I recently played a game of "what-if" all up in my mind-grapes. I met a pretty rad woman who has a son and it made me wonder what it would be like to date a woman who had a kid. It was a bit weird to even contemplate. I think we all, while young, entertain our fantasies of how it's all going to play out and I think it's a fair bet that our expectations start with the perfect person who has no kids, no prior marriages and is not sporting too much emotional baggage. We imagine nurturing and raising our own children with that person, taking them to soccer practice and being called "Dad" (especially moms). Maybe some of us pictured a fight here and there, a few trials, but it's not until you start to really see life as it is that some of those expectations demand a little scrutiny.
At one point I was seriously pondering on what it would mean to me to adopt a child instead of having my own. It wasn't like I hated the idea, it was more like I had never even considered it as a possibility. That same confusion now infiltrates my musings on being with someone who has kids from a previous relationship. I guess viscerally there is a hesitance around it, it obviously doesn't jive with my original concept of what my relationships would be, but at the same time I feel like it may not matter at all. The woman I'm with could make all the difference. Like when I met my first really serious girlfriend and found out she smoked. "Ah well, she's awesome but she smokes, it'll never happen". Yeah, that lasted about 3 weeks. In the end the sum of all she was completely outweighed my "need" to date a non-smoker.
I guess what I'm getting at is, as you grow up you start to learn the difference between a "need" in the person you want to be with, and a "want". I would never ask a woman or man to lower their expectations of how they should be treated for instance, but I may have thought of a way to separate one from the other. I'm gonna call it, "Quality by Entitlement". It's a test that will actually produce different results based on who you are as a person, that's why it might actually work. All you do is speak a sentence out loud, starting with "I deserve someone who…" and finish it with a quality/trait. If the answer sounds "off" to you, you're probably giving the quality undue importance. If you finish the sentence and it feels right, then you've hit something you probably shouldn't compromise on.
I deserve someone who treats me with respect. That just sounds right to me. That's a quality I won't compromise on.
I deserve someone who owns their own car sounds stupid to me when said out loud. Now I know that that's not important enough to me to factor in.
I deserve someone who is my equal sounds right. That one is a "need".
I deserve someone who has never had children before. That actually doesn't resonate with me. It does trigger something, and deserves more thought, but it still feels wrong. I vote it down as a "need".
The reason I think this system can work is that it's based on your own intuition about the different qualities you assess. For instance, you might say to yourself "I deserve someone who doesn't have children" and your most visceral reaction is, "yeah, that resonates, I really DON'T want to be with someone who has kids already". THAT'S OKAY. In fact it's better than okay; it's perfect, for you. You're basically asking yourSELF how important a quality is to you and letting yourSELF decide. Your answers don't have to match anyone else's. Your goal is only to learn what matters to you. Try it. Say some things out loud and study your gut reaction. What did you learn about what you "need"?
The other thing to keep in mind is that we are ever learning, evolving, changing and growing. Maybe 20 year old James would have hated the idea of dating a girl who has a kid already, but you know what? That was his right. I'm not the same person then as I am now. And it's not like I lowered my standards to reach this new conclusion, I simply matured into the concept that everyone has something from their past life, nobody's perfect, and it doesn't actually bother me that what they bring from their old life is a little human. That's an acceptance I grew into. Meanwhile, my expectation about how I should be treated, listened to, respected and accepted hasn't really changed over the years.
I guess I'm starting to look at relationships in adult terms more and more. If my mom read this she would probably say, "of course dummy, there are remarkable women out there you would be missing out on otherwise" because she is wise and I'm just starting to get the big picture. But I don't think the question of what qualities/baggage your mate should and shouldn't have (ie; the conversation of "settling") really ever goes away, even if the qualities you're measuring change with time. Like from, "I deserve someone who will always text me back right away" to "I deserve someone who makes me feel like I'm home". Yeah. That second one feels right.
Happy Valemtimes everybody!