Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let Your Past Make You Better, Not Bitter

The dating world as a twenty-something (ahem) divorced woman is rather significantly different than I remember it being at age 18. A key difference is that now nearly everyone out there has a buttload of baggage and emotional scars up the wazoo. Some of the scars are more obvious--four previous divorces, a criminal history, still living with his mama... And some of the scars are less obvious but nonetheless real.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. Life beats us all up. To some extent, scars are evidence that we've actually LIVED, that we didn't just sit on the sidelines and watch things happen; we jumped in and really engaged with life in all its bloody, messy glory.

The problem is, too many people define themselves by their scars. They are still wallowing in past heartbreaks or nursing old grudges or proudly wearing their martyred hearts on their sleeves so all the world can see just how badly they've been mistreated by life. It goes without saying that it's not terribly attractive, in terms of the dating game. Beyond basic attraction, though, it's a big, huge red flag for a long term relationship.

Let me put it bluntly--
There are very, very few absolute dealbreakers for me about your past. There are things that definitely raise question marks, and there are things that will certainly remind me to take my time and be wise. However, even the worst stories sometimes have reasonable explanations, and sometimes, to be cliche, bad things happen to good people, so I generally avoid passing automatic judgment until I have enough information to decide whether this relationship--and you--are good for me or not.

I am much, much less interested in what wrongs were done in your past, by you or to you by someone else. I'm much more interested in what you've done with them. I'm interested in all the ways that you have overcome, forgiven, picked yourself back up, and moved forward. Courage, compassion, wisdom, strength, understanding--these are all priceless mementos from a spotted past. Refining of virtues is extremely attractive.

Even more, it gives me a good sense for how you'll handle the hits that life will throw us, should we decide to share our lives together.

I'm not interested in sharing my life with a victim, a martyr, a bully, a whiner, or a self-righteous prig. I'm not looking for perfect--I've got scars of my own. I'm hoping for someone who likes being better, who chooses to learn from the past without being defined by it. I prefer happiness. I'd like to be with someone who shares that choice.