Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to Find Your Soulmate: Five Easy Steps

Do you know someone who is perpetually single despite being a great catch?  How about someone who perpetually picks men or women who are completely wrong for them?  Or maybe someone who is in a relationship right now that is going no where?  
Why is it so difficult to find someone with whom we are compatible?  
When people, especially women, find out that I study love, they inevitably tell me a story about someone in their lives who is either single or in a bad relationship.  They want to know what they can tell them to help them along their path to love. The truth is, love is not a science.  I don’t have a special equation to give them that will guarantee that they find a true love that will last forever.  I wish I did.  Can you imagine all of the heartache that might be avoided if we were taught a clear and concise path to and through love?

Funny thing is, the media tells us that it’s simple.  We’re taught that love can happen in a moment and that if it is really true love, then we will live happily ever after.  Media has taught us that there are a few tricks to finding our true love: We can either look into the eyes of our soulmate and we will know; we can act helpless and wait to be rescued; or we can kiss enough frogs until one of them turns into a prince (this one is particularly dangerous because when you kiss frogs you date frogs...and when you date frogs, you ultimately marry a frog.  Then you have to divorce a frog or live with his ugly warts forever and divorces are uglier than the frog you kissed in the first place).  
The truth is, the media lies.  Most of us are sent out into the world with hearts full of dreams but no helpful tools to help us make that love happen.
So, I don’t have the magical equation, but I definitely have some helpful tools that might help you find someone with whom you really can spend the rest of your life loving.  
Here it is in five easy steps:
STEP 1: MAKE YOUR LOVE LIST  What do you love?  Before you can figure out WHO you want to love, you need to identify WHAT you love. 
Make a list of every single thing that you can think of that you love.  You can use the computer or just a blank piece of paper and a pen.  If you’re creative, get out your colored pencils.  


The beginning of my love list might include: my husband’s dedication to our family, seeing my girls smile at me every morning, my family, writing as a way to get out what’s inside, loving, grape juice with crushed ice, cherry kool-aid, hot chocolate with whipped cream and caramel sauce with a little bit of sea salt, cheering for Craig and the Seahawks when he played football, learning about God, waking up feeling rested, self-serve frozen yogurt stores, the smell of paper copy stores, crisp fall days, white sweatshirts, learning, teaching, soft blankets, playing board games, Craig’s music, back rubs, traveling overseas, discovering new places, being home, inspiring conversations, thinking through new ideas, dreaming, spreadsheets, sleeping babies, playing basketball, reading poetry, live concerts, finishing a project, a clean house...but not cleaning a house, s'mores, Chicago, Colorado, Seattle, Banff, mountains, fireworks, feeling at home with friends...

The goal of your love list is to help put you in a loving frame of mind.  This is a fun activity whether you are single, dating, or married.  Rereading your love list and it will not only make you happier about living in a world with so many things that you love, but it will also allow you to reflect of who you are in relation to the rest of the world.
STEP 2: CREATE YOUR MUST HAVE AND CANT STAND LISTS  

Before you go out into the dating world, it is important that you know what you’re looking for.  This list will help you figure out WHO you want your future husband or wife to be...or at least what qualities you would like for him or her to have.  
  
For this step, you must limit your must have and can’t stand lists to ten items each and you must be specific.  For example, you cannot just say that you would like for your partner to be athletic.  It’s too broad and leaves wiggle room later on when you are trying to convince yourself that the guy you’re dating is athletic because he bowls once in a while.  If you want a bowler, then say that you want a bowler.  But if you’d like someone who runs marathons or someone who works out daily at the gym, then say that instead.   
You’re going to need a piece of blank paper.  Title one side, “My Top Ten Must Haves” and number 1-10.  The other side is going to be for, “My Top Ten Can’t Stands.”
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
Traits (chemistry, communicator, sense of humor, verbal intimacy, emotionally healthy, strong character, artistic, kind, educated, organized, exciting, patient, tolerant, attractive, conflict resolver, affectionate, industrious, certain energy level, emotionally generous, intellectual, self-confident, unassuming, able to accept help, curious, loyal, adaptable)
Values (family life, shared interests, style and appearance, politics, charitable)
Family (children, parenting style)
This exercise is taken from a book called
Date or Soul Mate
by the founder of EHarmony.
Social Habits (like to go out, stay in, many friends or a few, gives me space or wants to spend all of their time with me)
Sexuality (abstinent, sexually knowledgeable, passionate)
Spirituality (religious practice, spiritual acceptance)
Financial/Career (financially responsible, ambitious, relaxed)
Here are a few of my must-haves from before I met Craig:
  1. He must either write poetry or sing...and be willing to share his poetry or songs with me.
  2. He must be taller than I am.
  3. He must be able to beat me at basketball.
  4. He must be intelligent and able to teach me about things that I don’t know.
  5. He must have dark hair and light eyes.
  6. He must be faithful.
  7. He must want children.
  8. He must adore me and make me feel like I am the only woman in his eyes.
  9. He must be able to provide financially for our family but also be okay with me working outside of the home.
  10. He must be a good conversationalist and we must enjoy talking to each other.
There are a few things that I might change now that I lucked into with Craig.  For example, at the time I didn’t realize how important it was for me to be with someone whose religious convictions were similar to mine.  We just lucked out that we were kind of at the same place with that.  I would encourage you to make that a higher priority than I did.
When you’re done with that list, it’s time to create your Can’t Stand List. This list is very similar to your Must Have List, but in reverse.  Here’s your opportunity to add a few more things to your list that you couldn’t fit on your must-haves.  Again, you are limited to just 10 items.  You can do this one on the same page as your must-haves if you’d like.  I find it easier to have these two together because when you’re evaluating a future prospect, you’ll want to have both lists easy to find.
After creating this list, it should be a bit easier for you to picture what your ideal spouse may be like.  These lists are SO IMPORTANT because when you meet or start dating someone who has something that is on your can’t stand list or who is missing something on your must have list, you are going to walk away immediately.  You’re not going to keep dating them in hopes that it will change.  That is a recipe for many years of unhappiness.  Just walk away.  Do not stay out of the fear of being alone.  It may not seem like it at first, but alone is a much happier place to be than stuck in a relationship with someone who has one of your fundamental red flags.
CAUTION: If you are married, do not do this list.  There are more beneficial exercises for you that will help you focus on the positive qualities of your spouse.
CAUTION: If you are currently in a relationship but not married, please pretend like you are not in that relationship when you are creating this list.  Sometimes people have a tendency to fib a bit or omit certain characteristics because that may eliminate the person who they are currently dating.  Please take note of that as you do this exercise.
STEP 3: SELF IMPROVEMENT
Now that you have a clearer vision of who you are looking for, take a moment to think about what type of person they might want.  What do you think that they might find attractive?  For example, if you are looking for someone who is athletic and loves to work out at the gym, then might they be attracted to someone who also enjoys working out at the gym?  Or if you are looking for someone who is honest, then might they like someone who is honest too?  
Who do you see when you look in the mirror?  Who do you want them to see when they look at you?  
On a new piece of paper, make a list of the top three qualities that you think that your dream spouse might look for in their spouse.
Now, go over that list and compare the list to who you are and how you are currently living your life.  What do you need to do to become that person?  Pick at least one of the areas to work on so that you can become the person who you want them to want.
STEP 4: ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER
Everything is easier if we have someone in our lives to help hold us accountable.  After you’ve created these four lists, please share a copy of them with a trusted friend. Ideally, this will be someone of the same sex or someone who you know will always be just a friend.  Explain to them what they mean and ask them to hold you accountable in sticking to the lists when you find someone new.
STEP 5: BE THERE 
The final step is simple.  Put yourself in the types of places that your ideal person would be.  For example, if you don’t want a future husband or wife who enjoys hanging out in bars or clubs, then bars and clubs are not where you should spend your time.  If you want someone who loves watching live sports, go to live sports games.  If you want someone who loves to ski, hang out on the mountain.  You get the idea.
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So, there it is -- five steps to finding the love of your life.  Living happily ever after isn’t simple even with the most compatible partner, but it sure is a lot easier than trying to make it happen when you’re spending your time with someone who isn’t right for you.
Let me know as you go...what’s on your love list?  What are you looking for in your mate?  I’d love to hear your success stories too! 

Live Love,
Rachel

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Why Do We Hurt the Ones We Love?

Last night, I sat with a friend who told me her love story.  She and her boyfriend were madly in love.  They found in each other everything that they had ever wanted.  They understood each other’s demanding work schedules.  He listened to her.  Really listened.  In fact, he called her every night, no matter the hour on his long and late commute to his house from work.  They had fun together, they laughed together, and they quickly became each other’s best friends.  He loved to ski, to camp, and to work with the youth group at his church.  She didn’t love the outdoors, but she loved that he loved to ski, and camp.  Together, they worked with the youth group at his church.  They both loved God and each other.  That was enough.  He bought a ring.  He called her parents.  He told his parents of his plans.  They started to dream about what life might be like together, with the promise of forever.  


Then, one morning he left early to go skiing, early enough to be the first one on the lift so that his tracks in the powder would be the first of the day.  But on his way up to the mountain that morning, a sleeping disorder caused him to fall asleep at the wheel.  He veered off of the road, into a tree, and died.  

A couple of days later, his parents gave her his grandmother’s ring, the one with which he planned to propose.  But death did them part before she was able to say “I do”.  She was left alone, mourning their shared hope of forever.   She was left in silence, every night, when they once shared long phone calls on his way home from work.  Now, it’s been five years since her boyfriend passed away.  She isn’t sure that she will ever find that kind of love again.  Nicholas Sparks once wrote, “The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected.”  No doubt their souls were and always will be connected.  But, he is there, and she is here...left to pick up the pieces of her broken love story and to move on...somehow...without him.


...

If you knew that you only had a few days left with the one you love, would you change anything?  The way you look at him?  The way you talk to him?  Would you take an extra minute to listen to what he tells you or to look into his eyes when you walk past him in the hallway?  Would you be gentler with your words?  Less harsh with your thoughts?  Would you focus on who he is instead of who he isn’t?
Craig's Dad, Ray
Why do we treat those we love the most the worst?  I read a quote today by Haruki Murakami that said, “Here she is, all mine, trying her best to give me all she can. How could I ever hurt her?  But I didn’t understand then that I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. A person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair. 
It’s true, isn’t it. My friend was hurt beyond repair by the loss of her boyfriend.  But we hurt others beyond repair while we’re still alive, by our own selfishness.  We hurt with our words.  With our actions.  With our silence.  

That makes me think of the way that I treated some of my ex-boyfriends.  In fact, a friend of mine once told me that the pain I’ve caused others in love is comparable to killing a person.  Perhaps that’s what drew me to study love.  For so long, I didn’t understand it.  
I thought that love was supposed to be all about me and about getting my needs met.  I once told a boyfriend, “You are welcome to try to find a way to fit into my life, but I am not going to change to fit into yours.”  Can you imagine?  It’s a good thing that we weren’t married, because that marriage would’ve been doomed to failure on account of my selfishness.  In fact, the relationship ended on account of my selfishness.  I thought that I needed to kiss other boys before I got married.  I also thought that my true love was the guy who wrote poetry and lit candles for me.  The feelings of limerence went wild and I was sure that I would be lying to my heart if I didn’t follow it straight to him.  So, I broke up with the nice boy who was willing to change for me and allowed the poet to take up residence in my heart.  Turns out that he wasn’t as nice as the nice boy who I broke up with for him.  He wasn’t as stable either.  I’ve come to believe that not many poets are, but that instability allows them to fall into the depths of their souls from where they can write the words that move us all.  So, I broke up with the poet because he wasn’t willing to change for me either, and despite the passion we felt when we looked into each other’s eyes, we didn’t have much to talk about.  I broke his heart too.  
And then, when I was sure that I had found the one, because we were so much alike, I realized that the ways that we were alike were not healthy.  We both believed that the world should give way for us.  I cheated on him with a good looking but shallow man.  He cheated on me with a woman whose face I’ve never seen.  Cheating, in general, isn’t healthy for relationships.  And so ours ended.  Two hearts broken.
One more boyfriend, who I thought could do a better job of being my boyfriend, also failed at being everything I’d ever wanted and needed.
Then, I met Craig.  By that point, I’d started to realize that something was wrong and it was probably me.  Turns out that it was.  One person can't do all of the loving and caring in a relationship.  It takes two.
Craig’s dad passed away about a year before we started dating.  A couple of weeks into being crazy for Craig, I had a dream.  In my dream, Craig’s dad was there and he said, “Craig is such a special person.  I think that you two could be very happy together and I will do everything that I can to make that happen.  But if I do, you have to promise me that you will always be good to him.”
I woke up with the feeling that I had just visited with his Dad.  And in that moment, I promised him that I would.  It was a profound moment for me and certainly life altering.  For the first time, I realized that it was up to me to cherish him.  
For a long time I didn’t feel like I deserved Craig.  After all, I’d done nothing but deceive others and break hearts in merciless ways until then.  Why on earth should I deserve someone as great as Craig?  And I used to tell my friends that.  And then someone told me, “God doesn’t care what you did.  He cares what you’re doing.”  And that’s when it clicked.  I cherish Craig.  I adore him and I thank God for him.  I deserve Craig because of the way that I treat Craig and how much I appreciate and adore him...not because of anything that happened before. 
When I hear stories like the one I heard last night from my friend, it reminds me of how lucky I am to be given this chance with Craig.  We loved and adored each other just like they did.  Craig bought a ring just like he did.  But Craig had the chance to give it to me.  I had the chance to say yes.  I don’t know or understand God’s plan.  I don’t know why my friend’s relationship ended so tragically.  It’s not fair and that makes me angry and sad.  It also makes me work harder to never take my marriage for granted.
I’m not always the perfect wife, but I strive to be better every day.  I strive to listen to him.  To let him know that he’s heard.  I strive to stay focused on what is best for our family and our relationship.  I keep my eyes away from other men.  I keep my thoughts away from other romance.  He deserves it.  We all do.