Thursday, June 23, 2011

Get Your Shit Together Before Finding Someone Else

This one goes out to all of the unmarried people out there.  Married folks, I’ll have something at the end for you, like it or not.  I’ll even mark it with an asterisk so it’s easy to find (I know, I spoil you guys!).

Most of us know the traditional model of the “American Dream.”  Nice house, good, safe job, white picket fence, expensive car, loving spouse, doting kids.  This is certainly an admirable goal to shoot for, but part of my introspective journey has been to question a lot of the “fundamental truths” that we hold dear, including the traditional model of the American Dream.

One idea related to the notion of a loving family is that there is a certain timeframe where everyone “has” to find someone else, or else they’re dicked.  Some people think this window closes sooner than others for whatever reason, and might panic a bit on the dating front.  Consequently, they are more likely to actively seek out relationships and try to settle down.  Others just “know” that they’ve found “the one” early on, and feel no need to continue their search.

On one level, this is fine; if you find someone else that you connect with and will support you in your goals, no matter what, and you will support them in theirs, perfect.  I’m not making the argument that marriage is necessarily bad.  What I’m trying to say is that marriage isn’t necessarily the best thing for someone who is unhappy in some other aspect of their life, either.

Take it from my previous self, if you’re unhappy in a major aspect of your life (in my case, “career”), you’re likely to carry that unhappiness over to other aspects of your life, especially your relationships with others and your behavior.  I thought that vegging in front of the TV and drinking heavily were natural after a hard day of work.  I was wrong.  As fun as watching TV or getting blasted could be at times, it wasn’t getting me closer to any of my life goals; namely getting out of my job and starting a new career.

This goes doubly if the other person is unhappy, or feels somehow stifled in their own pursuits and goals.  Basically, it takes two to have a successful relationship, and to disregard this fact is to proceed at your own peril.

So what’s the natural solution to this problem?  Get your shit together before deciding to settle down with someone else.  This is never easy, especially since you’re shooting at a moving target.  Times change, and people change in terms of their goals, wants, and desires.  You might really connect with someone on a very primal level, but you might not have any idea where you’re headed.  The more you can figure out before trying to make a go of it with someone else, the better off you’ll be.

(*)“But D.J., I’m married already, and you said that times change and people change!  Fuck you!”  Hey, I didn’t say that once you change, you’re doomed to failure!  In fact, I think that one of the most important qualities you can possibly find in a life partner is to accept them for who they are, even if they decide to do something different, and support them when they’re trying to follow their own dreams.  But this is a two-way street, buddy.  You have to do the same for them.

Often times, the key (as with most things) is communication.  The sooner each of you honestly brings up what you want to do with your life to the other, the more potential problems you’ll avoid down the road.  A lot of times, you can reach a compromise.  But sometimes, the situation might break.  Hey, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows out there.  Still, especially if you already have kids, you owe it to each other and the family unit to think of creative solutions to make things work, and facilitate each others’ goals and dreams.

I know that a guy who’s been out of “the game” for about a year now probably isn’t the best person to be listening to about relationships.  But consider what I’ve been doing with that year.  I accomplished several of my major life goals, most notably starting on a career track that I care about.  I’m happy to wake up every day and “go to work,” even if the work is FIXING A FUCKING RSS FEED ON A FUCKING PODCAST SO THAT FUCKING ITUNES FINALLY ACCEPTS IT!  somewhat dull, at times.  I’m finally starting to get to the point where I feel good enough about my place in life that I can finally get back out there and start focusing on other aspects of my life.  Relationships?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  All I know is that I’ll be ready if the right girl presents herself because of all of the hard work I’ve put in on myself.  At the end of the day, isn’t that all you can ask for?

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

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