For a few years after my divorce, I was a card-carrying man hater. Then one day I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t want to spend the rest of my life alone. I truly believed if I found the right man, I could have a happy marriage.
I decided to make a list of the qualities I wanted in a mate, so I sat down with a yellow legal pad and started to write. The first four traits were non-negotiable. He had to be:
Polished – I wanted to be with a gentleman
Leader – He needed to have a vision other people were inspired to follow
Faith – He had to believe in something bigger than himself
After I listed those top four qualities, I wrote down all of the other traits I wanted in a husband. (I filled up the entire page.) I then flipped it over and wrote all of the deal-breaker characteristics. He couldn’t be controlling, mean-spirited, selfish, jealous, drug or alcohol dependent, etc., etc. When I finished the list, I offered it up to God and said, “Okay. I’m ready. Bring him on.” I met Alex about six weeks later.
I now know that our relationship would have never developed if I hadn’t finally reached a point where I believed I was worthy of being loved by a man like Alex.
Last week I had two speaking engagements on the East Coast. I flew out on Monday morning and I didn’t get back until late Friday night. Alex hates to be alone. He’s not much of a cook and he doesn’t sleep well when I’m gone. He could have laid a big guilt trip on me. He could have acted depressed or angry or sad, but he didn’t.
He loves me enough to be supportive and caring even when my actions are inconvenient for him. When I got home, he greeted me with a huge smile and a warm hug. He’d gone out to the garden earlier in the day, cut a bucket full or roses and made two beautiful “welcome home” bouquets. He’d placed one on the kitchen counter. The other one was on my night stand.
I know from experience that not all people have good hearts and not all relationships are loving or balanced. If you are caring for someone who needs you but doesn’t necessarily love you, providing care becomes exponentially more difficult. I hope you will draw the line in the sand and decide what you are willing to take and how much you are willing to give.
Understand that you can be kind, supportive and empathetic without being phony. You don’t have to pretend that you like someone. You don’t have to ask, “How high?” every time they say “Jump!” You don’t have to keep trying to earn their love by fixing their problems. It’s okay to draw boundaries. It’s okay to say, “No”. And its okay if they don’t love you as long as you invest your emotional energy in the people in your life who are worthy of you.
Elaine K Sanchez is an author, speaker and co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com, a video-based caregiver support program. Contact her at Elaine@EKSanchez.com