This post is by Charlie O'Donnell from This is going to be BIG...
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I’m getting married today.
At least, if she says yes.
But, assuming that all goes according to plan, I have a few thoughts on how I got here—given that dating and relationships seem to vex a lot of people.
I would say that the most important factor that went into both of us finding someone to marry was that neither one of us felt like we had to find someone to marry to be content. We both spent time developing ourselves and our lives as complete and we weren’t waiting for someone to make us whole—so we entered this relationship not as gap fillers for each other, but as two independent people who chose to be together because it was better, instead of trying to avoid being single.
You don’t need anyone to be content—but it’s very nice to meet someone you want who wants you back.
For me, winning over was an exercise in self-awareness, patience, and respect. In the past, not only had I been pretty unaware of the other person’s perspective in a relationship, but I thought that getting to the finish line was a function of effort. There were times when I thought I could get someone to like me by trying super hard—by proving I could be the best boyfriend ever, when that wasn’t anything close to what the other person was looking for.
When you find someone who is content with themselves, most of what they’re going to look for in you isn’t how you treat them—I mean, it’s important, but it’s not the only thing. It’s going to be about how you treat others. Aja and I appreciate each other just as much if not more for how we treat our families, our friends, and the authenticity we put into our work than for what we’re doing for each other.
Don’t accept someone that is nice to you but a jerk to everyone else.
A few years ago, I dated someone for whom therapy was an important part of her self development. As part of my development, I decided that if anyone was either critical of me or made a suggestion to me that I would start from a position of acceptance before I was dismissive of it. When we broke up and she suggested that I might get something out of therapy, I went ahead with it. I felt fine and didn’t necessarily have something that I thought I’d get out of it, but I was doing this thing of non-dismissiveness, so I tried it out.
I did one session and in talking about relationships, I realized that while I had tried very hard in prior relationships, I never shifted my perspective to try to understand what it was the other person was looking for in a relationship.
I was too busy trying hard to be nice, to be romantic or loving to focus on being understanding and empathetic. No one wants a bigger version of a gift that they didn’t want in the first place or two of that gift.
It totally changed my approach to relationships (and frankly, was the best free introductory anything I ever did, since I didn’t go back).
Things become a lot clearer when you ask yourself the question, “Am I honestly the person that this person is looking for?” versus “How much do I like this person?” It works really well for someone who, at 39, doesn’t really feel like changing who they are that much—because it’s much easier to answer than trying to figure out if you like someone “enough”.
The last thing that I feel is really important is a realistic sense of what’s important to you.
I’m obviously pretty athletic and into sports—but I don’t really need anyone to do them with me. What I do care about is that it’s going to be ok when I roll out of bed on a Sunday morning at 6AM to go on a ride or do a half marathon.
What I’ve found with myself is that Aja is so accepting of the things that were a part of my life before she arrived, like sports, that I’m more willing to give them up, because it doesn’t become a proxy war for balance in our relationship. When I got asked to play on an ice hockey team this summer, I only signed up for half the games not because she would have had a problem with me playing on all of them—but because it would have been ok.
Frankly, I’d rather spend more time with someone who thinks it’s ok for me to play more hockey than actually playing more hockey.
Aja, I am incredibly lucky to be marrying you today. I love you and I cannot wait to see you later…
… after my bike ride.
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