Young, bright, upwardly mobile individuals know a thing or two about taking things to the next level. When theyve finally found their ideal career, they would do everything they can to excel at it, be recognized for their contributions to the company, and most importantly, take their job to the next rung up the career ladder. The next rung, as everyone is aware, would be a promotion: well-deserved and certainly more challenging.
If we’ve been fortunate in life to have a series of life coaches in school and at work, we’ve learned how to achieve progress and move forward. We were taught repeatedly that in order for us not to stagnate, we need to take consistent steps to improve our lot in life continue our education, learn new skills, create our spheres of influence. Someone who has been properly coached or mentored will stay focused on his set of well defined goals and will work hard to accomplish those goals. The adage still works to this day: what you reap is what you harvest.
All that is fine and dandy for our professional lives. We’ve mastered the rules of the game. We stay informed,compete in a healthy manner and acquire the ingredients that will make us an efficient manager, and eventually, an effective executive. If we play our cards right, not even a tsunami would derail us. We forge ahead and keep our eyes fixed on that career we’ve dreamed of for a long time.
Going now to our most personal lives, are we as learned and well-coached about taking our relationships to the next level? Do we feel there’s something missing, something we can’t put our finger on because this is the part of life where we lack skills to come to a firm decision? Ironically, we’ve become good at engineering our professional career and leading it to the path we have chosen, but our score is a dismal zero when it comes to nurturing our romantic relationships. Besides, we’ve already admitted that being a superwoman isn’t healthy or fun. To be successful in our jobs and in our emotions is a tall order. We can handle our stress levels better when we’re working towards only one goal the professional goal.
But then, we wake up one day and we realize we’re not getting any younger. We’ve painfully neglected our personal relationships because we concentrated too long on our careers. The individual we’re dating wants to be serious like live together and aim towards marriage in the next 6-12 months.
We confront the question: do we want to settle? Are we ready?
No Coach Can Answer That!
The answer, unfortunately, can’t come from your psychologist, from a manual, from your parish priest or from your best friend. Sure, you can consult them and gather opinions (conduct a survey if you wish), but YOU will have to decide this yourself when the final hour comes and you’re being pressed for a decision from your significant other.
Certain cues might help. You need to relax and be by yourself for a few days so you can ‘meditate’ on this matter. it’s not to be taken lightly, you know that, not if you’re particularly fond of the individual you’re dating. If you are wishy-washy about coming to terms with it, he’ll smell it right away (men too, were wired with good intuition and sensitivity perhaps more than women) and you could lose him.
You need to deal with these issues:
Am I happy with the way things are? Do I mind being unattached even if everyone around me seems to be getting hooked and hitched?‘
There are human beings who don’t necessarily fit into the traditional mold of getting married and raising children. If we’re content with our present situation and we’re not fighting inner demons and enjoying our social life the way it is, then why rock the boat? Why do we have to feel that we have to bow to societal norms and be like everyone else? We once knew a lady who staunchly defended her single status and said, ‘there’s a lot to be said for being single, you know.’ Did we suspect she was ever lonely? No, because she had a healthy social network that kept her busy. She certainly wasn’t mopping around or spending time in front of the tube watching soaps.
Think with your head but listen to your heart. If the single life matches your temperament, no law of the land would condemn you. You may be the subject of speculation by others, but at least you’re confident that unlike a blue chip stock or penny stock, you won’t come tumbling down and have zero equity.
What is really preventing me from settling down? Is it the relationship or is it the individual I am with?‘
Expressed another way, the questions boil down to ‘am I ready for this relationship?’ or ‘am I ready for this man/woman?’
This thorny issue can blur our vision because we are unable to distinguish between the relationship and the individual. At some point we have to make a distinction:
a) I truly love him. He’s the best man I’ve ever come to know. We compliment each other and the chemistry is strong. Our personalities blend in perfectly. There’s just something about our relationship that isn’t right.
b) The relationship is going well. I’m worried, however, about my girlfriend’s spending habits and her being a social butterfly. Our relationship, though, is beyond reproach. it’s honest, it’s healthy, and I feel there are no hidden agendas or skeletons in the closet. The relationship has all the essentials that will make it solid and successful for many years to come.
Sometimes, we have to make an ‘Inventory’ of our beliefs and sentiments. With pen and paper, we can draw up two tables: one for ‘relationship’ and another for ‘person.’ Each table should have two columns: positive and negative. Then we do the totals. Or we assign ‘weights’. it’s rather a drab, un-emotional approach of finalizing the ‘am I settling’ equation, but you’ll be surprised how putting things down on paper can make things more crystal clear, rather than tossing ideas forwards and backwards in our already confused brains.
It would also put things into better perspective if you make a separate list of what you will accept in a relationship/individual, and what you’re not going to tolerate under any circumstances. So if your partner’s spending habits brings up a large red flag, find someone else or dialogue about it.
Is my Past Getting in the Way of Settling Down?
This is another issue that we need to face. Our parents’ lives play a significant role in the way we lead ours. If we grew up in a home blessed with love, harmony and durability, then we haven’t been ‘stung’ by the mistakes of others. Sooner or later, the decision of settling down will hit us and we’ll just allow nature to take its course. But if our parents went through a tumultuous marriage that ended in a bitter divorce, we could have internalized that experience and allowed it to dictate our relationship behaviors. The fear of repeating history runs strong, and in order to avoid the potential unpleasantness of marriage, we postpone our decision of settling down indefinitely.
Although studies have shown that children of divorce have higher risks of becoming divorced themselves later in life, each person has the ability to beat the odds. There are mechanisms in place to help us in preventing the same mistakes our parents made. It can be compared to the knowledge that if cancer runs in the family, we go for screenings and rigorous monitoring to prevent the disease from spreading. Why can’t we do the same for our emotional ills?