So, one of my very favoritest bloggers and closest friends, Erica Ligenza, recently posted a fantabulous article on her five rules for dating. (Find it here!) She asked me if I’d like to give my commentary, seeing as I might know something about the subject. I’d like to share a few pieces of wisdom I’ve gained from my experiences.
1. Good friends make great loves.
I think a lot of single people immediately put all new social connections into two groups: “friends” and “potential dates.” In high school, I know I was guilty of this so many times. The problem with this is that thinking about people this way eliminates the possibility of you being wrong about where you think someone might fit in your life. It seems awfully silly to meet someone and immediately decide that they could be your future husband – or not. It would be like judging how food tastes based on how it looks. Sure, you can look at the plate of school-cafeteria-style cooked spinach and assume it’s not going to be your one true love, but what about the mysterious quiche in your chem lecture? Can you really make a judgment without knowing whether he’s full of brussel sprouts or bacon and cheese? (I love my food metaphors, if you haven’t noticed. Really, I just love food.)
That cute guy you meet at the coffee shop could end up being your closest friend, not your future husband, while the sweet guy that always shares his history notes could end up being more than just a study buddy. Immediately sticking a label on either one makes it harder for you to see that.
This is the formula for friendship:
Friendship = meet person + get to know some things about them + get to know lots more things about them + build trust + decide that you really care about the person –> commit to keeping them in your life (ie, friendship!)
This is the formula for dating, in essence:
Dating = meet person + get to know some things about them + get to know lots more things about them + build trust + decide you really care about the person –> commit to keeping them in your life (ie, exclusivity!)
They’re THE SAME THING. Obviously the feelings involved are different, but the steps are the same. Dating relationships and friendships are both based on some sort of emotional connection, trust, and commitment.
And not seeing that could be a huge mistake.
2. Find someone who is passionate about you being passionate about your passions.
Huh? Let me explain.
A so-so significant other is someone who tolerates the things you’re passionate about. This person doesn’t particularly care about the things you love, but allows you to pursue them anyway.
“So you’re interested in becoming a doctor? Cool.”
A good significant other is happy that you have passions in life, and supports you in pursuing them.
“I admire you for wanting to become a doctor. Go for it!”
An amazing significant other, and the person worth holding on to, is the person who cares about you so much that they adopt your passions as their own. This doesn’t mean they necessarily actually love cooking, or swimming, or whatever you love, but that they care about you so much that they are passionate about seeing you pursue those things. They make it their passion to encourage you, support you, and push you when you’re hesitating to unabashedly take a chance and aim for greatness.
When I applied to Penn and found out I had been accepted, I had no idea what to do. I was so excited, but I was scared. What if it didn’t pay off? What if I wasn’t smart enough to get the grades? How could I be away from home?
I spoke with the boyfriend extensively, seeking advice and venting about my stresses. First of all, he was so excited for me. Almost more excited for me than I was for me! I remember he had excitedly posted about my acceptance on Facebook before I even had, he was that excited. When I worried about being smart enough, he pushed me to stop doubting myself. “You’re prepared,” he said. “There’s a reason why you got in.”
When I worried about paying for it, he told me he would be willing to work forty years of his life to pay for me getting to go to my dream school. He was so passionate about me pursuing my dream school that he was making it personal. While I obviously wouldn’t be asking for such a sacrifice, it speaks volumes about the difference between someone supporting you and being wholeheartedly vested in your dreams.
Everyone deserves that, no matter their passion.
3. Find someone who builds you up.
Life might be a race to the finish line sometimes, but your relationship never should be. It doesn’t matter if you’re both math majors or both play sports. Your relationship should never be a competition.
Each person brings unique things to a relationship. I bring my sass to relationships with most people, my romantic relationship not excluded. Others bring their wit, their poise, their kindness, or a host of other things. You’re not going to be the best at everything. Your significant other is probably going to be better at some things than you, and you than them. And that’s okay. Part of being in a relationship is being able to appreciate the other person and their talents, and being okay with the fact that their talents might be your weaknesses. My boyfriend always says that I’m the one who’s better at math, and I will be the first one to admit that I don’t know the slightest thing about politics (he’s the expert).
Acceptance is good, but it gets better.
Not only should the other person accept that you have really awesome and unique talents, they should be willing to share that with the rest of the world. They should be so proud of you and your talents that they have no problem telling everyone, “This is my girlfriend. She is the best tennis player I’ve ever seen,” even when they can’t pick up a tennis racket. They should be building you up with genuine compliments, not giving you half-compliments with the intention of building themselves up in the process.
Someone who doesn’t make you feel like a star isn’t someone worth pursuing. This is a two-way street, of course! You should be just as willing to sing the praises of your significant other to anyone and everyone, and excited to do so, because after all, you get to be with that awesomely talented person!
These are just some of the things I’ve learned over the last wonderful two and a half years, and there’s more to come. What are your thoughts? Do you have any good relationship tips? Please comment below!