One year ago I signed a new lease. Yeah this was a literal lease for a new apartment but also the more obnoxious and harder to articulate, new lease on …my life.
How trite does that sound? Quite enough I think, lets move on.
I was looking for a new place in winter, with no time, few options and a decent list of requirements. Like anyone else looking for a new place to live, I had a list of needs I couldn’t compromise on; distance from my daughter’s school, rent, number of bedrooms (2), decent neighborhood, something that didn’t make her feel like she was seeing the utter wreckage of her mother’s life in the form of an unacceptable living space. Normal stuff.
It occurred to me while I was checking online, making calls and visiting the few acceptable options in the area, that I put more conviction and sense into finding an apartment than choosing a partner. Sad but very, very true.
Why didn’t I have the same list regarding my own requirements and needs? Options that had to be met before I was willing to do a walk-through or waste the gas? I wasn’t going to look at an apartment I couldn’t afford or fit into, that required too much travel or was in the ghetto. Why was I willing to accept the equivalent of unacceptable lodging, in a human being?
Why don’t we have the same kind of list for relationships? Each of us should have a list of nonnegotiable needs that stop us from getting in the car, driving over and “accidentally” forgetting our underwear…I mean, never mind about that, you know what I mean. You and I know better, we need to stop looking where the rent is too high, where there isn’t enough room for us and the locale doesn’t reflect where we are or where we want to go.
I decided to make a list because 1) I love lists and 2) I realized I had never articulated my concrete needs to anyone, myself included.
I was surprised at both how hard and how easy this task was. On one hand I knew what I needed. I am old enough to understand what I can and can not accept. On the other hand, paring it down to absolutes seems like cutting my nose, to spite my face. I mean..I/they might change, love is all we need, RIGHT?
This is the short version of my list. I recommend the exercise, if only to see yourself a little bit clearer.
Yes have a job, absolutely, but this is about more than that. This is about having a work ethic and needing to take part in the world. Give a shit about what you do, have a purpose; please be a contributing adult that is self-reliant and independent.
I want to believe in you, be honorable. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Whether this is taking out the trash, keeping a date or doing that really important yet difficult task you said you’d take care of, it’s all about trust and belief. Don’t make me have to ask if it got done, I want to believe your word no matter how small the task you have committed to. I’m not your mother and I have no desire to fill that role. If you cannot follow through, take ownership of your actions and deal with the consequences, this isn’t going to work. We’re all going to fail but it’s not the failures that define you, it’s how you deal with those failures.
Get a Hobby
Have something you love, that you have a passion for. This keeps you interesting, and growing. This also means you love something other than me and my attention. I have things to do, and you should too. The time we spend together should be important, not all-consuming. This eventually gets boring. Leave the house, go do something, bring it back and tell me about it. I want to learn from people who are passionate about things, so please be one of the people I learn from and I will try my best to do the same.
Have a Village
If you are 20, you should have non-family members that have been around for at least 5 years, by your 30’s a decade, so on and so forth. It’s a giant red flag when someone doesn’t have long-term friendships in their lives, it means they can’t maintain them. Friends are the people who hold your story inside of them, they are your living history. They remember you at your worst, best and most silly and they still want to stick around and learn the rest. I should not come before them, if I do I will have less respect for you. I don’t understand discarding people, I see it as dishonorable. Who abandons the people who support them for a new thing, just because the sex if fucking amazing? I mean I get it, but we’re getting sidetracked here. The friends you have are the people who were there before and they will be there after, they are your support team and you need them. They deserve your loyalty. I cannot fulfill every role nor should I be expected to. I don’t want to be your reason for living, or to be needed at all. I want to be appreciated and wanted, loved even, but not your everything. I want someone stronger than that.
Bring the Sexy Back
Sex is about intimacy, touch, caring, joy and exploration. I need all of these things. I have seen so many relationships die in this arena. We all need intimacy, but being clear about the form and function of my needs is often where I compromise and therefore make my biggest mistakes. I don’t believe in monogamy. I need someone who understands what the term “consensual non-monogamy” means. I need someone who is kink aware and can teach me a thing or two. Be open-minded, curious, self-assured and allergic to jealousy. Sex is (very) important but, the best quality version of it, is found along clear communication and trust.
This is my list and I think you should make your own. Your needs are, and should be different. Keep in mind that there are “extras” we would all like. In an apartment it may be hardwood floors, an extra bathroom or a larger backyard. In a person it may be physical traits, or a love of cooking. These things would be great, but aren’t necessary.
What are the things you need? The things you think you can compromise on, but can’t?
When are you going to stop yelling at the 1 bedroom for not being the 2 bedroom you knew you needed in the first place? I mean, really that’s rather silly isn’t it? Yet that’s what we do and maybe this exercise can be the first step towards being responsible for our own bad choices and starting from a better home base.
Location, location, location. Now take out your pens, find a mirror and get to work.