Dating With A Purpose In Recovery

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Before I got married I had dating down to a science

Dating with a purpose is not easy. It takes effort, patience, self-discipline and the wisdom of others who have gone through this process themselves and been successful. I knew where to meet people. I had an excellent online profile. I had the clothes I needed to impress a man, and I was an excellent conversationalist. What I did not have was a understanding of what I was looking for. I just wanted to be wanted. I just wanted to impress someone. I wanted a handsome man on my arm. I wanted a lot of things, but I had no real understanding of what would make me happy. I was not dating with a purpose.

Dating with a purpose is reserved for those of us who are making a concerted effort to find out if there is enough compatibility to sustain a healthy relationship, which includes romantic love, excitement, getting along and a future together. In other words, dating with a purpose is like interviewing someone for the most important role in his or her life as your partner.

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Since dating with a purpose is one of the most important things we do in life, I have created a list of things one should look for in a relationship . . .

1 Honesty that engenders trust. Our greatest contentment comes from loving someone that we can also trust. Keep an eye on this. Even little things count. Honesty means being truthful and transparent. It is not honesty if you withhold information that will affect the relationship.

2 Readiness for a relationship (both partners). This means maturity. We need to be with someone who understands how a relationship really works and is not totally idealistic and just interested in staying around for the honeymoon. If this person has issues from his childhood of previous relationships, he has worked this through and is ready for a healthy relationship.

3 The ability to negotiate or compromise. In a modern relationship compromise is imperative. Sometimes this means finding the middle ground. Sometimes it means taking terms. The willingness to negotiate must start in the beginning of the relationship and continue throughout its life span. According to Judith Sills in A Fine Romance, this should include a sitdown conversation before marriage.

4 Self-awareness — this means both partners knowing who they are and what they want. We don’t start out being self-aware. We often neglect ourselves and focus on others. In a mature relationship we understand ourselves and what we want. Then we stick to our guns and look for this in a relationship before we commit.

5 Self-esteem — this means both partners feeling good about themselves. Often we do not start or in life with selfesteem, but if we do not have it we let our partner dominate us. Before we are ready for a relationship, we should actively work to esteem ourselves. Selfesteem will also attract a better quality partner.

6 Communication skills. This means:

» Asking for what you want, but not being addicted to getting it.

» Fighting fair. (This means expressing your opinion without attacking the other person.)

» Reporting your feelings.

» Saying what you mean (not beating around the bush).

» Listening, as well as talking.

7 Sexual compatibility. This means similar values and preferences. Sex is not the most important thing but it can be a deal breaker. If one likes to experiment and his partner does not then someone is going to feel rejected. If one partner wants more time in bed than the other, this will lead to arguments and feelings of rejection.

8 There should be a recognition of the fact that there are 4 people in the relationship — 2 adults and 2 children (1 inner child per adult).

This means:

» That childhood wounds will probably be triggered and sensitivity strategies must be created.
» That rituals from your family of origin must be renegotiated and new rituals created as a couple.
» And, finally, that the wounded inner child must be kept in check. (In other words, love your inner child, but don’t give him or her the keys to the car.)

9 Similar (but not necessarily identical) values about such issues as money, religion, monogamy, and parenting. More people divorce over money than anything else. One partner should not be going to church while the other stays home. One partner should not believe in monogamy and other does not. When it comes to the children, it will be easier if you both agree on the parenting style. This avoids needless conflict. Still, you don’t have to agree about everything — just what’s important to you.

10 Patience and tolerance. Patience is one of those things that will come and go. We are all human. You should tolerate the unimportant things and not tolerate neglect and abuse. If that is happening even during the dating stage you should get out. Some people are just naturally patient and others are not. If you are patient, look for a patient partner. If you are not patient work on this before you commit.

11 It is important to accept the fact that there will be days when the relationship seems very ordinary or even boring. Many people tend to have an “all or nothing” mentality. They either want a relationship to be exciting all the time, or they live with unbearable pain rather than move on. Healthy relationships are sometimes lukewarm.

12 The willingness to substitute “influencing” for “controlling.”

This means:

» Saying something once and then letting it go.
» It also means being a rolemodel instead of nagging someone to change.

13 Personality boundaries (even when you feel like losing yourself in the other person). Codependents have no boundaries and neglect themselves. Love avoidants have rigid boundaries and won’t let you in. What we need is someone who can let us in most of the time but knows when they need some space to take care of themselves. Healthy relationships are like a dance. You come together and pull apart as the relationship unfolds.

14 Devotion. How can an intimate relationship feel good if we aren’t special to each other? Devotion means spending special time with our partners so we feel his devotion. It means putting our partner ahead of others things we want to do. It means remembering birthdays and anniversaries. If you are a woman, it might mean watching football with your man.

15 Quality time together. This sometimes does not happen naturally if you both have jobs. But we must pull out that calendar and make dates. We must sit down together after a hard day’s work. We must make the time to do things together.

16 Knowing when to stay and when to leave. This means staying when things are going well (and you feel like running), and being willing to let go of the relationship if it is unhealthy. This is going to take some effort if you have a history of ambivalence. Make a decision to stay involved if things are going well most of the time. Make the decision that you will leave if there is any sign of abuse.

17 It is also important to have compatibility and “ease” in a relationship. At the same time, it must be understood that no relationship is perfect. (Compatibility comes from being alike or from having a high tolerance for your partner’s differences.) Nothing is more rewarding than compatibility. I used to look for romantic love and it never worked out long-term. Then I fell in love with a man because all we did was laugh and get along. We are still together.

18 The willingness to face your problems (without over-reacting). Problems come up in every relationship. Love avoidants want to run for the hills. We should look for someone who will stick around and discuss what goes wrong, and then come up with a plan to fix it.

19 Reciprocity (give and take), but you should also be willing to make sacrifices now and then. If you are a pleaser this will be strange to you. The hallmark of a healthy relationship is being with someone who can give us as much as we give them. A one-sided relationship is codependent.

20 Realistic expectations about how much of your happiness should come from the relationship — not too much and not too little. We tend to romanticize relationships because of the movies we watch. They always have a happy ending. Life is not like this. The majority of our happiness should come from a healthy relationship with ourselves — self-esteem. The rest can come from our partner. We should also have friends who make us happy. We just need to look for balance here. We can’t depend on our relationship for too much happiness and we should not settle for too little.

These guidelines worked for me and today I am happily in a partnership with Frank. He is not was I was looking for until I realized what was really going to make me happy over a lifetime. I started dating with a purpose and found my man.


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