dating again and starting over

Starting at Zero: Relationship Basics for the Newly Single

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“Maybe what you need is someone
who has the time to spend with you.”

Let’s reset all of our expectations about what dating should be like. Let’s even wipe the slate clean on what a healthy relationship might look and feel like. Let’s take it back to the barest requirements, of what it means to be starting the dating process with today’s apps and websites and dating parties. What we need to get clear on is WHAT DO WE NEED vs WHAT DO WE WANT. Sometimes they are the same thing, sometimes they are related but not parallel. First, let’s get to the bare rails, go back to zero in our ideas about dating.

Relationship Requirements 101

  • Attractive enough
  • Fit enough
  • Has the desire to be in a relationship
  • Has the time to be in a relationship
  • Has the experience and skills to work through relationship struggles
  • Can remain optimistic and positive when things don’t work out
  • Is looking for a committed long-term relationship, too
  • Is willing to “work” on their own issues
  • Continues to show up in the arena (with joy and anger, as needed)
  • Is fearless in asking for what they want

The “Inside Job” Part of Relationships

Here’s what we know so far about relationships: happiness is an inside job. Sadness, chaos, overwhelm, exhaustion, all inside jobs. As a partner, we can provide some support and caring relief, but we cannot shoulder our partner’s issues for them. As an attached and authentic partner, we can remain beside our partners as they wrestle with the ups and downs of their own lives. And what we can provide is loving-kindness and reassurance that WE ARE HERE. And then we have to stop short of offering advice. We absolutely have to stop ourselves from trying to FIX IT.

The lyrics from the wonderful Coldplay song, Fix You, fit nicely right here.

When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

It’s a beautiful song, that has some resonance for me, as I was listening to X+Y on repeat the year before my marriage fell apart. And what I knew when I heard this song, and what I’m not sure the singer understands.

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

I think Chris Martin, the singer, was aware that this was not the right path. But we still want to “try.” We are desperate to try. The consequences of not getting fixed is the relationship will fail. We all want to fix and be fixed. The reality is, we can only fix ourselves. In the loving connection with a partner, we can fix our past relationship hurts more effectively, more deeply, but the digging, healing, and recovery is up to us. Our partner cannot heal us. They cannot fix us. Let’s get that part straight right away. And let’s keep that in mind as we look at some of the fundamentals going from dating towards a long-term relationship.

If We Can’t Fix Each Other, What’s the Plan?

Our objective, in seeking a healthy relationship, is to find someone who’s “done some work on themselves” and who understands about relationship building and healthy boundaries.  We are not looking for a project, or someone we can rescue. Our role is not to be a hero, but just to be an aware and conscious partner in a loving relationship. Easier said than done. That’s why we are in this place again, back to the drawing board. We are hoping to find a partner who can meet us in the arena and be ready to be flexible, positive, and honest.

Fundamentals of Relationship Building

  • I own my issues and mistakes
  • If I hurt you, I will take responsibility for my actions and process what happened
  • I will ask for alone time if I’m overwhelmed or struggling with some “triggered” emotional response
  • I will process my own pain, it is not yours to hold or fix
  • I will come back to you (in this relationship) and ask for the repair
  • We can move forward in agreement as we grow towards a more loving and more trusting relationship

If we’re armed with those basics, we can sort through almost every disagreement or relationship hiccup. There may be some issues that BRAVING, as Brené Brown calls it, cannot solve, but those issues (infidelity, sexual dysfunction, mental health issues) are out of the scope of this post.

Dusting Ourselves Off for the Next Match

In the best-case scenario, we meet another person who’s light and enjoyable and we both decide to give it a go. Even in the first moments of meeting a new person, we will likely get a sense of our compatibility, or chemistry. It’s not all about sexual chemistry. What we’re sensing in those opening moments goes very deep, if we’re able to pay attention to our bodies and our hearts. Even in a phone conversation, we begin to pick up cues about this person’s confidence, inner-happiness, and approach to life (as it pertains to relationships). What we are listening for, with our ears as well as hour hearts is this:

  • This person is attractive and gives me the feeling that there’s a mutual attraction
  • This person feels safe and open
  • The smiles I’m getting from them are lighting up the smiles inside me

From there, it’s a journey. Early on, you will notice if this person has time for you, has attention for your stories, and if they have stories of their own. The trick is to join them on their walk on the Earth and share your stories together. What most of us hope for, is for that walk to continue infinitely into the future. Often, what we get is a series of near-misses and not-quites.

We might need to reset our expectations and understanding of what dating or a relationship looks like. We might need to START OVER AT ZERO. As long as we are getting closer, and we are learning from our relationship mistakes, we can pick ourselves up after a breakup, knowing that we gave 100%. And, more importantly, we are closer and better equipped for the next potential partner that agrees to join us in “the arena.”

When my friend said the opening lines of this post to me, I felt in my bones that she was right.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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