The Dating Rorschach TestPosted: September 3, 2012
I’m sure everyone has their own guidelines for what makes a good relationship. Between two friends of mine I have heard the entire spectrum, from a simple “am I as happy with this person three months in as I was the day we first met?” to a test that runs to several pages (I am not making this up). For myself, I long ago developed my own simple guidelines that have worked exceptionally well, and that I am at last ready to share with the world. They are as follows:
- Can I wake up next to this person without flinching?
- Can I put up with their shit?
- Can they put up with my shit?
Now, before I catch any grief over these questions, allow me to point out that this is the Dating Rorschach Test™. What you get out of it is what you put into it. Let’s take it one question at a time and you’ll see what I mean.
Can I wake up next to this person without flinching?
I’ll admit it, when I first came up with this question, I was about 15, and it was my entire standard for dating. And yes, it was all about looks. But then, as I got into my early twenties, it took on new depth and dimensions, like carefully leaning over and checking her ID, hoping not to wake her while I make sure I won’t get arrested- well, anyway, the point is I grew as a person. By the time I met the woman who would become my wife this question took on some real meaning. Will I still have self-respect when I wake up? Can I seriously see myself discussing matters of import with her? Does she fulfill my intellectual and emotional needs as well as being beautiful? (Hey, I never said I stopped being shallow). So what do you need in order to be able to wake up next to someone without flinching?
Can I put up with their shit?
I added this one in when I was about nineteen or so, after a string of short, tumultuous, and painful relationships that seemed to have one common thread: wacko girlfriends. I was absolutely convinced that every single girl I had dated to that point was batshit crazy. Quite the coincidence, and if I had any concept of basic probability I would have seen the flaw in my logic, but it took another few years for me to sort that one out (see below for that). The one good thing that came out of it was that I was able to recognize that, if I was going to sustain any kind of relationship, I was either going to have to find the perfect woman who had no flaws whatsoever and then convince her that she wanted to date me, or I would have to learn to live with another human being’s imperfections. All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, even I didn’t have the kind of hubris necessary for option A, so I went with B. I know this doesn’t sound like much of a leap, but seriously, I’ve seen a lot of “adults” who still need to pick up on this one, so cut my younger self a little slack. The key, I realized, was to find someone whose craziness was compatible with mine, or that I at least didn’t find too noxious.
What does this mean for you? Whatever you need it to mean. Does leaving dirty socks on the floor drive you crazy? How about owning too many shoes? How do you feel about Friday night being “hangin’ with my boys night”? Or saying “whatever” and walking away being considered a perfectly acceptable way to end a conversation? Think about it, because what seems cute now might getting annoying a year from now, and what’s annoying now will drive you batshit crazy a year from now. And after almost a decade dating and married with my wife, I can say this is one of the most important points to consider. The other one is…
Can they put up with my shit?
So it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I figured this one out. As one Demotivational poster points out, “The only consistent feature in all of your dissatisfying relationships is you.” I finally realized that it’s not enough for me to be happy with the person I’m with; it might be within the realm of possibility that it’s just barely a chance there could be some fraction of a notional option of a thought I could be somewhat close to less than perfect (I’m able to acknowledge my flaws). Put another way, I’m an acquired taste. I may even have the occasional annoying habit, like leaving dirty socks on the floor, according to my wife. Although I still swear that was the dog. That we didn’t get until we had been married for a year. He has a time machine, like Mr. Peabody. He’s been using it to get me in trouble for years.
The point is tolerance in a relationship is a two-way street. We always think of relationships as being about love and respect and sex and sunshine and rainbows and all that jazz, but the reality day to day is that more often than not relationships are about listening to somebody tell the same story you’ve already heard a hundred times and I really don’t care about your level twenty barbarian honey but you go ahead and tell me anyway if it’ll make you happy and- sorry, got a little carried away there. What was I saying? Oh yeah. The point is relationships are about living with another person, in close proximity, every day, hopefully for the rest of your life. That’s a recipe for friction more often than happiness, which is why you need to find someone who can tolerate your bad habits, whether it’s leaving dirty socks lying around, telling the same stupid stories over and over, or blaming it all on the dog.
The Dating Rorschach Test™
So there you have it. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have your own standards for finding a mate. But at least I can say mine worked for me. And in the end, that’s all I ever wanted out of it.