I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
Ever since I mustered the confidence to speak to people, I have seemingly been on a continuous search for the “right” person. It has been girlfriend after girlfriend since I was 13 years old. Some more serious than others, all in varying lengths of coupling. But I would like to think that each and every last one of them taught me something about myself. What I wanted in a person, what I could give to someone, what is acceptable behavior, what is the appropriate level of respect that I deserve and can project.
As a teenager, I had a literal list of attributes that I was looking for in a potential mate. A game I think most kids do when they first see the world in front of them with a host of options. My friends and I would compare what we believed was important. While I don’t remember much, from what I can recall, my list had everything from a desire to find a girl that liked video games, to a non-smoker, to one who didn’t drink diet coke. Look, I was young. I amended the list as I got older. Soon, the list of superficial characteristics began to shrink as the list of things I believed would nurture me and the evolution of a relationship began to grow.
Even this list continued to evolve. As well it should because we as people are consistently changing and evolving. What I needed to make me happy when I made that list is light years away from what makes me happy now as a man. But another big change in that list was that I started to realize that a list of wants and needs and demands doesn’t mean shit to your compatibility. Sometimes you like, date, and fall in love with a person who stomps all over your list. And sometimes that’s why you fall in love with them in the first place. Because our love doesn’t play by the rules. It likes to make us believe it knows what it wants then turns a corner, gives us the finger, and runs away. And two years later, you’re left with a broken heart wondering how the hell you allowed someone so terrible into your life. But it also changes your perspective. Those people you never believed could hold a place in your life somehow dodged that list and scaled your wall. They hung out in your shadow and gave you a sense of peace. People you never thought you could love. People who shattered your idea of a list. You and I both have them. People who never met your paper idea of what happiness should be yet they swooped in and saved us when we needed them most. Because the list is pointless.
So I guess the biggest change in that list was that it is no longer a list. I simply have a vague idea of what it is that could potentially make me happy. Instead of attempting to live by some arbitrary list of wants and needs, we simply have to cross our fingers and hope for the best. And hopefully, we paid attention along the line to look for the red flags. The abusers, the manipulators, the selfish, and entitled. They will always be out there, swimming like silent sharks looking for people like us. People who still have faith in love. And yes, our love is always attracted to those who need it the most – and seemingly to the ones who are most likely abuse it. But that’s only because we are genuine people. People who try to put love back out into the world. People who want to do for others because that is the nature of our soul. And no list can protect us. Because I have dated women who didn’t smoke or drink diet coke and who liked to play video games and who loved Larry David, and cat videos, and punk music, and being lazy and eating pizza just like I did… and guess what? They turned out to be a shark.
And what that list can’t tell you, what no one can tell us with any certainty, is who is a shark and who isn’t. And while some are more obvious than others, most simply know how disguise themselves. They know how to hide. They know how to gain your trust and say the words you need to hear and they do all the right things to get you on the hook, and just when they know you’ve dropped your guard and allowed yourself to fall in love, they attack. They take advantage of your generosity and your kindness and the genuine nature of your soul. That’s what makes them a good shark.
So what does my list look like now? Well it reads something like, I would simply like to find someone who makes me feel loved and appreciated every single day. That’s it. That’s the best decades of dating knowledge has been reduced to. It might sound sad, but it’s probably the most accurate description of what has the best chance at making me feel happy and secure in a relationship.
But I have a new list. One that took me decades to come up with. One that I wasn’t read to write when I was young. One that most people will never write. And it’s a list that is longer than any list I have ever written. And that is a list of what I can give. What I can be for another person. And what I can put out in to the world. Because it took me a long time but I realized that you will drive yourself crazy spending your life trying to find the right person instead of becoming a more confident person and giving them the clarity to find you.