Once upon a time, Goldilocks was swiping right. She could use some attention and was ready to put herself out there.
The first date she went on was … basic. They brought up their ex a bunch and were kinda rude to the waiter. They asked the same old “so what do you do for a living” kind of questions but didn’t really listen to her and mostly talked about themselves. By the end of the date, her excitement had cooled but she was still hungry for real connection.
The next date she went on was so hot! A little too hot. She got completely hijacked by New Relationship Energy, started staying out late, not getting enough sleep and going MIA on her friends. The relationship pretty much disrupted everything else in her life. So much so that after three months, Goldilocks felt burned out and needed to take a break to recover from it all.
So, she decided to sit down and figure out what she was looking for in a relationship rather than wishing on stars and hoping destiny would do it for her.
She thought about her “core relationship values,” a concept from the short instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy written by Andie Nordgren. Goldilocks took Nordgren’s advice and explored her desires and boundaries to create a guideline for why and how she relates with others.
Goldilocks asked herself, “How do I want to be treated in a relationship? What are my expectations? What makes me lean into a relationship and what makes me lean out?”
She thought about the culture she was in and its values. She began to question her assumptions around entitlement: Is it OK to eat other people’s porridge? How did she feel about sharing resources versus privacy and private property? What kind of repair should she offer someone for sleeping in their bed without their consent? She knew she wanted to live her life on her own terms, but what did that mean?
She thought about what was important to her and made her excited to be alive. She realized that she wanted connection, safety, excitement, hope, gratitude, inspiration and peace.
She wanted to get specific while still leaving room for the mystery.
Goldilocks decided to get clear on what she meant by ideas like “love” and “respect.” When did she feel loved? How did she show love? What did it mean to be respected?
She thought about her values around freedom and autonomy as well as interdependence and community. She wanted to relate with other people in an intimate, cooperative way, but also needed to be able to disappear into the woods and take care of herself.
Goldilocks realized that some of her previous conflicts in relationships were because they came from different cultures. They had different expectations and made a lot of assumptions about each other.
She would need to be more explicit and ask more questions to avoid misunderstandings. Dating apps were kind of a mixed bag, so she better figure out her minimum standards and how to communicate them to others.
She got clear on how she wanted to manage conflict, including pathways for accountability while allowing people to make mistakes. She wanted people to ask for what they needed rather than expecting her to be a mind reader. She wanted clear agreements and no lies. She was open to different worldviews but wanted shared values.
Goldilocks also came up with a list of skills she would need to develop to show up as her best, most authentic self, such as working on her impulse control.
Now that she was clear on what she wanted, it was time to figure out what her dealbreakers were.
“No physical violence” and “no name calling” were obvious, but after those she went deeper. There would also be no power playing—making her do something or keeping her from doing something she wanted to do. Secrets were lies by omission, so none of that, either.
She was guilty of something life coach Nancy Shanteau refers to as externalizing: “attempt[ing] to get other people to change in order to manage their own internal state.” But every time she tried to control somebody else, she felt more anxious and insecure. It made it hard to trust people when they weren’t acting of their own free will and everybody ended up resentful.
So she practiced holding her own boundaries and moving her body away if someone crossed a line. She enacted natural consequences such as extending less time, trust or intimacy.
She also realized she had overstepped some boundaries herself and wanted to work on being less defensive and better at apologizing when she hurt someone.
Sara Russell offers more relationship insights in the twice-weekly Trends w/ Benefits podcast
Happily Ever After
Goldilocks knew her wants and needs would likely shift. What was “just right” in this moment might change at a later time. People would come along and offer her options she hadn’t dreamt of and she wanted to stay open and curious. She was ready for creative companionship and excited to share her authentic, ever-evolving self with others—including exploring her potential “furry” fetish … but that’s a tale for another day.
Sara Russell is a relationship coach. Connect with her on her website and on Instagram. She is also the new host of the Trends w/ Benefits podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Header image by Oziel Gómez via Unsplash.
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