I don’t know about you, but considering that Valentine’s Day is next week, it has served as a reminder that discounted chocolates will be available soon (who doesn’t love indulgences on sale?!) and also, there will be a higher likelihood that couples are doing a reflective inventory about the current state of their relationship. No matter what your beliefs are around this holiday and if you choose to celebrate, I thought it would be fun to share what a typical marital moment looks like for me and how it partially inspired this blog’s topic.
Scene: Getting myself ready to go out on a date with my husband
Me: *Applying make-up and concentrating*
Husband: *Slowly comes up behind me and leans over my shoulder* and while putting on a documentary voice, he says: “Here we have an adult female partaking in her courting ritual. Observe how she carefully applies fake eyelashes over her own, much like a peacock attempting to catch her mate’s attention. A habit she learned in youth alongside other females, and now a continued ritual to maintain her current mate by asserting her aesthetic dominance”.
At this point, I’m definitely amused but mostly rolling my eyes in mild annoyance and telling him to leave me alone and let me get ready in peace or else I’m going to find myself another eligible bachelor (kidding, of course!). As he walked away, I began to think more and more about how much “new dating energy” couples are actually putting in. This moment has served as an inspiring curiosity that I pose to my clients from time to time. I have been asking my clients lately if they consider themselves date-able. Meaning, if I were to magically make them single as of this moment, would they have a “good” dating profile to make them marketable? If I were to take you out of your relationship ‘as is’ , as in, you kept your defense mechanisms, conflict management style, stress management, personality/outlook, would you consider yourself to be date-able?
I ask this of my couples because I wanted to challenge them to see from the perspective of a fly on the wall if they think others would want to date them. Most importantly, how would you act if there was an actual fly on the wall dating app that was showing how you handle conflict, what you look like in distress/ at your best, how you manage/express your emotions and how you treat your partner? Take away the creepy factor of being watched for a second, and think about answering this question honestly. If the answer is no, you wouldn’t be considered date-able, I would encourage you to look for ways to take accountability and reflect on what can change. The temptation is to blame the environment, our relationship, our partner, etc. Ultimately though, you are in complete control of what you allow to impact your sense of self, what efforts you put forth into the relationship and why you choose to pick this relationship day in and day out.
Think about it, in the dating scene you are giving each person a blank slate and allowing organic attractions and interactions to take place with a pretty high level of patience, grace, and open-mindedness. You are probably more likely to laugh at their jokes, take a genuine interest in what they are saying, admire physical attributes and noting some personable traits that left an impact on you. And then there is the time and energy you invest thinking about them when they are not with you.
Sure, Diana–we know this! What does this typical honeymoon period have to do with me and my long term relationship? Well, for those who are in a long term relationship, there’s typically a trade off. The longer you are together, the deeper you know your partner and there’s a sense of stability that’s built over time. One would hope that over time, you have grown and gained an appreciation for your partner and the relationship. While this is typically the case, there are certainly battle scars that can be endured during the growth process. Before you know it, you become set in your ways of interacting with one another and ultimately can take your partner or the relationship for granted. Let me normalize this by saying EVERYONE does this to some degree. Now just because everyone does it, doesn’t mean it’s not worth evolving from and finding new ways to show new relationship energy.
I’ve created a small list of questions to consider when determining how date-able you are.
- How do you handle conflict?
- What does your self-care or self love routine look like?
- What excites you or brings you meaning?
- How would those closest to you describe you in three words?
- What are your expectations for a partner?
- How do you demonstrate healthy boundaries?
- What aspects of your personality do you find challenging and how are you working on it?
The biggest take away from this exercise is to have an “own it” mentality. I hope you can take ownership of what you do with your time, actions and motivations. If you’re outputting new relationship energy and if you’re willing to also see your partner in a new light, then you are most likely working toward a healthy, and sustainable commitment. However, if you are not exerting new relationship energy, what makes you think that this is sustainable for either of you? Remember, just because we say we are committed, it doesn’t mean that the relationship is a guarantee. “Settling down” with somebody implies the connotation that there are priorities that are grounding us. It should be treated with intentionality and not as a fast track for complacency. What all priorities have in common is that they require attention, time, and nurturing. If your relationship is your priority, start dating your partner and start making yourself date-able. Don’t forget those discounted chocolates 😉
Diana Nesko, MS, LCMFT provides couple, family, and individual therapy in our downtown Bethesda office and virtually to those located in the State of Maryland. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary consultation with Diana!