Whether has been in my own relationships, someone close to me, or someone about whom I’ve stories; whether it’s putting a positive or negative, still an unrealistic, spin on the romantic situation; people too often let preconceived notions squander any chance of future connections and romantic growth.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

This one bothers me because of how unfair this one can be to one partner, regardless of how this plot unfolds. This is the scenario in which two people get together and start something romantic. For all intents and purposes, I am going to say that one partner is pretty ideal. He/she is faithful, dedicated, supportive, and displays their love in ways that are encouraged and appreciated by the other partner. However, that second partner has something in his/her past that is negatively impacting this otherwise fine and dandy relationship. It might have been a divorce. It might have been a terrible relationship in college. It might have been a misunderstanding of some Hollywood-generated demonstration of love.

Nevertheless, the relationship is put on the rocks, or torn apart by one party’s misunderstanding of love and what relationships have the potential to be. Sometimes, in these situations, that second partner will openly say to the dedicated, faithful party that they always viewed relationships to be a pain in the ass, so that is what is created. One party holds this unfounded belief (at least in terms of this relationship), and regardless of what the other party says or does, will behave in a way that creates an environment that is nothing short of a “pain in the ass.”

To the opposite side of this coin, “relationships are a pain in the ass” is the preconceived notion generated by the one who remains the steadfast, reliable, dedicated partner. Still his/her significant other creates a negative environment. The latter partner can cheat, lie, steal, and the dedicated one simply stays. Why? Because the ideal partner here went into the relationship believing that such bad behavior is normal and acceptable. In this case, the person who believes that relationships are a “pain in the ass” has done nothing wrong in the eyes of his/her partner. Again, this one might have been created by a divorce, a bad relationship, or Hollywood depiction.

Here, the relationship has a small chance of ever being in period of tranquility, much less staying together. When both parties view abusive situations as the norm, eventually someone wakes up or gets bored.

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The Old Measuring Stick

This is one that most people have done in their history of dating. Whether your ex was the greatest human to ever birthed, or he/she was the spawn of satan, many of us have the person against whom all future potential partners are measured.

I had mine. The positive measuring stick in my life was a tall, skinny, charismatic British man. He was my best friend, then my boyfriend, then future husband, and then we broke up. We had been on-and-off for years, and in between the periods of him being mine, I measured other potential suitors against him. Even after we broke up, I continued to do so. This was a particularly confusing situation because I knew I stopped loving him well before we got together for the final go-at-it. Still, he was smart, from a good family, and, well, British. I thought I had to find someone who was nearly exactly the same, but more.

Then I found someone who made me realize that I didn’t want someone the same, similar, or even close! The Man was the first suitor who went unmeasured. He wasn’t the same, because had he been, it probably wouldn’t have worked out. There are qualities that I loved in that ex, along with other exes, but they are exes. The Man seems to be a sweet concoction of all of those qualities and much more, minus the aspects that ruined those previous relationships.

The Man measured me against the measuring stick of his exes. I had certain details of my personality and choices that I made put under a microscope because he had been hurt by comparable situations prior to me entering his life. Thankfully, he didn’t let those measuring sticks come between us.

There are negative measuring sticks. One particular relationship that I had experienced made me believe for a very long time that men cheat and lie. Always. It was to the point where I just embarked on any remotely romantic situation expecting to be let down.

While measuring sticks can be positive or negative, it is important to not confuse them with your standards. You will meet men who make you realize what you want, don’t want, deserve, or don’t deserve in a partnership. Realizing that you should be treated with a certain level of respect is a part of a human’s standards in a relationship. Saying that a new partner doesn’t take care of you when you’re sick the way an ex-partner had, is an example of holding someone to the height of a former lover’s measuring stick.

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We all have romantic experiences that shape our approach to any future connection, but how we handle it in the moment is what it comes down to. There might be someone who makes you forget the measuring stick. There might be someone whom you still subject to this stick, but realize what makes this particular individual special or above the law of that measurement.