When you’re looking to build a healthy relationship, how do you know someone is right for you? Dr. Barton Goldsmith in his article called “10 Tips to Help You Pick a Good Partner” wrote: “Picking the right person for the right reasons at the right time is an art form.” With the divorce rates as high as they are, you must be able to select the right relationship.
Alexandra Redcay – an expert consultant in establishing healthy relationships, – describes how you can break the cycle of unhappy relationship and finally select the right one.
Check out her TEDxKC conference by watching the video below or scroll down to read the full transcript.
Table of Contents
Introduction by Alexandra Redcay
I want everybody to close their eyes. I want you to imagine being in love. Maybe you have been in love, maybe you hope to be in love. What was that like? Your heart starts racing, your stomach gets all weird. You call up your best friend and say: “Oh, my gosh, I think I just met the love of my life!” In three weeks.
We figured that out so quickly. We make these very quick decisions. All of our emotion comes rushing so quickly. But then, what happens down the road? We realize, “What were we thinking?”
50% of marriages fail. Why? Two of my very good friends called me within a week of each other and told me that their marriage of over ten years had failed. Even though everyone else around them knew that they weren’t making a good decision at the time.
You know, my best friend – Her mother and I knew over ten years ago that the guy that she picked was kind of controlling; he was dismissive towards women, and he really wanted a woman that would stay home, cook, clean, and have their child.
My friend was not at all interested in that, she was singing jazz in New York City. She was very happy to have that life, but that’s not what he was interested in. Somewhere along the way, she fell in love with him, and so she sacrificed for the family, she sacrificed for what she thought was the right decision. Ten years down the road, she realized she didn’t recognize herself, and then she decided to leave.
A woman asked me the other day – she was complaining, at 40, saying that there was no good men left. She said that the only men that are out there are the Peter Pan guys. The men who, as she described, don’t want to grow up, that they don’t want to have kids, they don’t want to get married, they don’t want to settle down.
She spent all her time and energy trying to ‘un-Peter-Pan’ them. And she asked me, what do I think, why does this come about, why can’t she find anybody, and why can’t she fix this situation. So I say to her: “How honest do you want me to be?” She said, “Oh, yes, very honest! I’m really serious. I want to fix this problem. How do I do this?” I said: “Well, I think you’re investing all your energy in people that are really happy. They’re totally fine. Why should they get married, have kids, and settle down? They don’t want to, you do.”
So, the issue is your focus, the issue is your perspective. How are we selecting partners? Why are we trying to force them to change? Or, why are we ignoring who they are, or the red flags that are right in front of our face?
I have women all the time, complaining – in their 30s, 40s, and 50s that they can’t find the man of their dreams or woman of their dreams. I have men complaining that they feel that they’re being overlooked because they are the good guy, the nice guy, the friend, and what they find is that people are dating the unavailable person, the player, the pathological liar, the person who’s already married.
So, we make all these decisions in our relationships, and we end up two, three years down the road, ten years down the road, in despair. We struggle to try to find the relationship that we want, whether that leads to marriage or just to long term commitment.
Why do we repeat this cycle over and over and over again? The woman that asked me earlier – that I had talked about, that asked my advice about why this happens – says: “Oh, no! I don’t date the Peter Pan guys. I just see them out there. Well, except the last two relationships, I did date the Peter Pan guy.” “Oh, OK, so, you do date them. So why do you choose them?” She couldn’t really explain it. And then she just kept coming back and saying: “No, no, I don’t really date them.” OK, except the last two.
She became really defensive in this conversation and was denying the truth that everyone else around her could see – the people that loved her the most, her friends, her family. So I asked myself: on the path of love, what happens? What do we do?
The hard path of “Love” in 10 stages
It starts off beautiful, wonderful, perfect. You’re totally in love with this person in a very short period of time. And then, we see a red flag, but we ignore it because we say: “No, no. It must be us. We’re crazy. We’re too picky.”
The problem is that our friends and family see it too. And they are concerned. They may or may not say anything. And then, what is our response? We attack them.
– “Well, you will never be happy if I am happy.”
– “I finally found someone I love and you can’t accept it.”
– “Well, you just don’t know him. He is different when we are alone.”
We tell ourselves this all the time. Then there is a combination of red flags. We tell ourselves, “Well, all relationships take work,” which is true, but we tell ourselves this in a misguided way, so our friends and family express their concern. And what do we do? We attack them. We’re defensive.
Then we begin to isolate from them. They try to intervene, and they say: “Look, I am really concerned about this person that you’re dating. And I want you to think about that. I want you to try and pick someone else or just end it.”
And we may even admit to ourselves: “Yeah, I probably should end it. I know this person isn’t good for me.” But we don’t.
So then, what happens is – because family or friends, or anyone in our life, colleges, co-workers, because they conflict with us, and they say, “Look, there is a problem here,” we feel embarrassed, we feel ashamed. And so, what do we do? We separate from them.
So we don’t go to the friends’ house anymore because they’re always complaining.
Then the family gets angry, they separate from you; they stop trying. And eventually, we realize too that we were wrong and they were right. And we hate it. It drives us nuts. Then we despair, and say, “Are we ever going to find anybody?”
We could have saved so much time and energy and despair if we would just listen to the people that are around us and not to be so defensive.
Why do we repeat the cycle of unhappy relationships?
Because we do it all the time. Our brain – I think that the same part of our brain that controls addiction controls our feelings of love. Because our feelings of love, that intense connection that we feel with someone, which is totally irrational – we don’t really know them, we don’t really have all those things in common but we want to believe that we do – it’s just like being addicted to drugs or alcohol. It’s an addiction, it is.
And for whatever reason, we’re not wise enough to figure it out. We’re not wise enough because our emotion and our perception, our feelings of this love controls our brain, our mind, our prefrontal cortex which is at the front of your brain.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that’s rational, it makes rational decisions. It tells the other parts of the brain, “Knock it off.” When you want to punch somebody and then you realize: “Nope, that’s my boss, I can’t do that,” that’s the prefrontal cortex telling you, “Knock it off.”
We don’t allow the prefrontal cortex to control our heart and our feelings of love, so that’s how we get in these situations. It could genetics, it could be role models, maybe we don’t know anyone that has a happy marriage or happy relationship, things like that.
Some people have this idea that we are drawn to danger. Why do we date the person who we know is historically unfaithful and a liar? They tell us about their last partner, and they cheated on them, but somehow we still think that: “Oh, they are going to be different with us.”
Meanwhile, the good person is there, the good guy who is honest, faithful, trustworthy, loves you, but we ignore them. I have an example; don’t laugh. It’s the bachelorette. Des, who is the bachelorette, is down to three guys two of which are madly in love with her. Madly in love with her. They tell her, they’re affectionate, they write poems, they sing songs, all this wonderful stuff.
Who does she fall in love with? The guy that doesn’t love her. And he tells her, he breaks her heart, – I don’t know what’s going to happen, there is only one show left – but I think this is symbolic of life. We do this all the time, we see our friends making these decisions.
Love rules our mind. It seems like we are addicted to drugs, we’re obsessed, we’re compulsive with this idea of love; we can’t sleep. Either we can’t eat, or when we do eat it that cheeseburger, it tastes so delicious because now we’re in love, everything is amplified.
This is my favorite quote here. – It reminds me of the lady who wants to “un-Peter-Pan” the guys she dates – “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It annoys the pig, and it wastes your time.” I am not saying that men are pigs – and if they were pigs, women are just as much pigs as they are – but why are constantly trying to change people?
We go into this relationship, and pigs can’t sing, and yet, we keep trying to get them to sing, and it’s just – you know, it’s annoying, and it wastes your time. Meanwhile, you’re in that relationship for two years, and you’ve wasted all that time when really, there are so many opportunities out there for you.
So, how do we fix this?
How can we break a series of our failure?
Short list, but hard. We have to open our heart to a real self-assessment. The woman who asked for advice sat in a circle of all of her friends – we were just hanging out in the backyard having a barbeque – and she refused to listen to every single one of them, who all said the same thing.
We have to open up our heart to a self-assessment:
– What is going on with us?
– What are we doing to contribute to these relationships?
– What are we afraid of? Do we think we are not worth it?
– Do we think we have to settle for this person?
You have to get healthier, and on the path to being healthier we have to get to know ourselves. I can’t tell you how many people say – Well, they go out on a date and they go: “Oh, I hope that they’ll like me.” I say: “What?! I hope you like them! Who cares if they like you?”
You need to assess this person to figure out if they’re a good fit for you. If our entire focus in dating is “I hope that they like me,” no wonder we make bad decisions. Then you have the person who always says: “Well, let me just put it out there. I’m just going to tell you everything that I’m looking for. I want this kind of person who does this, and who is interested in this.”
Well, the unscrupulous person who just kind of wants to land you in bed is going to tell you all of that stuff that you’ve just told them.
So, instead of putting everything out there and letting them become who you want, temporarily, to get what they want, you need to take a step back and figure out what are the most important things for you.
Think of three questions. If you really want to get married and have kids, and you’re 35, well, that should be one of the first questions you ask: Are you interested in getting married? I’m not saying to me, I’m not saying tomorrow, but is this in your plan?
Because there are many people out there who say: “No way. I am good. If I never get married, I’ll be happy.” We have to be bolder. We have to know what we want, and be stubborn only about the really important stuff.
I had a friend who said – she didn’t want to date anybody who ever in their entire life did drugs, including pot. I said: “Well! Most people have done drugs, at least once in their life. So, I don’t know… Is that really important?” I could see if they’re a pothead, smoking every week, and they’re not going to work and, all that stuff, I get it.
But we have to really be wise about what we’re looking for. How about “Let’s be stubborn about honesty?” and “Is the person honest?” That’s what we want to be stubborn about. The foolish person seeks happiness in the distance; the wise person seeks it under their feet.
We have to be happy with ourselves, we have to be happy with our presence, and happiness will come to us more. If we’re miserable now, then we’ll just become more and more miserable as we evaluate our lives. It’s about our perspective.
Number one rule – and a lot of people think this is crazy but I stand by it 100% – your friends and family must meet your prospect. If you feel uncomfortable and pressured, and: “Oh, my gosh, they going to think I am crazy,” maybe that’s a problem.
You can stage a fake, a setup like “Oh, we just happened to go to this restaurant, and oh, look, there is my best friend. Oh, why don’t you join us for dinner?” Because they will tell you if that person is good for you or not, but the problem is we have to listen to them, and it has to happen early, within three to five dates.
Why? Because that’s when we fall in love – within the first three or five dates – that’s when we’re already hooked. We might not say it, we may not admit it, but we know it’s true; that’s when we get hooked, in those early days, That’s when we become an addict and our lives become unmanageable.
We have to back that up and just get our first impression of somebody right from the beginning. And if they say, “Run,” then run. Run!
Don’t pay attention to the one person that says to you: “Oh, whatever makes you happy. I trust you make a good decision.” No, no, no. Don’t listen to that person.
If three out of five of your friends or two out of three say: “Oh, I don’t know. I’m not feeling it. I’m not thinking they’re right for you.” Run, run, even if you think: “Oh, but they have so much potential, and we have so much in common.” No, just run. You have to trust your community because they are wiser, they are wiser than us when we’re in the midst of this.
Get ongoing advice. Pick your “mean” friend. Your friend that’s so honest, you’re just like, “Oh, I don’t want to ask her because I know she is going to say something bad,” that’s the one you want to go to. Talk to a professional, a consultant, a therapist, anyone, just talk to someone else to get feedback.
Pay attention to red flags every day, and be brave enough to walk away early. Be brave enough to walk away. Real love is possible. It is.
The relationship that you’re in now can be better, too. Don’t get discouraged, don’t get upset. Believe in your ability to analyze, trust yourself, trust your gut, you can do it. Don’t be afraid to ask those questions. Don’t be intimidated. If you’re intimidated to ask that really important question now, what do you think is going to happen in five years when you’ve never asked it? Be brave, you can do it.
Action conquers fear: the more we do it, the more comfortable we get with it. My wife said on our first date, she thought she was dating an FBI interrogator because I asked her so many questions. But look what happened. We got married. She passed my test.
Miracles can happen, and you must believe love is possible. It is possible, if you follow these steps, if you get advice, if you listen to your friends and family; they love you, they really do, they only want what’s best for you. Don’t lie to yourself and tell yourself: “Well, they’re just jealous,” or “They never had a good relationship.” Listen to them, they love you. It’s possible. Thank you.
Alexandra Redcay is the executive director to Serise, Inc. Alexandra has over 18 years of direct practice, management, and training experience working in mental health, substance abuse, child welfare, juvenile justice, and education systems. She is an expert consultant in establishing healthy relationships. Alex Redcay is an Assistant Professor at Millersville University.