Because it is the current thing to do, much of my reading is done online. Because I can be a bit of a masochist, I tend to read a lot of relationship articles, and receive items in my news feed from two relationship themed Facebook pages, Thoughts of a Real Man (A young man from Georgia sharing his ideas on life, spirituality and relationships) and Dating and Waiting (support for those who are voluntarily abstinent for spiritual reasons). Much of the talk about male/female relationships in the articles and news feed items I read surround the idea of finding, and/or keeping a good man or good woman.
The most interesting reading is sometimes the Comments section. Guarded by the relative anonymity of the internet, people let fly with whatever it is they are truly thinking and feeling, that goodness only knows they would never say in real life. Perusing the comments, I see that there are a lot of people that believe that a good man or good woman does not exist. They take the position that if they can't find the right partner, and repeatedly have crappy relationships, it just HAS to be the other person's fault that these relationships did not work out. There is something wrong with the entire opposite group, because they have done everything right. This is hyperbole of course, and comments sections are often full of it. My take on it, however, is that good men and women tend to miss each other, often by a wide margin, quite like the cliched ships passing each other in the night. After reading hundreds of these articles over the years, along with the associated comments, I began to form a theory of what was driving some of our worst relationship behaviors.
The behavior is due to what I am going to call the Shiny Penny theory. Everybody wants the shiny, new penny; not because it holds any real value, but because it is pretty. All men and women want the prettiest or handsomest, most noticeable partner. Sometimes I think it's because we are fundamentally insecure, and feel the need to prove that we are able to attract and retain a better looking mate than the next person. To achieve that goal, we ignore is glaring red flags that tell us that this is not the person we should be with. Then rather than take responsibility for our own poor choice of romantic partner, we turn our focus outward, and state that "All men/women are (fill in the blank with your favorite stereotype)!" We can't admit to ourselves that perhaps we made judgment errors based on incorrect or incomplete information, or blatantly overlooked faults.
This is where we go wrong. Instead of turning our focus upward (for some, seeking spiritual guidance) and/or inward (introspection; what part did I play in my own situation) in order to heal ourselves and discover what we need (not want. I will go into more detail about this later) going forward, we just hop from relationship to relationship, dragging our poor decisions with us, then wonder why nothing ever works out. Add the societal pressure to get coupled up, WITH ANYBODY, or risk being alone (this is the ultimate shame by society's estimation) to the aforementioned insecurity, a little sprinkle of media driven unrealistic expectations, and you have the reason for the staggeringly high failure rate of modern relationships.
Yes, I am speaking from experience. Years of being reminded, often in the unkindest way possible, that I did not, ahem, fit the popular standard of beauty, resulted in a fractured sense of self worth. I am a female, after all. If I am not "pretty", then what am I? (Keep in mind that this was during the 80's.) What I needed, I told myself, was a way to prove that I was just as acceptable as other girls. Male attention, specifically in the form of a boyfriend was what was called for. Not just any boyfriend would do, of course, thus beginning my crippling addiction to what we used to call "pretty boys". Now called metro-sexuals, these were guys with very fine features that took excellent care of themselves, were always well groomed and well dressed, and had personalities specific to guys that receive a great deal of female attention. Not all of them were charming, but self-absorbed, just the ones I gravitated to, which set the tone for every bad relationship I was to have later. Well, that and a steady diet of Cinderella, romance novels and romantic comedies. Yes, I know these things are ridiculous. I'm an introvert, okay? That was my reading kick for about six years.
But I digress...
15 years and many relationships (and two children!) later I finally figured out that fear of being alone plus huge amounts of insecurity equals desperation. Desperation draws the worst possible people into your life. You may get what you want; a partner with looks, money, status or whatever you deem important. However, it is almost a guarantee, that you won't have what you need; kindness, empathy, and the kind of love that doesn't fade in the face of trials and disagreements. Now if you are one of those people out there that went into a relationship situation both fearful of being alone and horribly personally insecure, and got everything you wanted and needed, and are still happily together to this day, then I say Congratulations, I'm happy for you, this blog post is not meant for you, and you can move on. Nothing to see here.
This blog post is for the seekers. Those that have done the internal work they needed to do, and would like to get out there again, but are reluctant due to the mistakes they've made in the past. Those that now realize that Needs; those intangible, internal qualities that make a person suitable for relationships, are more important than WANTS; external qualities that can come and go. Now you know that who they are on the inside and how they treat themselves, you and others is the meat and potatoes; what they look like and what they have is gravy and dessert, respectively. You have made peace with your own faults, and rather than expect perfection from others, you know what faults you can handle in others, and which will make you walk away. You are no longer focused on searching for a good man or a good woman; you are focused on developing the kind of internal qualities that you need in a relationship so that you can attract those qualities in someone else.
If this sounds like you, then you are ready to move on. Best wishes. Remember that like ships on the water, you are free to set your own pace. You can either use your motor (online dating), or sail with the wind (casual meetings through friends or just wherever). No rush (despite what society says) and enjoy the journey. It'll definitely be worth both the work, and the wait.