>I am learning a great deal about how others view male-female relationships, and the individual roles we assume within these unions. Some people see clearly defined roles, while others such as myself see autonomy in relationships as the healthy balance of both sides chipping in to do what it takes to get the job done. Well let’s continue where we left off yesterday. I stopped and looked in the mirror…
WHAT DID I SEE?
I saw that what these men said about me was accurate. I had awful communication skills, rudely chose to give my attention to my cell phone rather than the man I was dating, and I had a habit of “scheduling” men in to my life rather than having free time available to date. There’s a big difference when you have a “date night” scheduled than sending a man your calendar and telling him, “the highlighted time slots are when I’m available, so let me know when you want to hang out”.
Ouch! Yes I did that.
Sounds similar to what my male counterparts are notoriously known for, but
it’s seemingly more acceptable when they do it. I was so focused on my career, reaching my goals, and slowing down for no one, that I failed to give my ‘all’ in any one relationship. The less I regarded a man as being a serious ‘candidate’ for marriage, the less I gave of myself. When I look back it is clear to me that this wasn’t just my competitive drive to succeed, but it was also a defense mechanism to avoid from being hurt and taken advantage.
For years I dated men mostly for their looks and charm, as my prerequisites became more fine-tuned I began to notice that there was something missing in my relationships but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It didn’t help that I was a habitual rebounder…break up, next month I’m dating someone new. I also had a low tolerance for game playing by men. I’ve never had a problem putting my cards out on the table and making it clear what my intentions were, and what I expected from men, so I couldn’t understand why the men I was dating weren’t mature enough to do the same thing. So I developed a “three-strike rule” which gave men three times to screw up with me and then I’d give them the ‘boot’. Basically the average relationship never went beyond three months.
So it should be no surprise that when I didn’t feel like being tied down to any one guy that I would date several at once (no more than four of course). When I was around 19 or 20 I had my “Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Crew”…one guy would meet me for breakfast somewhere, another guy would be my lunch date, and a third guy would take me out to dinner; not necessarily on the same day- although I did have that happen a few times. I felt that since they all knew about each other I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Looking closely at the situation, I wasn’t…I was dating. I was open, honest, never double-booked, and my intimacy wouldn’t go beyond kissing. We were hanging out, getting to know each other…we were ‘friends’.
The end of last year I attempted to go out on dates with three different men, talk about exhausting! I struggled going on three separate dates in one week. I don’t know how I had the time and energy to do that 15 years ago! Then again, I don’t know how I had the energy to also go to the club three to four days a week, take 18-20 units a semester in school, work full-time, volunteer in the community, tutor part-time, and still hang with my family (especially my sister who was around 5 years old).
Over the years I kept wondering what was wrong with me that I kept attracting men that weren’t compatible with me. Why was I picking eye candy? Or why would I pick highly intelligent men who spent most of their time with me proving how smart they were, quoting facts and figures, throwing trivia curve balls my way whenever given the chance? Why was I picking men who couldn’t be faithful if you paid them?
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
God tests us daily. God wants to see what we’re made of and whether He comes first in our lives or if we’re part of the “all about me” and “I did it myself” crowd. So we are given lessons. Until we get the lessons right we have to keep repeating them. That means until I figured out why I kept attracting, being attracted to, and picking men that weren’t compatible with me, then I would have to continue dating guys that clearly weren’t meant for me.
Then it hit me last year. I had called off my second engagement. Yeah, the second one. Long story that I won’t go into, just know that it was for the best and no worries, I don’t plan on collecting engagement rings! Okay I digressed…as I analyzed what went wrong, what took so long for me to end things, and what the lesson was in this almost four year relationship, the answer came to me….
I had spent 15 years dating men who were opposite of my dad. Many women look for men who remind them of ‘dad’, yet I spent my time looking for the opposite. I was so busy being a rebel swearing I wouldn’t be like him, that I purposely dated men that were his polar opposite. Dad was anal-retentive; he was a stickler for giving and doing your best in everything, pushing to win every time, and would scrutinize things that I didn’t think were important- such as cleaning. Growing up I had chores and my dad would go behind me to check my work. He would say, “is this the work and effort of an ‘A’ student or a ‘D’ student?” I had to re-do the work until it met his standards. Yes, he did the exact same thing when it came to my school work. I simply thought he was an uptight, stubborn man and there was no way I would be like him. Loved him, but he needed to chill out.
Guess what? Guess who I modeled after when I grew up? Yep, you got it right, my dad! The irony, and more proof that God has a great sense of humor. By the time I was 21 I became more like the man who had grown to work my nerves. As I got older the more anal-retentive I became. I couldn’t believe it, but it was true. I know for a fact that I work my family’s nerves. Talking about passing on a legacy; thanks dad!
So although opposites attract, what I have discovered is that the work it takes to put two pieces of a puzzle together (that clearly are not supposed to fit together) can result in a great deal of time and energy being wasted. Some people find that dating and marrying their opposite is exactly what they need and want. I now see that instead of dating the opposite of dad, also the opposite of myself, that I need to be with someone more like me.
Let’s start at my foundation. Dating a man who isn’t spiritually grounded, who doesn’t attend church or read his Bible regularly, and doesn’t place God first in his life isn’t the man for me. Dating a man who doesn’t keep a clean home, is content with mediocrity, and doesn’t have high ambitions isn’t the man for me. Not a change agent working to improve the socio-economic conditions globally? You aren’t the one. A man lacking confidence, humility, respect for self and his family can’t possibly be the man for me. Enough children to have the starting line-up for the Lakers? We won’t work out.
For over 15 years I have dated men who weren’t equally yoked with me. I dated men who could never hold their own as my honorable husband and father of our children. I had to date numerous guys all of these years just to figure out that I needed to date someone more like me on deep, meaningful levels…not the superficial ones! It had to be more than our love of sports, movies, music, or a desire to have children. I needed to go deeper, I needed to align my puzzle piece with the man whose piece matched my edges.
It seemed easy enough. But I know that this process would require focus and commitment on my part; it would require me to seek God’s guidance to see past the top layers of prospective suitors in order to see their true nature. I would have to identify warning signs sooner and avoid the ‘loser trap’.
Tomorrow we’ll explore this more as this is the sticky point in life that many people, especially women fail to pull through successfully. We keep facing this lesson time and time again, never learning and graduating to a new lesson, just staying on this merry-go-round. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about today’s post. The feedback so far for the past three posts is amazing. I humbly thank those of you who have taken the time to not only read this blog series, but also share your thoughts and opinions about what I’ve written. Thank you again.
Copyright 2010. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.