Friday, March 28, 2014

Advice on love, relationships

I’ve got some news for this guy, this “love expert” Gerald Rogers and I’ve got 4 years on him. I was married 20 and I was the one to file for divorce, so I’ve got a little different take on things. Unlike Mr. 15 Minutes of Fame (he appeared on the Today Show after his post went viral), I don’t ever intend to marry again. Will I fall in love? Probably. Will I find a committed partner to share in my golden years? Maybe, we’ll see. What I won’t find is another co-dependent, mutually devastating cluster like I was in.

  1. Make the effort, of course. Be romantic, sure, but guard your heart. Gerald says, “She chose you,” as if you had no say in the matter. Go in with your eyes wide open and realize that you chose EACH OTHER. Both parties should be equal in their giving. And if you learn to love sacrificially, you’ll never go wrong in trying to outdo your partner.
  2. Guard your heart (see above). Love yourself fully and don’t settle for someone who doesn’t love themselves. You have to protect your own heart fiercely. But if you radiate that kind of love and confidence, you’ll attract the right kind of woman.
  3. Fall in love. Again, be romantic. But know that love is not just some gushy mesh of sentimental feelings and words. Love is action. Be a doer, not just a talker. Show your love and stay connected. It doesn’t fall just on you, but you can certainly lead by example, or better yet, LOVE by example!
  4. Be realistic. She’s not perfect and neither are you. “Always see the best,” as Gerald suggests is not reality. There will always be things about your partner that could improve, and that may even bug you. Get past them. If they are immovable objects that would hinder your moving forward, either get help or get out. “Focus to the point where you can no longer see anything but love?” C’mon, dude, get real. Again, love is not some puffy cloud of lovey-dovey feelings up in the stratosphere. Love is both a choice and an action, but you have to see your partner for who they really are, warts and all. If you can’t handle that, then stay single.
  5. Show tough love if absolutely necessary. Everyone has faults. Some people that we love NEED to change for their own good. Sometimes a tough love approach is the only way. Is it our job to change our partner? No, certainly not. That burden falls on them alone. If you can lovingly help your partner see where change is needed, then is it more loving to avoid the challenge or to meet it head on? Ask yourself the difficult question.
  6. Be accountable. On this point we both agree. You share half the burden in the relationship, whether there is credit or blame to go around. Accept your share, apologize if you have to and carry on. You can only control you, period.
  7. Be honest. You have to be honest, first, with yourself before you can be honest with your partner. Are the things bothering you because of your own faulty perceptions, past hurts and failures? Be honest with yourself before going to your partner with a grievance. If there IS someone to blame, it could be the both of you. Only an honest, adult discussion can get you through what’s troubling you. For one person to bear the brunt of the blame is completely unfair and unbalanced.
  8. Be who you are. Don’t put on masks for your partner and don’t expect her to wear them either. Give her the freedom to be who she is and to express herself genuinely. Don’t make assumptions about gender roles, like Mr. Rogers. The man doesn’t always have to be the pillar of strength upon which she leans. You should be equal partners in the relationship, able to lean upon each other. She will be your pillar at times, as you will be hers. It’s no one person’s job to be the Rock of Gibraltar all the time (refer to #4 and  #7).
  9. Be silly. Be child-like, but not childish, and laugh as much as possible. Gerald hit a home-run on this one. I was suckered into believing, at the beginning of my marriage, that I had to “behave like an adult.” I lost the utter silliness that my ex and I had shared, at times, as a young couple. Laughter is, indeed, a good medicine.
  10. Know and speak love languages, fluently. If you don’t know them, then read Gary Chapman’s book about them. Go back and re-read #3. Love is action. Actions speak louder than words. Put your love into action by speaking your partners love language fluently. Be a doer. Be sensitive. Read the damn book, already!
  11.  Live in the moment. He was close on this one and the one, above. Be in the moment, fully present and appreciate what you have.
  12. Sex is good. And in a committed relationship, it should be fantastic, but that only comes through connection. Stay connected. “Masculine presence?” What the hell is that guy smoking? And how many Harlequin romance novels has he read, anyway? Sometimes your partner will want you to be the aggressor and other times she will want to dominate. Sex, as in love, is a give and take. Communicate. Be in the moment and give it all you got. If either of you has hang-ups about sex, then please go to a counselor or sex therapist. It will kill the romance, otherwise.
  13. Learn from your mistakes. And if you see old patterns popping up in your relationship, nip them in the bud. No one is an idiot, but only a crazy person keeps repeating the same mistakes/patterns and expecting a different outcome.
  14. Be passionate. Know what you want out of life and go after it. Allow your partner the freedom to do the same. If she has different interests than you, then encourage her to explore them fully while you do the same. Giving each other the space to enjoy different things just makes sense. Don’t give up the things you are passionate about just to please your partner and don’t expect her to give up those things, either. Enjoy your differences. Admire the passionate side of your partner and encourage her pursuit of things only she enjoys. In other words, don’t be a controlling douchebag!
  15. Trust. Ahh, the “t” word. One of the most difficult things to cultivate and maintain in a relationship. Sure, there is a level of vulnerability that you must maintain in order to have it, but you don’t have to be gullible. Trust is given but it is also earned. Be a trustworthy person and get to know each other. If she is trustworthy at the same level, then be as vulnerable and transparent as you want to be, but go in with your eyes open and your heart exposed. Know that it can be broken or hurt at any time. Being able to trust depends on your full willingness to be hurt at some point. Only gullible, foolish people give away their trust immediately and without reservation.
  16. Allow your partner to love you. Trust and vulnerability go hand in hand, see above. But allowing someone to love you when you are completely naked to the core is really difficult. Some people just can’t handle that another person would love them after seeing just how vulnerable they are. You are loveable. If you love yourself fully (see #2), then you should have no difficulty in receiving love from your partner.
  17. Never stop dreaming together. Growth comes naturally. People tend to give up on their dreams, however. If you have an equal partner who shares your hopes and dreams, then you have something really special. Foster that sense of wonder and romance in each other. Don’t ever lose it. Setbacks will inevitably come, but they can be overcome when you are a team.
  18. Money. Interesting Mr. Rogers should bring it up. Marriage is nothing but a legally binding financial contract. Surprised that his divorce didn’t teach him that. Keep money out of it. Relationships are about people, not about improving your financial future. Common sense dictates that you’ll have to combine and share resources, but don’t let them get in the way of relationship. Things are just that. Things. They are unimportant. The love of your partner will get you through just about any problem in life. Money solves nothing. My divorce taught me that marriage, in the eyes of the state, is nothing but a business agreement between two parties. Who needs a contract to live with someone they love?
  19. Forgiveness is for you, not your partner. Don’t think for one minute that forgiveness is about releasing your partner from blame. It’s about releasing yourself. I think that’s what Mr. Rogers was getting at, but he talks about the past like it can be left there and never brought up again. See #4. Don’t live in a fantasy world where everything is unicorns and rainbows. Skeletons won’t remain hidden in a closet. They rattle around and make noise. The past will always be part of your present and future. You can’t lock it up and throw away the key, pretending that it never happened nor will ever affect you again. That’s foolishness. Your past is what shapes you. Your history with your partner is the only foundation you’ve got. If there are cracks in it, deal with them. Do your best to patch them, but don’t ignore them. The same goes for you as an individual. Embrace your past. If there are cracks in your character, do what you can to fix them, even if it means seeking professional help. Don’t you want your partner to have a whole and complete person to love? Well, you can’t be whole and complete until you learn to forgive. Start with yourself.
  20. Repeat #3. Learn that love is a choice, a sacrifice and an action. If you really chose love, then you’ll choose to act, to put the other person first and to succeed. Success depends on the both of you, but it starts with you. That’s the only thing you control in a relationship is you—how you act, react and respond. Choose love. Real love, not the gushy sentimental, Harlequin romance love that Mr. Rogers is seeking.

That’s really all I have to say on the subject. Maybe I missed my calling as a counselor. Life has taught me some tough, but invaluable lessons. One of them was not to marry someone, at least not until you’re older and really know who the hell you are. Love yourself first. That’s how I’ll end this long post. Love yourself and the rest will follow.

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