Valentine's Day: looking for a healthy other

Now that you're working towards becoming a “healthy me," you feel ready to hook up with a partner, someone to curl up with when the Vancouver weather gets nasty, someone to share the good times and the bad. You long to connect deeply with one person, and surrender to those feelings of love and intimacy.

Often, people get so lonely for company and so lonely for love that they fall in love with falling in love. This is when they become so attached to the feelings and experiences that go with being with another who desires them that they overlook the signs and signals that tell them that trouble lies ahead. No relationship will be perfect (except in fairy tales), but we should go into one with eyes wide open, and choose someone with whom we have the best chances with.

But, wait a minute. Slow down to consider who you really want to hook up and hang out with.

Let’s face it – feeling loved and wanted is really sweet, but in fact it can be addictive, and addiction is something that can ruin lives. A healthy relationship does not harbor the elements of control, exploitation, gamey-ness, and chaos. Control is about one person influencing the thoughts, emotions or behaviors of another while exploitation is using those aspects towards their own benefit. Gamey-ness is the on-and-off, taking turns of alternating between push and pull, intense obsession and abject rejection, also aimed at control. And chaos is just the elements of instability and unpredictability that puts a relationship in crisis mode. Sounds like fun? Not at all.

So, let’s look at what a “healthy other” looks like. This person has many or most of the following qualities:

1. Respects you and is considerate and protective of your feelings.

2. Knows self well and is clear about what he/she believes and wants, yet can be influenced and can compromise when needed.

3. Conducts him/herself with dignity and honour, and is able to be truthful and reliable.

4. Takes responsibility for self and own life, and does not need to be saved, protected from life or otherwise infantilized.

5. Lives a full life with own set of life goals, and has healthy relationships with family, friends and community.

6. Has an open and generous attitude towards life and people; learning and spiritual growth is important to him/her.

7. Has a healthy and mature notion of "relationship" (rather than a fairytale one) and wants a partner who shares mutual interests and goals but also has his/her own.

8. Is emotionally grounded and mature, and will respond to challenges and hardships with staying power, instead of retreating or withdrawing from you.

9. Respects your own and his/her need for solitude as well as friendships cultivated outside of your partnership.

10. Has no emotional baggage from previous relationships that
can spill into yours.

11. Can communicate clearly without blame or judgment, and
will participate in resolving conflict when it arises.

12. Sees you and loves you for who you are, supporting your growth without trying to change you.

Here’s the thing: these qualities may seem like a tall order, and you may find yourself saying something like, “Yes, but if I wait for someone to meet all these conditions, I may be alone forever.” Rest assured that I do understand that no human being is perfect, but if you agree that a love relationship is a major life event, then major considerations ought to be put towards it. The intended may not meet all of the conditions, but I’d say that if he/she fails many of them, you ought to at least slow down and take time rather than jump in with your eyes closed.

I have previously said that falling in love slowly is a much better way to enter a relationship than the typical head-over-heels, intense ignition type of romance. This is precisely why. You need time and mindful consideration of what it is you may be getting into.

In the real estate world, they have a term called “qualifying your buyer.” This process is about using a series of points to determine or assess whether your potential buyer (a) is motivated or serious about entering into a purchase agreement, and (b) has the resources to follow through with the deal. You will then know whether or not you should invest your time and energy in this buyer.

In love, it is quite a useful concept as well. Instead of jumping into a relationship (be it love or lust) with someone, doesn’t it make sense that we take our time and open our eyes and ears to watch and listen? If more people did this, then perhaps less will say afterwards, “But he isn’t who I thought he was when we first met!”

The truth is, people don’t change in that respect – it’s just that we (a) didn’t pay enough attention in the beginning or (b) saw things but decided to ignore them anyway in service of keeping the high of the chase.

Both parties will likely not be perfectly flawless when they meet (if that be the case then no one would get together), but each has to want to learn and grow into a mature and psychologically healthy human being. This can be done in part, together, but certainly each will have his/her own tasks to achieve in this respect.

Bottom line is that we all have to grow up in order to have a grown-up relationship.

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