Maybe you’re married. And you tell yourself you’re happy. In fact – some of the time, you are. The rest of the time? You do the best you can with the many demands on you and your spouse. And you’re probably too busy to dwell on the guts of the relationship anyway.
Maybe you’re single and looking, or divorced and looking, or widowed and looking. Maybe you’re not looking at all.
You’re not Julia Roberts, expecting your Prince Charming. You’re not living in a fairy tale. But if you don’t take the time to examine what you want, how will you ever recognize it, or how it has changed?
So what do you really want in a relationship?
No plan, no man?
When it comes to my personal life, I’ve been more of a “take it as it happens” sort of woman, at least until post-divorce, when I did my time on the dating-go-round. Some of us have done the online scene until we’re dizzy from the spin; we’ve described ourselves every which way – we may even have paid for a profile, professionally written on our behalf. After all, it’s marketing, right?
And in that marketing, are you looking at supply or demand? Are you focused on what you have, or what the customer might desire?
Hey – it’s realistic, don’t you think? It’s a buyer’s market – depending on your age, your geographic location, or other factors that put women – and in some cases, men – at a disadvantage.
As for romance, we want it. We crave it even – married or single. Some of us more than others. But we seem to have a helluva time drumming it up.
The Love List
Many women start out with a “Love List” – the specifications for the man they’re looking for. Oh, we don’t call it that exactly. But what teenage girl doesn’t have her set of requirements? Tall, dark, handsome, funny, “and he should drive a hot car and love to dance and serve me breakfast in bed.”
Maybe your list is edgier, geekier, or more sophisticated. Mine was “tall, dark, smart, and funny,” along with “speaks several languages.”
There’s nothing wrong with any of that, and guys – don’t you have your variations? Major rack, great ass, and your favorite sexual tricks – preferably daily?
But if we’re hanging on to the stuff of adolescence – most of which has little to do with the person and everything to do with a life-size cardboard cut-out, then don’t we have a problem in adulthood? And what if our grownup lists read more like activities on a cruise ship or at a resort? Isn’t that precisely what we see on dating profiles? For example,
I’m seeking a man / woman who loves outdoor concerts, great restaurants, taking off on weekend getaways, scuba, snorkeling, cycling, attending sporting events – and who is as comfortable in a tux / gown as jeans and a t-shirt.
Hello, Reality? Are we there yet?
Sex and money
Hugh Heffner’s engagement hit the news this past weekend. The 84-year old founder of Playboy is engaged to a 24-year old woman. Now now, you say – this is all about celebrity.
But it’s also about sex (for him) and money (for her). Age old formula, age old exchange, sanctified (or should I say legalized) by the marriage contract.
This may be an extreme case, but there’s no question that sex, money, and power that derives from both are part of many relationships. To a lesser degree, the notion of man as provider and woman as homemaker is modeled on a similar principle.
But in today’s economy (not to mention culture), that model of traditional roles is out the window for most of us, and nor do we want it. At least, we don’t want it as an inflexible container that closes doors to the affective or productive side of our lives.
Still – if money and power turn your head (and light your fire), own it. And recognize the pros and cons of the relationship you seek.
Give and take
Let’s say you have a pretty good idea of what it takes for you to thrive in a relationship. What about your partner? Don’t you need to factor in what the other person values, and how the two of you will function as a team?
If you’re married, do you even take the time to think about this any longer? That’s not a criticism; it is recognition of how crazy busy we get with jobs, kids, bills, commitments – and how easy it is to lose touch with the reasons we paired up in the first place.
- Have your needs changed?
- Have your spouse’s needs changed?
- When’s the last time you talked about it, much less gave it a second thought?
Isn’t this the time of year for assessing? Are there practical actions you can take to spice things up and advance your relationship cause? And if you’re not involved in a relationship, perhaps you’re admitting to yourself that you’d like to be?
Consider this: If you don’t take into account what the other person needs, are you all about the supply side of the equation, and ignoring demand? Even if you “get the guy,” will you keep him? If we frame relationships in a more balanced way – “what I want, and what my partner wants” – aren’t we in for a smoother ride, or a speedier exit if we’ve miscalculated?
Marketing ourselves in the Love Biz
A few months back, I wrote what I thought was an innocent musing on romantic gestures. I miss the days of a man sending flowers, or even showing up with a single stem when he comes calling. To me, small tokens of thoughtfulness go far.
I was surprised by the discussion that followed, including a comment – and offering – of the sort of customer-facing profile that might get a man’s attention. While I don’t believe this reader was recommending these exact words, he was pointing out the effectiveness of directing one’s “product features” to the intended target. Or put in more humanistic terms, thinking about the other person and what he might look for in a relationship.
He titled his sample profile “Top 10 Reasons I Would Be Your Best Girlfriend Ever!”
While I bristle at some of what he said, for the most part, I understood it, and also found myself saddened. The items on his list suggest a culture in which we are so selfish that we’ve forgotten the basics of mutual support, the importance of sexuality to intimacy, and shared values.
Let me repeat: shared values.
While I may dislike the execution in that proposed profile, I find the premise he offers to be practical. Shouldn’t we ask not only what we want in a relationship, but “What does a [woman] man of the sort that interests me want and need?”
If you’re 30, fit, healthy, attractive, employed – this may be irrelevant. You’re in the driver’s seat, regardless of gender. But if you’re 40 and a single mom? 50 and a single mom? A 50-year old man with a paunch, an average job, no game but a big heart?
What if you’re 55 or 60 or 65 and you’re alone, and you still want intimacy in your life, not to mention companionship?
If you’re a woman of a certain age, is this moot? Is a chance at relationship something we say goodbye to, in our contemporary culture that is obsessed with youth and looks – unless of course – you’ve got bank?
Perhaps I’m navigating with blinders on, believing there’s a shot in hell at a relationship over 50.
And yet I do.
But I suspect I’d better be on that plane to Paris as soon as my younger son leaves for college – Paris where the men I have known enjoy the combination of strong and sexy, Paris where the culture suits me, Paris where an indiscretion isn’t treated like the apocalypse, Paris where I seem to suit the men in what I have to offer even at the half-century mark, Paris where I can be giving with less fear of being taken, Paris where I can be a woman and age isn’t the issue on anyone’s lips.
In the meantime, I know what I want in a relationship. I may not publish a list of “Top 10 Reasons to Love Me,” but I know that, too. I’ve learned what works and what does not; I’ve also learned that any vision of “me” needs to reflect a vision of “we.”
- Do you know what you want in a relationship?
- Has it changed?
- Do you believe you can find it?
- Can you toss the unrealistic checklist?