Thursday, June 21, 2012

Finding the Partner Who Meets All Your Needs...



Healthy, fulfilling relationships are not based on transactional thinking. When I think of my best friends, for example, there isn't any thought about what they will give me, or not give me. There isn't this sense that they own me something, or that they need to fork up some money, or a gift, or some time even in order to prove they are "a good investment." The connections are so much deeper than that. And in a lot of ways, it doesn't really matter much anymore what we do together, or whether I or friend X has paid for more of this or that.

I consider my immediate family in a similar way, although there is really no way I can ever repay my parents for all they have done for me. Other than to be generous with my time, skills, and life with as many people as possible. But even there, thinking solely in terms of a debt you "can't repay" isn't really helpful. A healthy relationship with a parent is much more, and many of us instinctively understand that, even if we struggle sometimes to articulate it.

Somehow, when it comes to dating, a lot of us seem to think in business terms. What we can get from one another. What someone has to offer us. How "worthy" someone is of "our investment" in them.

Perhaps you might be thinking, "Oh, those are just common words and phrases people use," forgetting that how we language has an impact on our experiences and decisions.

I have certainly been guilty of this kind of thinking in the past. I remember internally tallying expenses I paid on certain trips, or nights out with a former girlfriend who regularly made more money than I did. We rarely argued about money, but I do think that the resentment I had about what I was spending, and her struggles to maintain a decent budget, negatively impacted our relationship. The reality was that any imbalance in spending was probably minimal and so it really was silly to feel resentment, and also let it influence how I viewed her, but I did it anyway. Why? Because some part of me saw the relationship as a series of transactions, and when hers slipped below a certain point, I felt cheated.

I believe she also had some of this attitude. However, instead of money, for her it was about attention and affection. If she felt something was wrong between us, she would withhold not only sex, but most physical attention and contact. Or sometimes, she would heavily increase all of that out of a desperate attempt to please me, or sooth whatever issue was between us. After awhile, I began copying her, almost unconsciously, to the point where during the last several months of our relationship, whenever there was a problem, we did this dance around physical intimacy all driven by a failure to clearly communicate with each other.

Reading dating blogs these days is often a depressing affair. People longing for love tripping all over each other to condemn the folks they are dating, or have dated, as seriously lacking in some shape or form. The lists of "must haves" some folks have are so long that it's difficult to imagine anyone measuring up. In fact, it's likely that behind those endlessly long lists are people afraid to be found out as lacking themselves. Instead of admitting that they aren't perfect either, they dump the blame on others, and proudly proclaim how "smart" they are about dating and relationships.

Healthy, fulfilling relationships are not based on transactional thinking. They aren't about lists. They aren't about finding one person who can "meet all your needs."

If you are trapped in this kind of thinking, it's time for a break. Or to diversify your life, and stop being obsessed about the mythical "one" that's supposedly the only person out there in a world of 6 billion+ that could possibly "get you." It's not too late to wake up. You can start right now.

7 comments:

  1. I think I would resent it if I had a friend that I always had to pay for. I don't think platonic relationships are entirely free of transactional thinking.

    Friendships do seem to be free from transactional expectation. I never expect my friends to pay for my food or drinks. However, when I go on a date I do expect that the man will pay. I usually suggest coffee so the poor guy doesn't go broke trying to get to know me. But I still expect him to pay. I'm not sure why, I guess I was raised to believe that it's a matter of common courtesy. What do men think about that?

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  2. Anonymous, some men think it's fine for them to pay for dates. Others don't. I am of the second camp.

    It's less about courtesy to me, and more about an expected behavior left over from the days when women didn't work and/or earned very little money.

    As for those men who go along with the paying for dates idea, a fair number of them are simply doing so to not cause trouble. It's not really about courtesy for them either - it's about keeping up appearances.

    I happen to think that there are a lot of dating games that create a false sense of who people are.

    Some men genuinely like to pay for the dates they go on. I support them in doing so because that's part of who they are.

    But a lot of us think, in this day of nearly equal pay scales, that there's something wrong with expecting men to pony up in order to "prove their worth."

    There are thousands of ways I can show respect and care. Paying for coffee or dinner isn't really that special if you think about it.

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  3. Oh, and I agree that with friendships, or any relationships, it's difficult to be rid of transactional thinking. To me, you aim towards that, and do your best.

    Certainly, if someone is always on the receiving end, that's a problem.

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  4. I've been with some men who always paid for everything and other men who felt used if we didn't go dutch on everything. It's very confusing for us women. Personally I don't mind paying for my share, as long as I know that's what's expected. I don't like being surprised with my half of the bill. Wouldn't it be nice if in the planning stages of a date the financial expectations could just be stated?

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  5. "Wouldn't it be nice if in the planning stages of a date the financial expectations could just be stated?"

    I don't know how this could be done without triggering at least one of the two daters. I'd like to think that we are all adults, and that a decision like "let's split the bill" wouldn't be an issue, but it seems that so often it is. A lot of women judge men who don't offer to pay for everything of being cheap and unworthy. And some men take offense if a woman offers to help pay the bill. I totally agree it's confusing.

    Also, I understand your frustration with those who insist on going dutch all the time. What I was focusing on is the beginning stages, where you don't know each other, and there's no way of knowing if you'll be a couple or not. The majority of first dates don't make it to a second. And the majority of second and third dates don't become long term relationships.

    I have known a few women who maintained strict separation of any and all finances in the way those men you dated did. But it makes me wonder, that feeling of being "used." Perhaps some of those guys felt like they had to pay for everything in relationships before meeting you, and then decided to do the exact opposite. Going to the other extreme is common when people try to make changes.

    If trust is developing, and the relationship is flowing, usually that kind of thing wouldn't come up unless it was really warranted. There should be more flow, and less worry about who is paying, and for what.

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  6. In every relationship there's always expenses involve specially when you are dating and we all know that dating involves eating,watching movies and other stuffs. I would suggest the give and take scenario it that case no will blame you for not paying that and this. I believe that it's natural for a guy to pay the bill when having a date but it's much better if both of you will do it.

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