I had a therapy appointment yesterday, and my counselor asked me a great question. He asked me to rewind 5 years and tell him what attracted me to my husband in the first place. I thought about it a little, and the initial attraction was that he could handle my dry, sarcastic, insult-ladened sense of humor and give it right back to me. That’s still an attractive quality in a mate. Not everyone gets me, and even fewer people can handle me. I’m complicated and intimidating and different from a lot of people. At least that’s what I’ve been told.
Beyond that initial spark, though, he seemed family-focused and caring. That made me think he was worth getting to know. He came from a big family, I come from a big family, and he said the things I wanted to hear. I discovered several lies he told me back then (not even counting the crazy sexual stuff), including the fact that he hardly visited with his family even though they all live close by. He also told me that he was a construction foreman. I discovered not too long later that he was not even close to that – he had just started with the company and wasn’t even hired on full-time yet because he was employed through a temp agency. Yet somehow I made excuses for him or accepted his – it was hard to keep in touch now that his parents had passed because they were the glue, he was trying to make a good first impression, etc., etc.
I also overlooked a lot of things because I had empathy for his situation. He was about a year out of a tough relationship and had just gotten a new job after a period of depression that left him homeless and without a vehicle or most of his belongings. I, too, was recently out of a long-term relationship that ended badly. Although I still had my house and vehicles and a good job and was getting excellent grades in school on top of all that, I could understand how easy it could be to lose it. I could imagine saying fuck it, and spiraling down emotionally so much that the rest fell apart.
Empathy is a good trait of mine, but I now see that my other traits led me to want to rescue. I thought I could help. I liked him and related to his situation. And there were other positive qualities he had that I thought out-weighed something as shallow as monetary concerns. I still don’t necessarily care how much my partner earns, but they need to have passion and drive and ambition. I have to admit that the prospect of not having all the pressure on me is very appealing, though. Five years ago my need to be needed was fulfilled by his situation, and I got a rush from knowing how much he was attracted to me and admired me. It made me feel worthwhile. Back then what I was looking for in a relationship was validation.
My therapist then asked me what I was looking for in a relationship today. The very top of my list is honesty and stability, two things my husband doesn’t have at all right now. I think a big thing that changed is I now know I am worthwhile. My validation comes from inside. Without that intense need to be needed I can focus on what I need.
At the very tippy top of my needs is truthfulness. Honesty is vital to a relationship. It literally cannot function if honesty isn’t present – like gas is necessary for you car. I guess in theory you could push your car around in neutral with no gasoline, but it would be a lot of hard work that would get you nowhere fast. That’s what I feel like my marriage has been lately. He’s been sitting in the car with his feet up while I’ve been trying to push and steer at the same time. I’m so over that.
What I need in a relationship is openness, vulnerability, and the complete truth, even if it’s hard to take. Honesty is the only way to make an informed decision, and I’m only interested in someone with integrity. Stability is important to me now because I have lived with the ground constantly shifting under my feet for years. I want a man who knows himself, and is comfortable and confident with who he is. I don’t need someone with a lot of money, but I do need someone with direction and follow-through and goals. I need someone who brings as much to the table as I do, including emotional awareness and maturity.
I don’t want to make sacrifices on the important stuff anymore. I realize that no one is perfect, and I know enough now to run the other way if someone claims to be. However, I can’t be the only one working, digging, and trying to be the best me. I want someone who can push me, not someone who lags behind. I want someone who pursues me, not someone I have to beg for the minimum effort. I want someone who wants only me, who will be faithful, not someone who is actively looking for the next sexual high or who would stop putting forth effort in his relationship. I also want someone whose entire existence doesn’t depend on me. I want someone with interests and intelligence and something special to offer me. I deserve it because I’m worthwhile.