Someone said something to me a little while back that keeps coming back to haunt me. They basically indicated being single is better than being in a committed relationship because you won’t ever feel stuck waking up next to someone you don’t like anymore. This caught me off guard. I wanted to shout, “You are missing the point – it doesn’t have to be like that – you are going to miss out on the real sweetness of life!”, but I didn’t. (I also wanted to say sometimes even alone you wake up with someone you don’t like sometimes. You have to figure out why and deal with it.) Instead, I was stuck in my head about the statement because it triggered so many thoughts and feelings.
The only reasons someone ever gets stuck waking up next to someone they don’t even like any more are pretty clear to me… a) many of us make relationship decisions before we are mature enough to even really know ourselves, b) because they don’t have a clear understanding of what a good relationship really is and c) lack of good communication. Trust me – I’ve been there. I invested 24 years in a marriage. I made all the mistakes… got married for the wrong reasons, to the wrong person and stayed out of obligation and hard-headed determination to make it work because the promise I made was important (I am a woman of my word). You can’t (and shouldn’t ever want to) change another person. You have to like who they are and care about them enough to make them a part of you.
Having also been in a really great committed relationship (would still be in it if he hadn’t died), I have learned a few things. There are three entities involved…. One is you. You are responsible for your own happiness. You are responsible to continue growing and becoming a better version of yourself. You are responsible for healing your past traumas and attachment issues. You are responsible for being authentic, truthful, kind, caring and a good communicator. The second entity in the situation is the other person. They are responsible for their own shit. You should ideally choose someone you really like, who has values in line with yours, that you have chemistry with and care about. They are responsible for their own happiness and their own issues. They are responsible for communicating their wants and needs openly and honestly. The third entity is the “relationship” itself. Both of you should be willing to be “all in” for the relationship. The health and well being of the relationship between you and the other person has to be important to you. It is the “us” of it. The “us” is better than the “me” of life… the “us” is deeper, more meaningful, richer and more satisfying. If you have ever truly tasted it, you wouldn’t want to settle for less. The “us” becomes part of the whole “you”. The “us” is doubled joy and doubled appreciation… it’s the wonderful interdependence we are wired for.
People get off track when they start being selfish. Sometimes you have to make a decision to do something for “the relationship” instead of just yourself. Robert really taught me that… he made the “relationship” and its health, his top priority. When both people do that, it really can’t fail. You also can’t expect someone to “complete” you – you have to be complete on your own. The relationship just adds depth and beauty to the completeness you already have. You can’t keep score… you can’t think “I did this nice thing for them, so they owe me a nice thing” – you have to do the nice thing for them and the relationship without any expectation of them doing something for you. You can’t keep a mental balance sheet of all the things they haven’t “done right” either. You have to acknowledge and nurture the good stuff – whatever you focus on expands. Let all the little shit go… will it matter 5 years from now if they left a sock in the middle of the floor? Nope – let it go. Does it matter if they loaded the dishwasher the way you would? Nope – doesn’t fucking matter… let it go. Focus on what matters. Is the relationship bringing you joy and thriving? THAT matters… focus on that.
So here I sit… sifting and sorting people… looking for that “one” I care about enough to make an “us” with. Here is where I become very clear I am not an ENM/poly person… I only want one. More than one and I can’t have the depth and richness I crave because it’s too complex with multiple people, so the relationship(s) stay shallower. But what if I chose the wrong one? That’s okay because I know myself well enough and am strong enough to a) make better choices than I did when I was younger and b) know that with open and honest communication I will know quickly, and course correct in a positive and non-hurtful way and learn to do better.
Which brings me to the thought of “communication” … you have to allow a person to say what they feel, think, expect, want… without judgement. They are entitled to think or feel whatever they do. Your job is to listen, clarify, acknowledge, and care (if you don’t care you didn’t belong in the relationship in the first place). What they (and we) feel and think is open to change as well… you have to be willing and able to roll with it.
I refuse to give up. I know what qualities I want in a partner… I know the sweetness of the taste of a good, committed relationship. I will not settle for someone who is “okay enough”. I don’t expect perfection – none of us is perfect… but “perfect” and “perfect for me” are two different things. I’ve grown through loss, and expect even better than before… (Yes, my friend Kevin, I may end up an old woman in a condo full of 73 cats all named Bentley and still be sifting and sorting, but I will keep trying).
I love “real” and “depth” and that feeling of adoring someone so much that they are a part of me. That is the “stuff” that inspires… that is what makes life meaningful. I can volunteer 24/7 and do whatever I can to make the world a better place and it still doesn’t come close to “meaningful” without someone to share my life with. You can’t have a rich crème brulee then go back to Jello instant pudding with the same enthusiasm… or have a deep, rich Grand Cru then be okay with Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill… LOL
I’m off to sit in grocery store parking lots again. I will be contemplating life while I wait for orders to fill – or making up stories about the lives of the shoppers… which I can’t help doing. Yesterday I had to go inside and buy my favorite $7 fresh pressed juice (Mango, lemon, ginger, turmeric) to savor like a fine meal, while I continued to come to terms with the fact I used to be one of these privileged shoppers. The Universe has a way of repeatedly humbling me. (Sorry homeless dude – I can’t help you today)
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Now that’s what I call real talk.
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