Isn’t it so tempting to reinvent yourself when you meet somebody new who you really like—try and be who you think they are looking for? You could become sophisticated, or maybe strong, silent, and mysterious. At the very least, you could stop embarrassing yourself by making jokes at inappropriate moments or being pathetic when dealing with problems.
Actually, no you couldn’t. You might manage it for an evening or two, or even a month or two, but it’s going to be tough keeping it up forever. And if you think this person is the one—you know, the one—then you might be spending the next half century or so with them. Just imagine, 50 years of pretending to be sophisticated or suppressing your natural sense of humor.
That’s not going to happen, is it? And would you actually want a lifetime of lurking behind some sham personality you’ve created? Imagine how that would be, unable ever to let on that this wasn’t really you at all, for fear of losing them. Suppose they find out in a few weeks or months or years, when you finally crack? They’re not going to be very impressed.
So be you. Might as well get it all out in the open now—if it’s not who they’re looking for, at least you won’t get in too deep before they find out. And you know what? Maybe they don’t actually like sophisticated. Perhaps strong silent types don’t do it for them. Maybe they’ll love your upfront sense of humor. Perhaps they want to be with someone who needs a bit of looking after.
Get Over It Before You Get on with It
If your last relationship or two has left you a bit of an emotional wreck, it’s better to repair the damage before you start looking for a new lover and partner. Otherwise you won’t be able to show them the real you, and you won’t be able to focus on them if you’re still preoccupied with yourself.
If you make a mistake with your new relationship (and it happens to us all), you could end up more bruised than when you started. Even if you did manage to find someone truly caring and loving, both of you could suffer because one of you wasn’t ready yet to launch into a relationship.
So do yourself a favor. Go away and hide somewhere while you lick your wounds. Enjoy your friends and your family, and wait until you’ve recovered before you start looking for a new partner. And when you do, try to pick someone whose scars are relatively well-healed, too—because this works the other way as well. In this way you both see each other as you trully are, and start your relationship the way you want to continue it.
You’ll Know Them When You Meet Them
To be quite honest, I’m not sure this is entirely true. Some people do know the instant they meet their future partner that this is the person they’ve been looking for all their life. But it doesn’t work like that for everyone.
The real Rule is that if you’re not sure if this is the right one, don’t take a gamble on it. If they are the right one, you will know it, even if it takes a bit of time. In other words, if it’s right you will be sure—either straight away, or a bit later—but you will know.
If you’re absolutely sure this is the right person the moment you lock eyes on them, you’re very lucky. (Unless it happens to you every time, in which case you need to stop kidding yourself.) The important thing is not to commit yourself until you’re certain. How many divorced people have you heard say, “Do you know, even on my wedding day I was wondering if I was doing the right thing.”
Well if you’re still wondering about it on your wedding day, you are not doing the right thing. You are making a big mistake. Marriage and/or kids are tough enough when you are sure you are with the right person. It’s lunacy to enter into it without being certain.
Choose Someone Who Makes You Laugh
If you choose your partner for their looks, their status, even the rest of their personality, you could eventually regret it. Anyway, lots of those things can get lost along the way. Even personality traits can change—a confident person can be shattered by an emotional trauma, a patient person can become irritable and frustrated through illness or pain.
A sense of humor will last you long after everything else has gone. When you’re both sitting there in your rocking chairs, decades after retirement and the kids have long since grown up, it may be all you have left. If it is, it will be enough.
Laughter is worth its weight in gold. A sense of humor is a very personal thing, and some people just make us laugh more than others. When you find the person who really makes you laugh more than anyone else, marry them. You’re almost guaranteed to admire them more, because anyone who makes you laugh will be hugely attractive—even if they’re not physically what you’d been anticipating.
You Can’t Change People
The fact is that you can’t ask people to change, and even if they wanted to, they couldn’t do it. Sure, they can modify their behavior, but they can’t change their personality. You might persuade your messy partner to hang up the bathroom towel instead of leaving it on the floor, but they’ll hang it up all crooked and it will still drive you mad.
You can’t turn them into a tidy person—only a messy one who hangs up the towel. In the meantime the kitchen will be a mess and the floor of the car will be disgusting (in your view, but not theirs). It’s not just a question of being messy or tidy. You can’t stop someone from being irresponsible, football-obsessed, a workaholic, shy, or easily stressed.
So, if you can’t live with these characteristics, don’t get involved with someone who has them. Whatever you do, don’t embark on a relationship with someone thinking, “I can’t cope with this bit of their personality, but that’s okay—I’ll change it.” You won’t. You’ll just make both of you miserable.
Don’t Paint New Partners with Old Brushes
We are programmed to assume that the future will work pretty much the same as the past, unless there’s a good reason to think otherwise. If your hair has always looked nicer brushed in the past, it’s wise to brush it again today if you want to look good. If you liked bananas the last time you ate one, you’ll probably like the next one. If you’ve always been good with numbers, a job that calls for good math skills shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. If your last partner cheated on you, your next partner will.
Whoa! Hold it! Rewind, rewind…scrap that last example. Yes, lots of things in life follow the same basic principle every time, but that doesn’t apply to partners. All those other examples were things about you, and you are still the same person. Each partner is new. It may well be the case that if your last partner cheated on you, they’ll probably cheat on their next partner, too. (But that’s not your problem any more.) However, this new partner comes with a clean sheet, and there’s nothing to say they resemble your last partner at all. In fact, if you really thought they did, what are you doing with them?
You Can’t Make Someone Love You
Sooner or later they will tell you that things just aren’t working out, but you don’t want to hear it. You try to persuade them to give you another chance. Maybe you try to change and become the person they really want. It’s all a bit humiliating really, but you don’t see it like that. You think it’s worth it to win their love.
Love just isn’t like that. You can jump through all the hoops you like, beat yourself up for not being able to match up to their standard (as you see it), damage your confidence and your self-esteem in the process, and still they won’t love you. They can’t. Maybe they’re gentle and apologetic about it, and maybe they’re unkind or even brutal.
The same scenario is played out in relationships the world over—where only one of the two is actually in love. Think through some of the couples you know and I bet you can think of examples where this is true.
Even supposing they could love you, if it requires you to keep jumping through all those hoops to hang on to them. It’s just not worth it. You need and deserve someone who loves you for who you are, not for who you’re pretending to be or trying to be. So as soon as you realize you’re with someone who doesn’t love you, you need to be brave and end the relationship before they do. You’ll feel bad about losing them, but great for holding on to your pride, and one day you’ll look back and realize how courageous you were and what a right decision it was.
Be Cruel to Be Kind
Now we’re turning the tables. Suppose you just can’t love the person you’re with? Sure, you like them, you enjoy their company, they make you laugh, or they listen when you’re upset, or they share your interests. You wouldn’t be with them if there weren’t a lot to like. But, you know you’ll never love them the way they love you.
You feel bad, of course—you’re a caring person. You wish you could love them, and you don’t want to hurt them. Maybe you’d be happy to keep hanging out with them anyway. I mean, if there’s no one else on the scene to go out with, and you want to go to the same places, and maybe the sex is good, and anyway you’d miss their family and their friends…yes, it would be easier to stay with them for now.
That’s not the answer. Not if you’re a Rules Player. The longer you stay with this person, the more hoops they’ll have to jump through (trying to make you love them), the more they’ll be hurt when you finally go (and you will go in the end), and the more time they’ll waste with the wrong person (you).
Nope. You’ve got to be cruel to be kind and end the thing now. I know it’s tough. If you care about this person, you’ll feel dreadful hurting them, but remind yourself it would hurt more if you left after a longer time. They deserve to be free to find someone who can love them in the way you can’t.