What does it look like when it's real?
July 16, 2013 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I have been out of a relationship for two years and working on myself emotionally, socially, and spiritually to clear out issues and limiting beliefs I have around dating and intimacy. I am currently in individual therapy to deal with personal stuff and have recently agreed (with prompting by my therapist) to participate in group therapy specific to dating and relationships.

My first question is "What does healthy mature dating look like as an older person when you are more likely to carry your own baggage and encounter dating prospects with their own share of emotional baggage that they may or may not have dealt with so far?"

My second question is "What does healthy "chemistry" look like that doesn't involve being attracted to or hooked in to someone's pathology, for lack of a better way to put it?"

I'm working hard on getting a realistic sense of what healthy dating interactions look and feel like. Thanks everyone.
posted by strelitzia to Human Relations (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
"What does healthy mature dating look like as an older person when you are more likely to carry your own baggage and encounter dating prospects with their own share of emotional baggage that they may or may not have dealt with so far?"

Well, for one thing, I think a healthy person will probably stop dating/not start dating someone if it becomes clear that the dating prospect in question has baggage that he or she isn't dealing with.

Note that I'm not saying, never date anyone with baggage. I'm saying, the healthier you get the easier it will be to recognize which people are dealing with their baggage, and which people are not. As someone wiser than I once wrote, "The three sexiest words a man* can say are my therapist says."

*The writer in question is a hetero lady; sub in the gender of your preference.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:18 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Liking who you get to be with that person. Feeling good about yourself when you're with them (and without them). Wanting but not consumed by thoughts of them, or you, or the 'us' of it all. It's a delight, not an obsession. They add to your life and it's clear what you add to theirs. All the rest is just details, but they should amount to this.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:22 AM on July 16, 2013 [22 favorites]

I guess you need to differentiate between dating and a relationship.

To me, healthy dating is where both parties feel safe, have mutual interests, a physical attraction, have fun, and go home with their self-respect intact.

Relationships are more complex, take longer to develop, and no two are much alike.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:28 AM on July 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

Agreed with like_a_friend. If a prospective dating partner has obvious baggage that they haven't dealt with they probably aren't someone to consider dating. Everyone has baggage, and I think you are right that the old people get the more likely it is that they will have baggage, but how people manage and deal with their baggage is the most important aspect.

Healthy chemistry is really relationship specific. In broad terms, a healthy chemistry should include something where both people feel as though their life is improved by being with that person, the relationship brings them more joy and happiness than stress and upset, that it is reciprocal, that it is respectful, and it is based upon deeper things than just the physical.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:32 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

For me it was a constant feeling of surprise that a particular quirk of mine (there were several) that had, in the past, made people cock their heads in confusion or even distaste, was not only acceptable but delightful to the other person.

In other words, they didn't just accept who I was, they really really liked who I was. Even when they did not share, say, my love of horrible 70s disco, they found it charming/interesting.

(Needless to say, I found their interests interesting/not offputting as well).

The other part, again for me, was someone who was self-directed and did not expect me to push them, guide them, or clean up after them. They knew what they wanted, they had a plan for getting it, they were open to my input but not dependent on that, they worked hard, and they were trustworthy.

Neither of us is a paragon of virtue and we've both been forced to grow and adapt to the crap life has thrown at us. We have not always been sure we were going to stay together. But our problems were always about what was best for each of us, not about whether the other person was acting in good faith or actually cared.

So: liking, trust and understanding, if you want to sum it up. We both know we will act decently towards one another even if we don't agree. We like being around each other, to a ridiculous degree.

I don't know if any of that helps you, but that's the closest I can come to describing things at their healthiest.
posted by emjaybee at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2013 [17 favorites]

Number one rule: if there was no chance that you would ever get to bone this person, would you still want to spend time with them?

This isn't a good measuring stick if you're still prone to unhealthy friendships too, but it's a useful starting point to rule out the errors caused by sheer physical attraction. Watch the way the person treats their friends. This is the way they will treat you once they are past the first flush of good behavior. If you think they are mean/sarcastic/hurtful to their friends, drop them like a hot rock.
posted by MsMolly at 10:17 AM on July 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think the healiest thing is that I felt completely comfortable to be my absolute self. If I didn't feel like doing something, I said so, without that fear that the other person would dump me on the spot.

I think having a group of common interests is important, in a Venn Diagram you'd overlap about 2/3, with each of you having interests that are head shakingly baffling to the other in the remaining thirds. Also, you feel perfectly comfortable with it and don't begrudge the other person time to pursue the interest. (Another WNBA game? Knock yourself out Boo.)

I think the hardest thing to overcome is the fact that there's little to no drama. For people who equate passion and romance with drama, it may seem boring and slow. But that's healthy!

You still want to jump the other person's bones, but there's no drama behind it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Heh, to take MSMolly's advice a step further: Also see if they are nice to the waitstaff. Really telling how someone treats someone they consider subordinate to them.

Consideration and communication. If they arent willing to look after you in some form or fashion that works for both of you, its not good. If yall cant communicate when things go wrong, it wont work.

Also look into love languages.
posted by Jacen at 11:02 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can each of you take 'no' for an answer? Do either of you have a compelling need to be 'right'? Is it ok to spend quiet time together or apart?
Nthing the concept that you can have a wonderful relationship without having drama.
Mr. Roquette and I are very low drama. Is everything always 100% perfect? No, but we don't let that fact spoil things. We avoid getting petty with each other. He likes his computer games. I leave him be to enjoy them. I prefer that to dealing with say a foot-ball addiction.
I like watching a family of giraffes online. He wakes me up to watch them being fed breakfast. For him I'm sure it's a lot better than being glued to 'reality tv' of some sort.
We have fun when we go places together. We have similar senses of humor.
My family likes him. That's important. If your family are ok, and you spend time with them, a healthy relationship is going to sometimes include family time. My family seem to like Mr. Roquette.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:59 AM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

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