Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Meaning of Life

Another Life Value you should share with a long-term partner is the Meaning of Life. There’s a larger difference between pet owners and non-pet owners than between cat and dog people. It’s a difference of kind versus degree. You don’t necessarily have to have identical ideas about the meaning of life and/or spirituality, but if one of you is a complete materialist and the other is spiritual (by whatever definition), you’re in a worse position than the couple where one is a Jew and the other is a Christian. You don’t have to agree about how the universe came into being or about who/what exactly God is, but you do both have to believe in some kind of God, or you both have to be atheists.

What is the meaning of life for you? If you’ve won this game of life, what would you have? Is it about power and money and having a nice car, a house overlooking the ocean and the ability to travel whenever you want? Or is it about attaining closeness to God? Giving back to the universe? Helping your fellow human being? Some people feel bad saying it’s about the material world. They feel they ought to say life is about altruism, religion or some other “lofty” ideal. But be honest. Look at your bank statement. What do you spend your time and money on? Do you give 10% to charity? Or do you spend your discretionary money on the newest technology? And how do you spend your free time? How you spend your time and money tells you what you truly value.

Up next: Apathy vs. Involvement

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Connectedness vs. Independence

Another "life value" that you'll want to share in order to have long-term relationship success is your preference for connectedness.

This area can be represented as a wheel with a series of spokes of different lengths. When you overlay your wheel onto hers they should be close to identical. Each spoke represents a different aspect of social connectedness.

One spoke represents how closed your social network is. Some people prefer a fairly closed system of interaction. They are very close to their family of origin and keep in contact with extended family as well. The friends they have outside of their relations are often people they’ve known for a very long time--from college, high school or even kids they met at the National Spelling Bee in fifth grade. The more open your system, the more diverse your friends are and the more people you come into contact with and develop relationships with. The more open your system, the longer the spoke.

The second spoke represents how much of a homebody you are. Would you rather stay in on the weekend or have a party or two to attend? When you go to a party, do you enjoy hanging around with the people you already know, or do you prefer talking to people you haven’t met before? Would you rather entertain in your own home, or go to someone else’s? The more of a social butterfly you are, the longer this spoke is.

The third spoke represents how much alone time you need. Do you prefer living alone to living with a roommate? Do you need a bit of peace and quiet and no social interaction when you first come home from work? The more alone time you need, the shorter your spoke.

The last spoke represents your level of independence versus interdependence. Do you prefer to complete work projects by yourself or with a group or committee? Would you rather fix the toilet by yourself or have a friend join you? If you’re trying to lose weight, do you do it quietly by yourself, or do you need someone to encourage and/or keep you accountable? The more independent you are, the shorter this spoke is.

The more similar you are along each of these spokes, the less you have to deal with the pursuer-distancer dance. If you both enjoy the same amount of alone time, together time and social time, then neither of you will feel suffocated by the other (the pursuer) and neither of you will feel alienated by the other (the distancer).

I'll be on hiatus for the next two weeks, but when I return, I'll discuss another Life Value, The Meaning of Life.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Security vs.Freedom, What to Look For?

If you tend toward the predictable in your own life, you’ll want to look for the following in a potential girlfriend:

*Financial security: has no credit-card debt, has a stable job in a readily employable career, owns a house/condo.

*Calm demeanor: meditates, is in a job where she uses listening skills (therapist, mediator, judge, teacher).

*Planning: keeps a personal calendar, makes lists.

If you tend towards the spontaneous, you’ll want to look for the following in a potential girlfriend:

*Bubbly personality: emotionally expressive, gesticulates when she talks.

*Spontaneity: introduces friends to new restaurants, foods, music and people; is involved with new projects whenever you see her.

*Flexibility: doesn’t stay at a job for more than a couple of years, changes cars and apartments as often, manages to have the time/money to take long vacations/compete in a sailing race/volunteer overseas for the summer.

Next: Connectedness vs. Independence

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Security vs. Freedom

For a long-term relationship to work, you'll want to share your basic life values. Among those basic life values is whether you prefer security or freedom.

People who prefer security to freedom gravitate to jobs that offer good benefits and employment stability. They have an emergency fund in the bank. They love planning for events, vacations and projects. More often than not, they know what they are doing on the weekend before the weekend comes. Your anal geek.

Those who prefer freedom move from job to job fairly often. They care less about the benefits and stability of the job than enjoying the work, the people and having flexibility--flexibility in scheduling and flexibility to develop the job in different directions than originally foreseen. They would rather arrive in a city with no hotel reservation and no plan. Your entrepreneurial geek.

Of course, a security-lover can find a spontaneous person very exciting to be with for a period of time. In fact, it would probably be very fun for a tight-ass to date a freedom-lover for a while. But if you really are at extreme ends on this scale, over the long run it won’t work. What happens when one of you wants to quit her job and move to Bangladesh? Or what if she wants to spend your emergency fund on a tropical vacation or a business idea that has a very uncertain outcome?

No one falls completely on either end of the spectrum. And you may be more free and spontaneous in your work life but fairly rigid in your personal life. Or the opposite could be true. Maybe you love buying last-minute plane tickets for a long weekend in San Francisco and throwing spontaneous dinner parties but you’ve been at your government job for ten years and love having a pension you’ll be able to count on. Generally, though, people favor one side of the spectrum.

Which side do you fall on? Not which do you want to fall on. Be honest.

Not that you can’t be with someone who is more spontaneous than you are (or more secure), but a large difference in this area will not work in a marriage.

Up on Friday: what to look for in a date if your a security-lover, and what to look for if you're a freedom-lover.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What Do You Really Want?

Why am I addressing this so far along in the blog? Why did I not address it right off? Because what you want does not matter. At least not when you’re first dating. But as you progress along in your dating prowess, at some point you will be looking for The One and then you will want to be more choosy. And when that time comes (give it at least a year of dating practice,) you do need to be clear about what values are important to you and what you want in a woman.

So stop reading now and make a list of the traits of your ideal woman.

Done? Okay, that was probably pretty easy to do. Now ask yourself: is your list realistic? Do *you* have the traits you’re looking for in a woman? If you don’t possess a lot of them, why would the woman you’ve described be interested in you? Your partner is not going to “complete” you or make up for the things you suck at.

Does your description of your ideal women take into account your basic values? A person who is a good match can be very different from you on the surface. She might not read or watch sci-fi or even know the difference between fantasy and sci-fi. She might, God forbid, have a degree in English and have satisfied her college science requirement by taking “Chemistry for Humanities Majors.” Geeks tend to eliminate possibles based on superficial preferences, like having arcane knowledge about twentieth-century nuclear physicists, grieving the passing of Gary Gygax or being a Farscape fan. But it’s actually desirable to be “opposites” in surface ways. What a good match should have in common with you are your basic life values, not necessarily your preference in leisure activities. Having some separate interests allows you to retain your individuality and get some time apart while you engage in your hobbies, and it also means you can stretch each other and teach each other new things if your areas of interest are different. But you do want your underlying values to be the same if you want to stay together in the long term.

Next time: I'll begin discussing basic life values, starting with "Security versus Freedom."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fighting Wrapup

The Least You Can Do:

Identify your fighting style. Are you a Yielder? an Avoider? a Debater? a Winner? or a Compromiser?

Reflect back on your last week or month and identify a problem you have with someone that needs to be resolved. And then practice conflict resolution with someone with whom it’s less threatening to do so than an intimate partner, such as a parent, co-worker or sibling.

Identify your hot buttons. And realize that’s *your* issue, not hers. If shoes left under the coffee table send you into a tizzy, that’s your problem--not hers for leaving them there.

Honor Student:

Get assertiveness training.

On Friday, I'll start blogging about figuring out what it is you really want in a woman--and figuring out what it is women really want.