When thinking about forming a secure romantic relationship with a partner, this image has been on my mind quite a bit lately:
Imagine a large dining room table. Gathered around this table are the significant people in your life, your inner circle. There is a seat of honor for each of these loved ones. Depending on who you welcome at this table, there may be a seat for your mother, your father, a step parent, a grandparent, your child, a brother, a sister, your best friends.
And if you are welcoming a romantic partner into your life, or hope to welcome one in the near future, imagine yourself setting out a special chair for them. This chair is specially marked, depending on your preferred relationship language, for My Partner, My Boyfriend or Girlfriend, My Beloved, My King or Queen.
Before you invite your partner to take a seat at this honored place, it is wise to ask yourself: Have I truly made this space ready for them? Am I inviting them to occupy a seat that is genuinely stable, clear, and open to their presence?
If we don’t ask ourselves these questions, we may be asking a partner to take up a role in our life that is confused, crowded, chaotic, and unclear.
For instance, suppose there is an ex you still think about occasionally. Perhaps the two of you still text now & again and you often check their social media profile. Maybe you still wonder “What if?” and consider them “the one that got away.” Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with feeling these feelings, but if you truly want to welcome in a new partner, you may need to look at the fact that this ex’s energy or presence is still taking up space in that seat marked “Romantic Partner” at your table. Your new partner could very well not feel fully comfortable, fully settled, fully present in their new role… because they can sense that someone else’s energy is competing for that place of honor.
Or maybe there is a friend with whom you have very unclear boundaries. Perhaps the two of you are flirtatious at times, frequently hinting at sexual possibilities, or maybe there was a “friends with benefits” arrangement in the past. If you are entering into a committed relationship, you may not need to permanently exile this person from your life, but you definitely should consider firming up those boundaries and establishing that this person is solidly in the role of friend. It’s not that they can’t have a seat at your table, but they should definitely know where exactly they sit.
Preparing a seat of honor for a partner isn’t just about taking a look at your relationships with others. It’s also about your relationship with yourself.
Are you truly looking for a committed relationship at this time? Are you really ready to show up for the work involved in making a relationship truly thrive? Are you prepared to fully meet this person in equal effort, equal respect, equal devotion, and equal love?
I believe that taking a close look at these questions is key to truly making room for secure romantic love at our table.
We may feel very HUNGRY for love, but we may not be READY for love if we haven’t made a clear space for a partner to take a seat.
Likewise, we need to recognize that we are also being invited to take a seat at our partner’s table. As we take up that role in their lives, it’s wise to make sure that they have done the work to prepare a place of honor for us. We owe it to ourselves to not sit down in a space that is confused, crowded, and chaotic.
We owe it to ourselves to notice if there are unclear intentions, unclear expectations, and unclear relationships with others taking up room where we’ve been invited to sit. This isn’t being jealous. This is asking healthy questions about whether this person is actually ready for a relationship.
Are relationships with any ex’s fully resolved? If they have gone through a divorce, has the relationship with their former spouse reached a stage of closure and clarity? If they co-parent with a former partner, are the boundaries with the child’s mother or father clear and consistent?
Are they actually ready for a committed relationship? Are they emotionally available? Do they actually have the capacity to show up fully for the love you could build together?
If the answers to any of these questions are no, or if your partner is unwilling or unable to have conversations about their intentions, expectations, and other relationships in their lives, then they may not actually be ready for love… despite how much they like you, desire you, or claim to love you.
You deserve to sit at a table where you are truly welcome.
And you owe it to a partner to do YOUR work to prepare a place of honor for them in YOUR life.
This is the necessary work of truly making room at our table for love.
- Matthew Foley