She had bright blue eyes and dark brown hair. The type of woman you would give a double glance to.
She graduated college with honors, moved through the ranks of the tech world, and now managed a high-achieving team at a high-growth company.
She did improv comedy on the weekends and had the audience in tears from laughing so hard. She did yoga 4 times a week to stay in shape.
She had been told at an early age that the total package was thin, pretty, smart, ambitious, funny — and she designed her life to be all those things.
Her LinkedIn, Instagram, and Hinge profiles highlighted her best assets and she continued to get noticed.
She was the total package. Or so she thought.
She had a fair share of 6-month relationships. The last one’s sudden ending took her by surprise.
He seemed to have it all — he was tall, handsome, athletic, successful, and kind. He was CEO of his own tech start-up, he played soccer regularly, and he always remembered to send birthday cards. They seemed like the perfect match.
Then one day, when she was heading to yoga after work, she got a call. He told her his grandmother was at the hospital sick. She half-listened, as the honking on the busy street corner she was on made it hard to concentrate. She was running late to yoga, so she hurried off the phone. They had plans to hang out later that evening anyway.
When she got to his house. He seemed distant. They watched a bad rom-com on Netflix and didn’t talk much. The following week, he didn’t reach out. She felt under-appreciated, as he knew she was asking for a promotion at work that week.
As Saturday rolled around, he called her and told her he wasn’t feeling the relationship anymore and that they should see other people.
She was devastated that this happened again. Her girlfriends told her what she wanted to hear — that he couldn’t handle an alpha like her. That he seemed like a jerk anyway. And that she would find someone who appreciated her more. They reminded her that she was smart, beautiful, successful and that it was his loss.
What she and they failed to notice was that, while she had all these incredible traits, they shared one thing in common.
They were all about her.
By striving to be the total package, we focus too much on the destination and not enough on the journey. Along the way, we ignore critical pieces of information being fed to us by others.
Instead of showing up in all our imperfections, we continue to push ourselves in every aspect of life, to be enough. As a result, we lose sight of our self-compassion. Making it harder and harder to give compassion to others.
Men, just like women, want to feel loved, challenged, stimulated and accepted. By trying to be perfect, by trying to be everything to everyone we actually deprive ourselves of connection.
So when we hear our partner make an observation about someone — a negative statement, or frustration — we take it personally and get defensive.
Remember that last argument you had? Maybe he or she said something like “You shouldn’t sing, you have a terrible voice”. Or “You are taking way too long to get ready. Let’s hurry up and go” Or, “That girl has an amazing body, look at her abs.”
We think — my singing voice isn’t that bad! I don’t take long usually, it’s just this once! And her body isn’t that great…I’m skinnier!
We build up a wall in an attempt to protect ourselves. We think our partner must be wanting more — more of what I can’t give them. And then we react into that as if the relationship is falling apart. And indeed it does.
But how would you handle that situation differently if you knew what you offered him or her and showed up in those ways — like making a conscious effort to make him laugh when he had a bad day at work, mentally challenging him when he opens up about a difficult situation with a friend, or surprising him on his birthday with his favorite dessert.
“Know what you offer them” is career advice we hear when updating our resume, sitting for an interview, negotiating a salary, or applying for a promotion.
The phrase brings us confidence that we’re in the right place. We know if we can align on what we can bring to the table and what they need, it means a greater shot at success.
What if we had the same approach to our relationships? Do you have a mental resume of the unique value you bring to your romantic partnership?
And just like a job, do you plan to start it and leave it with the same skills? Or will you add to the list?
Love is not something that just sits on a mantle, gathering dust. It’s not about treating it as an event — “We love each other! We did it! And now we can go about our lives!”
Love is an investment. Love exists when we have something unique to offer someone. Traits like kindness, empathy, loyalty, conscientiousness, playfulness, wit, humor, respect, acceptance, affection, motivation that show up in consistent, idiosyncratic ways.
You don’t need to be everything to them. But you do need to be something. Something that you are both aware of and value. And it goes both ways.
As the research professor Brene Brown put it, “Love is not something we give or get, it’s something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only exist within one of them.”
So next time, you’re armed with a list of 50 qualities your partner should possess, ask yourself, are you also bringing 50 to the table as well?
In matters of the heart, quality over quantity prevails so stop trying to be the total package.
Open your eyes, open your heart, and dive in — the water is warm, crystal clear, and perfectly salty here. I promise.
Previously published on Medium.com.
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