03 Things I Learned About Relationships throughout my Life
Relationships are complex and sometimes confusing because humans are. We’re unpredictable, we’re annoying, we don’t always know what we’re doing or what we want. And then we’re supposed to merge with another person of this species and have it all work together seamlessly. We’ll be getting into all of that. So, I’ve found that most articles I see on the topic of relationships focus on things to be aware of in the other person, and not so many things to be aware of within ourselves.
And it’s easy to point fingers at others; the things that we expect from them, the things we want from them, the things that are wrong with them. How about the things with you? And with me? I want to focus on both, because they’re equally important, and I specifically want to focus on three ideas or things or whatever to call it, that I’ve come to learn.
Those things are: 1) Be honest from the beginning 2) Don’t commit to potential; and 3) Endings are not failures. This is going to be a chit-chatty article. We’re just hanging out. Two friends. You and I. You all seem to enjoy the previous article I did similar to this one, and I really enjoyed making it so here we are.
I. Be Honest from the Beginning
So, what do I mean by being honest from the beginning? We’re animals. We see a potential mate and we do what we can to attract them. We may not puff out our chests or lift our arms up as some other species do. Instead, we try to look and behave our very best, as one should. We all like to see someone put in the effort.
But there’s a difference between putting your best foot forward and putting a foot forward that isn’t even yours. How can a person be honest? Honesty isn’t about spilling all the tea about your family drama and your bad habit of leaving socks on the floor or your childhood bullies, all on the first date. It’s simply about not deliberately censoring, manipulating, or exaggerating your true self in order to make yourself seem more desirable by pretending to be someone or something you really aren’t.
So, to provide an example, when you meet someone or when you’re with someone, don’t be like “I wake up at 6 every morning and go for a run and then I go to the animal shelter and volunteer for two hours” if you don’t do that. Don’t tell someone you’re a chocolate person when in reality you prefer vanilla. Don’t pretend to be a social butterfly when you’re really a homebody.
Don’t say you’re okay with smoking and alcohol if you’re not, or that their busy work schedule isn’t going to be a problem if it is. So as you can see, the honest train goes both ways; don’t pretend to be something that you aren’t, and don’t pretend to be okay with what someone else is if you aren’t. Why is it so important? The foundation of a relationship, the tone, the norm, the expectations, the boundaries—those is usually set in the early stages.
At least the very core of it. And if those are based on a false reality, eventually that façade will fade, the mask will slip, and the relationship will suffer because suppressed desires and ways of being tend to re-surface in one way or the other. Perhaps in 5 months, or perhaps two years into a relationship.
Now, if you feel like you can’t be honest about who you are with someone, you either a) need to work on yourself, and that includes learning to simply accept yourself, to actually become someone you’re proud of, to be honest about being or b) you’re simply in the wrong company. The fuzzy thing about honesty is of course that, while you might be fully committed to it, there’s no way for you to know whether or not the other person is. Some people will be dishonest, they will lie.
I think that’s simply a reality that we need to accept. Just don’t be one of those people, because they always lose at the end. Moving on to the second idea/lesson.
II. Don’t Commit to Potential
So, what do I mean by “Don’t commit to Potential”? Sometimes, we pretend to be okay with something that a person says or does or is, because we’re hoping or expecting that that specific attribute of theirs will change. And sometimes, it can. For example, I’m not typically someone who likes going out a lot, but if the person I was with enjoyed going out more than I do, there’s a chance I’d start enjoying it more too.
But I wouldn’t want them to commit to the idea that someday I will. If I meet someone who says they don’t ever want to get married while I do, I shouldn’t commit to the idea that one day they will change their mind. So, how do you avoid committing to potential? You ask questions, and you honestly evaluate the answers and the actions that follow.
Acknowledge someone’s true colors and decide if their color palette matches yours. If it doesn’t, be honest, even if sucks because it might go against what you had hoped for. Basically, don’t look for a project to turn into a suitable partner. That doesn’t mean that you should look for someone who is perfect and that perfectly aligns with you from the very start, because that’s not really what reality looks like and we will get to that later, but the person that you are today, should align with the person that they are today.
You don’t align with who they could be, or who you could be. Now on that note, let’s talk about expectations and compromise. If you’re looking for someone who is going to match every single one of your 100 bullet point list of a dream mate, you’ll be searching forever. And if you do happen to stumble upon them, run. There will always be things that could be better. There will always be things that are annoying. There will always be different perspectives and opinions and ideas. There will always be disagreements. Because we’re different people.
Let’s say you’re 25 and you meet someone who’s also 25. It means that you each are bringing 25 whole years of experiences to the table, which includes everything from your childhood and your upbringing to every single friendship and relationship each of you has ever had and all the other things that make up who we are. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s also complicated. And this is where compromise comes in.
I think there’s a healthy kind of compromise and an unhealthy kind of compromise. There’s the compromise that is perfectly reasonable and there is the compromise that is unreasonable. The only people who ultimately decide what those things are, are you and the person you’re with. Now, some people are very reluctant to compromise.
I call it under-compromise. “I refuse to stop leaving my dirty socks on the floor, it’s who I am, accept it or leave it.” Or “I can’t remember to kiss your goodnight every night even though I know it would make you happy, I’m not that kind of person.”
And then there are the people who are too prone to compromise, where they completely lose themselves. I call it over-compromise. “I’m going to stop talking to everyone in my family so that I can spend all my time with you.” And I think what I’ve learned is that, in any relationship, there will be times when over-compromising is necessary. Someone might get sick or lose their job or simply have a few bad days. And there will also be times when someone will under-compromise.
Someone might just not feel like it or they might be going through something. That’s what a relationship is; there will be ups, there will be downs, there will be highs, there will be lows.
III. Endings are Not Failures
This brings me to my last point; endings are not failures. You know sometimes, things just end. It’s part of life. Not all things are forever. Does that mean we failed? Did you fail? Did they fail? The relationship failed? Each to their own, but that’s not how I see it. Sometimes life gives us opportunities to learn and to grow. And even to create memories and stories.
And we should do the best we can to learn to embrace it, even if they come in a way that we hadn’t expected or hoped for. On that note, let’s end this chat session with a quote that I really, really like.
It’s by Emery Allen and it goes like this: “Not everything is supposed to become something beautiful and long-lasting. Sometimes people come into your life to show you what is right and what is wrong, to show you who you can be, to teach you to love yourself, to make you feel better for a little while, or to just be someone to walk with at night and spill your life to. Not everyone is going to stay forever, and we still have to keep on going and thank them for what they’ve given us.”