When you meet someone online, through a set up, or on the street, you might consider physical attraction first, but next comes psychological health. People look for romantic suitors who have the emotional ability to be a functional love partner.
But how can you tell?
First dates are like great theater and if dating awards existed, some people would win the golden champagne bottle. On early dates men are like a peacocks showing their tail feathers and women behave like perfect Barbies. We bring to the dating table the person we really wish we were. That’s why a few people are actually addicted to short-term, serial relationships. They crave the mating dance but the reality of a truly intimate relationship is intolerable.
So if both parties are role playing, how does one determine what’s for real? Since dates don’t come with letters of reference from former lovers we have to rely on our own instincts to cut through the happy glow of the dating experience. There are few things you can listen for in the polite banter of a dating table, to give yourself big clues about what’s up for the future.
Before I tell you an important secret kept mostly by psychologists, I want to remind you that there are no perfect people. Having a healthy relationship involves learning about each other faults and foibles, and accepting what you can. Understanding each other’s tender spots is what intimacy is all about. We’re all crazy in some small way. But what if someone’s faults and foibles involve some trait that is soooo contrary to your values. What if the person is violent? A spendthrift or miser? A cruel gossip? Highly insecure? A pathological liar?
The answer is this: Your date will often tell you their biggest flaw on the very first date. You just have to know how to listen.
To explain this, I’m going to use Carl Jung’s theory of “The Shadow.” Jung believed that we all hold a piece of our personality away from our conscious awareness because it is shameful, ugly, and intolerable. However, if left unattended to, our shadow can direct our behavior. Part of Jungian Psychology is to bring light to the shadow so that as we can become whole, we learn to accept and control or shadow.
While our shadow is still buried away in our psyche, however, we look for it everywhere in the environment. We find objects (people) who appear to carry pieces of our shadow and we point fingers at them. “Look at how awful they are! I hate people like that!” In truth, Jungian’s believe that this judgmental behavior is a weak attempt to get rid of our shameful shadow. To direct it onto someone else. Christians use the metaphor of the fallen woman about to be stoned to drive home the same point… Remember this passage? “He who has not sinned, may cast the first stone.” That’s perfect Jungian thought.
Now back to your attractive date. Listen closely for his/her negative comments about others. I promise you they are giving you a clue about their own shadow!
Here are some examples:
• One man told a date that he had recently heard a conversation at a bar between a man and a woman and he was sure the man was lying to her about how much money he made. He thought it was funny that the woman was so gullible and was lapping it up. Six months later: The story teller, himself, started behaving very badly when his spending habits clearly did not match the income he had bragged about in the early stages of dating.
• One woman told her date that her pet peeve was insecure people. She said, “I’d rather have a murderer in my bedroom than an insecure person at my door.” Two weeks later, she cut off all communication with her date because he had given her a tiny piece of constructive criticism that she, herself, couldn’t tolerate.
• Then there’s the cruel gossip, who always has dirt on others and particularly slanders other cruel gossipers! I know one woman who always ends her hurtful gossip with the line. “I’ll pray for her.” Clearly this woman is praying for herself.
So, if you’ve gotten this far in my blog, you might be wondering about your own shadow. Here’s a little exercise for you. Take a piece of paper and at the top write the name of someone you loathe. Then really focus on this person and make a list of all their attributes on that paper. Be very connected to your hatred for this person. When you are done, erase their name at the top on the page, and write in your own name. Then take a big gulp of reality. This is the shadow you carry, ladies and gentlemen. May we all learn to shine light on it.