Regina Brett is an American writer, a two times winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who is famous for her articles in which she ponders the meaning and mystery of life. And, it seems, she often knows what she’s talking about, offering a well-argued, informative and insightful point of view. Regina has had a lot of important and difficult experiences: She raised a child for eighteen years; at 41 she overcame breast cancer, and she’s achieved great success and an impressive career. At 45, she finally found true love.
Here, we offer some of her advice and thoughts about relationships. We think it’s worth it for all of us to read them with an open mind and contemplate the implications of her ideas.
’…In my twenties and thirties I went through men like bread crumbs through a goose. The truth is, I kept dating the same man, he just came with different names.
I never realised it until one relationship landed me in therapy. The young, handsome guy who hit on me at work seemed thrilled to be dating me. He gushed over me for about three months. Just when I was ready to let down my guard, he told me he couldn’t go out with me that weekend because his fiancée was coming to town.
Story of my life. Why did I keep repeating this story? The night I told him to get lost, I cried and yelled at the universe, ’Why do I keep attracting people who aren’t available?’
The universe answered, ’Because you’re afraid of ones who are.’
The counsellor who healed my darkest, deepest wounds also gave me ground rules for dating. They were easy to remember. They spelled out the word safe. There were four things she wanted me to be mindful of and the first was most important.
Secrecy. Can the relationship pass public scrutiny? If a relationship has to be kept secret, you don’t belong in it.
Abusive. Does it harm you or degrade you or your children in any way?
Feelings. Are you in the relationship to avoid painful feelings? Is it a mood-altering relationship?
Emptiness. Is it empty of caring and commitment?
It was a great starting point. Over time, I created my own list of dating tips:
Stay away from people who are unavailable.
These include those who aren’t attracted to you, priests, geographically undesirable people, married people, people who are engaged to someone else, people who are afraid to tell others that they’re dating you because it’ll scare away other potential dates.
Keep no secrets.
I have a dear friend whose husband cheated on her for years. It wasn’t an affair, it was a lifestyle. Meanwhile, they were going through couples therapy, ’working on the relationship.’ He pretended to participate in counselling sessions, never letting on about the other woman until the day he got caught and the marriage ended. Another friend kept bouncing back to a man who was married thinking he’d leave and marry her. I kept telling her, ’If you marry a man who cheats on his wife, you marry a man who cheats on his wife.’ Same goes for men. If your girlfriend won’t tell her sister, mother, friends, or her ex that she’s dating you, move on. Don’t be someone else’s stash or side dish. If she can’t be honest and open about dating you, dump her. Do you want an affair or a relationship?
Beware of addictions.
If someone is hooked on drinking, gambling, pot, crack, lottery tickets, sex, work, etcetera, that person is not available. Beware of your own inner need to find and fix a broken soul. If you keep going for the fixer-upper, ask yourself why. If you think can save him or her, think again. The first step in every 12-step program is to admit you are powerless.
Be the real deal.
Be you 100 percent. One man I dated told me he liked everything about me except he thought I was too spiritual. Is there such a thing? What did he expect me to do, believe more in him and less in my core beliefs? The thing I valued most in me he found hard to tolerate. I don’t want someone who tolerates me. I want someone who celebrates me.
Tell the world what you want.
Tell yourself first. Write it down. Get the shallow stuff out- the height, the weight, the income — release it, and let it go. Then sit in the quiet of your soul, go down to the core, and ask, ’What do I really want?’ Then make the list. At the bottom write: This or something better. Then tuck it away in a box and let it go.
Ignore the wrapper.
The wrapping paper on a gift usually gives no indication of what’s inside. Sometimes the wrap is better than the contents. Some of the best gifts come without a wrapper. Don’t ignore the short bald guys or the chubby teddy-bear types. Before you write them off with the four-letter curse ’nice,’ think long and hard about what you truly want. Don’t overlook the softie with the tender heart for a tough guy with six-pack abs. The tender heart will outlive the washboard tummy. Ask any married woman over 40.
Create a greater you.
Create and live a life that is so good, it doesn’t matter if anyone comes along. Say yes to every opportunity to make new friends, meet new people, try new adventures. Get busy living the life of your dreams instead of looking for the man or woman of your dreams. It’s like the proverbial butterfly: once you stop chasing it, it will gently land on your shoulder. Instead of looking for the right partner, become the right man or woman…for you. Be your best, deepest, truest self. Make yourself attractive to you.
There is somebody for everybody. If you’re busy trying to turn yourself into someone else, Mr. or Mrs. Right might not be interested because he or she’s looking for a woman like the one you just abandoned.’