** Disclaimer **
To any man I am currently dating or may date in the future, this is not an instruction manual or an itemized list of "must haves." I'm not idealistic or unrealistic enough to think you can pick and choose character traits of a partner as if they were items on a grocery list. This post is simply a personal reflection of what I've learned about myself regarding what's important to me in a romantic partner. I would never want another person to change simply to become what I desire them to be. Where's the fun in that?
** End of Disclaimer **
I began the process of online dating about a year ago with clear intentions. I wanted to be more social. I wanted to try new things. I wanted to meet interesting people. I wanted to get out more. Perhaps, most importantly, I wanted to date a lot of men. Yes, I said a lot of men. I specifically wanted to avoid getting into any serious relationships right away because I felt it was important to explore what was out there, to learn what was most important to me in a partner and to not settle. Here's a list, in no particular order, of what I've discovered I need in a significant other.
Just today I was talking with a girlfriend about that pesky question on OkCupid that goes something like this, "How often do you need to be in contact with your significant other?" The answer I run from is, "Everyday, unless otherwise specified." Because I don't necessarily want to talk to the person I'm dating every single day. And I sure as hell won't allow them to say that I must "unless otherwise specified." Communication is great. In fact, it's on my list here. It's important. However, my life is busy. I'm a single mom of three kids, and I work as a freelancer. I can't guarantee that I'll have time each day to be in touch with someone I'm dating. I don't want one more "obligation" on my to-do list, thank you very much.
Also? Along the lines of independence, I want a man who thinks independently and who knows that he is in control of his own life's circumstances. I cannot have a "partner" who doesn't act as such, one who needs to ask my opinion before making a single move or one who follows the crowd simply because it takes too much effort to use his own brain to come up with his own unique thoughts and opinions. Perhaps, most importantly, I need a man who knows that he is in charge of his own destiny, that he is not subject to the whims of a cruel world and that no one is out to make his life harder or to control him. Taking independent control of one's own life and circumstances is incredibly sexy.
Another big one on my list of important traits in a partner is that he put forth some effort on my behalf, at least as much as I'm giving him. I might as well also specify here that I need someone who puts forth effort even after they've gotten sex. Interesting how much sweetness, romantic gestures and meaningful words can be given until that first sexual encounter, and then those things seem to dwindle away. Wonder why that is?
That is definitely not what I'm looking for. I need someone who's going to continue to go above and beyond for me even after the sex. I should probably clarify that I don't mean I expect our give and take to be completely equitable at all times. Relationships aren't like that. Sometimes, one partner will have more time, energy and ability to do more of the giving, while the other may be in a position to be a bit more needy. However, I simply refuse to be the constant giver, the one who always worries about the other, the one one who asks what's wrong, the one who makes the plans, the one who puts forth the effort. You get the idea.
I grew up in a household where affection wasn't given openly, emotions weren't discussed and praise was very rarely handed out. So I know how hard it can be to talk about the rough stuff. Those things like vulnerable emotions or small criticisms can be difficult to express. I know. I also know that in order for a relationship to be healthy and to thrive, open communication is necessary. I can compromise to some extent. I will be understanding if it's hard for my partner to speak as freely as I do or to wear his heart on his sleeve. However, I place communication in the same category as going the extra mile or showing some effort. I need my significant other to be able to compromise his comfort level for me, to show that I matter, to go above and beyond in order to make sure we're on the same page and to work to avoid misunderstandings.
On a bit more trivial a level, I even hope that casual dates will grasp the importance of communication. I can't tell you the number of men who've just walked away from me without a word. I'm a grown woman. I promise not to fall apart if you tell me you no longer wish to see me. Honest. However, if you take the cowardly way out, I can't guarantee I won't show up unexpectedly with the intent of making you squirm just a wee bit. Especially if you've seen me naked. I tend to hold a guy accountable for a bit of forthright communication if he's seen me naked. I don't think that's too much to ask.
Yes, a little romance once in a while would be appreciated. I'm not saying I want someone to spend lots of money on me or indulge me with grand gestures constantly. That would defeat the purpose. When I think of romance, things like flowers for no reason or a sweet text actually come to mind. Not that I'd be opposed to a grand gesture. Whatever the romantic notion is, I want it to be genuine, not out of a sense of obligation or because it's some Hallmark holiday. The romance I want is the kind that lets me know he's thinking of me, that he took a little extra time to show me he cares.
The most appealing men I've dated have been genuine of spirit. The ones whose actions and words I don't question. I've come to find that's a rare thing. That's why I appreciate it so very much when I find it. The security and appreciation that come with not having to second guess a man's sincerity are simply immeasurable. When I find this kind of genuine soul, I value them highly and will work to keep them in my life. I may place this trait above all others, in fact.
Aw, affection. I love a hug or a snuggle. What about a kiss on the forehead or a caress of the arm? Those sweet little things seem to have gone by the wayside with many modern men. Not that raw sexuality isn't hot. I like that, too, as long as it's genuine and not forced. But a man who's not afraid to express himself and his emotions through honest gestures of affection and sweetness scores high points in my book. Let's not forget the post-sex cuddle. It's a must, don't you think?
Finally, a compassionate man is a must-have for me. Oh, hell, I might as well just say that if he's not socially progressive in his politics, it's an absolute deal breaker. I absolutely cannot spend my life, emotions and energy on someone who cannot sympathize with and care for his fellow human being. Of course, I want him to show compassion and understanding for my feelings and to be there for me when I'm especially vulnerable, sad or knocked down by life. It has to go beyond that, though. I absolutely need to be with someone who gives a damn about others, who values improving the plight of those who are struggling and who wants to make a difference in the world. That matters to me.
Again, please understand that I know it's unlikely I will find a man who demonstrates every single one of these traits. This list is mainly a reminder for myself of the kinds of things that are important. It's a list of self-discovery. After two failed marriages and a number of romantic encounters, I've come up with this list through my experiences. I suppose it's really just a reminder that I have learned, and am continuing to learn daily, what really matters in a successful relationship so that the next time I enter into one long-term, I'll be more confident that I'm ready.
Recently, I told someone that I've seen a number of people come in and out of my life over the past year since my separation and divorce. That statement really struck something within me. It was a revelation of sorts. I realized that through my dating encounters, starting life on my own as a single mom and through some complex family issues, I truly have experienced a great deal of loss lately. I didn't realize until that moment just what an impact these losses have had on me and what a part they've played in the roller coaster of emotions I've experienced.
After giving it some thought, though, it hit me that I've actually come out stronger for having experienced the loss of people from my life, either through my own choosing or through theirs. While it can surely be a painful process, it can also prove to be an awakening or a cleansing of sorts. Losing or purging people from your life can offer true perspective on just what kinds of influences you honestly want and need to surround you. And that realization can be pretty damn insightful. Here are some of the benefits I've discovered in letting people go from my life. While I'm primarily referring to the choice to remove someone from your inner circle, it's true that sometimes these positive feelings can come, in time, when someone chooses to walk away from you, as well.
A couple years ago, I wrote a post about shining despite the toxic people in your life. In that post, I detailed some ways to deal with and rise above the negative forces that exist around you. At the end, though, I acknowledged that sometimes it makes sense to just let someone go. Since the writing of that post, I've obviously made that decision when I chose to end my marriage. However, I've made the choice to remove other people from my life, as well, recently. One particular decision was even more difficult and emotional than choosing divorce. Despite the pain, the guilt and the feelings of loss, there eventually came an overwhelming feeling of empowerment. It's a powerful thing to hold your life in your own hands and decide just what you will accept into your world and what you absolutely cannot abide. I can't tell you when you should let go. That's a very personal matter. But I can tell you that the decision to do so can be incredibly liberating.
Image from Rebel Circus
In fact, you may find that once you've dropped that emotional baggage, so to speak, from your day to day existence that you have more energy. Sometimes dealing with negativity, criticism, passive-aggressivness or other harmful behavior on a regular basis can truly drain our emotional reserves without our even realizing it. However, once we remove those toxic influences, we often come to find that we feel a lot lighter and more positive about ourselves and what we can accomplish. It's also incredibly energizing when you stop chasing others. That's a lesson I've taken to heart a number of times over the past year. I must admit that I can become easily attached, and I've found myself in situations where I'm expending more energy on another person than they are on me. That's a tireseome game to play, so I've decided to stop playing it. And you know what? I've been so much happier when I've made the conscious decision to stop the chase. In a few instances, the person actually did turn their energy back toward my direction, but in some cases, they didn't. When they disappeared, I realized that was okay and was likely meant to be. When you stop chasing people, you have a lot more energy for the important things and the connections who really matter in life. I think ending the chase may have been one of the toughest, but most rewarding, lessons for me as of late.
Image from Rebel Circus
Finally, you'll likely find that it's simply a relief when you actually decide to no longer allow that negative force in your life. No longer having the weight of their presence hanging around your neck can actually feel physically freeing. I've found that feeling of intense relief is usually a sure sign that you've made the right decision. That's when you realize you're better off without that person than you were with them, that they were not enriching your life in any way. That's not to say you won't still struggle with sadness and guilt from time to time. You may, but that feeling of relief can be a concrete reminder of not only what is gone, but what you've taken back and what you've gained. Honor that feeling.
These are the biggest things I've taken away from seeing people come into and out of my life recently. While there is often pain involved in loss, I'm still open to letting people in, as I've discovered that making true, positive and supportive connections is worth the risk of dealing with the painful ones.
I'm 40, and I've been divorced twice. You'd think adjusting to being a single mom would be easier the second time around. Not so in my case. In fact, I think it's even harder this go around. After my first divorce, I held a regular job with decent pay and good benefits. I still struggled financially because daycare was expensive and my first husband was not in a financial position to pay child support at the time. However, I received a steady paycheck and never had to worry about how much money was coming in that week, unlike my current life as a freelancer. Also? I went from one relationship straight to another. I had the man who would become my second husband to depend on when I needed support of any kind, so I never really felt alone or overwhelmed. This time? Things are quite a bit different. Both of my exes are exceptional in handling their fatherly obligations, so thankfully, I'm not entirely on my own. However, much more seems to have fallen on my shoulders and to be weighing on them after divorce number two.
The weight of uncertainty on my daily life since going out on my own is crushing. Every day I feel it. Yes, money is a huge worry for me now. Things were tight before. Financial concerns were an issue. But now that I'm the primary wage earner for my kids, I feel the burden so much more. I can even empathize with the stress that my ex-husband must have felt when it was he who was primarily financially responsible for the family. However, as a freelancer, so many things can and do occur that affect the regularity of income I make. Believe me, though, I've considered every option. Given my areas of study and my time spent out of the traditional work force, my earning potential in a regular job with regular pay is not high. Even if I were to luck into a job that paid what my previous employment as a college adviser paid, I would still likely be struggling just as much due to the costs of daycare, gas, clothing and other job-related expenses. I've crunched the numbers. Several times. I've also considered the added stress of dealing with the commute, daycare pick up and drop off, running errands like grocery shopping after work, taking time off for appointments, worrying about how to pick kids up from practices and after school activities, time spent away from the kids... You get the idea. I just don't see that I'd be any further ahead financially or have any additional peace of mind by working outside the home at this particular stage, and I'd still likely be under the soul crushing weight of daily uncertainty. So for now, I will simply be thankful to have a flexible source of income, no matter how unpredictable it may sometimes be. The good news is that there is always potential for improving that income. It's not static, unlike most gigs in the traditional workforce. So I do feel optimistic about that.
The realization that I am responsible for every aspect of my family's daily life is another thing that is anxiety provoking for me. Thankfully, my big kids can help, and I depend on them to do so. They have chores, and they watch their little brother sometimes so I can run errands and get writing done. I do depend on them, and I'm so fortunate for that. However, other things that I took for granted have come up in my day to day and have given me more than a few wake up calls. Like the multiple times I got my car stuck in the driveway this snowy winter. There was no husband to call to help shovel me out. Nope, it was mostly all me, though sometimes my oldest son was around to lift some of the load. And the lawn mowing. This time, I relied on my Facebook friends for advice when it came to which kind of mower to buy. I had no clue. Yes, these seem like trivial problems, but they're ones I never really had to think about before. It is a change and an adjustment, especially when there are so many other changes occurring in my life.
Ah, guilt! Guilt and I are long-time friends. We've become particularly close over the last 15 years since I became a mother. We're inseparable besties nowadays after divorce #2. Mostly, I feel guilty about being at my computer so often, while the Wii or YouTube babysits my youngest son, my daughter is glued to her iPad and my oldest is locked in the dungeon with his computer. However, they actually say they like it, and I've taken some steps to make myself more accessible to them. One of the biggest changes I made was to transform my spacious, quiet, secluded office in the basement into my oldest son's room and stick my computer and desk into a small corner of my bedroom so that I can at least be closer to where most of the action is in the household. Guess what though? I actually like the coziness of the new space better. It's more warm and inviting, and I now feel like I'm more a part of the family activities than I did when I was stuck down in the basement. Noah, however, loves having his own space away from everyone else. So I've managed to take some practive measures to deal with that self-induced guilt trip. I'm working a little bit every day to tackle the others that are nipping at its heels.
My "corner office"
Finally, there's the loneliness that comes with being a single mom. Don't get me wrong. There are definite advantages to no longer having to deal with the same arguments, stressors and issues with another person day in and day out. However, being the only adult in the house can be a bit lonely, especially when you work at home and rarely get out amongst other people. That's why I've pursued online dating. As I've talked about in other posts, I've definitely learned a lot about myself and about the kind of partner I'm ultimately looking for through the dating interactions I've had over the past year. I've enjoyed the company of some really incredible men who have a great deal to offer. It's been exciting and fun, as well as emotional at times. Dating is nice. It's been good for me to get out of my shell and to connect with others. That doesn't mean the loneliness doesn't still creep in sometimes, particularly at night when the house is quiet and still or when I've read about a dozen Facebook updates of my friends and their happy, intact family units. It can get a bit depressing, if I let it. Fortunately, I can usually snap myself out of it by reminding myself that I chose this life for a reason. And making a choice is an empowering thing.
So there you have it. These are just some of the emotions and life lessons I've encountered since my latest (last?) divorce. It feels so much better to have gotten them out and to be able to put some perspective on the swirling emotions that have threatened, at times, to drag me under. I really do think everything will be all right. Eventually.
For some really good insight on the life of a single mom, I think you should go visit my friend Pauline's blog. She's been doing this gig for a while now and has lots of fabulous advice to offer.
I've been blogging here at Everyday Baby Steps since 2008. However, I can't tell you the last time I updated my "About" page. I know I had intentions to do so. That's why it was marked, "Under Construction" for the longest time. I recall noticing one day that the photographs of my family that I'd placed on the page were terribly out of date, so I took the old page down. Well, finally, I've updated my "About" page, and I must say that I'm quite pleased with it.
There are some things I may like to tweak here and there, but it's a good start for now. I've included a bit about myself and the kids, with recent pictures. I listed some of my favorite highlights from the past several years in blogging, as well. So feel free to stop by and take a look at my new "About" page. Leave a link to your page if you have one. I love to read about my friends and fellow bloggers!
* This is a guest post.
I usually decorate my house hiring home improvement company. Yes, it is definitely a large amount of expenses for us. But recently, my friend redecorated their house. Do you know what they apply on the wall? It is wall stickers. They affixed different type of wall stickers in different room. For example, they decorated their baby's room with a cartoon animal zoo wall sticker. It is lovely. And in their spare time, they play games via this wall sticker. I think it's really a good idea for fun. Also, in their study, they applied a quotes wall sticker. It is a great way to be encouraging. At last, in their living room, they applied a fresh green tree. It looks simple but relaxed.
Finally, I decided to redecorate my house with these wall stickers. It is easy to affix and easy to remove. They will go on any smooth, dust free, dry surface, so I can even decorate furniture, doors, and windows. It will not damage the wall, no sticky residue is left behind and certainly no repainting.
If you are now upset by how to decorate or renovate your house or your own space, or you are wondering how to make your kids happy and enjoy their growing up, what are you still waiting for? Just buy some vinyl wall art stickers to transform your room into an art area. So, it's a good choice to use wall stickers for decorating.
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