By Lindy Earl
One of the differences of dating after divorce, versus our first time around in our teens and twenties, is that things simply move faster. As a teenager, it was exciting just to hold hands. Hand-holding just isn’t that big of a deal anymore. Although, the first time a guy grabbed my hand on a meet ‘n greet, I dropped it! I thought, ‘I can’t hold hands with him!’ Then reality kicked in and said, ‘You’ve been divorced for three years. It’s really okay.’ And I grabbed his hand back. He never noticed. So, maybe holding hands is still a big deal.
But things do move faster – maybe because we are simply older; maybe because we don’t want to waste time and energy; maybe because some people know what they want. And that’s the question: What are you looking for in a relationship?
This is a tough question, and where you are in the relationship affects your answer. If a person asks this while still in the messaging phase of online courtship, they are looking for generalizations. If, however, you’ve been dating for six months, that is a whole other discussion!
For the year, almost two now, that I’ve been dating, I’ve been rather vague when asked this question. But, as time moves forward and we grow, and as I’ve been writing about relationships, I believe I’ve found what I desire in a relationship. Now, these are intended for a dating relationship, but I believe they could be applied, in a limited sense, to friendships and even family relationships. I’m just saying . . . try applying this to more than just your significant other, be it a spouse or boy/girlfriend.
So, in no particular order, as order may change by the person or couple, my seven are: time, commitment, communication, laughter, commonalities, listening, intimacy.
The amount of time a couple spends together is a huge factor in any relationship! Age and family situation affect time, as does work and distance. There is so much to consider! Once a relationship reaches the commitment phase, I need daily interaction. It could be texts or a phone call, but as a relationship matures it’s what I need. Yes, I understand that things happen, but if one person is a once-a-week communicator and the other needs daily communication, then trouble is coming. It doesn’t matter how much time is required as long as it’s the same for both. A friend sees his girlfriend once a week – with work, children, and distance, this is all they can manage. When they first started dating it was 2-3 times per week, but as they’ve settled into a comfortable, stable relationship, this works for them.
Commitment is a big issue for too many people. Come on, just state it. Are you out to date a lot of people and just have fun, or are you seeking a serious, committed relationship? Honesty is key here. My challenge was being honest with myself. While I said I wanted a real relationship, I found that I wasn’t ready to commit. After a broken relationship there are a lot of issues that surface, and some you didn’t even know you had – trust, confidence, self-image. As you get stronger in yourself, you will be more ready to commit.
I believe all of life comes down to numbers and/or communication. Let’s skip the numbers for now, but just to explain, I’m a math nerd, as well as an English nerd. Okay, I truly, strongly, completely believe that communication is the key that will create or destroy a relationship. Communication can be difficult, but if you start strong and make it a habit, it really does get easier. Remember, it’s not just about what you say but how you say it. I believe you can tell someone something horrible, but if delivered with charm and grace, they can end up thanking you for sharing. I’ve seen it happen more than once! Keep communication flowing from the very beginning. It goes without saying that all communication must be truthful and honest.
Now, laughter is a huge thing for me, but maybe you want to substitute something else here. It may be late night discussions or something. I love to laugh! I love, love, love making other people laugh. My best friends are quick to laugh, which is one of the reasons I enjoy being with them. I cut up and they enjoy it. They keep me laughing, too. Laughter, for me, is a necessary part of a relationship.
Commonalities – what do y’all enjoy doing together? If one is a morning person and the other is a night owl, it doesn’t make it impossible, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Are you both outdoor people? Museums? Sports? Ah, I love live sports! If a guy is not willing to attend sporting events, or spend every Sunday in the fall watching football, then he has to accept that I’m going with my friends. We all need to have things in common with our significant other or the relationship is that much harder.
Is listening the same as communication? I don’t think so. For me, listening is a daily run-down of events. I want to hear about your work! I really do. I want to talk about my day, maybe even hour by hour. If my sharing my discussion with my boss is too much, then our listening skills aren’t evenly matched. Also, if you don’t want to tell me about your day, then are we just going to stare at each other all evening? I was invited to eat with friends once, and despite my best efforts, I only got about three words from the husband. Really? I was asking open-ended questions about him and his work, and he barely grunted his responses. I couldn’t be with a guy like that! I want to listen to your stories and vice-versa.
Intimacy is an important part of a couple’s relationship. I’m not necessarily talking about sex here. Really good pillow talk, understanding what the other person is saying and why they feel the way they do, all add to intimacy. Great kissing is part of intimacy! It’s not just the sex part. It’s being together, feeling part of one another, and enjoying the great feeling of being in a relationship. Of course good sex helps as well.
So those are my seven. You may have more, you may drop some of these, or you may substitute your own ideas for some of mine. Whatever your list, I also believe you need to know thyself. You need to know where you stand with every attribute on your list, before you can ask others where they are. You need to be honest with yourself, and if you know how you truly feel, then stick to it. Don’t change for others, because then nobody will know who you are. And people, including you, want to know who they are, and what they want, in a relationship.
That’s Life After Divorce.
Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant. You can find her on Face Book and join her Single Support Group, Single Again…From Devastation to Dating. Please contact her with your Relationship questions at Ask@LindySpeaks.com.