Rules of Engagement: 5 Checks and Balances

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s how easily I can fall back into old patterns.

And my old patterns when it comes to romantic feelings are far from beneficial to me or anyone else who may be involved.

I can very quickly fall into an obsessive, self-destructive crush mode. On the flip side, I can fall for someone because I think I can “save” them–the perfect example of White Knight Syndrome. There are also any number of other things that I’m at least vaguely attracted to that are sure-fire paths to badly skewed cost/benefit ratio.

In order to avoid those known problem areas, I’ve got a set of questions and tests that I’ve conditioned the logical side of my mind to automatically start running through as soon as a crush lasts for more than a day or two. Here are five of the big ones.

1. Am I Really Falling For Her?

Often, this is the only question I need to ask and answer to determine a real relationship would be a bad idea. There are many things that can look like falling for someone. You can be in love with the idea of a relationship–any relationship–and the object of your crush is just a convenient target. You can see them as a “project”–something to be fixed (a la The White Knight issues). Or, in my case, you can fall for the idea of the story that the attempt at the relationship would lead to–probably not the best reason to get involved with someone.

2. Why Am I Falling For Her?

If you manage to get past the first question, this one serves as a double-check and a deeper exploration of your own feelings. Again, the answer here could point back to a White Knight issue (“Because she has so much potential that I can help bring out!”). It can also lead to a very sensible list of positive qualities that match well with your own sensibilities. A close look at this list can also hint at the depth of the potential relationship–if everything focuses on the physical (pretty, snappy dresser, good job, etc.), there’s a hefty chance it’ll be a superficial fling.

3. What Do We Have In Common?

Another chance for a nice list. Relationships between people with nothing in common (despite what oh-so-many pop-culture fairy tales tell us) rarely work out well in the long run. At best, both people happily go their separate ways with broadened horizons. More often, there are grudges, heavy misunderstandings, and big fights. One big thing to look for is a common communication style. If one of you communicates best face to face and the other does best via e-mail or text message, it’s going to be a rough road.

4. Is A Relationship Even Vaguely Appropriate?

Is she a co-worker? Is he a business partner? Your boss? Your employee? A recent ex of a good friend? There are any number of situations that could make a relationship seem inappropriate. Even if it isn’t a make-or-break question, it’s important to realize going into a relationship how it’s going to look to those outside. External social dynamics can cause a lot of problems inside a relationship.

5. How Much Am I Willing To Compromise?

This is the biggest of the big deal questions. It can override all that come before or after it. It can also, in retrospect, point right back to the first question. Almost any obstacle can be overcome, almost any hardship beaten, but all that comes at a cost. Often, that cost is in our own comfort, integrity, safety, and/or security. If she refuses to live north of the Mason-Dixon line, are you OK with having to travel long distances to visit your family in Chicago? If he can’t stand the west coast, are you willing to give up on that dream of living in LA? Relationships are always about compromise, you should be very familiar with where your limits of giving are.

Granted, these are all questions asked by the logical side of the brain. There’s only so much that side can do if the emotional half is determined to jump from crush to relationship, no matter what.

At least if things go poorly, you’ll have the small consolation of being able to look back, shake your head, and say “I should have known.”

And if things go well… all the better: You’ve either beaten your own odds or proved you accurately know yourself.

  • Amy

    May I ask, with whom are you most recently crushing! May we see pictures?

    • hehe… always a handful of people at the least.

      Could be anyone at any given time. 🙂

      In order to not needlessly embarrass (or flatter) said crush-ees, pictures are only shared in private… or after I’ve mentioned it to them and made sure they’re OK with being spread across the web as someone I’ve fallen for.

  • Amy

    May I ask, with whom are you most recently crushing! May we see pictures?

    • hehe… always a handful of people at the least.

      Could be anyone at any given time. 🙂

      In order to not needlessly embarrass (or flatter) said crush-ees, pictures are only shared in private… or after I’ve mentioned it to them and made sure they’re OK with being spread across the web as someone I’ve fallen for.

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