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Relationships: No one knows anything, not even you.

The topic bringing me out of blog hibernation is the one I end up talking about most with just about everyone…even strangers. (A taxi driver said I have a “trustworthy face.”)  It’s relationships. I have been married for 7 years, together something like 10 (I’m not one of those people who remembers dates well and/or I didn’t care much about keeping a calendar or a job in my 20’s.) I did not have a ton of relationships before my husband, but enough. Keep in mind I’m not your guru. So, here’s my not-so-expert advice on love, break-ups and more. Questions? Leave ’em in the comments.

Finding “the one:” I personally believe that this term is a bit pervasive. I am not sure everyone has a single “other” out there just waiting for them. Maybe we all have multiple “ones” who become present at times in our lives when we have lessons we need to learn from that particular relationship. If you’ve ever discovered an all-important piece of yourself during a now past relationship, this may speak to you. This doesn’t mean you can’t spend the rest of your life with one person, just that maybe you went through a few very important, not-at-all-waste-of-time relationships before doing so. Chew on that.  

If you do believe in “the one,” know this: You have to let yourself meet new people somehow. Get fixed up. Go online. Say yes to a date, give that one person a chance already, whatever. That is step one. Then, know this about the one: This person is not your type. Might be your type immediately before changing overnight. Might have bad hair. May not make enough money. Might forget to compliment you. Might over compliment you. Might seem pushy. Might seem weak. May have a tattoo of Ralph Wiggum (actually, awesome!) Might be too smart or not smart enough. Do you see where I’m going with this? If you do not take some REAL TIME out of your busy facebooking/texting/talking about yourself schedule and get to know this fool you have NO idea what the hell you’re talking about. You don’t know someone from a first impression. Not even from a first date. Not from what your co-worker/bff/Grandma told you about them. You can be with someone for YEARS and never really know them. Read that sentence twice. Unless you’re a psychic, give love a chance before you claim it “isn’t right” and waltz back onto e-harmony. I don’t care how many relationships you’ve been in or dates you’ve been on (or for the love of Gawd, how many damn relationship-help books you’ve read) you do NOT know everything, and can’t even trust yourself until you’ve put some time in. Length of time is up to you…but tell me 2 weeks and I’ll laugh in your face. If you feel like you have some weird self-imposed deadline and two weeks is “too long to waste on anyone,” you’re betting on miracles and really only making this harder on yourself. Good luck getting to work in this traffic on your unicorn tomorrow too.

When it isn’t right: If you’re ever feeling unsafe or in danger. EVER. Any physical or emotional abuse is unacceptable 100% of the time. If this is a grey area for you, you’re not damaged, you just need to seek help. Whatever has happened in your life to make you feel like you are not worthy of better or that this behavior is normal has led you to this. There is a healthier option and you deserve it. If you’re the abuser, you also need help. You’re not ready to be with anyone. Another shocker? It’s not right if either the sex or the conversation is not working. They both have to, sorry. They can have their challenges or quiet times and still be “working,” but if you feel like you can’t stand the sound of his/her voice but can jump into bed without a care in the world, it’s just not gonna last (and vice versa.) If your core beliefs do not match up. What does that mean? Oh, you know. You worship mother earth and he wants to cut down the rain forest. She believes in monogamy and you’re doing everything in your power to make her feel like a prude for not wanting weekly three-somes. You have to attend his or her church and believe everything they believe, or don’t believe. If you want to change more things about them then you’re willing to admit.  IF YOU’RE CHANGING FOR THEM. It’s cool to want to learn new things from a relationship, like suddenly becoming a basketball fan and getting excited about your first live game. But, ever leave a relationship and later realize you never have the urge to watch basketball again ever ever ever? You don’t need to mold yourself to every single relationship. Ever dye your hair blonde and grow it out because they love women with long blonde hair and later look back on pictures of yourself feeling like you don’t even know that person? On the flip side, some adjustments are welcome (try watching his/her fave movie, did you have fun? ok cool. NO? you tried. try something else…) but changes in too many of your likes/dislikes or core beliefs are just making you less of who you are and therefore the relationship is less as well. Relationships take two whole people. We don’t complete each other. We hold each others hands.

Maintaining a relationship: Hooray, you are with someone. Now, cut the crap. It’s nothing like the movies, and the folks who say it is for them haven’t switched over to horror flick – or worse, silent film –  yet. (Or they care so much about being judged they can’t be honest. Sad.) Relationships are work, marriage makes the work legal. The paycheck is every day you wake up and either look at this person snoring and say, “Oh yea, I’m still in this” or just get excited to see them when they swing by with stale chinese food and a movie you’ve seen 7 times. There are DEFINITELY amazing, mind-blowing, crazy romantic times that would make any blockbuster rom-com jealous, but this is not an always thing. Imagine sharing space, thoughts, money or time with ANYONE for years on end. It’s not all gonna be glitter and spring time. The term “honeymoon period” should probably exist for you, though, at some point. If you’ve never had that, for example: all fighting and make-up sex from day 1…maybe this is not a relationship worth maintaining. You should feel at some point your heart is bursting, and then later that you can comfortably leave the bathroom door open when you pee. You’re welcome.

Break-ups: First things first, don’t reinvent yourself every time a relationship ends. So many people are extreme in this sense. They either think it was more the other person not being a good fit, or that something is wrong with themselves. You may not even know you do this. Signs point to a sudden urge for physical changes  that can be as simple as a haircut or as dramatic as going from goth to prep. Signs also include thinking you suddenly need your Doctorate degree, you should get rid of your pet snake, quit your job or move across the country. In the first few months after a break-up, try to avoid any of these things. Be yourself by yourself in this critical time. If you’re not in love with what you see when you are alone with yourself after some time, that should be investigated. Talk to someone. Consider that your feelings may be hurt but ultimately you like yourself. If not, dig into that. Discover what’s behind that before you pack your bags or buy that 6 month class called “Cooking with Ghee.” When this is said and done, think about what this relationship taught you. I guarantee you found out one new thing you now know you want, or don’t want, out of love or existence. You’re winning now, no matter how much it still hurts.  You also do not have to explain your break-up to anyone. It’s your business only if you want it to be.  As far as hope for the future, this part is tricky. You may doubt it will ever work out with anyone ever again. Let me be the first to tell you, you are wrong. Unless you’re not quite human, another human will be a fit. We’re made to experience love. The only person who can guarantee you never find love again is you.

The ultimate truth: You have to know who you are, what you want, and also be ready to accept that these things too can change. It’s the paradox of it all. It’s a balance that can seem impossible. Sometimes you grow apart.  Couples find themselves wondering if they should make it work or walk away. Like everything else, don’t take this lightly. Trust your gut when you can, your therapist when you can’t. It’s not usually helpful to gather opinions from everyone you know. It may feel comforting to do so, but ultimately your own heart and brain will come together to decide what’s next for you. If this has been a good relationship and you still care for this person, really put the time in before making any firm decisions. Maybe you imagined a future with someone that you no longer want for yourself (or them.) Maybe you’ve become such a new person your beliefs and habits no longer compliment each other or bring sadness, guilt or pain into the relationship. Perhaps it was never right and you’ve only just started admitting that to yourself. Love is a comforting and dangerous thing in this way. Whether right or wrong, be honest as much as possible with yourself and your partner and you’ll both find your way.

TIPS:

  • Don’t cheat. Reality: your excuses come off as pathetic. I’m not saying that you don’t have a ton of valid excuses in your mind, I’m just saying that you look like an idiot explaining them…especially if your actions have hurt a decent person. (If your excuse is that they cheated first, say that out loud to hear how dumb it sounds first before running that by anyone else. I’m just trying to help you here.) Consider this before you cheat: Do you not have an ounce of respect for your partner to bring up issues in the relationship that may make you want to stray before you let yourself be woo’d by the shiny new thing that seems much better? I say “seems better” because remember, we don’t know anyone completely, so good luck. Do you think the person you’ve cheated on is too weak to hear the bad things you have to say, or even to hear that you want to sleep with someone else, and you’re too afraid to hurt them? That is an excuse made by the weak. You are the one lacking courage and bravery. You’re afraid. Don’t lie to yourself and say you’re protecting them. Your reasons for cheating could include being too drunk and not realizing it was going too far, forming a bond so close with someone else that you didn’t think that was still possible for you after all this time, feeling the “spark” you felt at 19 all over again, believing you’re smarter/better/hotter than your partner and this new person is the match for you, falling out of love with your partner, your partner does not treat you well or even hurts you, and lastly…boredom. The thing is, none of those excuses are actually OK! Really! I’m not saying you are the devil and not worthy of forgiveness, sometimes a mistake is a mistake. I won’t even judge your partner for forgiving you. Your relationship is your business and I don’t know what’s in their heart anymore than the next gal. I don’t even hold my friends to these high of standards because I know it all sounds easier said than done. But please just stop pretending your cheating is justified. Everyone has seen what cheating does to the person being cheated on (and sometimes the KIDS), and only after months or years of hurting (or reconciliation because you finally TALKED and have gotten to the real problem) can some folks, not all, say you actually did them a favor. Cheated before? Don’t feel like I just beat you up, just think about what made you do it. The wrong relationship is a reason just as much as being young and naive or selfishness is. Just know that if you want to continue cheating in all of your relationships, maybe you don’t need a relationship. Maybe it’s not who you are or you are not sure who you are. Again, investigate. Always investigate.
  • Little things matter. That goes for everything from taking the trash out to compliments to shutting up and listening.
  • Ask for what you need. Know when you need something or just want something. I need and want ice cream a lot.
  • Be wrong sometimes and ADMIT IT. My husband will laugh in my face when he reads this one.
  • Prioritize fun and peacefulness with equal vigor. Enjoy couch time as much as vacationing in Belize.
  • Make some, not all, decisions together. Talk things through with your partner, that’s what’s great about having someone there. Really consider their input. You chose this person for a reason.
  • Apologize. 
  • Know that you often don’t know anything, and no one else does either. Including me.
  • Share this blog with those who need it. 

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13 responses »

  1. Thanks for this! I gave up on finding “him” and subsequently gave up on myself. After several years of flirting with rock bottom, I made a very painful decision to put myself first. I spent long hard time getting to know myself and it turns out that is what taught me how to relate to the gorgeous, talented smart catch of a man I met after a show one night. I was just being honest and listening honestly with a guy for the first time and that’s when it clicked. It’s in the communication. It’s in using your eyes to see a REAL person. It’s in acceptance.

    Love you!

    Reply
  2. Well, yes. Agreed. On all points. Especially the privacy part. I shared far too much and relied to much on family and friends during my last break up. It was a huge comfort, but in that moment of cloudiness vas heartache, it just fueled a fire and aided in further disillusionment and misunderstanding. It’s hard to know if letting go or fighting for it is the right thing- deep down you always know . It doesn’t mean you don’t love someone. With love, it is true that we have to let go sometimes and hold on for other times.

    Reply
    • Agreed. Sometimes only distance from a relationship can let you see it for what it was. I look back and realize some were what I needed to grow, but not right for the person I wanted to grow into. Thanks for sharing here.

      Reply
  3. You are right on. There are no mistakes when relationships do not work, only lessons learned and growth. Live and grow your spirit by all your relationship.

    Reply
  4. This is excellent. Very well written, thank you for sharing! I’ve given many of these points as advice to friends in the past, but it is important for me to hear them, too. I’m sure I’ll be reading this again in the future when I find love.
    Until then, I will share my love with my beautiful friends like you!

    Reply
  5. Thank you so much for writing this! Okay…getting the brave girl panties on…

    I just went through my very first real breakup with the person that I sometimes let myself think was going to be the person I was with for a very long time. He is an emotionally and mentally weak person with an ultimately good soul, but he lets his demons win over and over again, aiding them with all the denial and weed (and occasionally other things) that I think one person could handle.

    I fell hard and fast and it was so good at the start I constantly ignored him pulling away every time life happened, the constant breaking up for a day or five and then him crawling back each and every time. I ignored that the only thing that worked 100% of the time was the amazing sex. I ignored that he was so selfish and so stock full of his own issues that I was revolving my entire life around when I could text him, if the rain outside was going to put him in a bad mood, that if he had a bad day at work would he end things with me. I ignored that I WASN’T HAPPY, I was damn stressed out. I had close wonderful friends say over and over the light in my eyes was gone, that I was a half person. I ignored it and clung to the good times we had that were becoming few and far between. I ignored it so much, and treated him with such loving kindness and loyalty that I let him break up with me, decide we would see other people, and still “date” and sleep together.

    At some point that all fell away and it became just the two of us again, physically anyway. I became a ball of nerves and stress again because I knew he was texting and God knows what else other girls he had met during that time with other people. That he wasn’t all there again. He in reality was probably never there from the start, that his emotional and mental and depression and suicidal issues prevented him and I from ever really connecting, that if he hates himself, how in the Hell was he going to realize he loved me? He has told me he couldn’t stand that I was in love with him and he didn’t love me back. I have no doubt in my mind that he cared for me as much as he is capable of…something he might not even realize yet, that he has no capacity for love at this point in his life.

    It all fell apart right before Thanksgiving when he out of nowhere informed me he had had symptoms pop up, and that I needed to get tested…from something that happened with a girl back in September. Gory details aside, I had what he had too, and since it had gone untreated for months, further tests show that I have some serious damage and probably can’t have children without a serious uphill battle. Like the previous pattern…he bailed, and I have had extremely limited contact with him since. Devestated and betrayed do not cover it, but for some reason I couldn’t let go. I realize now that I want validation, that it’s my ego that wants to know that he loved me despite not being able to, despite the horribleness of his actions that he is sorry (Which he has indeed apologized, via text which I have to accept- it’s all his weak soul can give), that I was worth more than he and I let myself be treated. Each day brings a new lesson. It has been HUGELY cathartic to say out loud that I wasn’t happy, and that it is time to move on. That is where I am at right now, struggling, and grieving, but growing day by day.

    Reply
    • Wow Emily! You win the bravery award. Wow. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
    • Emily, welcome to the blog. I read your comment holding my breath. You are one of the strongest, bravest people I’ve ever known and I am very much in awe of you. I think you should take all the time you need to grieve, continue to feel every feeling as they come up one day at a time, because you are already looking at this situation from a clear, conscious place. I am certainly not a therapist, but I think anyone can see that you are going to come out of this with hope instead of despair, strength instead of defeat. So many women and men can relate to your story. I, too, have had long term relationships that involved a partner with mental illness. It can be hard to understand from the outside looking in, and for me, not until many years later did some things even fall into place for me and I’m sure the more I grow, the more I still have to learn. Thank you again for sharing your growth with us. You are an inspiration!

      Reply

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