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Before Calling It Quits, Consult "The List"

Dear Dating Doctor:

Dear Dating Doctor: We (three thirty-something women) decided to write you a group letter. We're all inthe process of breaking up, or are perilously close to ending established relationships with our men.What's your opinion about placing expectations on those we date? If we're not happy, should we just callit quits?

Tri-ing to decide


Dear Tri-ing:

According to fellow journalist Tananarive Due, "you can't find what you really want untilyou know what you are looking for." If your present relationships don't pan out , this will not inhibityou from bringing expectations into future relationships. Why? It's the same reason that we don't go seea horrible movie twice (can anyone say Tin Cup?). We learn from our mistakes and make better decisionsthe second time around.

It is a natural human reaction to place expectations on others. Over time, we learn what we do and don'tlike, and what we will and won't compromise on. Is this fair? Yes, as long as your expectations areflexible and allow for human imperfection. Expectations are a two-way street however, thus you need toconsider what your partner's are for you and whether or not you are living up to them.

A problem can arise when we begin to doubt our own judgment due to a lack of self-confidence. Accordingto Tananarive, "single adults often get labeled as quitters when it comes to relationships. They tend tobe individualistic, aren't willing to stick relationships out, aren't willing to try, and retreat at thefirst inconvenience or crisis." In many cases that's true. But the fact is that it is OK to give upsometimes. "It's hard to tell people that, especially when the pain is real --and they're fighting sovaliantly --but there is something liberating about a fresh start. It is a chance to create a moreeffortless and compatible relationship."

But how do you know when it would be more merciful to separate? From a woman's perspective, the answer isclear. It is simply called, "The List." Make a list of your basic needs and honestly ask yourself howmany are being met by your partner.

Start off with the words, "my partner must . . ." and add a few of these:

  • Display an interest in my life and make me a priority.
  • Loathe dishonesty.
  • Know when to apologize, but not use it as a recurring crutch.
  • Know that a relationship is a process; not a fixed state.
  • Never mistake kindness for weakness.
  • Teach me his expectations. And respect mine.
  • Never run, or try to drive me away, for fear of losing or committing to me.
  • Revel in mutual touching.
  • Never try to win an argument by belittling me.
  • Understand that I need time to myself --but that I still expect meaningful interaction on a regular basis.
Before you call it quits, mull over your options. A short separation could help, as might a calm andcontrolled conversation about the things you each can and can't, or will and won't change. But neveraccept second best. You'll develop a tendency to do that the rest of your life. Fight on as long as youknow there is something worth fighting for.


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