Relationships can be tricky, but dating and mating when you are a life coach who specializes in love has its own unique pressures. Naturally, I want to be crushing it on all levels, all the time, since I know a ton about how this relationship stuff "should" work! I spend my days talking about beautiful, healthy relationships -- so shouldn't my own relationship model exactly that?
But the truth is: Sometimes I am crushing it, and sometimes I am not.
With all of this knowledge, I have become my own case study. Evaluating my own reactivity throughout the relationship. When I am with him and when I am not.
Honestly, it is pretty ridiculous and mildly exhausting, but hell if I am not learning interesting 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. What I have learned works and what doesn't.
Plus, I want you to know that even people who have a ton of knowledge about dating and love, who talk about this stuff all day, every day, are human. We still have fears, freak out, lose our minds and occasionally 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 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, so 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.
For a bonus I threw in that I was messy, hate doing dishes, and am in some form of pajamas 70-80 percent 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. Even when it was really scary.
It also allowed him to be absolutely himself. I let him know pretty quickly in that I would do everything in my power to like him for just who he is. Because that is how I want to be liked. I am working on things that I am not always 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 percent 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 BS. 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 have learned to apologize, learn from them and then figure out what even provoked them in the first place so I can prevent them in the future.
Because we are looking for a stable, consistent loving relationship, it is NO ONE'S job to put up with your BS. You can have a crappy day, talk about it, ask for hugs and support, but you can't lash out. You are not 5.
Take care of that crap.
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 everything 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 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 of 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 passive aggressive/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 flippin' scared of getting hurt that I will look for reasons. My friends and therapist 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 out all of the time. True story.
How this might not work:
It is so important to choose the right people for this. Not that your friends and family don't want the best for you... they do! It is just wrapped up in their own fears, experiences and projections. If you are at the point of walking away from a potentially wonderful relationship, bring in a professional if you need to. Choose wisely, grasshopper.
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 crap and pretend that everything was OK. Easier than rocking the boat, right?
It sure is, 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 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.
I am pretty proud of all of this and us. But 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 ton of knowledge of how to do this. I had to get clear on what I really needed to feel happy. Where my own mindsets and fears were 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, Sugarpants.
After working through my stuff and getting clear, I know this is really 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 continue to grow.
Who doesn't want that?
Want to figure out how to get clear on what you need to thrive in a relationship and move towards the happy? I am going to be sharing a ton in my FREE workshop, Five Reasons You Are Not Ready for Love and What the Hell To Do About It on July 26th! Get in there!