What My Mother and Margaret Thatcher Taught Me About Relationships

The other night I was having dinner with a friend and we were discussing the topic of relationships. Shocker right? Two girls get together over dinner and want to discuss their love lives. I mentioned that in my relationships, I do not generally care "what page we are on, so long as we are on the same page." By that I meant, I can generally move as slow or fast as the other person wants, because I like to be accommodating of other peoples emotional needs and wants.  Not a bad notion right?

My friend disagreed and responded, "but you're just bending to their will. Not actually focusing on what YOU want." I immediately got defensive of the position and told her that she was wrong and that every relationship required compromise.

Compromise. As soon as the word left my mouth I heard a high pitched, shrill British woman by the name of Margaret Thatcher shouting in disapproval. This Iron Lady was once one of my most quoted and most esteemed role models in life, not necessarily for her political views (although I do agree with some of those as well) but for her firm stance against that very notion - compromise. 

The specific quote that came to mind in that moment was, "If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing."

It took me the next few days to realize that that is exactly what I had been doing  in my recent relationships - compromising

Over the past year I have sought out to be liked and loved, because truth be told, I spent three years in a toxic relationship with someone who told me every single day that I was not worthy of love, was not worthy of affection, was not worthy of acceptance, was not worthy of having a partner who supported me, and was not worthy of happiness. And I just wanted to prove that person wrong. 

Well, I succeeded. I officially have more friends than I can count (so grateful for them by the way) and am liked by almost everyone I come into contact with. I've casually dated a good portion of New York City and completely disproved the theory that no one will ever want me. But at what cost has disproving this theory come? And what am I doing wrong here?

The answer, ironically, has been with me since childhood. When I was very little my mom told me to write down the things I wanted from my partner one day. The things I wanted in a spouse. Writing them down, she said, would make them happen. 

So I did. Of course as I grew older the list evolved somewhat (I mean who didn't want to marry Leo DiCaprio in the 90's?) but the key values remained the same. 

  • I wanted stability.
  • I wanted a leader.
  • I wanted a supporter.
  • I wanted a provider.
  • I wanted someone patient, someone kind, someone selfless. (Just insert the rest of II Corinthians 13 here).

I stopped making that list around college, you know, right around the time I got into my first serious relationship. And like the old saying goes, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.  Well, suffice it to say, I've fallen for many things in my relationships, but if there is one thing I've learned it's that we must never compromise our own needs and standards for someone who claims to love us. 

You see, the answer to my question of "what am I doing wrong?" was not this magical method of writing my wants down on a piece of paper. If it were I'd write, "I want a million dollars" every day until my hand fell off. The answer was the lesson that my mother had provided me with years earlier; the same lesson Margaret Thatcher had provided me in my head at dinner that night. The answer was this: Set your standards high. And once they are set, never, ever compromise.

So, to all of you fellow singletarians out there (made that word up, pretty good right?) don't keep wondering when your "Mr./Mrs. Right" will come along. Just keep running your own race. The right person will keep up. The wrong person will fall behind. But either way, you'll be the one reaching the finish line.  


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