When I was dating, I recall that after each of my failed relationships, I would vow to myself that I would do things differently the next time around. Each time there was a new man in my life, however, I would become too scared of losing the relationship to actually ask for what I wanted and needed from him.
I know that in my past I have held on to relationships that didn’t meet my needs because I didn’t want to go through the pain of being without the person I had fallen in love with. I thought I was protecting my personal happiness, but staying in these relationships actually made me more unhappy. I needed to be treated with the respect I deserved, even if that meant I wasn’t attached to a man. It was only when I worked up the courage to break it off with one guy that I became free to meet and date the amazing man who is now my husband.
Even though I’m now married, my best friend’s approach to dating still inspires me. She knows what she wants and needs from a partner and dates with those needs in mind. Though I’ve known many people who vow to date this way, my friend actually does it. She herself sets the terms for her relationships. To me, that’s the definition of an empowered woman.
Here are three things my best friend does that I wish I had done when I was dating:
1. She Expects Respect, But Gives It Too
Just like she expects men to respect her, she respects them. She doesn’t play games or pretend to be aloof if she really doesn’t feel that way. She’s not above asking a man out or initiating contact with him. She just makes sure that the interest is mutual. She may reach out to him a time or two, but then she waits to see if he will initiate contact with her to make sure he really wants to spend time with her. She is straightforward about her feelings but she expects reciprocity.
Take this one guy she met through a popular dating site: After a series of very promising emails, they went out a few times. But he barely interacted with her in person. He seemed nice, albeit painfully shy. Then his contact with her became very erratic. Maybe he’d text promptly, or maybe it was weeks between texts. She finally decided he wasn’t worth the effort if he wasn’t willing to commit any time to getting to know her or allow her to get to know him.
2. She Doesn’t Get Physical Too Soon
One thing that has made an impression on me is that she doesn’t give herself sexually to anyone. Here’s how she sees it: Anyone who truly loves her and is willing to sacrifice for her will marry her. If a man wants all of her physically but he isn’t invested in her future or her overall well-being, then he doesn’t deserve the most physically intimate action two people can share.
The fact is that sex creates bonds between people, especially when children are produced. She doesn’t think it’s a good idea to bond herself so intensely with a man who doesn’t measure up. She needs to be free to walk away and find the relationship that is right for her, rather than tying herself to someone who isn’t a good match.
3. Her Happiness Isn’t Dependent on Her Relationship Status
She is faithful to her standards; she doesn’t make excuses to stay in a relationship when it doesn’t meet those standards. I think it takes courage to break it off with someone even if she isn’t certain that she has a fulfilling relationship in the near future. She’s okay with being single.
My friend does desire to marry one day, but her happiness isn’t dependent on whether she is in a relationship. She’s not waiting for Prince Charming to save her and she’s not ruining her future happiness by settling for less than what she deserves.
My best friend stands out because she is what I always wished I could be while dating, but my low self-esteem meant I rarely could follow through on my own dating goals. My friend knows her value and it shows. Though she has certainly had her share of dating woes and relationship mishaps when she was younger, she has learned from her mistakes and has grown in her self-awareness and confidence.
I don’t know if marriage is in my best friend’s future, but I’m pretty sure what is not. She won’t be in a tumultuous relationship with a man who isn’t really committed to her. I think her life will be one of genuine intimacy with the many people who truly love and care for her, whoever that includes. She sets herself up for fulfilling relationships because she doesn’t hang on to people if they don’t deliver.
Flickr/ Courtney Carmody