By Nicolle

I recently discovered that I have an intolerance to dairy, among other things. When I first found out, I grieved the loss of milk, cheese and yogurt, but I wasn’t too concerned with eliminating ice cream from my diet; ice cream hadn’t ever tickled my fancy.

Then, two or three weeks into my new diet, I found myself craving ice cream. I’d be sitting at my desk and I’d suddenly have a hankering for a Dairy Queen Blizzard. I’d finish my dinner and I’d want to make a trip to Cold Stone. It really didn’t matter what kind of ice cream it was – I just wanted SOMETHING.

Such a mindset seems to apply to relationships too. We become so focused on wanting a relationship, wanting to be married, that we don’t always focus on the person with whom we choose to pursue those dreams. We fixate on a wedding, a honeymoon, a house, pets, kids and a retirement fund without really considering if the person we’ve found is the right person for those life plans. We start looking for a person to fit our mold instead of letting a person help define a relationship and a potential life.

What we crave as humans is relationship. We want to be loved, we want to love and we want to share our lives with others. And none of that is bad. But it can turn destructive when we crave what a relationship can give us, how it makes us feel and what we “want” more than a specific person.

When we internally formulate a paradigm for a relationship and we feel we’re ready for things to play out as we’ve envisioned, sometimes we’ll take the next best person who comes along, regardless of whether or not s/he is the right choice. We let our personal timing lead our relationship instead of letting a person lead our relationship timing. We force a person to fit our preconceived mold and excuse behaviors, characteristics and deal-breakers because we think we’re ready for the long haul. We become blind to inconsistencies in our own behaviors, and we bend over backwards to make the relationship work, changing ourselves in negative ways, upsetting our core values and ignoring those who question our decisions.

I have friends who just want to be married. They’re willing to take any guy or girl who’ll have them NOW so they can start their lives as married people. They’re willing to sacrifice things they’ve always believed in, life goals they’ve always had and friends they used to cherish just to walk down the aisle. They’re concerned about having a relationship, not having a person.

But what happens when that relationship starts to deteriorate? What happens when the wedding, the honeymoon, the house, the pets and the kids aren’t enough? What happens when marriage isn’t all we thought it would be?

If we want to reduce our likelihood of divorce, we have to refocus. It can’t be about a desire to get married, have kids and buy a house. We have to shift our desire to the person we’re choosing to spend our life with because when our pre-constructed idea of marriage loses its luster, all we’re going to be left with is a person. Not an idea, not a wedding gown, not a picket white fence. An imperfect person, one who won’t be able to fulfill our needs completely, one who won’t stay in the mold we’ve squeezed him into to stay on our life schedules. And if we’ve just chosen that person because we were ready to get married instead of because that person made us ready to get married, the chance of pulling ourselves out of difficult times is slim.

It has to be about the person, not the relationship. If we can drop our five-year plans of weddings and houses and kids, our expectations won’t be crushed when our picture-perfect relationship is hard, frustrating and tiring. We’ll be more likely to stick out the tough times because we know the person we’re in it with is the reason to fight for it. We’ll be willing to hold out for the Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia instead of just curbing our ice cream cravings with off-brand vanilla, because the real thing is worth the wait.