Evaluate Your Relationship, Not Your Partner

At risk of embarrassing myself (and a friend of mine), I’m going to share with you a conversation  I had in 2008 when I was debating whether or not I should get married. It contained some priceless advice that I want to share with you.

Now, just because I am a dating coach doesn’t mean I don’t have a million of my own issues. I read self-help books, I take seminars, I’ve gone to therapists. You name it, I’ve done it, all in the name of gaining self-knowledge and pursuing happiness. In other words, I try to practice what I preach. Don’t complain life’s not working for you; figure out how you can tackle it more effectively.

Now, just because I am a dating coach doesn’t mean I don’t have a million of my own issues.

Anyway, since I am a notorious worrier/navel-gazer/overanalyzer, I had some deep concerns about my future with my then-girlfriend. She and I had been dating for a year, and, since she was 38, I really had to come to some conclusions fast. I could think of no better confidant than my close friend, Scott Greenberg.

Scott is not only one of my first friends in Los Angeles from 1996 and a nationally recognized motivational speaker, but he’s also been married for ten years. (He met his wife at Johnny Depp’s Viper Room, the same way most nice Jewish boys end up finding love).

Anyway, while I was pouring out my heart to Scott over tofu scramble at Swingers, he sat back and watched me with a bemused look on his face. Needless to say, this pissed me off. I asked him what he was smirking at.

“You,” he said, “have absolutely no problems whatsoever. You’re creating them yourself.”

This took me aback. “Having serious questions and doubts about the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with isn’t considered a problem by you?”

He smirked again. “You don’t have any doubts about your girlfriend. You only have doubts about yourself.”

He was right. If there was one thing I knew, it was that my girlfriend was the single best person I’d ever met. My question was whether that was enough. Shouldn’t she be more ambitious, more well-read, and make more money? Shouldn’t she be a few years younger? Shouldn’t we agree on concepts of God and religion?

More smirking. “I’m going to give you one piece of advice that I used myself. You ready?”

“I’m ready.”

Don’t evaluate the woman. Evaluate the relationship. You can always find someone younger, cuter, smarter, richer… But that doesn’t mean you’ll have a great partnership with her. So even if you could say that your partner is a “7″ or “8″, if your RELATIONSHIP together is a “10″, that’s really what matters most.”

Don’t evaluate the woman. Evaluate the relationship.

I took this in for a second. Scott saw me processing. “So?” he said. “How’s your relationship?”

“10,” I replied, without a moment’s hesitation.

“You know what to do,” he smiled.

That advice, from a very wise and happily married man, changed my life. It is no disrespect to my wife to say that I wasn’t positive if we were meant to be. All relationships are a choice. The easier choices come when you’re intoxicated by passion and you’re not thinking clearly. Sometimes those relationships work out; more often, they don’t. I thought I was thinking very clearly while I was courting my wife. Turns out I was wrong.

There was never anything wrong with her; there was only me, looking for reasons to run away from the best relationship I had ever known.

Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t think I knew it all – and more glad that I have friends who know more than I do…

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Mikethemasterdater

    Excellent advice, it is funny how the people that know us can often see what we are blind to.
    My question is how the heck did you find a 10? Jeez! the best I have ever done is a 9, maybe I need to hit the Viper Room.

  2. 2
    Jennifer

    I like this advice (evaluate the relationship, not the person) a lot. And it has nothing to do with passion vs. safety thank God ;-)

  3. 3
    Kelli

    Thanks for sharing this… it’s been rolling around in my head for a while now too. After I got out of a “bad” relationship with someone I inexplicably loved anyway, a friend of mine pressed me to think about the same kind of thing… did I love the relationship as much as the person? I even wrote a post about it *grin*

  4. 4
    Dope

    What’s the disagreement over God/religion and how have you subsequently worked it out? Just curious–religion can be a real deal-breaker for a lot of people.

  5. 5
    Honey

    Jake has said that one of the things that he likes best about dating me is how our relationship makes him feel. I think that’s what it’s all about!

  6. 6
    Sayanta

    #4-

    I was curious about that too- being a spiritual/religious person, it would be hard for me to get around that.

  7. 7
    Bryan

    I guess the real question though, is how you get the _other_ person to see it that way too, when they’re running.

  8. 8
    Selena

    Ditto what Jennifer said in # 2. :)

  9. 9
    A-L

    Hadn’t thought about the topic this way, but it certainly makes sense. And I’m curious too. How did you and wife overcome your religious differences?

  10. 10
    Karl R

    Bryan asked: (#7)
    “I guess the real question though, is how you get the _other_ person to see it that way too, when they’re running.”

    If the other person is running from the relationship, your relationship isn’t a 10. I’d call it somewhere south of 5.

  11. 11
    Sayanta

    Or 0. As in nonexistent.

  12. 12
    Heather

    My greatest frustration with dating is getting the passion part balanced with the relationship part. I’ve had some good relationships, but they all failed at some point because of attraction and chemistry, or lack thereof. It’s very fleeting for me, and rare. This is why I fear that I am never going to find that love of my life I want so badly. I’m not looking for a perfect person, but I need someone I can feel intensely about. Otherwise I feel like it’s pointless. I’ve yet to find someone I’m ‘in love with’ who I can forge a decent relationship with.

  13. 13
    Anisa

    Great advice!
    For me this is the reason I don’t have faith in internetdating anymore. The consciousness as Evan describes takes time to grow and people don’t take that time anymore. Everybody on internet seems to be in such a hurry. Many times I heard men saying: “If I don’t get a 120 % click feeling at the first date already(!) I am not interested anymore. So how can you ever “feel” the relationship. Because the chance to feel a 120 % click at first sight AND to have a 10 relationship subsequently is …….%?

  14. 14
    Warm Heart

    Amen!!!

  15. 15
    isabelle_archer

    Yay, I love this story!

  16. 16
    MeetMeinOtrSPce

    AWWW!!! Oh my gosh! It’s so nice to see a man so in love with his wife and sharing stories about it. That’s a wonderful story and great advice. I’ll always remember it! :-D

  17. 17
    vanae

    Very good point!
    We’ll never find the perfect person, but the close-to-perfect relationship is definitely what we should aim for. and appreciate once we have it.
    Vanae

  18. 18
    Diana

    Evan, thank you for sharing. Navel-gazer? Interesting term. :)

    Your friend was right, of course, that you were creating your own problems. Everyone does this from time-to-time. All of your thoughts about the “shouldn’t she” mentality sound more like self-imposed expectations to me than looking for reasons to run away, but I can see where that could be the undertow. The expectation and the pressure that made you feel you had to make a decision fairly quickly didn’t help either. ;)

    Why do we put ourselves through these tasks? The observation that it’s about the quality of the relationship vs. how close to perfect in their lover’s eyes is the individual is great. The dichotomy is that it’s the individuals that make that great relationship. It’s wonderful when we can realize that there’s something far greater and more valuable at work in our lives than “should they earn more or share my beliefs.” It’s quite simply, love.

  19. 19
    Jennifer

    @Evan- you mentioned needing to come to conclusions fast because your then girlfriend was 38. I wonder why that had a bearing- was it just a in case she wants kids issue, or was there something more to it as well? Just curious.

  20. 20
    Roger

    To Mikethemasterdater: > Jeez! the best I have ever done is a 9,<
    Me too, after we’d been deeply committed, then married for a couple of years, it grew into a 10+!
    I look at dating as a transition skill to meeting a person who can develop into a long, deep, loving relationship. My most recent relationship lasted over 25 years, taking us from our 20s to our 50s deeply in love, raising a couple of great kids, sharing all the blessings that a love that long can bring.
    “Look at the Relationship” It is what is uniqely special about any couple. Otherwise we’re all just “dates.” I believe that 8s and 9s are also worthy of our efforts. Invest some time, some caring some commitment and a relationship that is “merely” almost a 10 can grow to something that far surpasses its beginning. And far surpasses any date!

  21. 21
    Heather

    I’ve never understood the concept of ‘dating’. It seems like it’s just something people do to kill time until the right person/relationship comes along. If we are dating people who aren’t right for us or who don’t want a relationship with us then it seems sort of pointless. I guess that’s the real reason I don’t ‘date’ .

  22. 22
    Selena

    Heather,

    Curious…if you don’t ‘date’, how do you find the right person/relationship?

  23. 23
    Heather

    The short answer to that is – I don’t.

  24. 24
    JM

    As corny as it sounds, my colleague at work summed it up in a great way: She told me her husband said “I’m not perfect, and you’re not perfect, but we’re perfect together”. They’ve been married for 10+ years.
    Enough said!

  25. 25
    JB

    @Heather #21 – In the perfect world,everyone would be able to or lucky enough to meet someone or multiple someone’s who they have that deep connection,attraction,chemistry,love thing. As you get older it’s a lot harder. There for some of us date casually for companionship,sex, etc…. I always say “love” is great and it’s something I look for but in the meantime “life” goes on and unless I want to be celibate and alone, I date. Even sometimes women I’m not that “thrilled” with. In your late 40′s sometimes we men take what we can get. I’m sure you’re a lot younger,so I wouldn’t worry about it.

  26. 26
    Heather

    JB –

    What you are describing is what I have come to understand ‘dating’ to be. It sounds, in some ways, like ‘settling’ or resignation.

    This is why I consider dating to be pointless: the purpose of dating is basically to get access to sex and/or romantic love, so we tend not to want to date people we could not imagine having at least one of those things with. I, personally, would have a lot of trouble having sex with a man I’m not “thrilled” with (aka – feel NO chemistry with). Then there is the other side of the coin – I get hurt when I feel the chemistry but he doesn’t, or if he does for a while but then decides to move on. I don’t know which is worse. I can’t begin to describe how few men I feel chemistry with – it’s frustrating. That’s why I’ve been celibate for 2 1/2 years now.

    It also doesn’t help my opinion about dating that I don’t get asked out very often. I could have had one night stand with a cute guy I met in a bar last March, but I just couldn’t put myself through that, so I passed. That was the last time a guy I actually found attractive made a pass at me. I mean, what would be the point of unleashing my libido for one night just to have to turn around and put it on ice for another two years, or whatever excruciatingly long amount of time I’d have to wait. Not worth it.

    I’m 36 and I don’t look forward to more of this type of lifestyle in the future. As you say, life goes on. I notice, most painfully, how life goes on for all of my friends who continue to find dates, feel attracted to people, find new girlfriends/boyfriends or get married, while I am sitting here in limbo – dateless, sexless, and still heartbroken over the last guy who rejected me.

  27. 27
    Karl R

    Heather said: (#26)
    “the purpose of dating is basically to get access to sex and/or romantic love, so we tend not to want to date people we could not imagine having at least one of those things with.”

    Sometimes I go on a date because I want to go someplace or see a show, and it’s much more fun to do it with an attractive member of the opposite sex.

    On a first date my goals are to have fun and get to know the lady better. That’s it. I’m not working towards having sex. I’m not trying to create a romantic relationship.

    And I always need to get to know the lady better. I don’t wait until I get to know someone before dating them. In that case, it’s too easy to build up hopes and expectations.

    “I get hurt when I feel the chemistry but he doesn’t, or if he does for a while but then decides to move on.”

    We all get hurt. But it’s like a bruise that heals … not a crippling injury. I don’t go on dates with the expectation that I won’t get hurt. I go on dates with the expectation that I likely will (if things progress that far). But I also have the confidence that I can recover from it afterward and proceed to another relationship.

    “I don’t know which is worse.”

    The worst is being so scared of the pain that you’re unwilling to try.

    There is one trait that turned my dating life around. I developed the courage to fail. Once I stopped fearing failure, I was able to keep trying until I succeeded.

    “I could have had one night stand with a cute guy I met in a bar last March, but I just couldn’t put myself through that, so I passed.”

    What indicated that it would be a one-night stand? I thought my current relationship was going to be a week-long fling (at most), but we’re almost to the three-month mark now.

    “what would be the point of unleashing my libido for one night just to have to turn around and put it on ice for another two years, or whatever excruciatingly long amount of time I’d have to wait.”

    Have you tried masturbation? I realize that it doesn’t quite match up to an attractive partner, but there is a major convenience factor. I never have to put my libido on the shelf for more than a few days.

    “It also doesn’t help my opinion about dating that I don’t get asked out very often.”

    How often do you flirt? If you flirt with men, they’ll consider asking you out. And you don’t have to limit yourself to flirting with potential dates. Flirt with other people for practice.

    You can flirt with bartenders, married men, gay men, women, strangers that you’ll never see again. The practice helps you be a lot more comfortable and confident in flirting with the men you are interested in.

    “I am sitting here in limbo dateless, sexless, and still heartbroken over the last guy who rejected me.”

    The best cure for heartache is your next relationship.

    “I’m 36 and I don’t look forward to more of this type of lifestyle in the future.”

    That’s approximately the same age I was when I got back into the dating scene. It’s not too late to learn.

  28. 28
    Heather

    Thank you, Karl R, for your in-depth analysis of my post.

    It’s comforting to know that dating isn’t done with an agenda. I guess I don’t need to be so afraid of dating, if most men feel this way. It is a bit of a crippling injury to me when that ’1 in 100′ guy rejects me, especially one I had in my grasp. It means I have to meet another 100 to find another guy I’d want to date. I probably have to meet 1000 before one of those ’1 in 100′ guys actually asks me out or I will have the social connection to see him someplace again. That takes a lot of time, and as I get older and more fed up I find less and less of them. The reason I knew ‘potential one night stand guy’ was just that, was that he told me he was moving to another state in a few days. No sense wasting any time there! Masturbation is okay, but the majority of the sex I’ve had in my life has been this. It gets old and I feel as though I’m practicing for something that will never happen. What about pleasing your partner? Isn’t that part of sex too? How will I ever learn to do that if I’m not getting any real experience? It’s gotten to the point where anything that reminds me of sex depresses me!
    I know the only cure for my heartbreak is a new relationship, or even a new crush, I’ve intentionally set out to find one, but I’m just not meeting anyone. You have to understand, I go out almost every night of the week. I take classes, go to gallery openings and art walks, clubs, bars, restaurants, museums, concerts, parties, cultural events, I have friends … I’ve never been so busy doing social stuff in my life! There are men around but none of them seem interested. And no, I couldn’t flirt my way out of a paper bag. I try sometimes and fail mightily. It’s embarrassing and I have a talent for giving people the wrong impression. I completely and totally suck at it. I’m friendly towards people, I have a great sense of humor and can participate in a conversation with almost anyone, but those guys I find attractive just aren’t ever approaching, making return eye contact (when I get brave enough try to do that), or talking to me. I usually end up in the wrong circle at parties, getting hit on by men I’d rather not have had to meet.
    Anyhow, I’ll take your word, and I hope it isn’t too late for me to learn. I’m getting pretty sick of this!

  29. 29
    Sayanta

    Heather-

    OK- this is just plain freaky now! You’ve described my life having to do with guys exactly!!!!!

    I know this is personal, so it’s okay if you feel weird answering, but did you have a lot of interaction with guys in your childhood and teen years? Do you have brothers/male relatives around your age that you’re close to? And was your family conservative?

    The reason I ask is because I’m an only child who grew up in a very conservative family. I was not allowed to date in high school, preferred books to people, and basically hung out in the library. I was horribly harrassed by boys when I was a child (a lot of it was racial, we were in an all-white town in the late 80s), and begged my parents to send me to an all-girls school. I didn’t exactly make friends there, but at least I didn’t have scary testosterone to worry about.

    I’m a late bloomer, and believe it or not, didn’t actually start caring about guys until college. By then, there were things that other girls knew about guys that I just didn’t, and I couldn’t learn no matter how much I tried. Believe me, I tried. Honestly, I just thought guys- at least the ones I met in college- were cruel. They said insulting things. They were nice one day and acted like they didn’t know you the next. I was honestly able to make friends only with gay men.

    My friends told me- still tell me- that I just need to relax around guys. Well, thank you- easier said than done! Whenever I ‘relax’ some joker tries to put his hand on my ass or something.

    So…I don’t know, Heather. I think, for me, at least, those high school years were crucial- and people who mingled with the opposite sex then just picked up something I didn’t. So I told you all this about myself, because if your background is anything similar to mine, it might explain things.

    Interestingly, I’ve noticed that my friends who have brothers also get along with men far better than only children like me, or ones with only sisters. Yes, I know this is a generalization, but I’m just basing it on my own circle.

  30. 30
    Anisa

    hahah
    “My friends told me- still tell me- that I just need to relax around guys. Well, thank you- easier said than done! Whenever I relax some joker tries to put his hand on my ass or something.” I like this quote of Sayanta nr. 29 and I think it is very true.
    But maybe because I also grew up in a very conservative family?

    Karl R # 27: “You can flirt with bartenders, married men, gay men, etc….” No no no Karl R!!! not to married men: stay away from them, they are too easy to seduce. And their wives too fearful to single women… there is so much insecurity out there!

    To Heather: don’t worry, your time will come. I was celibate for 8 years. I was busy taking care of my children, very satisfactorily. Had 2 short term relationships after that, very disappointing, very painfull breakups. It took much time to recover, but I don’t give up hope.
    My advice to you: do try your best to be happy, there is so much more besides a relationship with a man that can make your life full of joy and happiness. Take dance-lessons, travel, work out, and when you are positive and ready love will find you, I am sure of that.

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