So I was sitting on my sofa having my nails done on a Sunday night after a lovely day filled with Spa, light shopping, stopping for an ice cream treat, going for a nice run and generally enjoying the day and I stopped and thought to myself, "Hey. Wait a minute. What's wrong with this picture?" Well, what was wrong with this perfect picture is that I was spending this amazing Sunday with someone I call my boyfriend. And, according to me not too terribly long ago, that was NOT going to happen.
It turns out that, with the right partner, love and greatness are not mutually exclusive. They can exist together! I'm cautious to claim that my experiment has been proven and is completely conclusive as I have yet to achieve much in the department of greatness and the love I'm enjoying is pretty new (only a couple of months in), but I thought I'd share some observations on what kinds of conditions need to exist to make this happen.
Condition #1: Listen to The Force
The Force is an incredibly geeky way to say that there is something completely uncontrollable about this. It's that moment that cannot be forced when you meet that person and think to yourself, "Holy crap. I just saw a flash of us growing old together." And the worst part of The Force is that it's usually what happens to the man, not the woman. We (as women) are too busy reading dating advice columns and making lists of what we need in a man, then going on dates and assessing whether or not this specimen fits that list. But that's okay. That's what we do (or at least most of us). Women are by-and-large rational daters. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but we are. That's why this quote from My Blue Valentine really struck a chord with me:
I feel like men are more romantic than women. When we get married we marry, like, one girl, ‘cause we’re resistant the whole way until we meet one girl and we think I’d be an idiot if I didn’t marry this girl she’s so great. But it seems like girls get to a place where they just kinda pick the best option… ‘Oh he’s got a good job.’ I mean they spend their whole life looking for Prince Charming and then they marry the guy who’s got a good job and is gonna stick around.
It's kind of true. Carlos 'knew' minutes into our first date and he was going to fight to make me 'know' in spite of my protests of being "too busy for a relationship." And he fought in the most gallant, amazing ways that really took me by surprise and made me think, "OMG. This man is crazy and awesome and makes me feel loved like I've never felt before. And in every other relationship I've been in, that has been what I cried about. How can I pass him by?" He made me want to fight for him, too.
It can't be just something. It's gotta be THAT ONE THING. Your life is big, girlfriend. Your love should be, too.
Condition #2: This is a Drama Free Zone
Yes. Yes. Love and relationships are all about compromise, right? Sure...when it comes to planning activities and sides of the bed. But too many compromises means that there is a blatant mis-match. And if there are compromises to your life's dream and work, this won't work.
Love and greatness only works together if it works together. If the love is full of drama and fighting and resentment and giving up time doing what you love to do, then it will rip you apart, cause you stress and leave you with nothing in the end.
Funny thing is, I find myself working more efficiently these days because I want to have time to cuddle up and watch a movie later on instead of working until 2am. The other advantage to meeting someone in our late 30's is that we already have lives established before one another. Both of us have plenty of things we do independently. He has a career and buddies and activities he enjoys doing. And when we can, we invite one another cause we like being together. But there isn't pressure to spend a certain amount of time together. Just quality time when we do.
No drama. No resentment. It's all about supporting roles.
Condition #3: Learn to Receive
As a woman conditioned to never need anyone, this has been the hardest thing for me to get used to. Carlos is a giver. He thinks about how he can make me happy all day long. Really. I know. This is awesome, right? Only thing is it felt like an embarrassment of riches when I first started experiencing it. I didn't know what to do with any of it. I told him to stop because I didn't have the time or energy to give back. But he told me he didn't care. It makes him happy to make me happy.
Why the heck was this so hard for me?
Then I decided to just let go and accept it. Accept the attention, the generosity, the amazing little things he did: creating mini-adventures, leaving notes for me to find, setting up private tumblr accounts to record 'our private thoughts to one another', buying stuff he'd see me post on Buyosphere as WANT!s, and continuing to formally ask me out on dates...and guess what? I started to freakin LOVE it. I became that princess I was always told I shouldn't expect to be. And, dammit, I was ripped off before! This feels great. I used to be the one who came up with the cute ways to say "I love you". Now someone else thinks of it for ME. And because I know how to give it back, when I have the chance, I give it back.
I've seen this part trip up loads of ambitious women. They'll reject all of the men who come along and want to pamper them because they've been so conditioned to believe they need nobody that they can no longer accept someone who wants to make their days brighter and easier. Egad, I have someone who wants to pick me up at the airport and offers to do my errands. I needed that. And I'm not afraid to admit it.
Condition #4: Pay Attention to the Little Things
As listed in the previous condition, Carlos is the master of the gesture...big and small. And I hate to admit it, but it's the small gestures that get me the most. The other day I was rifling through my wallet for a receipt and I found a note that told me I rock his world. It was just a small handwritten scrap ripped out of a notebook, but it made me smile bigger than I've ever smiled before.
I'm busy. He's busy. Changing the world is a big time-suck. So those little gestures are perfect morsels of happy to infuse the middle of my day. They don't take an hour of my attention and right after I enjoy the burst of joy I get from something like a note or a text message, I can re-focus on my task at hand. Even better, that little reminder that I'm adored improves my overall mood and ability to handle the road ahead.
It doesn't have to be all big displays and full attention grabbing gestures. Those small bits are perfect bite-sized breaks that keep the stress levels low.
Condition #5: His High Conscientiousness Levels
I never thought that I would find stability SO attractive in a man. I thought I was looking for an artist or another entrepreneur...someone who faced the world with the same careless abandon that I do. Then I met Carlos and fell in love with the fact that he has an amazingly high level of conscientiousness.
Not that it's impossible but dating fellow entrepreneurs, dreamers, artists and other equally unstable, but exciting guys, will rarely fulfill the previous 4 conditions. Their FORCE is focused on changing the world, with unstable usually comes HEAPS of drama (anxiety, depression, moodiness, aspergers, etc), no time to give or think of how to make me happy through amazing little gestures ("Hey, I have a world that needs me and you are whining about not being asked out on a date? Selfish!").
Having one partner who is focused on making the relationship and home life exciting is essential. He needs to be conscientious. Almost like a...um...wife. I know that sounds sexist, but the metaphor is still unfortunately recognizable.
And this doesn't mean that Carlos or any other guy that is highly conscientious is a passive weenie. Not in the least. I find doormats unattractive. That man still needs to have all of those basic qualities - strong, smart, funny, attractive, fun, fit, healthy, sexy, cultured, reliable, interesting, stylish, etc. - that are part of my 'list' in order to be such a big part of my life.
And yes, I know what you are thinking: That is a TALL ORDER! A freakin impossible list of conditions ON TOP of our previously freakin impossible list of qualities! There is no WAY on earth that I'll ever find someone!
Well, I did and that is a bloody miracle. And if I can, you can.
And, for the love of god, don't settle for less because without all of the above, love and greatness will have a tough time co-existing. Without #1, love won't happen at all (and I know you can't control it. Deal with it). Without #2, you'll exhaust yourself emotionally. Without #3, you'll lose the romance (I've been in that relationship and it's heartbreaking). Without #4, you'll feel resentment. And without #5, you'll never see one another anyway.
Now...I need to take these same principles and adjust them for raising money...or buy a lottery ticket, because I'm feeling quite lucky!