Wifeys & Gentlemen,
Happy end of May, my dears! I know it’s been almost a month since I last posted, but as I transition into a new job (woop woop), hunt for a new apartment with my man & pup, and continue to iron out the details of my fast approaching nuptials, I find myself teetering between feeling pressed for time and wanting to shut my mind off and get some much needed sleep (seriously, ask my future-hubs, I fall asleep in the time it takes him to brush his teeth at night)
With only 173 days left until the wedding (eeeek!!!), I find more and more that I must talk myself off of the emotional ledge. At the first sign of trouble, I freak out! & it can take a whole day of anxiety, tears, and anguish before someone or something is finally able to snap me back into my (somewhat) sane reality. I openly admit that last week was a hard week (both because of events/factors and because of my bad attitude). Reflecting this past Sunday, I realized a lot of things. My negative outlook made me think a lot about the ways in which we are often irrational, overbearing, and downright crazy when it comes to dating and relationships.
I am lucky that, for the most part, my fiancée knows how to deal with my special brand of nuts. I’m also lucky that he knows the “real me” and he can separate my “pre-wedding” crazy from my typical crazy (for the time being)! With weddings or other major life events being considered the exception here, I still spend a lot of time asking myself: how does this man deal with me? And I have it on good authority that he often thinks the same! I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but in case it’s never come up, part of being in a healthy relationship involves a few (basic) things:
- You accept your partner as he/she is (the good and the bad)
- You help & support them when they aren’t at their best (be strong for them when they can’t)
- You challenge them when they aren’t at their best (call them out or correct them when they are damagingly incorrect or out of line)
Obviously, these three things aren’t all there is to it, but I truly believe that many times, when we consider these elements as they apply to our behaviors, our dissatisfaction with our relationships boils down to 1 of 2 things: Either we forget the package we signed up for and stop accepting all aspects of our partner or we wreak emotional havoc on our significant others and still expect them to be unconditionally loving and accepting and without a fight.
I have a few examples.
Case 1: I have a friend whose boyfriend can be kind of hard to deal with at times. On top of some other, more serious concerns that we won’t delve into here, he is often very irrational, overbearing, and illogical about communication, relationships expectations, and acceptable actions/behaviors. While my friend does her very best to maintain healthy boundaries and communication with him, it often results in an argument that stalls their growth. They struggle regularly to understand each other; each of them wanting to be heard and acknowledged, each of them wanting their thoughts, ideas, and behaviors to be accepted.
Resolve: I am not an expert, but for me, the resolution might not be as clear as you’d think. While I can 100% say, based on experience and observation, that the boyfriend is extremely difficult and irrational in his logic and expression, my friend is not 100% correct either. I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts that wreaking emotional havoc on our partners is never okay, and it isn’t, but, if you’ve been with a person for a while and you’ve gotten to know who they are/how they behave, at a certain point you must chose to either accept them as they are or move on.
Easier said than done, yes. But consider this: if you’ve been with the same man/woman for a long time (and you get to decide what ‘a long time’ is since this varies from person to person) and he/she gets comfortable enough to be themselves around you, you owe them the respect of either telling them that you can’t accept who they are or you decide to love them in spite of.
In my friend’s case, one could argue that it’s more “complicated” than that, and in many ways, I would agree. But overall, the principle remains the same, right? Whether your partner yells and screams when they’re frustrated or they always breaks the stuff they borrow from you, whether they hates your friends/family or nag you for leaving your clothes on the floor, commitment to that partner means committing to their issues (both big and small).
Please do not misunderstand, this does NOT mean that you must be a doormat! This does NOT mean that you must accept abuse! And this does NOT mean that if your partner’s problems escalate in a way that makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable you should stick it out.
However, I believe that if you love someone, you owe it to him/her to not try to change them. You owe them respect and acceptance. & you owe it to them to challenge their thinking (when you need to) without trying to change who they are.
Case 2: An acquaintance (of sorts?) and her on again, off again boyfriend routinely break up when he makes a mistake that sets her off. If he is late for a date, she will accuse him of not caring about her and end the relationship. Her boyfriend, being generally patient and well meaning, will give her about a week to calm down before attempting to patch things up and continue with their relationship. Still, she tends to make a habit of being very hard and unrelenting on her boyfriends, struggling to keep relationships steady and consistent as a result.
Resolve: It is really difficult to build trust and intimacy with someone you often break up with. While dramatic and “revolving door” relationships might work for some, for most of the world population, in order to get to know someone well enough to stay with them, you need to be consistent.
In this case, while the boyfriend needs to take some responsibility here, working to find logical compromises with his girlfriend so his quirks are less irksome (hehe, that is a weird sentence, right?), my acquaintance is being entirely too overbearing and irrational to allow for the support/challenge dynamic to begin to take shape.
As a rule of thumb, try to remember that just because your partner loves and accepts you now does not mean you can abuse them or behave poorly and expect them to tough it out. If your partner is attempting to support you through your flaws and challenge them when appropriate, it is now your job to open your eyes and ears and get ready to make concessions & compromises for your needs.
While it’s totally fine to expect your date to be on time for dinner, movies, and meet ups, if he/she isn’t (on occasion), there is a way to express disappointment and frustration without losing composure or ending your relationship. Something as simple as taking a few deep breaths can be the difference between a discussion that goes somewhere meaningful and a fight that ends in tears.
Case 3: I once tried to break up with an ex because I was going through an episode of depression. While I am not formally diagnosed with clinical depression, there were times (especially in my late teens/early 20s) where a series of events would send me into a tailspin, causing me to be a real bummer to be around. I was sad, moody, lacked confidence, and made everything into a problem about my shortcomings. I focused on the negative and everything I didn’t have or couldn’t achieve. While my partner at the time did his best to work with and understand me, I refused to let him. He’d want to be there for me, offered to take me to therapy, bought me books about positive thinking, the works…and I shut him down at every turn. One night, after picking a fight over a school project I was working on, I told him that he should leave and not come back. I tried t make it seem like I was doing it for his own good, but he knew better. He knew that I was stuck feeling sorry for myself and that having him around meant I couldn’t keep making excuses for my misery.
Resolve: Depression might be a bad example because, as we know, no one can help feeling depressed or falling into a depressed state. If depression, anxiety, sadness, etc, is a temporary element in your relationship and is something that you and your partner can work though, then this advice doesn’t apply. Keep accepting and loving your mate, supporting them through their trials, and pushing them to do more when you know they are capable of it.
However, if mental health issues are getting in the way of your relationship for a long period of time, or the affected member begins pushing you away, then it is time to reevaluate your positions. While my boyfriend was wonderful during this time, I still couldn’t accept his love and help. I made things unnecessarily difficult for him. Even though he stuck it out, after a certain point, I wouldn’t have blamed him if he just couldn’t anymore.
Irrational behavior, whether intentional or a symptom of deeper problems, is still challenging and hard to cope with. Contending with someone who is unwell and refuses to make efforts to get better makes the highs and lows seem like endless valleys. It isn’t fair to your partner if you’re putting them through that (without making efforts to help yourself), and it isn’t fair to you if you’re trying to be there for someone whose unwilling to help themselves. Staying in these types of relationships is 100% okay as long as no one is being damaged in the process. The second that concept changes, so must the terms of your relationship.
With the exception of genuinely nasty humans, at the end of the day, no one is really at fault in these instances. The irrational person in the relationship is responding to a stressor in the best way that he/she knows how and the partner is doing their best to cope with and respond to that. No matter what stage of your relationship you’re in, communication (ding ding! I said it again!) is always key! Let your partner know if something they do or say really hurts you. Talk to them when you are feeling misunderstood, under-appreciated, or uncared for. If the relationship is good, you will work through these problems much faster with honesty.
Finally, and you know I have to say it because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t, don’t be scared to call in a professional for those times when you’re unsure if you can navigate the storm alone. Relationships don’t have to be toxic or poison when we make the choice to be and do better.
Until Next Time,
Carry on Wifeys!