paid me back by confusing our meeting time and arriving late. It wasn’t at all the perfect date–at least not as it is usually portrayed in the movies and other stories of romance. He didn’t woo me with flowers, yet he listened respectfully and asked questions to further engage in a connected conversation. He was difficult to read at first because he was so respectful that I thought he wasn’t attracted to me! Yet here we are, living what I committed to him approximately six months after that first date that became a weekly event. I am re-creating my love for him every day and always looking to him with compassion. I give him the benefit of the doubt, yet I communicate and ask questions when I am unclear.
This isn’t exactly how I thought it would be. I actually do have to plan some actions to keep my commitment. It is not unusual for my daily task list to read “Enjoy time with Peter.” It reminds me that our partnership requires maintenance and fun–which is also why I still often introduce him as my playmate and partner.
I have to take action. When I don’t plan to call him during my breaks on busy days, he sometimes feels like he does all of the calling and makes more of an effort. When I don’t speak up about my wants and needs, he gets as focused on his life as I get on mine, and we end up with dirty dishes in the sink that aren’t washing themselves. Sometimes in those cases, the only actions I need to take are to forgive him, understand his hectic schedule for the day and wash the dishes.
At other times, I take action that doesn’t get the results I want. I simply revise them, remembering that even circumstances that appear similar disappear in time. Thus, they are new and must be treated as such. If I still don’t get the results I want or need, I repeat the process and look for something I missed.
In short, I see that I am responsible for creating my life and leading others to choices that might give it to me. Even I forget this and am glad you have joined this journey to mastery so I have more people to hold me accountable! Please let me know how I can support you in developing the best partnership for you, where you are now. Happy Valentine’s Day!