There are numerous things we do that can sabotage virtually any chance of having healthy long-term relationships, romantic or otherwise. One of the most common and destructive ones often happens before we even meet the other person.
We’ve all experienced moments when we notice someone for the first time and soon feel we want to get to know them better. It could be as a friend or possibly more. There is something that happens at this moment and it affects how we see and interact with that person from then on and we may not even realize it is happening.
If we are honest with ourselves, when we are emotionally drawn to someone, it’s usually because we notice something special about them and it excites us. It could have to do with their physical appearance, a skill or talent, confidence, presence, etc. Whatever those things are, they affect us. So what do we do in response?
Typically, the excitement and whatever positive feelings we experience in response to a person cause us to only see or at least highly focus on those specific aspects of the person. Perhaps the most stereotypical example would be a man who sees a stunning woman and instantly feels desire for her. That man then only really sees her as a desirable woman and may not even be able to perceive all the other wonderful qualities she has.
So often, the next step is for the object of one person’s desire, to become viewed as just that, an object. There is a dehumanization that occurs and the primary goal becomes figuring out how to get what they want (the other person). So often people pretend to be who they think the other person wants them to be, but then any relationship starts with deception and trust is much harder to build.
This can happen between any two people, whether there is a romantic interest or not. It happens with celebrities and famous or powerful people of all types. When one person wants to have any type of relationship with another person simply because that person has or represents something they desire, the relationship is destined to be unfulfilling.
Another big thing that causes this type of dynamic to occur is when a person wants a relationship with someone because of how the other person makes them feel. This usually happens later, after some shared experiences occur. While people don’t like to admit this, if you are in a relationship with someone simply because you feel better about yourself or your life when you are with them, you are in an unhealthy, self-centered relationship.
Of course, healthy relationships make you feel good and enhance your life, but for different reasons. Valuing someone for who they are is very different from valuing someone for how they make you feel about yourself. Simply stated, one is healthy, the other is definitely not.
The best relationships are ones where people consider and treat each other as equals. The foundation is built on trust, mutual appreciation, and consciously working to create a relationship that is fulfilling for both people. Open and honest communication is of course critical as well.
Unfortunately, so many relationships still function from the dynamic of two people consciously or unconsciously agreeing to use each other to get their individual needs met. The relationship works as long as both people’s needs are being met, but once one person becomes unhappy or the initial excitement of the relationship fades, things soon begin to fall apart.
So what then is a healthier alternative?
In my opinion, it’s rather simple, although can take some time and energy to put into practice. If I simplified things to a single word, it would be curiosity.
The next time you are drawn to someone, stop and focus on your experience. Fully acknowledge your feelings and then see if you can figure out why you are feeling what you are feeling. Can you figure out what aspects of the other person are causing you to have such a positive reaction?
If so great, if not, that’s completely fine too. The important thing is to acknowledge your feelings and then put them to the side as much as possible, so they don’t cause you to fixate on whatever attracted you to that person in the first place.
The next step is to go to a place of curiosity and look to find what other positive qualities the person has. This also helps you be able to see negative qualities, which is very important too. We all have positive and negative qualities and the goal isn’t to only see the positive and ignore the negative ones.
That leads to putting the other person on a pedestal. I won’t go into this much in this article, but putting someone on a pedestal prevents healthy relationships from being possible. It creates relationship/power imbalances and makes it impossible to see the other person for who they really are.
You will only see your idealized version of them, which most people don’t actually desire, at least not in a healthy relationship. In a deeply connected relationship, people want their positive and negative qualities to be seen and they desire to be accepted for all of who they are, not only for their positive qualities. Putting someone on a pedestal prevents this and many other healthy things from ever happening.
Stay as much as possible in a place of curiosity about the other person, as opposed to trying to be with or claim them for yourself. Being curious and really learning about the other person allows new relationships to begin more from a place of appreciation and less from a place of coveting the person or their qualities for yourself.
In other words, avoid having an agenda when meeting new people, especially ones you are drawn to. Keep your mind as open as possible to seeing the other person exactly as they are. See and acknowledge as much as possible so you can make the best decision about whether or not you would be a good fit for each other and what type of relationship would be in each of your best interests.
Of course, this is an ideal and no matter how much we try, our emotions will affect our judgment and how we are able to see others. In any case, making an effort to acknowledge our emotions and not completely give into them will help you begin and develop every relationship in a healthier way.