A few weeks ago several of my girlfriends and I went out for some drinks. We try to go out, just us girls, at least once a month to get a bunch of stuff off of our chests and feel lighter at the end of the night.
Typically we discuss our jobs, politics, families, and relationships. However, almost always relationships tend to dominate our conversations. Most of us are married, but a couple of my girlfriends are not. This time, one of the big reasons that we were getting together was because one of our unmarried girlfriends just broke up with someone she was dating for several months and she needed a lift. So we tried our best to remind her that she doesn’t need a man to be happy.
And she gets it. She understands that happiness comes from within. Having experienced various relationships, she knows that being with someone just for the sake of having a warm body next to you, doesn’t guarantee happiness. And settling just for anyone out of fear of being alone, isn’t her style either. So in that sense my friend does not need a man, nor needs a companion to fill the silence. But she does want to find love, like many of us.
My friend has managed very well on her own. For a 38-year old she has an impressive list of accomplishments. A graduate of John Hopkins with an MBA degree. Holds a management position at Booz Allen and makes good money. Travels the world, speaks three languages, and owns a fancy condo in a hip neighborhood. Cooks like a pro, exercises, loves adventure, and to top it all off, is an attractive woman. So naturally, the rest of us are scratching our heads as to why she hasn’t found anyone who would appreciate her total package.
Unable to find an answer, I reached out to a few of my male friends who could possibly help me understand why amazing girls like my friend can’t find a keeper.
I heard several theories, but one simple explanation offered to me by my serious-dater friend made the most sense. Basically what he said was, “why would a guy want to be with a woman who doesn’t need him in the first place?” At first, his response made little sense to me, but then the more I thought about it, his theory intrigued me and gave me plenty to think about. If someone appears that they have everything, they are communicating that there is no room for anything, or anyone else in their life.
Or, they are such a superb individual that most men upon meeting someone like my friend, quickly sense that she is out of their league and realize they wouldn’t be able to add much to her already rich life. In which case, it’s going to take someone truly exceptional to be a match for her. And that special someone does not come along every day.
From another perspective, a different friend of mine always knew she wanted to get married and have kids. So as soon as she graduated from college, finding a husband was her goal. There was an opening she needed to fill, so she got right to it. She interviewed several potential candidates. And eventually the right one came along, and by the time she was 27 she was married and on her way to starting a family.
Sometimes we need to help love find an opening
When an employer is looking to hire someone for a job, they typically announce that there is an opening. Position requirements and description are provided and qualified individuals may apply.
Of course there are exceptions on the market. Certain positions require very special individuals. In fact, in exceptional cases some companies go as far as approaching specific people they have in mind to fill the very top spots in their management suite, but these are rare cases and are not available to just anyone.
But typically, those seeking a job need to be aware that an opening exists before applying. And the opening needs to fit their skill set. Someone with a specialty in accounting is unlikely to search for a job as an art teacher.
When an opening isn’t advertised, how are people to know about it? Thus, it’s less likely that candidates will apply. And so the chances of having that position filled are very slim.
To be in a relationship there first needs to be a role to fill
But even if the opening does get filled somehow, it needs to benefit both parties. In a relationship, each party needs a role that benefits the other. And the role can be as simple as mowing the lawn or reaching high cabinets without a ladder. But it needs to be a role that makes us feel like we’re contributing something the other individual might not have. And those individual qualities, or ingredients, need to be complementary.
Complementary roles achieve better results
Kind of like in baking. When my girlfriend and I get together to bake, she usually supplies the recipe, plus the wet ingredients, such as eggs, butter or milk. And I supply the dry ingredients, flour, sugar and salt. Our combined effort and ingredients often produce a delicious cake, bread, or pastry that we both get to enjoy with a fine cup of coffee and conversation. But if my girlfriend brought over the very same ingredients I was contributing, then we would end up with too much flour and sugar, but lack milk and eggs. Our baking options would be extremely limited with only flour and sugar and we would both probably end up hungry after this baking date.
Also, if I supplied all the ingredients, the recipe, and the effort, while she sat on the side watching me do all the baking on my own, she would start wondering why I invited her to bake with me in the first place. Sure, it’s nice to enjoy a delicious home-made cake without having to put in any effort. And perhaps once or twice, being able to sit back, watch someone else do all the baking, and then indulge in a piece of home-made cake can be enjoyable. But, in the long term this skewed arrangement makes one party overburdened and the other party feel useless. So while one builds resentment the other becomes disengaged. When we have nothing to add, then there is no use for us. And most of us prefer to feel needed rather than feel useless in a relationship.
Good relationships thrive when two individuals complement one another. When people feel like they are contributing something valuable to the relationship, their self-worth also increases. And when the relationship contributes to feeling positive about oneself, then we have more reasons to hold on to it.
It sometimes takes time, but also a bit of luck
I believe that a great girl like my friend will eventually find the right person to spend her life with. It just might take a little longer. Certainly there are many candidates who might fit the “good enough and he likes me” criteria. But the void she is looking to fill requires more than just these basics. Hopefully, when she is ready to make room for someone like this in her life, and with a pinch of luck, the right candidate will come along. Because it’s never too late for love.
Find a way to let someone in
So as I reflect on this puzzle of why some terrific girls have trouble finding love, my advice to them is to first open a way to let someone in. Even if it’s just a crack. Perhaps it can be something like opening up to your date about never seeing Star Wars before and having him teach you about the force and the battle between the dark side and the light side. And while this might feel like you are exposing a weakness, it’s a risk worth taking in exchange for building a bond with someone special.
About the picture: Girl on a swing
In this illustration I painted a girl who is enjoying swinging from a branch. She is surrounded by different animals. There are two ducks, two frogs, two owls, two butterflies, and even two sunflowers. They each have a partner to share their experience with, whether that’s swimming, catching flies, enjoying the breeze, or taking a pause to observe the world around them. As she tries to swing high up into the air, the dog gazes upon her with marvel. He wonders, how does it feel to experience swinging like this. He wishes he could do the same and join her on the swing, but he knows he can’t. So he waits. Maybe eventually she will join him for a stroll by the lake and they can find a common ground to walk on side by side.