Relationship Tip #15 — Don’t Blow It

A friend of mine recently got me hooked on the PBS series Downton Abbey, which takes place in the early 1900’s.  The parents of three daughters are often host to potential suitors for their oldest, Mary.  The heir to their vast estate is Matthew Crawley and seems a logical match for her.  Yet upon arrival to Downton his ungentlemanly, unrefined behavior is unattractive to her.  Over time, Matthew embraces the aristocratic culture in Downton, befriends Mary and she begins to genuinely fall in love with him.  One night at a dinner party, the family was entertaining another potential suitor for Mary, Sir Antony.  Only Mary wasn’t interested in him.  So, she turns her full attention to Matthew while her sister, Edith, engages in conversation with Sir Antony.  After dinner, in an arrogant act of impulse, Mary insists to Edith that she could get any man.  To prove it, Mary at once turns her back on Matthew and begins to flirt with Sir Antony.  After being snubbed by Mary, Matthew promptly leaves the party.  From the window, Mary watches Matthew walk away, clearly regretting her actions toward him.  Watching all of this unfold from the sidelines, Mary’s father says quietly to his wife, “She thinks if you put a toy down it’ll still be there when you want to play with it again.”

I’ve played the role of Mary countless times in my own life.  What Mary’s father said about her was true about me too.  I had been operating with the selfish notion that the men in my life were at my disposal and I had infinite chances to “blow it” with them.  My wake up call came when I actually had someone in my life with whom I could see having a future.  Instead of nurturing the relationship, I broke up with him with little explanation.  Six months later, he gave me another chance and I did it again.  Time went by and he gave me yet another chance.  At this point, I had destroyed any trust he had in me.  Our relationship, or even friendship, was never the same.  While Mary acted in her arrogance, I acted in my insecurity.  Call it “the grass is greener syndrome,” sabotage or whatever.  We both had our reasons, but the reasons don’t really matter.  The bottom line is that I took him for granted.  I didn’t appreciate having him as my boyfriend until I had lost him.  There was no recovering from that – the consequence being I killed the relationship.

What would I have done differently? I would have:

  1. Acted on the vision of my future with him, not my past with other men.  Stated differently, I would have dealt with my baggage.  By treating him as if he were every other guy who had hurt me, I was making him pay for their wrongs.  This was a new relationship with someone who loved me, therefore deserving of a clean slate.
  2. Shared with him the issues with which I was dealing at that time.  He was a very tender-hearted man and told me at one point that he could tell I was dealing with something.  I didn’t tell him because I didn’t want to be v-u-l-n-e-r-a-b-l-e.
  3. Appreciated everything that he was for me, rather than indulging in my insecurities.  I was admittedly obsessed with what could go wrong in our relationship.  How could I possibly enjoy being with him with that constantly running in my head?
  4. Given him credit for being an adult.  That means trusting him to be able to handle bumps in the road with me.  Of course, to do that requires communication.  He didn’t know because I was unwilling to share it with him.  In hindsight I can see that he’s dealt with plenty of issues in life, many were just as difficult as, if not more than, mine.  He could have managed it.  Also, being outside the situation, he probably would have done so more skillfully than I.
  5. Moved on after breaking up with him the first time.  To repeatedly go back and forth with him served only me – selfish.  It kept him in limbo, fueled his insecurities because he never knew where he stood with me and completely ruined his trust in me.  I wasn’t respecting him or his heart.

Having a love worth keeping really is like winning the lottery – it seldom happens and doesn’t happen for everyone.  Playing games like Mary or I did, regardless of your reasons for doing so, will always have its consequences.  I’m not saying that there are no second chances.  Plenty of people get married after a second chance.  What I am saying is appreciate your first chance in a relationship and treat it as if it’s your last because it could be exactly that:  your last chance.

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Relationship Tip #11 – Expect Imperfection

One common desire I hear from many of my girlfriends is that they want to have a relationship with a man who will love her just as she is.  I’m extremely cranky when I’m tired; I’m nearly compulsive about keeping the sink free of dirty dishes and putting them in the dishwasher; when I’m really irritated I will rant intensely for a short period of time (what I call “verbal vomit”) as a process of getting over it; I hate getting my hands dirty;  normally it takes me 30 minutes or longer to wake up in the morning; and when I’m leaving the house, I will have to go back in once, twice or more to retrieve things I’ve forgotten.  These are some of my obvious, annoying quirks; there are others far more annoying, unattractive.  I can only imagine how it would be to have that one special man who can see all of these things about me and still choose to love me.  To my single, female readers, do you ever wonder what it would be like to have the kind of partnership with a man who knows and sees everything about you (good, bad and ugly), but loves you anyway?  I speculate it would be quite like it is with your best friend with whom you’re able to relax and be yourself, only he’s your boyfriend.

Every single one of us, even men, has our own set of quirks or imperfections.  Some we can change, some we can’t and most we would prefer to leave as-is, just because.  With that said, when you meet a guy that you feel is worth seriously dating, expect imperfection.  Expect that as you spend time getting to know each other he’s going to do or say something that hurts your feelings or annoys you.  Things will happen that will impact his mood.  On occasion, he’s going be selfish, forgetful, late or impatient.  When it comes up, here’s what you do:

  1. Hang in there. Especially if you’ve been single for a long time, your knee-jerk reaction may be to bail.  Sure, it’s much easier to cut bait, but anything worthwhile takes effort.
  2. Remember that you love him. Recall everything about him that attracted you to him and refer back to that frequently.  Tell him and others these things rather than harp on what annoys you.
  3. Talk about it. It’s really easy to “step over” something that bugs you and keep it inside for whatever reason you have.  If your feelings are important to you and to this man in your life, I’ll assume that they are, isn’t it worth it to give him the opportunity to address the issue?
  4. Listen to what he has to say. That would mean you have to stop talking.  He has his reasons for doing what he does and he may not even realize he’s doing something that annoys you.  Hear the intentions of his heart.  If he apologizes you won’t even hear it if you’re talking.
  5. Forgive him. These little quirky things he does aren’t intended to hurt your feelings.  There will come a time when you’ll do something that annoys him and you’ll want him to turn the other cheek.  Forgiveness requires that you wipe the slate clean, meaning you never mention the incident again.
  6. Laugh about it. Once the dust settles and you’ve found a way to work with each other, make light of your quirks.  It’s only heavy and significant if you make it that way.

In this lifetime, you want someone who will love you for all that you are and all that you’re not – just as you are.  Consider, that is what the men in our lives want from us too.  Whether we give such unconditional love to him or not is a choice we make on a moment by moment basis, every single day.  Giving it requires that we expect his imperfections and choose to love him anyway.