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Ghosts of Relationships Past

If you read the first two parts of this series, you may still be pondering the question I asked you to think about: Consider all the men you've dated; do you have a certain "type"...
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This is the last segment of a three-part series I wrote about The Men We Date, and how to open up to new possibilities. If you missed them, go to my page to read Part 1 and Part 2.
If you read the first two parts of this series, you may still be pondering the question I asked you to think about: Consider all the men you've dated; do you have a certain "type," and if so, what is it?
In the last post, I revealed some of my type-cast choices and less-than-wonderful results! I heard from many of you who seemed to be slapping your forehead exclaiming, "Oh, wow! I'm a saver, too!" and want to break the habit. Some of you wrote to say you are tired of dating guys who won't commit, but that you are still in a relationship that's been going on for years. One of you wrote to tell me that you're finding a certain religious-based dating site a drag, and realized it was always your mother who wanted you to marry a nice (insert religion here) boy! Congratulations on all of your self-discovery!
In my previous post, I mentioned that one of the best ways to break out of your dating rut is to make a ManfileTM. A ManfileTM includes your non-negotiables -- a list all of the qualities you will no longer put up with in a partner. I call these your non-negotiables. Many women include things such as "dishonesty" or "self-destructive;" "emotionally unavailable," "irresponsible," "abusive."
Then, make a list of your must-haves: things a guy has to have to be in a relationship with you. You might list qualities such as sense of humor, financially stable, kind, sincere. Some people list "must have kids." Others list "must not want kids." Whatever it is you must have - write it down! Your ManfileTM will evolve over the years, but the important thing is to start it.
And for all of you who want to write and ask me why I prescribe for perfection - don't. You are NOT looking for perfection. Eww. You're just looking for someone whose baggage goes with yours (to quote the chick from Rent). You just want to be aware of how/why you've chosen previously and if it's not healthy or not working for you, what you might want to look for next time.
The final piece of the ManfileTM is all about you: describe who you are today and what you want for your life. Many of us don't take the time to check-in with ourselves; instead we operate on auto-pilot, choosing the same guys, friends, jobs, meals that we've been choosing for years. But who you are after you've been married and divorced, or after a long-term relationship ends, is not the same person you were before. Maybe what you thought you wanted all these years isn't your dream, but what you thought society expected ... or what your best friend wanted for you. Now is the time to ask yourself: What brings me joy? What am I willing to explore? Who am I trying to please? Hopefully, you'll begin to see more choices - even if that is the choice not to date. (We should all know by now that having a boyfriend, a husband, or a partner does not guarantee happiness. That has to come from you.)
One of the most fun ways to test out new types is speed-dating (my favorite in Atlanta is -- talk with ten men in an hour!) Another great way to mix it up is at a Lock and Key Party - believe me, you will find all "types!" (Janice runs them in Atlanta - are you bold enough to be the only white woman at the Black Singles party? Or the only one over 50 at the 40 and under group? Why not?) Try a different dating website, join a kickball league, or check out a personal matchmaker!
I left off my last column by sharing what I know now: "Finding someone outside my "type" was only half of the process; learning how to love him - not enable him, not save him, not live co-dependently -- was another process altogether.
Nearly three years after my divorce, but just a few months after I finally created my ManfileTM, I met my boyfriend. He is a self-sufficient man who loves his work, his life, and has a great attitude despite some tough times in his life. He can cook, dance, and have a great time in any social situation - even with my crazy friends and family! But when we first started dating, I honestly did not know how to be with him. How do I date someone who doesn't need me to pick up the pieces? What would my life be like without the rollercoaster ride of highs and lows? I wanted to try it - I enjoyed being with someone who was so giving, so secure, and so much fun. But in the beginning, I had no idea how to receive his love. I didn't know how to care for someone, instead of taking care of him. After all my years of being in the savior spot (my own bit of baggage, by the way), this healthy relationship didn't feel normal. Isn't that crazy? But I knew, deep down, that this was an incredible opportunity to learn to love another way. So I tiptoed into it and took the relationship very slowly. And while I often felt as if Sean was waiting for me to catch up, he never rushed me. He allowed me my time, my growth, my unfolding.
It's been over three years now, and I know I have never had a love like this. If I hadn't taken a chance on dating someone entirely different from the ghosts of relationships past, I would never be here, loving a man who is passionate without the drama; who has created with me a relationship filled with laughter, honesty and communication (yes, this man will talk about stuff!) He has embraced my son as well as the friendship my ex and I share, and I am grateful that his self-assuredness allows him to be accepting of it all. We are happy just being together ... and that feels like enough.
So the next time you hear yourself saying about a guy, "He's just not my type," why not give that type a try? Because maybe, after all these years, you're ready for a break-out role.

This is the third of my three-part series about Why We Choose The Men We Do. Are you ready for a change? Tell me about your break-out dates!

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