Many readers of Getting Past Your Breakup (GPYB) wait until they are ready to date to read my second book, Getting Back Out There (GBOT). They say that they can’t even BEGIN to think about dating right now. Of course you aren’t!
But GBOT contains many things that need consideration while you are working through your breakup. There are several things I wanted to include in GPYB but we were running out of space…so they are in GBOT. You can skip the chapters about bumps in the dating road and how to draft an on-line dating profile and go right to the things you need NOW – long before you’re really ready to date. If you don't consider and commit to them long before you're ready to date, you will find it too challenging to do once you're back out there.
GBOT contains the Standards and Compatibility Inventory which should be done in tandem with your Relationship Inventory and/or Life Inventory from GPYB. Why? Because you are working through what worked and what didn’t in your last relationship as well as what you liked and didn’t in your partner. While doing the Relationship Inventory and the Life Inventory, you need to become very aware of what you need to look for and look out for in future partners.
GBOT also contains the Couples Inventory which contains guidelines for what a healthy partnership looks like and how to ascertain your chances with someone.
While you don’t want to be dragging a date through these questions and considerations, there are ways to ask questions about potential mates to help you figure out if this person is going to be compatible with your view of what kind of couple you will be. GBOT stresses what is important in a mate and what is not. It discusses communication styles and what is and what is not okay in a good relationship. You can tell a lot in the early going if you know what to look for.
GBOT gives plenty of food for thought and requires that you work through and commit to what you want and that you will not settle for less, no matter what. That commitment to yourself is part and parcel of healing from your breakup so that you will choose healthier next time. It takes a while to solidify that commitment to yourself and you need to start that long before you are ready to date.
The Standards and Compatibility Inventory constitutes the code of behavior you expect from yourself and others. To adhere to the code and expect others to do the same, you must carefully develop—based on experience and future expectations—how you want to be treated and commit to releasing anyone who does not adhere to or respect your code.
Once you are clear on that, you know where you are going and who is going with you. Before you go out there—LONG BEFORE YOU GO OUT THERE—it’s time to decide what you want and what you need. You must develop what is acceptable, unacceptable and “maybe” acceptable. Negotiable, non-negotiable and possibly negotiable for the right person. The “maybe” acceptable and possibly negotiable are not there for you to bargain on the acceptable and non-negotiable, it’s for giving someone who is absolutely fantastic in every other way a bit of leeway in the personal preference area.
My example is that I said, emphatically, that I could not live with another sloppy man. Then I met the love of my life who happened to be the messiest human being I’ve ever known. He was personally hygenic but the house was a mess. He adored me, treated me like gold and was willing to pay for a housekeeper as I was not willing to clean up after him either. If he wasn’t willing to pay for a housekeeper, that would have to have been a deal breaker because I would have been resentful within a few months. So I accepted his messiness and he paid for my cleanliness. It worked. So what had been a non-negotiable became negotiable for Mr. Almost Perfect but he did have to agree to paid housekeeping. Another great thing about him was he was very amenable to compromise.
Your list reminds you what you need to be and what to look for in others. The first part of the list should be written from your “past mistakes.” Things you’ve accepted in past relationships that are absolutely unacceptable now. Things you’ve done in other relationships that you don’t want to do any longer. This can be a positive or a negative. Maybe you’ve loaned money to deadbeats or dated someone with DUIs or people who were newly separated…okay, time to change that. But maybe you’ve also had temper tantrums or been overly critical or played games or shut people out for small offenses. If you want to be healthy, you can’t behave like that any longer. See why you have to go through this long before you start dating?
Next your list should include warning signs that you’ve ignored in the past. An early flareup that indicated anger issues that you ignored, very differing social or political views, treating others shabbily. Think about what you’ve accepted and how it’s hurt you in the past and commit to NEVER accepting it again. Have standards that you refuse to compromise on…no sex without commitment or STD testing…no deadbeat parents…no overly involved ex.
The Standards and Compatibility Inventory is more involved than this, but you get the idea. It is very difficult to figure this out when you’ve been alone a long time and suddenly a cute smile and a warm body who likes you appears on the horizon. People tend to forget their standards and if you haven’t made the commitment to walk when the unacceptable appears, you might find yourself playing down Mr. Cute Smile’s temper or Ms. Warm Body’s inappropriate relationship with her ex. You must decide what you want and commit to walking if this cute, warm, cuddly, awesome person isn’t it. Those cute, warm forces are A LOT to overcome and you won’t if you have no idea what it is you are looking for. People bargain with themselves ALL THE TIME and make excuses for people early in a relationship that become so problematic later on. If you want a healthy relationship with a supportive partner, that needs to end. The way to end it is to do your inventory long before you are ready to get back out there.
Think about your “no, just no” list, your acceptable/must haves, your unacceptable/non-negotiables and your maybes. Think about how reasonable/unreasonable these lists are. Never put your standards up for a vote. They are yours and don’t let anyone talk you into compromising them…but make sure you are comfortable and committed to that which you want, and you will actually get it.
My friends told me my standards were too high and I said, "Fine. I'd rather be alone than compromise on them." When you are holding out for healthy, happy people, the pickings are definitely slimmer, but SO worthwhile when it clicks. When I met my husband, I knew, absolutely, he was the one. And he knew that about me. The standards matched.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” In this time of healing from a breakup and deciding what went wrong in the past, you must decide what you must have in the future. It’s time to figure out what you stand for. You can do this!!!
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Excerpted from Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup by Susan J. Elliott (Da Capo 2015)