Friday, May 21, 2010

What Are You Waiting For?

Below is a quote I located in a blog I follow from time to time.  The blog owner is a thirty-two year old gay man, who is obsessed with being an elite runner when it comes to taking part in formal runs (like the recent Vancouver Sun Run) or marathons.

This young man has made numerous comments in posts about how difficult it's been for him to find a man to share his life with, how unhappy he is as a result, and how he's becoming adjusted to the possibility that he could be alone for the rest of his life (sound familiar;  the similarity in details is uncanny).  See if you can figure out from his own words why he's still alone.

I am single and the prospects of ever finding a mate are looking more and more bleak with each passing day. The more dates I go on the more I realize what I need in a man can only be found in an athlete. People who are not involved in sport do not understand the rich experience of doing something totally pointless for the pure ability to do it well. Without the distraction of someone who cannot keep up I might as well totally devote myself to sport and work.

What concerns me is that this young man has set a big restriction in terms of the type of man he sees himself with.  If I understand him correctly, he believes his mate should be an athlete like him, probably one who has the same obsession with running that he has.  

I have just one question, if this is the case:  If you happen to meet someone who is terrific, who is a lot like you in many ways, but who doesn't have the same drive to be an elite athlete, would you reject him as a potential mate?

I have no concerns with setting this goal.  If it's truly important to you, and, in the end, you're fortunate enough to find someone who meets your expectation in this regard, great.  So much the better.  I applaud you.  Going into a relationship, you should believe that you'll be with your mate for many years, so you shouldn't have to compromise finding what's important to you if that's a priority, or a deal breaker.

But, honestly, this feels arbitrary to me.  It also feels like an excuse.  Sure, if you have so little in common with someone else, including that he's not even close to being an elite athlete, then you're not meant to be together.  I get that.  Nobody says you should be.  It would be a big mistake, and you'd be miserable.

But from your comment, it also sounds like you've begun to shut yourself off from potential mates if they are not devoted athletes like you.  And that is no way to go about finding someone for a long-term relationship, especially if you want one as badly as you've said you do.

By all means, hold to your guns, and try to find what you want.  But, also, keep yourself open to the possibility that the person you're meant to be with might not show up in the package you expect, might not meet your requirements in a number of ways, physically or otherwise.  That person may not have an interest in being an elite athlete at all.  So what?

Believe me, what I've learned in being with my partner, Chris, is that there are far more important things than sharing all of the same interests.  In fact, when Chris and I first met, we didn't have many of the same interests at all.  As I've written in other posts, Chris worried about this and thought we didn't have enough in common to make a relationship work.  For that reason, he sat on the edge of our relationship for a long time, waiting to see what happened.

Well, he was wrong, and, over a lot of time together, we've proven that.  The thing about interests is, you need to have your own, independent of your partner, so you can pursue something away from each other, so you're not around each other's neck all the time.  Yes, you should have some things in common.  For example, Chris and I are avid readers, we like to garden, and we enjoy running together to keep fit.

But we also have other interests independent of each other, and that hasn't jeopardized our relationship in the least.  Sure, there's some compromising going on.  Sure, some of my interests may have shifted to accommodate Chris's, and vice versa.  That's okay.  That's part of the reality of being in a relationship.  But, believe me, what you give up, or change, is small compared to what you gain by being with someone you love.

There are far more important things that should be shared by two people in a relationship than common interests.  For example, honesty, decency, trustworthiness, honor, integrity, and respect.  These come readily to mind.  I know there are many others, but you see what level they are on.  In short, you should have the same strong sense of what's right and what's wrong.  In other words, your moral compass must be pointed in the same direction.

If, for instance, you are adamantly opposed to having an open relationship, where both of you are able to have sex with other men, as Chris and I are (opposed, that is), but your partner thinks it would be cool and insists on it, then you're probably not meant to be together.  As far as I'm concerned, these are the deal breakers, the things that cause increasing degrees of conflict in relationships that will eventually break you up.  And, if it's important enough to you, you should never be talked into doing something you're not comfortable with, especially something on this level, just for the sake of staying with the man you love.

I think you can work around interests you don't have in common.  In the case of the example above, the young man may find a mate who isn't an elite athlete, and never will be, but perhaps his mate enjoys jogging or running for personal fitness, or perhaps he'd be a great supporter.  While he's out training or competing in races or marathons, his partner might be with him every step of the way, either in spirit or in body, cheering him on from the sidelines.

But, if he doesn't, so what?  Do you have other things in common, even small ones?  Is he a good, solid person in your life?  Are you excited to get home to him at the end of the workday?  Can you see yourselves build a life together?  Does he inspire you?  Does he respect you?  Does he set a good example for you?  Is he a good influence on you?  Do you love each other?  These are the bigger life questions--not whether he understands me because he's an elite athlete like me.

What I really want to say is, stop putting obstacles in your way.  And stop making excuses for why you haven't found the right mate yet.  The person who's right for you may be nothing like what you always had in mind.  In fact, he probably won't be.  Be open to that possibility.  You never know.  There's a bigger plan for you, and you don't know all of the details.  Have faith and trust.

And, while I'm on the subject, I need to make one final comment about still being single at the age of thirty-two and wanting to be in a relationship more than anything else.  What are you waiting for?  Time is ticking away.  There isn't a moment to waste in finding the one to share your life with.  I'm not saying you should pair up with someone who's obviously wrong for you just because you're getting older.  That's not my point at all.

What I am saying is, if you're truly serious about finding a mate, do it.  Make it a goal.  Stop holing up in your apartment and thinking the man of your dreams will magically appear in your life.  Stop traveling in the restricted little circles that are your daily and weekly routines, thinking that, if you don't find anyone that way, you're not meant to.  Open up your life and yourself to the possibilities beyond who and what you are right now.

Believe me, there isn't a moment to waste.  I met Chris when I was thirty-two. We've been together eighteen years next month.  I wish we'd met a decade earlier.  Eighteen years have flown by in an instant.  Eighteen years isn't nearly enough time to spend with this wonderful man.  I want to grow very old with Chris. I hope we are two doddering codgers together in our nineties and beyond, tormenting the workers in an extended care facility.  But even that won't be enough time together.  And there's no guarantee we'll live that long.

All we have is right now.  And if, right now, you're not happy because you're alone and getting older by the minute, then do something about it.  Stop placing unreasonable expectations on the potential mates you meet.   Decide what that mate MUST have, what the deal breakers are, and get on with the task at hand. If you do it right, a relationship will transform your life in ways you can't even imagine.  There is no comparison between being single and alone, and being coupled and together.  Believe me, the latter is preferable by a mile.

Play a proactive role in getting what you want in life, including a relationship.  Start today.  Don't waste another minute alone if you're not happy.       

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