I don’t usually give my written opinion about relationships, as I honor Ann Landers (Eppie Lederer, 1918-2002) for being the best in giving advice. However, I find a number of men asking me the same question, “I am older and established in my life, do I need to change to find a partner or wife? And if so, why?”
I thought about this question for some time and this is my answer: No. You don’t have to change anything, anyone, any reason, unless you want to change. Now for some of you, this answer will either mean absolutely nothing because you need to understand ‘why’ and for others, it will serve as validation for remaining the way you are. Let me be clear: I COULD CARE LESS WHAT YOU CHOSE TO DO. It is your life and you are free to be as happy, miserable or confused as you would like.
However, for the sake of those who need to understand, understand this: You aren’t the only one in a relationship; and although you may be a good catch, you probably are not as great as you think. While you may disagree with the latter half, it is true. Let me explain, just like you feel you have made enough changes and sacrifices for others in your previous relationships, other people also feel the same way. So if you’re attracted to someone who feels they do not or should not change for someone because they have been through enough hell, just like you, then it probably will not work.
Instead, it may be helpful to look for someone with the similar values and expectations as you. Having similar experiences is less important because the contrast can give each person in the relationship an opportunity to expose the other to something new – spice things up a bit. With that said, the following areas seem to be pretty important to people for one reason or another:
- Partnership How will you two work together as a unit?
- Support What does that mean and look like? Does that include finances, emotional, physical, et cetera?
- Freedom Do you like to go off on your own and encourage your partner to do the same? Are you jealous, boastful, laid back?
- Honesty Do you really want to know everything or just certain things? What are they? What are the rules around sharing?
- Growth Do you expect to grow together and as individuals? If so, what are the markers of growth?
- Money Since this is the number one reason marriage and relationships fail, you should be clear about how money is used and what it means to you.
I will add this for both my male and female readers: If you are entering a relationship with someone who was in a long term or serious relationship before, it would be wise to know what brought it to an end. The saying is, “History does not repeat itself, people repeat history.” Besides, this will help you better determine if this is a person you could see yourself seriously dating.
The other thing to be mindful of is that people discover what they are unable or unwilling to give up or put up with after a marriage or serious relationship ends. And often times, they will tell you in no uncertain terms what those two or three things are. For example, I was with my ex-husband for 20 years. I told my current husband that I would never put up with lack of motivation and intense arguing ever again – it drove me mad. I was very clear that I would get divorced in a heartbeat and I meant it.
In order to identify what you are willing and unwilling to put up with in a relationship and to quickly identify if someone is ‘dating’ material, I suggest creating a continuum of care. A continuum of care is simply a straight line (continuum) that has on one end the three things you could care less about (i.e. the color of your car) and the three things in which you will not budge on the other end (i.e. abuse). Everything in the middle is up for discussion and negotiation. This usually helps people gain perspective and make conscious choices about their relationships and whether or not they are ready to enter one.
Have you ever had to change for your partner or spouse? What was it like? Do tell! As always, pleasant journeys!