I know what you’re thinking right now. “Of course, I’m ready for a relationship. It’s what I’ve been waiting so long for! I just need to know how I can get one started!”
Well, I’m certainly not arguing that you want a real relationship. I’m asking if you’re ready for a real relationship. That one’s tough to answer, because it entails really looking at yourself and your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors in a real, open, and honest way. And that’s never easy.
One thing I can tell you is that I’ve been there. I’ve been in that spot where all I could think about was how I so wanted a real relationship, with all of the affection, understanding, support and love that comes with it. And that’s when I asked myself this very same question and I realized that I didn’t like the answer. I had some major changing to do. So how do you know if you’re ready for a relationship before you start one with either the wrong guy or Mr. Right at the wrong time?
If you’re showing any of these warning signs, it means you have some work to do on yourself before you can be in a healthy, happy relationship with someone else:
1. Your compass is not pointing north. Your great-guy compass is off. It’s consistently pointing you to the wrong type of guy. This typically happens because you’re subconsciously trying to sabotage the relationship from the beginning by choosing a guy who’s not actually relationship material.
Your friends and family have warned you that he’s a player, or a loser, or a (enter your favorite derogatory term for a bad boyfriend here) but you’ve written them off, believing that you’re going to be the one woman that can change him into the perfect partner. No, the truth is that inside you know you won’t change him, and that’s actually fine with you because you subconsciously fear a deep relationship.
2. You need a man to feel happy. You feel miserable unless you’re coupled up. If you get an invite to a party or event, and you don’t have a man to bring, then you’re likely to make up an excuse, send your regrets, pass up the night out and sit at home feeling sorry for yourself because you are “oh, so alone.”
Then, you spend the entire night Googling “best places to meet men” and reading articles about what men find attractive instead of doing something that would make you happy (like going to the party you were invited to.) The truth is that if you did meet a great guy while in this mindset, you’d hold on so tight so quickly that you’d most likely strangle the relationship anyway. Find what makes you happy before you’re in a relationship, then find someone to share that happiness with.
3. You believe you can save him. Many women have a savior complex and they find themselves a project guy. What this really means is that they’re looking for dysfunction so that they have the drama in their lives that they subconsciously crave. It may stem from a variety of sources but the end result is that you will wind up with exactly what you’re looking for, a real project. Which, when translated means someone with some serious personal problems of their own. These problems should be left to the trained professionals. Don’t try to be a therapist.
4. You’re looking for someone to save you. If your self-talk sounds something like “I’m such a mess” or “Why am I so insecure sometimes?” then you need to get that taken care of before you can be in a relationship. Otherwise, you’ll either attract a partner that has the savior complex (see above) or you’ll attract a partner with the same issues. And as much as misery loves company, misery plus misery doubles the misery. Don’t go there.
5. You’re looking for someone to complete you. Yes, it’s true. Back in the day, I loved the movie Jerry Maguire as much as all of the other teary-eyed girls in the theater, but the truth is, as much as “you complete me” sounds so romantic, it should actually be “you complement me.” If you’re not a whole person to begin with then the only thing you’ll be completing is your part in a completely dysfunctional relationship. And while that may still make for a good movie (think: As Good as it Gets), it’s no fun in real life.
6. You’re spending more time pursuing love than pursuing your interests. I realize that in order to meet men you need to get out there and be sociable, whether “out there” means the local ski club or the local web scene and I’m all for that. In fact, I highly recommend it. But if you’re not actively pursuing your own interests at the same time, then there’s a problem. If you’re thinking to yourself right now, “The only thing I’m interested in is meeting a man,” then you’re in the deep.
As I’ve said before, the best way to meet the right Mr. Right is by doing things and going places that you’d do or go to anyway, even if there was no chance of meeting a man. So, if you find yourself on Saturday nights obsessing over and constantly tweaking every word on your online dating profile, then you’re wasting valuable time that you could be spending pursuing your own interests. If you don’t have any interests, then you aren’t very interesting and that means that you’re hoping a guy will add interest to your life. He won’t because he won’t stick around long enough to.
7. You haven’t unpacked your baggage. If you find yourself still dealing with the emotional scars left from the shrapnel of a previous breakup, particularly if you’re still feeling angry then you need to finish your emotional healing before starting a new relationship. Many women believe that a man, sometimes any man, will get their mind off of their ex and into a better place. The problem is that it never really works. What it will do is keep your mind off of the man that you’re now starting a relationship with, cause you to feel guilty, cause him (and maybe you, too) to feel resentful, and generally make a big mess for everyone. Leave the rebounding to the basketball players.
8. You’re bending and twisting yourself like a pretzel to fit what you think the person you’re attracted to might like. If you find yourself trying to be something other than what you naturally are, then it’s a major red flag. This was one of the biggest problems I had in my own dating career, as I pretended to be a skier or a big golf fan when in reality I hadn’t even had an interest in either until I was attracted to a guy who did.
If you find that you’re often trying to change something about yourself thinking it will make you more attractive to the guy you just met, then you are, like I was, lacking in self-esteem and confidence in yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself, this is very common but it means that you need to work on finding and loving the real you before trying to love someone else.
If any of the above sound like you, then you need to start looking inward and making some changes to your life in order to get yourself ready to be with someone else. The good news? Once you have these licked, you will be ready for a real relationship. And then you’ll be in good emotional shape to start attracting the kind of man that you want to be in a relationship with, and he’ll want to be in a relationship with you too.
Why? Because you’ll both be emotionally healthy. So, when Mr. Right does walk into your life, you’ll both be in the right state of mind, in the right place, at the right time. And it doesn’t get any more right than that.
Written by Jane Garapick for EHarmony