Relationships don’t just happen. Or do they?
I didn’t think I would be as far along this road as I am. When Felecci was still alive and we discussed what happens after, I hated it. I didn’t want to consider that I would have to find a second person to spend the rest of my life with. I’m realizing that I may have had an even better relationship with Felecci than even I knew. It’s the only thing that explains how I am getting along with this now, and how I have such clarity. She made me promise to live my life. Honestly, I didn’t believe I would want to.
But here I am, learning how the world works now for singles. Going out on dates and trying to figure out if I just want to date casually or if I want to jump right into a relationship.
To be honest, dating casually isn’t that appealing to me. I listen to stories of relationships appearing and disappearing like the Higgs boson (aka God Particle – look it up) and I wonder what the hell is going on. I don’t want to serial date, but I don’t want to settle for the first thing that comes along either. It’s a quagmire, and one I have to navigate if I want to find another relationship.
This got me to thinking, what is it that made my relationship with Felecci blossom into a marriage? It wasn’t simply luck, or was it? We didn’t just meet and fall in love right away, we had a courtship. It took time to grow to love one another.
So, what were the initial parts of the relationship like when I was 19-20 and learning to love her? Why do so many people struggle with something that I found at 19, and why am unsure of how to find it again?
Well for one, online dating is backward in how it approaches the introduction of two people. Traditionally, you would meet someone before asking them out on the date. Now you meet a photo, send some text messages, and site unseen agree to meet up with them. At some point, as you both try to pretend that the initial conversation isn’t going to be awkward, you start to figure out if this is going to work.
We seldom know someone ahead of time. If we did, we would have some idea if we wanted to date them before we even went on one. It’s likely we would know if the attraction was there prior. That doesn’t happen in modern dating, we are left to guess at the initial date, and possibly on further dates.
So in this modern dating culture, I wonder if anyone actually knows what they are looking for? Or are we all blinding running around till we find it? Do people date and settle, or are they ultra picky as they seek the perfect person who doesn’t exist? From initial experience, it is all over the map. Some people have an unrealistically developed sense of what they are looking for and others are simply dating whatever comes along; never committing to any of their relationships.
I may be guilty of the former myself after my initial dating experiences. I’ve been married, and I know more or less who I am and the kind of person I am looking for. But I am not 19 anymore, and I am for shit sure not the exact same person. So I am left to consider what I want as a 36-year-old established adult.
So what is it I am looking for? Well, there is no perfect formula, but I believe it is based on three general concepts. These are not specific but concepts we all have to ask ourselves. And I believe they are somewhat different now than they were when I fell in love with Felecci.
First and foremost, the one thing that all dating apps do is show you a picture of the person you are intending to contact; because attraction starts with looks. But attraction isn’t simply if the person is hot.
During the initial stages of any courtship by two adults, each side is looking for that spark. The person may not have the ideal beach body, but does that person have qualities that appeal to you? This extends beyond just looks and instead must include demeanor, body language, and how they carry themselves. People get hung up on looks, but there is more to it than that. You need to look at that person and get funny feelings in your stomach. This attraction can’t be predicted by a picture alone, it must be gauged only when meeting the person.
Attraction should be pretty easy to gauge after a short time, and I believe that if after a second date you don’t have that spark then you may be better off ending things before the relationship moves too far along. A relationship needs to have mutual attraction, or else it is simply a one-sided friendship. This can cause seriously damaging harm to the person who thought they had more than they did. The longer this goes on, the worse it gets.
Separate from if you feel attraction is if you two have anything to talk about? Can you and this individual carry along a conversation? Do you feel comfortable around them? Do they make you laugh, or feel relaxed?
You need to be able to open up to one another. It shouldn’t take much effort to be in one another’s company. If you can’t sit and have a long conversation with the person when you first meet them, it is possible that you two don’t have much in common. Attraction is a raging inferno, but if not kept alive through being able to enjoy each other’s company it will burn out.
It can take longer to figure this out, however. If neither of your personalities allows for you to be extroverted it can take time to open up. I myself am typically an introvert and Felecci was practically mute when we first started dating. Most relationships that last a few months I believe are impacted because while both parties are attracted to one another, they have nothing in common.
Morals and Life Goals
Once you are attracted to a person and you are comfortable spending time with them, you get to the heart of the issue that is required in order to become a married couple. What are your life goals? What are your morals?
Dating apps try to identify this WAY too early on in the process and fail miserably at this. As we grow older our life goals and morals change. Hopefully for the better but not always. Yet we are expected to know if we want kids? If we want to travel 2 or 3 times a year? If we want to relocate at the same time as we are deciding if we are attracted to this individual?
I get that this information may be helpful for the ultra-specific crowd, but honestly, anyone who is giving you this information as a certainty is either optimistic or flat out lying. I thought I knew that I wanted a house and kids by the time I was 27. By the time I turned 28, I just wanted my wife to beat Hodgkins Lymphoma. The day my wife died, I didn’t want to go on. I was done, waiting to die. Today, I am trying to put together my life again and take care of myself.
Your life changes what you want because it changes your perspective. Your relationship will change what you want as you grow to love the person. No one has a clue what tomorrow brings so trying to identify life goals before your first date is just stupid in my opinion.
Morals, on the other hand, are valuable to know. Problem is, a person lacking morals will lie their ass off to the point where answering these questions is pointless. A person with morals will likely give WORSE answers than the guy trying to hook up with you. Yet a lot of people put stock into what is said.
So, what am I looking for?
So after doing this exercise, I have come up with a loose idea of what I am looking for. It is flexible and meant to guide me in my decisions.
I am looking for someone I feel an attractive spark for. This doesn’t mean the person is flawless, but the person needs to do something for me. There has to be some spark. I can’t quite explain what traits this is, and I am sure it is a combination of things. However, it must be there or else it is just a friendship.
I want to laugh with the person, I want to enjoy their company and I want to be able to talk about nonsense and still have a good time. It is about enjoying the person’s company.
And I want someone who wants to ultimately be in a committed relationship. I want a person who has goals that I can help achieve and in turn also helps me achieve my goals. I want to decide together if kids are in the plans once we already know if we love one another. I want to maintain my financial stability and not overspend like almost every other person in America, but I also want to be able to go away sometimes and simply unplug for a couple of weeks. So long as I have enough money to not feel like a slave to my job, I am ok.
And I want someone who doesn’t smoke and takes care of themselves. I’ve lived through 8 years of cancer through no fault of Felecci’s. If I were to go through that again, I don’t want it to be because the person I fell in love with abused their own body.
The rest is negotiable. Looking at the list, I don’t think it is too demanding. Maybe Felecci and I learned more than I realize after 12 years of marriage. We shall see.
Dating apps really only partially help in connecting two people who may possibly be attracted to one another. It can’t tell you if you will ultimately enjoy the person and want to pursue one another. Furthermore, the ease in which we can find people leads me to believe that we may be warping our own thoughts as to who we are looking to date.
We can be rejected much easier, and we can also cause harm easier because it is so easy to get into and out of these initial stages of dating. We need to take care and have a clear understanding of what we want, and we need to consider any setback on this road to simply be in the best interest of our long-term goal.
To maintain perspective, we need to ask ourselves what is really important. We need to not settle when we are not sure, but we can’t nitpick who we might fall in love with. Modern dating apps have not made dating easier, it has just sped up how quickly we connect. All of the traditional work required to find that special someone is still there, the rules governing how we discover that is just different now.