I remember in high school, my friends and I made these long, detailed lists of all the things we wanted in our future boyfriends. (Were we losers? Probably.) Some of the more low-key adjectives included honest, athletic, tall, funny, smart, blue eyes, musical, educated, talkative, supportive, well-read, interested in the same hobbies as me, loves his family but not a mama’s boy, sweet but not clingy, and pisses gold, basically. We were just some seriously low-maintenance gals describing a fictional being.
There are plenty of incredible, talented, kind men out there, but I promise there is not one, who isn’t Jesus himself, who fits our long lists of must-haves. And guess what? I don’t fit the female version of this list of qualities that make up the perfect partner, either.
I can be jealous and passive aggressive while my hair and makeup looks like Beyonce’s, or I can be compassionate and a good listener even though I haven’t washed my hair in four days and have five pimples. None of us are constant; none of us bring the same strengths and wins every day. And what a relief! I would not want the pressure of perfection day in and out.
Yet, when dating or pursuing our dream job, we have all these often impossible expectations for what we deserve and what we won’t put up with. As someone who has gotten her “dream” job and realized almost immediately it wasn’t all I had hyped it up to be, take it from me: Knowing your bottom-line nonnegotiables is way more important than sticking to your unrealistic standards.
Woof. That felt harsh just writing it. Mark Manson said it in an even harsher way (#deflection) in his book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” when he asked readers, “What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?” He was talking about this in a professional setting, but whether it’s in work or relationships, he means: Nothing is absolutely wonderful all of the time, so you better get accustomed to understanding what crappy parts you are willing to put up with. Which ones, to you, are most tolerable, or even your favorite?
When John and I first started dating, he invited me over to cook dinner and watch a movie one Sunday night. I got to his apartment for the first time ever, and he was so excited to show me around. I remember clearly when he exclaimed, “I cleaned the whole weekend for you!” This guy already had me a little freaked out because he seemed too nice and thoughtful to be true. Based on my previous picks, he was an all out saint. But, of course, that is never truly the case.
Cleaning for me is practically my love language, but I learned a few months later that he’d spent the whole weekend cleaning because he HAD to spend the whole weekend cleaning. Dude is freaking messy. I probably would have ran far and fast if I’d seen his place Friday instead of Sunday.
As it was, his messy habits gradually made themselves known right around the same time the honeymoon phase was wearing off. Funny how that works, isn’t it? This is a flavor of “shit sandwich” that I haven’t loved, but I can accept, or at least tolerate as I re-wipe down the counters after him… He has a few more irritating or disruptive flavors than this, of course, and so do I, of COURSE. But his good parts–his compassion and desire to make me happy and eagerness to grow and learn and just plain smarts, and, not to mention, he’s smoking hot–make the bad bearable, and almost quirky.
We are so quick to encourage friends to keep their standards high and their heads higher, blah blah blah, but I think we should be giving friends some useful advice, instead. You are GOING to have to settle for someone who doesn’t meet every ideal picture in your head. You are going to have to settle for a job that appeared the stellar fit for you on paper, but doesn’t challenge or motivate you every minute of every day. You are going to have to settle for a living situation, a conversation, a pet (oh, Lord, the pet disappointments are real) that fall short of your desires. How about we encourage friends to embrace the flaws in themselves and others instead of running away at the first sign of tough goings?
It’s time, however, to end the job, relationship, or et cetera situation as soon as the flavor becomes not just irritating, but unbearable. It’s not acceptable to be belittled, abused, or undesired. It is not okay to feel unappreciated or taken advantage of, so please hear me. I don’t think you need to settle for a miserable life. No, no, absolutely not. But it is totally permissible to let go of the grip on your possibly unrealistic standards of the dream life, whatever that might entail, and allow yourself to show your messy, less beautiful side in the hopes of finding a person who is as willing to show up and learn through the nasty flavors and uncomfortable moments of growth as you are. Settle for giving, and getting, grace.
What have you learned to settle in to? Let’s chat!
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