Disclaimer- I am not an expert on relationship, but rather a novice seeking to understand the complexity of long term relationships.
Having gotten divorced after a nearly 30-year relationship and now newly entering the dating experience as a mid-sixty-year-old, the process and I hope, me as well, has changed significantly. There are two fundamental differences to dating now compared to when I was in my twenties.
First, is an external observation, I often feel I’m being given a questionnaire or interview to complete, usually before we meet. Perhaps in my youth, these questions were handled by the father of my dates asking, “What are your intentions”, “What are you looking to do in the world?” Now it’s the women asking, “What is your financial situation?” “Do you want a long term committed relationship?” Nothing wrong with the questions, it’s just we haven’t even met yet. I suspect that as the end of life approaches, the replacement of the biological clock now becomes people feeling the urgency to not waste any of the precious, limited time. So, dating, which used to mean doing things together; movies, dinner, hiking...hanging out experiencing each other, while the chemistry is revealed or not, is being replaced by an urgency to find a suitable mate.
Secondly, an internal change is that I’m now aware of two strong dynamics when seeking relationship, one being the search for what author James Hollis calls, “The magical other” – that person who will love us unconditionally and be the perfect loving, supportive, partner while the other pole is, the desire to not betray myself in seeking the love I desire.
What is self-betrayal? Anytime decisions are made that go against my core values or I allow others to violate my boundaries, in order to receive some hopeful outcome; love, affection, sex, avoid conflict, be liked…self-betrayal occurs.
Self- betrayal is distinct from compromise. Compromise is the choice when yielding to another’s wishes or needs, that does not go against your core values or has an attachment of some hope that you will receive something in return. Compromise is part of all relationships, since we all have different wants, needs, and interests. It is when we allow boundary violations that self-betrayal occurs.
Boundaries are expressing and holding to core values, which include physical, emotional, and intellectual limits. According to author, therapist, Paul Dunion, “The single most debilitating element of most relationships is inadequate boundaries, learning the qualities of good boundaries and how to employ them will support our development and our capacity to create intimacy with others.” At a recent workshop that my dear friend, Paul Gemme and I lead, focused on identification of your 2 core values, I was struck by how difficult the process was and how many men did not know their core values. Values are our internal compass which guides us in our choices and behaviors. Without clarity of our values we make poor decisions that often violate some aspect of self.
Last fall I was dating a woman who had my attention! The more my heart opened, the more my awareness and discernment closed. There were red flags waving in my face that should have given me pause, yet in the hope of the “Magical other” I was blinded.
My challenge is hold both of these dynamics in front of me so I stay aware and conscious of these internal pulls so I don’t betray myself as I seek a loving partner. As Dunion goes on to say, “The more we live oblivious to what we love, the more we fall victim to self-betrayal.
I suspect this is true for most of us. Where have you betrayed yourself in the desperate hope of receiving the love you want? Are you able to set healthy boundaries where care for yourself and the other is maintained without violating your core values? How often do you give in to “make nice” and avoid conflict?
May your awareness be keen, your heart open, and your boundaries clear.