Monday, April 30, 2012

Chapter 3: Lowering my Standards

I have come back to this blog several times and attempted to complete my chapter 2 but I found threads of bitterness interwoven with real feelings so I kept getting stuck. I decided to scrap that for now, but I will come back to that when I’m feeling more objective. I decided to move on to Chapter 3. This chapter has come in response to the suggestion by several in the past few weeks who suggested that I was the one that needed to lower my standards or suffer indefinitely with the plague of being single. This has spurned a lot of thoughtful introspection and consideration of what my standards are.

Here are my responses:

First, for those that have known me since I actually started dating, they know that I date ALL OVER THE PLACE. As my first blog post indicated, I have dated across the globe with regards to nationality, culture, and even language. Additionally, I have also dated men with varying educational and professional levels and found some great men along the way who have taught me a lot about what is most important. I have also dated all over the place with regards to physical proportions, I have dated thinner guys, taller guys, massive guys, extremely attractive guys, and even guys that I may not have been as attracted to at first. My mom gave up on guessing who I would bring over and tries her best to pronounce their names. Bless her soul.

For those that think I’m just completely retarded with regards to dating (and that is in no way an insult to those with special needs, it’s an indicator of being behind in this development), I have had a few close calls. I have been essentially engaged (we had the money for the ring and a date picked), I have discussed marriage with a few other men as well. But then you must be questioning why I’m still single. That question does deserve some answers and previous posts MIGHT have answered that.

Most of my nieces and nephews, some happier than others...
Let me tell you a story about the first man I ever loved. I won’t name his name because I do still care a great deal about him and his happiness so I will just call him Ray. He’s Polynesian so that feels a little dirty to call him Ray, but clearly I am not creative enough. Ray treated me with a great deal of respect. He was considerate, attentive, and kind. These were the reasons I fell in love with him. More than that, I watched him play with my nieces and nephews and I adored the way he treated them (for those that don’t know - I live for my nieces and nephews). He also came into my life after a very serious heartbreak and compared to that mess of a man, he was amazing. Additionally, we had the same spiritual goals and of course were of the same religion.

 I hear your thoughts, “WHY DID SHE NOT MARRY HIM???” Your incredulity is duly noted and understood. There are days where I have a gut check about calling things off with him myself. So, let’s get on to the meat of this. The red flags…Ray is a good man. But he struggled to keep a job and yes, Ray was here less than legally. This did not bother me as much as it bothered others in my life because I knew plenty of people from my mission that were legally challenged in this aspect, some of which longed for nothing more than to belong in this great country and had been rejected after exhausting so many resources to be here legally. Ray was one of these people. I was more than willing to marry him despite this. I knew it would be a challenge but I cared for him and believed his intentions. However, this presented a lot of uncertainty to me as he could not keep jobs. Furthermore, he had no interest in higher education and no professional aspirations. I do not mean to imply I was requiring him to have a certain degree or make X amount of money, I simply wanted to see a little drive and see some dreams that we could begin to build a life around.

More red flags came when discussing child rearing. We had a couple glitches with regards to discipline but I was willing to discuss this. When discussing plans for our future and financial goals, he was not worried about working to save for college because he was CONVINCED they would be amazing athletes and that they would qualify for scholarships as a result of this talent. I was not convinced. For starters, he was a great athlete and built like a freight train, I however, excelled in choir and English. To me, playing sports was recreational at best and I was essentially Gumby on crack any time I tried to play sports (I have improved, losing 150 pounds helped). This was the source of one of our first fights. I believe in allowing children to explore their talents and creativity, but even if I have to work with them, school and education will be a priority. I want my children to be good humans and contributing members of society, if it’s in sports, great, but I want their value and potential to hinge on so much more than that. There was no compromise on that one.

During the time we dated, because I was working full time and going to school full time, my long lost mono came back full force. I was exhausted. I ran out of juice. But after all day at work, all night at school, and all weekend studying and doing homework, I still had to cook, clean, and help with his laundry. I communicated that I needed help to make it through. I don’t expect guys I date to pick up on little hints, I’m honest and open. I waited a few more months, no change came. Additionally, he never did things to make me feel special. I wanted just a little romance, no overt gestures by any means, but a kind note, a planned date, a flower, a text once in a while during the day. I also indicated to him that I needed that from him. Those things came, but only after I finally called it off and it seemed too little, too late, and contrived.

Those red flags led me to the realization that because I was the one who was always making the plans, discussing the future, planning, budgeting, working and going to school that I needed to be comfortable absorbing the majority of the roles in our relationship. I had hopes that after a year or so of dating that he would step into some of those roles or at least help me out a little more…sadly, the needed progression in our relationship did not occur. With mono kicking my trash, I knew, in my heart that I could not do it all. No amount of love and desire for marriage would fix this. Our general directions were similar but our courses were set far off from each other.

I will simply tell you that this became one of the greatest spiritual conflicts at that time of my life. For those that don’t want to hear about spirituality, you may want to skip this paragraph. I prayed. I prayed a lot. My desire to be married in the temple was huge. My love for this man begged for imploring. I did not end this relationship due to these red flags alone. I cannot appropriately share this experience in this forum so I hope you will trust me when I say I weighed this decision against every aspect and outcome. I knew it was not right. I knew that the Lord knew both our hearts and where we needed to be in the future and confirmed my choice to end the relationship. Let me tell you about the heartbreak that came. I try to be a nice human being, but I was not prepared to crush this man that I loved. My heart still aches a little knowing how deeply I hurt Ray. Some looks and feelings never dull.

Fortunately for Ray, he healed, he fell in love, and he married. I still get random texts from him with pictures of his two kids. I am grateful that he found happiness and a life that he loves. This is what I wanted most for him.

I do not consider myself even a little bit picky. Believe it or not, I’m willing to compromise. I’m willing to hear another point of view and adjust my own if needed. I had a friend sum up my character simply as someone who is open and caring but expects people to take accountability for whatever choices or paths they take. I feel that’s a fair assessment.

Why did I share that experience? Well, that experience taught me a lot about what I personally need in a relationship, what I have to offer, what my give-aways are and what my non-negotiables are.

Second, what am I looking for??? I just want to be “equally yoked.” This is a lesson I learned a long time ago in Sunday School or something like that. It’s the concept that when a cart or wagon is being hauled by oxen, in order for the optimum speed and effort to be yielded, the driver places a heavy wooden yoke across the necks of two oxen. This is designed to provide direction and limit extreme movements of both, it's also in place to equally distribute the heavy load it must haul. If one ox is failing to pull its own weight for long periods of time, it magnifies the effort of the other ox, leaving the second one exhausted in the end. This is not to say that where one ox struggles, the other can’t augment, but it has to be a give and a take and they need to be well matched.

I have goals, desires, and dreams; I want to be married to someone that can match me in that. I don’t care if he wants to be a plumber, as long as he wants to be the best darn plumber he can be. I don’t need him to have all the extra education available, but I want to know I can have intellectual conversations with him sometimes and talk about deeper things than where to buy the best deep fried rice. Additionally, depsite imperfections I am a deeply spiritual person. I am looking for someone that wants God as a priority in their life.

The other half of the Twin Towers
I have worked very hard to become the best version of myself. I have focused my efforts and found great personal satisfaction in achieving things that I previously imagined to be impossible. Why is it having unrealistic expectations to want that out of the man I intend to spend this life and the next with? I have fought to get an education because that is my own expectation and something I want to be an example for my future children. I have put blood, sweat and tears into losing weight not because I think I need to be a certain size to be married, but my husband and children deserve a healthy and happy mother.

Why can’t I ask that of my future spouse? Is it wholly unfair to want someone who wants to reach their potential and will work hard to get there? I’m not asking for perfection at all because I am far from perfect. I am willing to be a supportive partner and make plans with my husband. I believe my role as a wife is to support and sustain a good, honest man. But as someone recently pointed out, you cannot change things that are fundamental. You cannot teach someone who has always made it by being lazy, you cannot demand honesty from a liar, and you will never find respect from someone who pushes you and your boundaries. If the intrinsic values and motivation are not in place, you cannot ask them to magically appear. Because I hold myself to such standards, it seems illogical not to ask the same from someone I would join my life with forever. I’m sorry if that’s too cut and dry for some, it just seems to make sense.

Third, the man I choose to marry will be the father of my children. The future of my children is actually one of the guiding compasses in my life. As previously mentioned, I’m not perfect, but my desire to be better and overcome challenges and weaknesses hinges on the children I hope to have one day. I cannot afford to be lazy when considering the man I want to love my children and provide for them. I feel a great sense of accountability for that. I have seen marriages that were virtual nightmares. I myself am a product of not only a divorce but a CRAZY life. I want a little better for my children.

FINALLY, for all you who worry that I might just never get married, I would respond: THERE ARE THINGS MUCH WORSE THAN BEING SINGLE.

I would love to be married. I am working to be the best wife and mother. I am out there dating. I am not bitter or desperate. I don’t think I need to rush into a marriage, or settle, or lower my standards. I hope to find someone who wants the same things. Nothing unrealistic, but all in all, hopeful for a shared life of hard work, love, achievement and some amazing memories along the way.