Creating a Relationship Map: Determining What You Want From Your Partner
I just went through a relationship that crashed and burned. Again. Why was I failing so miserably at relationships when it seemed like I was really successful in other areas in my life? I didn't understand what kept going wrong.
Jeff had seemed like a perfect match for me. We could talk for hours about (almost) everything—music, movies, books, our parents and even politics. We became close quickly—he even turned out to be a great kisser. But in all of these conversations, we never talked about our relationship or what either one of us was expecting from it.
Then, one day on the way to my house, he casually mentioned his girlfriend who was coming home on a visit from her college. I was bewildered. I didn't want this. I wanted a relationship of intimacy and trust where we could actually talk about the relationship rather than someone else assuming I was “down” for anything.
No Map = Lost
After countless conversations with friends, journal entries and a lot of talking to myself, I came up with an answer that made sense. Up until now, I had learned to be “good.” But being good did not help me in my relationships. In fact, it was contributing to my failure to communicate with my partners what I wanted.
Ask my parents about me. They will tell you that I am an ideal daughter—very loving. Plus, I don't talk back, I put others before me, and most importantly, I follow the rules. Ask my teachers about me, and they will say the same thing.
What I haven't learned is how to communicate with others in a straight-forward way. Some people call it assertive; my parents and teachers call it “pushy.” Either way, I decided I needed to learn how to be more confident with my partners.
Creating My Own Internal Map
This revelation prompted me to sit down and write a list of questions in my journal. My first goal was to get to know myself better because if I didn't know where I wanted to go, then I couldn't explain it to my partner. And if I couldn't explain it to a partner, then I was going to end up places I didn't want to be!
Here are the questions I came up with:
Do I want a partner or just a good friend?
Do I want to stay with this person for years? Or am I okay with just dating for a while?
What characteristics are the most important for my partner to have?
If I have a partner who doesn't support my life goals, is that okay or does that mean we need to break up?
Do I want to have sex with my next partner?
Do I want to be in love with my partner?
Is my goal to get married?
Holding the Map in My Hand
Now, I feel good about this list —clearer and ready to tackle the dating world again. I know I have more journaling to do; this is just a start. But I'm excited about being responsible for creating what I want.
The next time I meet someone really cool and he seems like the perfect match for me, I'm going to say something like, “Let's talk about what we want from each other,” or “So, what does your ideal dating situation look like?” And, of course, I'm going to ask, “Are you seeing anyone else?” I will not just assume that we are on the same page.
Once I get that out of the way, I'm going to do my best to explain that as we go along I really want to be able to talk about things like this. Then, when we really have some trust built up, I'm going to dig into even deeper issues. I can't wait!