The butterflies in your stomach when your phone rings, the anticipation of every conversation, the thrill of realizing you like a person as much as they like you… Relationships are amazing! And they get better and better when you’re in a good one. Part of that chemical rush comes from not knowing the other person: they are an extremely attractive stranger with nothing but what we read into them to complete their persona. It’s new and passionate and exciting. But so is getting to know them: painting in the rest of the picture, one shade at a time. We are all very different with totally different brains, so miscommunications and misinterpretations of each other’s actions are going to happen. Often. Just get comfortable with that idea and communicate. It will get you both where you’re going happily, wherever that might be.
When you are hurt by the other’s actions, bring up why you are upset, what you thought and ask (in as objective a way as possible) why the other person did what they did. Tell them how it made you feel. If the person responds with a logical reason for this miscommunication, acknowledge it, hold onto it, save it for future reference in your toolbox. Their answers will be a guide for who that person is so that you can rely on it when you are in a similar situation. “Oh yeah, I remember – he/she doesn’t like to XYZ.” Or, “Oh yeah, I remember – her/his intentions are good, they care about me and would never intentionally want to hurt my feelings.” Don’t hold your hurt feelings in until you blow up because throughout that time you’ve built up resent, you’ve suffered and now you’re ready to vent what you’ve been through. Instead of communication, you initiate a fight that most likely will catch that other person off-guard and understandably cause them to feel unjustly accused and punished.
When that person tells you why they did something, take them at face value. You can’t build a good foundation based on “I don’t believe them”. When you give someone your trust, you are investing wholeheartedly and you’re taking it seriously. There’s really no other way to build something real. I don’t mean dive in blindly. Walk slowly but heart-first. Know that if you get hurt you’ll survive and if you’ve had a bad experience in the past, remember that you learned that lesson and you’ll protect yourself if it comes your way again. Don’t close yourself off to what could be something new and great. *If you deep-down don’t trust this person, you shouldn’t be getting into this relationship at all. If you can feel something is wrong, don’t ignore it. Your gut tells you things for a reason. If you are knowingly accepting bad behavior from this person, you need to spend some time being loving to yourself. You’re worth more than that and there’s no reason to accept it.
If you want something from the person you’re in a relationship with, ask for it. If you don’t ask, you’ll end up being upset that you’re not getting what you need and resentment will build up over time. Tell them what you want from them or what you need from them and chances are they will try and meet your needs to make you happy. If they say no or they are incapable of what you’re asking, then acknowledge it to yourself and decide if you can live with it. Does the good outweigh the bad? Can you be happy without this down the road? No one will have everything you want and we all have good and bad traits – we’re human. Some things are deal-breakers. Other things, while being downers, are tolerable.
If you’re asking something of that person that requires they change their personality, stop right there. You have no right to ask that of anyone. How would you like it if someone asked you not to be you? For me it would be “I don’t want you to do yoga anymore.” Or, “You like yoga more than me so you don’t care about me.” (Bear with me.) If I actually did stop going to yoga to please them, I would be extremely unhappy. (Not good for this relationship.) Also, someone telling me that doing something I love means I’m uncaring makes me unhappy. Granted, my example is pretty severe, but you get the picture. It’s never fair to ask another person to change who they are. You can ask them for what you want but not for them to be different. If you want them to be different, you need to find someone else or decide that you can live with it.
A great way to stay grounded/aware of your needs in the evolution of a relationship is to keep a literal list. It’s also helpful when you’re trying to stay in your own head (do I like them) vs. theirs (do they like me/what are they thinking of me). I credit this chart to Sharon, the mother of all wisdom.
Directions: Draw two columns on a piece of paper or make a GoogleDoc. One column should say, “Things that make me happy” and the other should say, “Things that worry me”. As you write down items in each column, give them a number starting with 1. It will help you see how you’re doing with the good vs. the bad. They should be simply observations and cues that this person is giving you and/or things that this person causes you to feel. So for example, column 1 would say, “Is a great listener”, column 2 would say, “Their behavior is inconsistent”. When a huge red flag comes up, highlight it. This is probably a deal-breaker. When a huge plus comes up, highlight it in a different color. This can help to remind you of who this person is when you’re upset and triggered by something they’ve done (that you don’t understand). However, nothing can undo a deal-breaker. These are things that betray your values as a person and/or what you want for your life. Something like, “doesn’t believe in monogamy” or “wants kids and I don’t”. You can’t expect things like this to change because they are major values that decide the course of a person’s life. If you choose to ignore something like this, it can cause a lot of harm, or at the very least, wasted time.
You’ll probably find that both lists stay pretty even. The goal is really to stay honest with yourself about what you’re getting into and whether or not it’s what you want. You might not know for a while, but at least you will be able to decide with your wits about you and not deceive yourself about who the person is.
When you communicate– with pure intentions – and ask what was lost in translation, you set up a habit that will get you through most anything together because you’re walking down the same path. You understand the same things. Together you can walk in any direction, whether that means onward and upward, or in different directions, apart. These conversations become like translation keys for people that speak completely different languages, and everyone has a different language because of our experiences. In the case of relationships, sometimes it’s called a “love map”. Our first experiences set up what we understand of love: what it means to be loving, whether or not we believe in marriage, how we view intimacy, commitment etc. It’s usually created during childhood by our parents and how they related to one another, plus our first experiences with dating, love and sex. If a person has a twisted view of relationships by your standards, it’s probably to do with an early experience in their life.
When you ask for what you want and seek it out, not accepting less, you find it. Sometimes the path is a little bumpy and it takes a bit longer, but it leads to a better place. Another thing that happens when you decide to leave a relationship because you’re not being treated the way you deserve, that action in itself can cause that person to change. They step up to the plate because they see how much you are worth by your own self-respect. It’s pretty remarkable, but you tell people how to treat you by the way you treat yourself. Don’t forget that when it comes to love.
Happy Sunday! Love to you all xoxo Sarah