Susan Page in her book, “If I’m So Great Why Am I Still Single?” reviews a great strategy for “test driving” your dates and determining which “make and model” is right for you.
Learn to Say No
The secret to finding love is to clarify what you want and then to pass up on everyone who does not fit that bill. This means that you will need to learn to be comfortable saying “no.” As Page writes, “When you can’t say no you end up in a relationship, or series of relationships that are nice but not great, or great in some ways and mediocre in others.” These “better than nothing” relationships chip away at your self-esteem and make you question your judgment.
The best time to say no is the first moment you realize that this person is not going to meet your long-term needs. It can be very hard to do. It requires a faith in the future and a belief in your own instincts, but saying no can also be empowering. It is a way of proving to yourself that you won’t settle for less than you deserve.
Distinguishing Between Pseudo-Intimacy and the Real Thing
We all share a craving for human closeness. This deep, satisfying connection can only be achieved over time with openness and shared experience. Page points out, “In a world of impersonal urban environments and alienating workplaces -we have developed experiences that have the look and feel of genuine intimacy, but in fact, have little to do with it.” Real intimacy is focused on the “other,” the person with whom we want to share a special closeness. Pseudo-intimacy is primarily a tool for our own pleasure. The other person may be practically anyone. Understanding the difference between the two is the best defense against becoming involved with someone who cannot, or will not, become vulnerable and share the deepest parts of themselves.
Page defines commitmentphobia as “a pathological aversion to commitment combined with an insatiable desire for affirmation by the opposite sex.” Most commitmentphobics are great at being intimate, which makes them even more dangerous. Just as you are giving your heart to them and making mention of a deeper connection, they are finding a way to create space and head for the hills. Commitmentphobics can be avoided by looking for any hints early in the relationship. Has this person been in a series of short relationships? Does this person discuss future events with you? Once you make your diagnosis, act quickly. It will be tempting to try and change this person. Don’t do it. Commitmentphobics will defend their behavior and invite discussion, but you will only end up justifying your decisions. Don’t ever try to change a commitmentphobic.
Handling the Intimacy Gap
There is no such thing as one-sided intimacy. A relationship with an unbalanced desire for intimate closeness will surely leave one partner frustrated. Page councils that, “The best of all possible solutions to the problem is not to become enmeshed in them in the first place.” If you pick up signs of emotional distance early in a relationship, do not ignore them. Things like an unwillingness to discuss the relationship, a reticence to say things like, “I love you”, and a tendency to create diversion just when you are both feeling close and open are all tell-tale signs of an intimacy problem. Working through intimacy issues is possible if both people are committed to making the effort. However, if you are single, your priority should be finding someone who is already similar to you in intimacy capabilities. It is also worth mentioning that the goal is a balance between independence and intimacy. The healthiest couples find a way to intermingle the two, creating a place to fully express both sides of themselves.
Learning to Say Yes
For many people, finding the right person is the most challenging part of creating a relationship. But for others, actually saying yes to a relationship is the biggest challenge of all, because it means facing and overcoming fear – fear of rejection, fear of intimacy, fear of failure. These are the fears that keep us from pursuing the relationships that will change our lives for the better. Page also points out that, “For many people, saying yes to love is virtually the same as saying yes to life.” If you want to experience true love, you have to face down these fears. You have to say yes to the fun and fear of love. Real romantic success can only occur in the face of possible rejection and failure. Your willingness to risk will assure your eventual success.