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As February ends, we’ve moved past the romantic imagery of pop culture to the ups and downs of real relationships. This month’s series, No Points For Pain, has focused on ways to transform our connections – no one gets extra credit in heaven for enduring poor relationships. Maybe the key is using these ideas to start off on the right foot.

“So, what if I went out more on the weekends – would that help?” the caller asked the relationship coach.

“Well, getting out always helps. Just enjoy yourself, even if you don’t meet someone new that night.”

“Hmm…what about a gym? Maybe I just need to start seeing where the cute guys are.”

“Getting fit is a great idea! You realize, though, that just because someone takes a class doesn’t mean they’re available,” the coach said.

The caller growled. After peppering the coach with a few more suggestions, she blurted out, “Look, it’s been two months since my last boyfriend. I need to have someone to eat dinner with!”

It made me wonder – whether you’re looking for a new boss or a new boyfriend, what kind of “someone” do you attract if your only gating factor is not eating alone? The caller was so frantic that she was willing to do anything to get a date. She wasn’t sending out smoke signals for “The One”. Her desperate message was “Anyone.”

Songwriter Margaret Becker told the story of a friend in Nashville who was determined to fix her up. She excitedly told Margaret about a wonderful guy she had invited to her next dinner party. Surely they would hit it off.

Margaret enthusiastically headed out for dinner. It ended up being a long, awkward night. Her “outdoorsy” date looked like he had just rolled in from a grubby camp site. Within minutes, it was clear they had almost nothing in common.

As Margaret politely kept the conversation going, she glanced down the table to see her hostess beaming and winking at her. Margaret smiled politely; she didn’t know how to let her down.

That evening left an indelible lesson. Margaret’s priorities and internal GPS were on target. It was the expectations of others that were out of whack. She said, “I wasn’t anxious about having a relationship, but it became clear that it bothered her that I was single. She kept insisting we just needed more time together, but it was never going to work. Since then, I’ve learned never to do things to make other people comfortable with my life.”

This is the week to set the bar for the rest of the year. Have the courage to set it high and leave it there. Better communication, deep listening and self-respect deserve to be permanent fixtures in all your relationships. Do a quick check before you let “anyone” become your “one.” As Deborah Day encourages, “Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.”