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Sometimes I feel like I am on a reality show.
A really boring reality show, mind you.
No, there is no island where you vote people off, or villa full of sexy bachelors, and the only star I get to dance with is my cat Leroy. He’s pretty much a legend though. I know, you wish you knew him.
But back to the point: Relationships.
Relationships are always tricky, but dating and mating when you are a life coach who talks about love all day long has its own unique pressures. Naturally, I want to be crushing it on all levels, all the time, because, well, I know a shit ton about how this relationship stuff should work! I’m here to speak for beautiful, healthy relationships after all – so shouldn’t my own model exactly that?
Well, sometimes I am crushing it, and sometimes I am not.
However, just like the cameras on a reality show, I am in 24/7 observation mode of how I am doing. Yes, like my own case study. I am my own Big Brother. Creepy, right? AND stressful.
Let me take a moment and tell you that my sweet and awesome boyfriend is super patient. He watches me, amused, as my mind works 100 miles an hour, trying to figure out why I reacted a certain way to something.
Evaluating my own reactivity is pretty ridiculous and mildly exhausting, but fuck if I am not learning things about myself every single day.
So in the name of science (and all things ridiculous) I am going to share this case study with you. Because I am good like that. And I want you to know that even people who have a shit ton of knowledge and talk about this all day, every day, still have fears, freak out, lose their shit and mess up.
So here is what I did right (and wrong) in the first six months of my relationship.
Right: Showed him who I was. Full on.
Listen, I am a fucking handful. I am. Every part of me when I meet someone new wants to tuck a few things away that make me less than stellar. We all have our own quirks, ways that we do things, the way we like things, personality traits, etc.But from the beginning I was just me. Fun but flawed. Confident with insecurities. A talker. Passionate but goofy.Now those all sounded indie movie cute, let me also get real here. I also shared my struggles with my weight and body image right now. My frustration with health issues. Sadness over my Dad and his current health condition. Also that I was messy, hate doing dishes, only wash my hair a few times a week and am in some form of pajamas 70-80% of the time. I was just absolutely me, because that person was going to come out anyway.
Why this worked:
I didn’t vomit out my life story and all of my problems the first couple times we met, that is just sabotage. But I always showed up as myself.
It also allowed him to be absolutely him and I let him know pretty quickly in that I would like him for just him. Because that is how I want to be liked. I am working on things that I am not proud of, but ultimately what he saw is what he got. And if he liked that stuff, we were in business! So far, so good. 🙂
Right: Took credit where credit was due.
There is a lot of blame game in relationships. Even when we have behaved badly, we love to point fingers to the other person at what they did to illicit that response. But no matter what happened in the first place, we are 100% responsible for our actions. We have to learn how to acknowledge and apologize, but more importantly do the personal work to understand where those not-so-awesome actions came from.
As far as I am concerned, the thought of people “needing to handle you at your worst to deserve to have you at your best” is bullshit. YOU need to handle you at your worst and be strong enough to step away, ask for time, talk to a friend or professional if you can’t control the words that come out of your mouth.
We all have moments-God knows I have had a few, but I apologize, learn from them and then figure out what the fuck provoked them so I can prevent them.
Because we are looking for a stable, consistent loving relationship people and it is NO ONE’S job to put up with your bullshit. You can have a shitty day, talk about it, ask for hugs and support but you can’t lash out. You are not 5.
Take care of that shit.
Why this worked:
Trust is easier to build when we can observe someone who is responsible for their actions. We have less fear of getting hurt.
Right (and wrong): Talked shit out like a mofo
You would think that someone who communicates for a living would LOVE communicating in a relationship. Well, in fact I DO. The moment I sniff that something is off, I am on it like blue bonnet!
Why this worked:
Right from the beginning, I set up that talking when there was even the slightest bit of a problem was the norm. He was pretty thrown off by it because he had never been in a relationship where he worked through problems before. But, we got really fucking good at it. There was even a moment that we talked out a problem and hi-fived afterwards because we just kicked ass and both of us felt good. One of us would bring the frustration and then figure out what felt good for both of us. That kind of open communication is addicting. We are not perfect at it, but we are pretty damn good!
When it didn’t:
Too much of a good thing is not always good thing. 😉 Although I find the psychology and human motivation in relationships beyond fascinating (even my own) enjoying the relationship is way more important. As a chronic over-analyzer, if I am not careful I spend time thinking instead of doing. This helps no one.
Right: Created a support team.
In the beginning there were times where things were rocky. And by rocky I mean I would freak out if I didn’t hear from him in the timeline I expected and if I even grabbed a sniff of getting hurt. Honestly, it was all of my stuff from past dates and relationships. And I knew it.
I believe that during that early time we need to have a couple of solid people in our lives as a reality check. To talk us off the ledge, to stop us from sending that bitchy/crazy text, someone that gives us a solid outside point of view. Because when we like someone a lot we lose a bit of reality. As a former runner from relationships, I am so fucking scared of getting hurt that I will look for reasons. My friends and therapists helped me keep that in check so I could show up and be great for him. And him for me.
Why this worked:
Relationships grow trust much more consistently, and faster, if people aren’t freaking the fuck out all of the time. True story.
Right: Asked for what I needed
As a recovering super independent person it is very hard for me to be vulnerable and ask for what I need in a relationship. For a long time I lived in the fear of “what if I ask and they don’t want to give it”? So I would just take on all of the shit and pretend that everything was OK. Easier than rocking the boat, right?
Yup, until you realize that you are not really participating in the relationship or giving that person a chance to be great for you. And if you aren’t really participating, it isn’t a real relationship. Yeah, I fucking said it.
Want to know why people leave you easily? Because they don’t know where to contribute. If they can’t find a place to support you in your life, they aren’t going to stick around. Everyone needs to feel needed in some way.
So I made a promise to myself and him, that if I was frustrated or needed something from him, I would ask for it. And told him to do the same.
And you know what? He delivered! It is amazing what people will do when you give them the chance to be great for you.
Why this worked:
I got what I needed and he didn’t need to play the “guess what I am thinking” game. That game sucks and no one ever wins. And when no one is winning, no one is happy.
The thing is, none of this was overnight.
I didn’t wake up one day and say “all is good! I am going to be excellent in my relationships from now on!” Even with a shit-ton of knowledge of how to do this. I had to get clear on what I really needed to feel happy. Where my own shit was holding me back from that and how the hell to ask for it.
Without those things, you are just trying to fit yourself into other people’s ideas of a happy relationship. That is going to get you nowhere.
After working through my stuff and getting clear, I know it is working. How? I am happy. In fact we are happy. Not because this is perfect, but because this is real and we are creating a partnership that works towards a better future. One where love can grow.