As a slightly askew Psych undergrad, I became entranced with the idea of people having specific personality types. Through labeling their mindset and giving them a category, one could discover what makes them tick, cry, squirm, and fall in love. I used it to try and figure people out, predict the duration of adoration, scheme to find the cause of our future downfall, and analyze the events of my life as an observer to a really-not-so-tragic teenage drama. I found myself silently observing people when out at bars or parties, trying to use body language as a means for deciding their level of extroversion, and avoiding people if they seemed too outgoing for my tastes. At the beginning, I partied and socialized without much thought behind it other than reaching a level of intoxication and possibly talking to a new stranger-turned-acquaintance. Near the end of my undergrad career, I reeled at the idea of parties with people potentially not like me and having to engage in conversations about things about which I could care less. The positive of this is that I had become more picky as to with whom I hung out. I began to see people for whom they were, tendencies and all, and I rejected them for that. The negative is that I began to pick apart my relationships and figure out precisely where and when our end would come. I would find these guys based on their real-life actions and words, and then ask for their personality type and be dissatisfied.
Where most of the guys I dated were prone to arguing and conflict, I avoided it at all costs. Where I found enlightenment in books, art, and spirituality, they built their weeks around specific games to watch and draft picks. Most of the things we held in common would always seem just as a one-sided adventure; I made a plan, and they just tagged along. Bitter and jaded, I lacked the ability to separate the actual people from their labels, and almost as soon as I found out, a sense of impending doom clouded all else, and I looked for warning signs of the flood. At the end of each relationship, I would look back and wonder to myself, “How did I allow this to go on for so long? Why didn’t I read this in the first few weeks of our being together?” Baffled and confused, I left each one feeling fully disjointed and disconnected and ready to be alone forever. It is also with confounding sadness that the initial draw was always to those who were my opposites. I was disgusted with myself for over-analyzing each person, but every guy I dated proved to be a bad match for me on several different levels. I haven’t met anyone new in awhile, and I worry that I will get wrapped up in another pointless relationship before realizing that the person is not ideal for me. Is this the real point of dating? Absolutely. I feel I have reached a certain age and level of experience, however, where I should know myself well enough to write off type A/no-harmonic personalities immediately.
As an INFP, I believe, upon first meeting, that anyone could be my soulmate. I envision them as such and paint them a beautiful, glowing portrait upon which I pin my emotions and daydreams. The disguise I create for them allows me to ignore their flaws and rough areas without popping my bubble of idealized love. It is this flaw that gives me fuel for more mistakes but room for the right person to join me on this adventure.
I have made a list of things to check for so that, next time, I have a realistic mindset of what I want. This is The Reality Check.
- Do we have the same values?
- Values are important, and knowing where anyone stands on religion, family, children, abortion, drugs, food, travel, politics, and existentialism might be essential if you plan on dating someone for longer than the weekend. Online dating can be helpful and absolutely shitty for this. People only give the information they want you to see, and so their responses may be simply the things you want to hear. If people aren’t willing to communicate (see number 3), you can still find out a lot about a person just by observing. Pause a moment to sit back and take in their actions. Even looking at how they spend their free time, how they tip, and how they deal with mistakes can tell you the kind of person they are.
- Did we have a friendship first?
- Not that this is a priority, but I have found in my ventures that it can be beneficial to have a period of “assessment” to see if you are even compatible as friends. While this step is overlooked almost always, it can be frustrating to find yourself a few months into a relationship with someone who really pushes all of your buttons. How didn’t I see this coming? How was I to know their little quirks would become major annoyances? This buffer/pre-relationship phase known as friendship can be a helpful way to thoroughly get to know someone without allowing your feeling-tendrils to pierce their soul and drag them down to the depths of love.
- Do we value the time we spend together?
- I once dated a fellow who spent most of the time we spent together on his phone. At the time, I tried to ignore it and play the “cool girl” card. I allowed this idealized relationship to go on for a long time without ever addressing it, and in the end, he left without blinking. I was crushed and bewildered. Early signs like this might seem minor, but if it is addressed and doesn’t change, that person really is not interested in being present in the moment enjoying time with just you and all your you-ness. Most people wrapped up in checking social media sites and notifications are trying to distract themselves with their own unhappiness about life.
- Do we communicate about things other than the present moment?
- Communication can seem very difficult, but with the right person, this should really be effortless. If you do not feel comfortable with someone having tabs on you at all times, state that outright and make your stand on it. If you do like the constant level of communication available via technology, then tell them that. Nothing is worse than passive aggressive texting used to cover up unequal perceptions of what kind of communication is needed. That being said, if you do not like the level of communication present, try to actively fix it. Meet in the middle, find a way, and try it out. At the very least, you both gave it your best shot.
- Do I think he would get a long with my cousins (or family in general)?
- My cousins happen to be the humans who bond best with me. I grew up with them, and we have a magical soul connection unlike anything I have ever felt. While we may not agree on all topics, they know my insides as if they were their own, and they have a good idea of the kind of person who would make me feel full and happy. I have had several guys come and go whom I would never have meet my cousins because I did not think they would like him or have anything in common. The truth was that I usually did not like that person or think that we had anything in common. This is a big red flag. If you do not care about someone meeting your family (in a bad way), find yourself embarrassed to have them meet a friend, or cannot bear the thought of them going to the family picnic, then do not bring that person, and end your own misery. My cousins are pretty good judges of character, and they know who is going to harmonize well with my spirit. This is also a decent strategy for figuring out my own feelings and uncovering the root of my own doubts.
- Do I even see a future that would sustain my interest while still empowering my goals?
- When I am old and saggy, will I still feel anything for this person? Will their mind still captivate me and encourage me to be better and live more fully? Does he or she plan on having an adventure this long? Will there be little passengers on this journey? Oh the places we will go, oh the people we will see. Is the person I want the person I need? We meet so many along the way who were only meant to be sight-seen and not lived-in. Trust your gut on this. If it does not feel right and you are not 100% that you could love them forever, do not waste your time or theirs. Broken hearts can heal, but hearts that have been stretched and used may never recover.