Unsolicited relationship advice: must haves and can’t stands

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I can’t help it. Nobody asked for advice, but I have to share the strategy that–in addition to divine intervention–helped me realize that my best friend (and husband) Arnulfo was the only man for me.

First we have to go back in a time machine to 2005…

It’s the summer after my first year of teaching high school English, and I’m hashing out my relationship woes with John Trimble, illustrious author of Writing with Style.He’s a former professor of mine and a mentor; his thoughts and opinions are gold to me. So when he told me that the key to a happy relationship was making a good list, I tried to keep an open mind. “What you’ve got to do,” he said, setting down his beer to show me he meant business, “is to figure out what you need. Look back at where you’ve been in your relationships. Decide what worked, what didn’t.Build a list of ‘must haves’ and ‘can’t stands.’ Then stick to it.”

I wanted to believe he was joking. This “solution” seemed kitschy and two-dimensional, and he gave credit to a book dubiously entitled, Date…or Soul Mate?** But because it was John, I listened, and I gave it a try. And the thing is, it really helped. Not that I didn’t know what I wanted until I made the list. But the thing about it is that it’s tangible. I kept mine tucked away in my writer’s notebook, and after a month of dating somebody, I’d pull it out and really think through what I was doing with that person. After all, there comes a time when you don’t want to spend years figuring out you’re not compatible with your boyfriend.

Notice that this isn’t a guarantee that someone’s “right”; it’s more of a screening tool. But it’s a powerful one, especially for folks who (a) have a tendency to take too long to break things off, (b) get lost in the thrill of a new romance, (c) think their partners will change, plus just about anyone else.

So there you have it… my favorite piece of unsolicited relationship advice. 

**Holy smokes, don’t judge a book by its title! Turns out the author of this book also founded eHarmony.com. I guess if you want a more involved framework for this approach you should check out the book.


 

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