Monday, July 11, 2011

Dating is a Balancing Act

Here is a comment by someone named Raymond from a recent thread on Evan Katz's blog:

Most of us hardly ever think about our negative points and the effect on others. Being aware of our own negative traits would be very beneficial to our relationships in general. Be it with co workers, friends, or our partners.
It took me many years to finally realize I had been treating women appallingly. I was insensitive to their feelings, and deep down i was only really interested in my well being. I actually imagined I had been good to them.
My wife must have put up with a lot from me all those years ago. Today we enjoy a genuinely warm amazing relationship, because I stopped being selfish.

Having spent a lot of time paying attention to how people write about dating, one of the most common issues I have seen is the tendency to focus on another person's flaws. Not that this should surprise anyone. Humans do that all the time. In order to avoid looking at ourselves, or seeing where we are part of any given problem, we point our fingers outward at whomever is the easiest target.

Read the comments section of Evan's blog, or any well received dating and relationship blog, and you'll see countless comments about the bad behavior of others.

My date was an asshole. He flirted with the waitress, talked endlessly about his boring job, and didn't pay for my dinner.

My girlfriend was a bitch. She never cleaned our apartment, she complained about everything, and she turned her friends against me.

All of these statements could be true, but how often are they balanced with some self reflection?

I really wasn't very attentive on my date with X.

I often got angry at silly little things.

I allowed him to keep crossing my boundaries.

I stopped caring towards the end with her.

You might notice that one of the underlying themes in much of my writing is balance. When our bodies are healthy, they are said to be "in balance." Experiencing homeostasis. The blood Ph level is hovering somewhere around 7.35. Body temperature right near 98.6 degrees F. Blood pressure rates vary a little bit more, but with all of these indicators, anything more than a slight shift can cause great disturbance.

The same can be said about dating and relationship analysis. If you focus too much on the other person's flaws, you miss everything you are adding to the equation. Furthermore, you miss all the other person's positives, perhaps to the point where you reject someone who could be a great partner for you. On the opposite end, if you focus too much on your own flaws, you can miss the red flags the other person might be displaying. You might take responsibility for their bad behavior, thinking that "you did something to deserve it." And definitely, no matter what, too much focus on your own flaws will make you a pretty unpleasant person to date or be in a relationship with. Always apologizing. Always thinking you did something wrong. Always feeling like you're never good enough. None of that is attractive.

So, balance. Self reflection is an essential ingredient, but so is being able to drop that and pay attention to the other person. Learning to detect red flags in another, like the woman or man who seems a little too keen to impress you, is an invaluable skill. However, so is recognizing the subtle and not so subtle good qualities in a person.

Do you agree?

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