The brilliant Dr. Seth Meyers is back with some straight talk about relationships, and whether or not you are really ready for one—or just think you are! Actions definitely speak louder than words in this area.
Calling all singles: Think you're ready for a relationship? Now is the time to check in with yourself and determine whether you really and truly are ready for a relationship. Though you may tell yourself you're sure you're ready and really want to settle down with someone, you first have to look at your behavior. Ultimately, your behavior—not what you say—is the truth-teller.
A recent session with a client of mine in his late 20s perfectly reflects the push-pull between what we think we want versus what we actually want. Jake sat on the green corduroy couch in my office and played with the zipper on his hoodie. He talked about his erratic love life and had just finished recounting yet another experience he'd had, this time with a woman he met the previous Saturday night. "I just really want a girlfriend," he proclaimed, looking out the window and letting out a big sigh. In one quick sentence, he summed up what he thought he wanted.
Simply put, I saw things differently. Jake didn't really want a girlfriend, as much as he tried to tell himself otherwise. How did I know? Because his behavior told me what he actually wanted. Note that Jake spent most weekends hitting the bars with his buddies and having hookups that never went anywhere. Did Jake's behavior show that all he wanted was to hookup? That he was in total denial when he said that he wanted a girlfriend? With Jake, as with most people, the reality is not so black and white. The truth is that Jake was conflicted: A part of him wanted real intimacy with a girlfriend, while the other part enjoyed the highs that came with hookups.
In short, Jake's behavior showed that he was not truly ready for a healthy romantic relationship. In order to get there, he would need to become more discerning in terms of who he was intimate with; self-medicate less with the highs of alcohol and other exploits; and mix up his weekend routine with more diverse activities than going to the same ol' bars and clubs. What's more, Jake is not alone. I know and work with many men and women who say they want a real relationship while their behavior clearly indicates otherwise.
When it comes to you and your love life, your behavior is the first place to start when asking yourself if you're really ready for a relationship. The only way you're going to find and maintain a healthy romantic relationship is if you start it on a reasonably solid foundation, which means that you need to have your (bleep) together. When you're truly ready for a good adult relationship, your behaviors will reflect how balanced you are. Take a look at some of the requirements for being ready for a relationship below.
1. Your church is not a bar or nightclub. Going out to bars or nightclubs isn't necessarily a bad thing or a deterrent to finding a good relationship. The issue is more about how you feel and act when you're there which indicates whether you're really ready for a relationship. If you're drinking a lot when you go out, you're not in a position to start a good relationship. Sure, you can meet someone, but it's not your best self you're putting forward, so you're going to end up with someone who's not good for you. If you love to go out but want a relationship, there's nothing wrong with it: Introduce yourself to people and, when you meet someone you like, make plans to see them in a different environment.
2. You've reflected on why your past relationships didn't work. There's no riper time to play The Blame Game than when you end a relationship. Everyone loves to point the finger at the other person, but it takes two people to mess up a relationship. When you're really ready for another relationship, you can look back on past relationships and see which behaviors you engaged in that were unhealthy and counterproductive. What's more, when you look back at those relationships, you don't feel—wait for it—bitter. You might feel angry at your ex for good reasons, but you don't feel bitter (a feeling that's a mix of anger and hopelessness).
3. You have retired from the drama. Not only can you understand why past relationships didn't work, you can now safely say—and feel it with emotion—that you have retired from the drama that comes with bad relationships and are ready to calm down and have a real adult relationship. When you hear friends talk about their exploits with so-and-so who stood them up or their fights followed by crazy make-up sex, you sigh and remind yourself that you have no place for that drama any longer in your life. You feel wiser, more mature, and know more than ever before what you want and need from your next partner.
The goal for everyone is to match what they say they want with the behavior they engage in, and that is a lot more difficult than it sounds. However, if you look more closely at your feelings and your behavior, you will be one step closer to a relationship that's good for you. Just imagine!
Learn more about psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Seth Meyers, including his book Dr. Seth's Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.