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to my formal self, on relationships

I hope this entry isn't too nasty cheesy hallmarky. here goes... I was looking through old entries and found this:

Sometimes I think that finding that one person to spend your life with isn't so much about finding The Perfect Person, it's more about just finding a really darn good person and then deciding for yourself that it's worth fighting for, and you're going to make it work. An inner thing.


I wrote this when I was between relationships in 2003. I'd just broken up with my college boyfriend... we dated about two years, were very serious, but hard times revealed some very negative things about us. I was starting to get closer to the Angry Man, a coworker who was so bitter about love in general we never found any real passion between us, but despite that we were very compatible and I still think of him as a wonderful person. I didn't really know either of these facts when I wrote the statement... it was too soon to reflect back on the college relationship and too early to know how things would go with the angry man.

It was one of my "top commented on" entries... and a lot of you weighed in, it's awesome to think how long I've had the same lj friends. Back then, and even more in the months after that, I was obsessed with the question of how true love should feel to a logical girl like me.

I remember thinking several times that my 20s were such a pain in the ass. I mean, when you're in high school it feels like a big decision to, like, decide what college to go to... but it really doesn't matter. You can switch easily, they're all a lot alike, you get a new start when you're done regardless. And I knew all these people in their 30s who were already down their path of life, married with kids and a house and a career, they weren't making any big decisions. But in your 20s, you have so many opportunities to start over, or not. The big questions in life, like "will I get married", "should I get the hell out of this state", "is this the industry for me"... are looming right over you, totally unanswered. For the first time in your life the blanks can be filled in but there's that pressure because you could fill something in wrong and you know it.

So I wondered, what would I say now about the original quote? What would my 30-year-old self put down as advice to my 23-year-old self?

First, don't think that love is all an internal decision. How boring. Some aspects of a relationship require that, sure, but that's not the whole thing. There is some magic (thank goodness).

Second, "perfect" is the wrong word. Even "perfect for you" is wrong. Both of them imply that you could come up with a checklist... which I think is what I was trying to do with my relationships in my 20s. Every one that ended added some more red flags to the checklist, I figured eventually I'd be able to evaluate relationships in a snap and someone would just fit.

No. Real love "comes at you sideways" (to quote Serenity, totally out of context sorry). It has some predictable ingredients like "being at the right time of your life" and "good person", but the life experiences that brought Marc and I together when it did could not have been predicted. Had I met him another year, I bet we wouldn't have happened.

I found someone to love the formula of who I am. I mean what's "perfect"? Does being really tall make me more or less perfect? How about being smart? Or jaded? Or opinionated?

I guess finding the right person is like trying to weave... there are vertical components and horizontal ones, there are little knots along the strings. Does green yarn make a rug more or less perfect? Neither. it just goes in, and you have to stand back and look at the picture as a whole.

At 25, right before I met marc, I stumbled onto my biggest revelation about relationships which is that you're not looking for someone who loves you in spite of your "flaws", but someone who sees everything about you as an advantage, because it all makes up who you are.

I still don't have all the answers, but my general advice to the 23-year-old would be something like this: your job right now has nothing to do with another person, your job is to become someone you think is strong, and smart, and dedicated. People and relationships help with that. But anyway... this other person might fit a formula, but it's not one you develop yourself. Finding someone to be with is not a research project. So... think about who you are. Write. Go on adventures. Have fun. Be someone awesome and interesting.

And then finally, if I was writing my old self a letter, I'd say "And by the way whatever you do it all works out. I approve of you, 100%. You've given me nothing to regret. I love what you've done with the place, spacefem."

I know that's really what she was hoping for.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 11th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
I really love the way you said this:

"You're not looking for someone who loves you in spite of your 'flaws', but someone who sees everything about you as an advantage, because it all makes up who you are."

Very eloquently said, and absolutely true.
Jan. 11th, 2011 01:49 am (UTC)
I still think there is a lot of truth to your initial statement. But yes, chemistry happens. (Hooray! : )

I remember in high school, being told that you ought to have a list of characteristics that you were looking for in a mate so that you didn't settle for to little. Only problem? When I was dating Mr. Totally Wrong, I simply tried to convince himself that he was those things rather than objectively determining that he wasn't. And when I met Rob it all went to hell because he is so much more than I had dared hope for. Yes, he's smart, honest, and all those fundamentals. Our values match, our goals match. But he also likes to cook with me, is willing to clean, is amazingly patient, and will do just about anything for me and the cats. And if he can sometimes sound like an insufferable know-it-all and he leaves wrappers all over the kitchen? Well, I can have a serious problem with "always wants to be right even when I'm not" and I leave shoes where I drop them. And in the end, the good so far outweighs the "flaws" that they just don't even matter. I don't think of it as a pro/con list, it's just the whole package and I like it. /rambling
Jan. 11th, 2011 02:50 am (UTC)
When I was 22 I had a drunken "heart to heart" conversation with my best friend about marriage, and who was the right guy. I said I wanted someone tall, dark, and handsome (more or less) and that I wasn't planning to get married until I was "at least 27". And then, a few weeks later I met the man who became my husband. Not tall, not dark, but I thought he was handsome anyway. So instead of waiting until I was 27, I took the plunge at 22.

Now it is 30 years later, and we are still together. Not perfect by a long shot, but "right" if that makes any sense. We are the goofy Hallmark couple who actually love each other more by the year.

I think your sentiments are right on. I wish everyone could reflect like that.
Jan. 11th, 2011 07:18 am (UTC)
you're not looking for someone who loves you in spite of your "flaws", but someone who sees everything about you as an advantage, because it all makes up who you are.

i'm JUST at the stage of realising this at age 31 (slow learner... heh). i couldn't put it into words but what you've written is exactly it!! this whole entry is very cool. you clearly learned a lot about yourself in your twenties.
Jan. 11th, 2011 08:33 am (UTC)
I think you were right both times. Lov. comes at you sideways and surprisingly (the biggest surprise for me was that I never thought I'd end up with someone who wasn't a compulsive reader, because I live in books). But even after that happens it still requires work from both of you, even though it may mostly be easier and pleasanter work than you ever dreamed.
Jan. 11th, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
You're right about flaws. I've never thought of it that way, but I am happiest around people who can enjoy things in me that others my call negatives. Well put for sure.
Jan. 11th, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
actually hun, your flaws are horrible and I think it's time I head to the store for some cigarettes... LOL Love you!
Jan. 12th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
you're not looking for someone who loves you in spite of your "flaws", but someone who sees everything about you as an advantage, because it all makes up who you are.

may i please quote this in my journal? it really got me thinking.
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
any time :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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