Bobbi Palmer, one of our generous sponsors of Women At Woodstock and a panelist on the Friendship & Intimacy workshop, shares some extremely useful insights about “personal baggage” to keep in mind when meeting new people – especially when dating. Read on…
The Pros and Cons of Getting to Know You
by Bobbi Palmer
Think of the people in your life and ask yourself – are any of them perfect? For that matter, are you? Of course not. By the time we reach mid-life, the average person has accumulated a fair amount of “stuff”, or baggage, or scars, or whatever you want to call it. This is a normal result of living life, facing challenges, and getting older.
Recently I got an email from Lisa who described the various baggage in her life and then asked the question: with all this “stuff” that comes with me, is there any hope that I will be able to find love?
This question makes me so sad, and I’m sharing her letter in the hope that you – imperfect, complex, and human as you no doubt are – will realize that whatever shortcomings you might have, (physical, financial, family, etc) they aren’t the definition of you, they’re just pieces of the whole.
I hope that you’ll glean some tips on managing “stuff” in your budding relationships from Lisa’s letter and my response. Remember: having compassion and understanding for others is as important as having them for yourself.
This is my story: I’m 42, mid-divorce, going through a bankruptcy as a result of my husband, mother to a child with autism, and I will eventually be moving in with my mother.
I’m a good person, I’m friendly, but I know that when I start dating again this is all going to have to be discussed. I’m worried that all this “stuff” is going to scare away any man that I might try to have relationship with. Is there any hope for me to find love?
First of all: yes, a thousand times yes! There absolutely is hope!
Everyone has imperfections – everyone. You have “stuff” in your life, and so does any man you might be considering a relationship with. A kind and confident man also has something more than that – the capacity for understanding. A good man is looking for a woman who is real, not chasing an ideal that doesn’t exist.
With regard to dating, especially in those first few meetings, context is key. How you present yourself, how you choose to share your “stuff” with someone new, is everything.
To help with this I have a really great exercise call the “bushel basket”: Pretend that you are holding a big basket, and as you learn more about someone new, you add the things they tell you to it. For example: he arrived on time, you like his shirt, he’s intelligent, he makes you laugh, you seem to share beliefs and values – all these things go into your basket and together they form your opinion of him.
In the course of the date he’s bound to drop a couple things into your basket that aren’t so great. Maybe he has a bad relationship with his ex-wife, maybe he has high cholesterol. So, these things go into your basket and mix together with all the good stuff that got put there before. Now what does it look like in there? Do you see him as a good prospect? Do you want to get to know him better? Unless one of those negatives is a total deal-breaker, chances are you’re still interested. He’s got a lot of positives, after all.
Now let’s start from scratch. Let’s pretend that all that’s been tossed into your basket is his punctuality, the good shirt, the difficult ex, and the health issue. That’s it. Now what do you see? Have you decided he’s a bad fit? Are you looking for a trap door? Probably.
The point of this exercise is: perspective is everything.
Lisa, I can tell you’re smart and you’re friendly. You’re a good person who’s caring, nurturing, and loyal. These are unbelievably appealing qualities, especially to a man!
So when it’s time to get into the dating scene, remember the basket. On the first few meetings let him fill his up with all this good stuff. Then, as you start to get to know each other better, you’ll share the rest, bit by bit. And remember that what you’re adding isn’t just scary “stuff”, it’s your own goodness and loyalty and perseverance in dealing with it.
This is not about hiding information or being manipulative. It doesn’t mean you expect others to ignore your (supposed) imperfections. It’s about seeing yourself as the assembled parts that make you who you are. It’s about letting someone new get to know you as a complete person – a mixture of wonderful qualities and very human challenges. The only way through those challenges is forward, and when the time comes, you will find a man who wants to be there with you as you face them.
I congratulate you on reaching out, Lisa. It’s the smart thing to do, and the first step in moving forward. Keep reading on datelikeagrownup.com, and when you’re ready to get this dating thing underway, let me know, I’ll be here.
Bobbi Palmer is the sought-after relationship and dating coach for women over 40, and the founder and CEO of Date Like A Grownup.