By Chris Ballou
When you boil it down, we all crave acceptance. It’s the main thing we’re all looking for in our lives, in three major ways:
1) Acceptance of self
by proving that we can date/have sex with/actually get a conversation with that hot guy/girl. All of us feel good inside when someone we’re attracted to wants to talk to us, perhaps giving us the idea that they might in time want to do things to us that would make us grab the sheets in that ‘tasteful movie sex’ soul satisfying kind of way that can only come when connecting to someone that makes your insides tingle in the way that sister Mary told you was a carnal sin.
2) Acceptance by others
because they see us associated with that same person and assume certain values about us because we’re with that person. When we’re connected to someone we’re proud of (for whatever reason, be it physical, financial or social) we feel that increases the value others will in turn assign us and perhaps invite us to the cool parties or game night.
3) Acceptance of hope
We all know that relationships can be brutal. We all know that we have no fucking idea and that the second we think we know what we want someone comes along to prove us wrong. But we want to believe. That’s why we keep going back, why we are willing to forgive, to grow, to learn. Because we want to hope. Without hope, we’re lost to wallow in self-pity and eventually, bitterness.
There’s a problem with our acceptance today. We used to be willing to settle. But now, in this world of short attention spans and constant exposure to everyone’s highlight reel and marketing sycophancy, we’ve been taught we deserve better. That we can be more without trying.
We’ve relegated ourselves to being willing to judge everyone around us on a moments notice, in a ‘hot or not’ blink of an eye we can tell you all about the person that is equally judging you and your potential flaws off of something as simple as an errant popped collar or a bad camera angle.
And where we might have previously been happy to accept the person who was attractive but didn’t necessarily share our love for anything Joss Whedon, we now find ourselves hungry for the perfect match.
We extrapolate values, stereotypes and judgements upon others until we find the rare few that fit our ever shrinking window of acceptance. And then we make our move, carefully pondering and calculating the timing and pacing of every interaction, hoping to achieve a face to face meeting that won’t end up with us looking for the door the second we realize they’ve committed the worst of all sins, posting pictures from 5 plus years ago (connected to the lack of acceptance of self I was talking to earlier).
If you’ve ever watched a bucket of crabs, you’d see that crabs are essentially assholes. The second one starts crawling out, the others grab it in an attempt to get leverage, tragically pulling it back down to the bottom of the bucket. We do the same to ourselves unfortunately.
With our addiction to online dating fully established, women facing the ongoing barrage of ‘sup’ and men constantly searching for something hotter than their current date, the belief that we can find ‘something better’ prevents us from actually committing (apologies for using the ‘C’ word there). In our belief of an upgrade being around the corner, all it takes is one day of our latest knight/princess to not text us, to cancel a date or post something online of them doing something without us and in a kneejerk reaction we’re setting up our next date with the next prospective candidate.
Of course, I’m asking you to take your time, to slow it down, to actually take the time to get to know someone. I’m also going to tell you that I’m in need of the same advice.
The only piece that’s keeping me sane in this whole journey is patience. Patience that I’ll send a smart, witty, personalized message to someone and they’ll actually respond and interact as if they were a person and so was I.
The real challenge to you is finding that person through all the quagmire and then being willing to jump in the deep end with them. Not to swim off to sea out of sight of the shore in a real relationship kind of way, but to just be willing to give them your full attention and not be looking over your shoulder for other dates/sources of acceptance that are just a right swipe away. Accept you for who you are right now. Let your partner complement you, not complete you.
I’ll be over here in the kiddie pool if you need me – I’m still relearning my stroke, getting over my previous ten year relationship that was recently ended without notice. But if you’re feeling like your swimming technique is solid and you’re ready to swim, then I’d ask you to try not to judge. Pick what’s important to you and see what it feels like to let the rest be up for rediscovery. Don’t wait for that 10 when a 9.4 is wanting to take you out for a nice dnner/monster truck rally. Have you ever been to a monster truck rally? No, which is exactly why you should try it before you judge it. You just might like it – or at least, show the other person that you’re willing to do things they enjoy even though you don’t. Which is maybe the best gift you can give anyone – especially if they’re a good human being and reciprocate.
Keep an open mind, focus on learning what’s truly important to you and be open to new people and ways of life, and you could end up being in a place where you feel accepted in all the right ways. If it doesn’t work out? Well, you might just find you improve and learn about yourself along the way.