Relationship School

1348 Relax and Succeed - Relationship School

This fall I will be starting the latest round of my course, The Principles of Healthy Relationships. I won’t pretend to know who or what is right or wrong for someone else. But I do know that by learning how to clear our heads and change our perspectives, we can learn to more clearly see what defines a healthy relationship for us.

Each of us comes to our relationships with unique histories, unique circumstances and a unique personality. Those factors in turn lead us to date in unique ways and to create unique relationships. We even have unique breakups. And yet within us there is a certain consistency that we see emerge as patterns.

The differences between us derive from small differences in how we weight our values and our preferences, and our patterns emerge because those rarely change. But what is helpful is that we all share a set of helpful principles that we process our values and preferences with, and we can become conscious of that process.

We all know it’s possible for us to be attracted to certain kinds of unhealthy situations, and we often have the same conflicts with multiple partners, both of which are indications of the invisible set of rules we have been using in our relationships. Yet, we cannot function wisely within them if we’re not even sure what those rules and boundaries are, where they came from, or if they’re helpful.

It is possible for us to be more conscious of what we bring to a relationship, both in terms of how we foster them in healthy ways and how we unwittingly undermine them. Because we not only need to know how to find joy, we also need good strategies for how to manage our particular brands of trouble.

Every good relationship runs into problems –even serious ones. But the healthiest relationships succeed precisely because they have calmly thought out good strategies for dealing effectively with the patterns we create with our lives.

If we understand our Selves and how we truly operate, we are then able to tell the difference between when our ego is over-reacting, and when we have an issue that truly needs a healthy resolution.

By slowing our dating, relationship and breakup processes down, and by seeing them in new and insightful ways, it is much easier for us to find healthy new routes into better quality relationships.

1348 Relax and Succeed - Being single dating being in a relationship

If we’re single we can benefit from gaining a better understanding of the differences between solitude and loneliness. That way we can avoid both hiding from relationships, as well as being pushed into unhealthy ones. (It’s no surprise that we often make better choices when we’re feeling healthy and not under stress.)

If we’re dating, that’s often through websites which match qualities and interests, and yet people in good relationships will sometimes share those and other times not, so clearly those are not the secret. Qualities and interests are important, but in the end what we are with in a relationship is someone’s true character. Knowing how to recognize it early helps us to figure out much sooner if someone is destined to cross one of our relationship limits.

And if we’re in a relationship, or if we’re thinking about leaving one, we gain by establishing much more clearly what our personal needs really are, and why we are with the person we are with. This can can facilitate very helpful dialogue and can just as often lead to a beautiful relationship renewal as it can lead to a compassionate and healthy break-up.

Whether we avoid someone, unite with someone, sacrifice to stay with someone or decide leave someone, in any case our actions should be motivated by the same underlying principle: because that choice will lead to a greater quality of life.

We can share our lives with others and we do not have to surrender ourselves completely to do it. At least not all the time. But we do need to know where our own balance points are, and how those correspond to our partners or potential partners. Without that we can easily see things tumble.

No one is ever wrong or right for everyone, but finding who we’re right for is certainly much easier when we have a clearer and more principled idea of what it is we’re really looking for.

peace. s

Modern Dating

1346 Relax and Succeed - Modern dating

Who can blame people for being confused by modern dating? It’s been complicated by changes in both technology and in how human beings react to one another, and on top of all of that we have #metoo. Regardless of what gender we are or who we want to share our lives with, it’s a minefield of uncertainty out there.

Women have to figure out how to balance newly discovered strengths with their sensual femininity, men have to figure out how #metoo and 50 Shades of Grey can be popular at the same time. And before we complain about having to navigate that, just imagine how much more complex dating is for transsexuals, bisexuals, or the polyamorous.

I’ve recently written about the timing of a breakup, the notion of being successfully single, and today it’s dating, but these are all really the same subject: how do we balance our desire to share our lives with our desire to fulfill our personal destinies? How much sacrifice enriches us and how much is too much?

Those in relationships need some basis to make stay-or-go decisions on, otherwise the fear of being alone can force us into unhealthy situations we wouldn’t otherwise entertain. But leaving also means being single.

If we move in that direction, are there really ways to enjoy singledom and not feel like something is missing? And if we do want a new relationship, how do we tell who is right for us after a series of choices that lead to disappointment?

How do we work around the fact that apps have turned dating into a process akin to picking Chinese food? Because it’s easy to just keep ordering different dishes (qualities) in different combinations in the hopes that we can find a consistent order that meets all of our needs.

At the same time, our needs change day by day, so what defines a good match? Some things that we don’t like are good for us, yet whenever we run into relationship challenges it can feel easier to re-order than to learn to cook.

1346 Relax and Succeed - We can bring love into focus

In the end we cannot order a good relationship in. Good food or a good relationship will always be dependent on what we put into them. What works for one will not for another, and yet we do all share a set of underlying principles that people rarely even notice, let alone consider –hence the coming course.

There is no universal key to a good relationship either with another person or with ourselves, but there are ways to view ourselves and our partners that can be extremely helpful when it comes to helping us determine whether or not a relationship adaptation is valid or a deal breaker.

What people need are tools of the mind. We all need ways to think about ourselves and our situations that help us all recognize when we’re asking for too much, when we’re accepting too little, and what factors define what will make our lives rewarding.

These things can be done, but they require us to step back from our relationships and our pursuit of them. We must take time to philosophically consider what our perspective truly is. What are our priorities and why do we have them? In what ways would we benefit by making sacrifices to adapt our lives to that of another person?

People needn’t feel hopeless. There are answers to all of those questions, but we don’t get them just by wanting them. We must be prepared to sit down to take the time to truly sort them out.

Once we have reached our conclusions, we then have the wisdom necessary for navigating the decisions around dating, relationships, marriage and divorce, and they all become less tangled and more comprehensible. And whether we are together or alone, living with that kind of clarity is a truly beautiful thing.

peace. s

Dealing With Mom

1326 Relax and Succeed - Dealing With Mom

Hi,

I hope you’re doing good. I’m sorry for letting you down.

It hurts when I think that you might want to lean on me and can’t so I’ll be honest –I try not to think about that. Even when I do, I wouldn’t have a clue of what to say anyway.

Like everyone with a mouth I throw a lot of opinions around, but the longer I live the less I believe that anyone knows what to say for big stuff. There’s things when we’re young that we have to figure out to be adults. And a lot of times it just plain hurts to learn it.

That’s the hardest thing about being a dad, you know. Watching your kid hurt and knowing that you can’t stop that. That there’s nothing you can do –it’s awful. You feel like you failed but it’s just normal life, but your kid doesn’t know that yet so you guys get mad at us when we already feel awful. It’s all super confusing.

So, here’s the good news. If you’re confused, then that’s good. You must be on the right track then, because that’s what happened to me and everyone I ever met or heard of. Even famous super successful people.

They say the divorce rate is supposedly 50%. That’s a lot of daughters –and sons– growing up without their Dad’s around I guess. Or around much. And that’s if you even get to meet him, right?

Some Dad’s miss their daughters like crazy. Other guys find the whole thing so painful that they try not to think about it at all. Some climb into a bottle. There’s other guys who know their daughters are better off without them so use the disappearing act, or the kid gets the Old Yeller version of love, where they try to make their kids hate them so the kid won’t blame themselves when their Dad leaves.

There’s even guys that wish they’d never been born at all; so they couldn’t even have a daughter whose life they could screw up. And there’s everything in between. All of us Dad’s are a mixture of those tactics. There is no ‘right’ thing to do.

Look, it doesn’t really matter how it all got to where it is because it just is. No one means to get divorced. However it happened, that leaves you and your mom stuck alone. That’s not an easy thing for either of you. I want you to know that I know that. A lot of people know how hard that is. Even your mom had a mom. And bills are bills. Here is something I know for sure: you’ll hate those too.

Why I’m writing is that my friend’s daughter –she’s so angry. I don’t want you to be like that. Her anger’s just eating her up and she’s an amazing girl. I don’t want you turning your anger against yourself like that.

I want you to use your amazingness like the gift to the world it is. So I’m gonna try to explain the little bit I know in case it helps you. I’m sorry I can’t be there in person to do this.

1326 Relax and Succeed - We cannot avoid all strife

First thing: you gotta remember that your mother’s a person. She’s not just your mom. She’s a lot of people to lots of us. But she’s a person. Remember that. If she seems mean or tough or even really super sad –this divorce stuff, and dating. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And all my female friends –they all tell me it’s super hard for them too. Be compassionate, okay?

Some of them feel pathetic after they break-up. Some kind of panic and try too hard. From what I hear from some moms, they even can end up competing with their daughters. That’s men’s fault.

Men can be pretty judgmental so being older probably seems pretty scary to a lot of ladies. I never even noticed my female friend’s necks but they seem to think they’ll never get married because of them. If your mom starts wearing beads it might be because she’s scared.

Sometimes moms are cold or angry or whatever, because someone betrayed them. People like that don’t trust love anymore. Not even with their kids. That’s how much it hurts. I have a friend who is so scared to love her daughter because she’s afraid of what will happen to her if the kid ever rejects her. She’s already lost everyone in her life so this thing with her daughter –she’s terrified.

There’s also moms where sometimes the mom just never got any love given to her so she had no one to show her how to give hers away. If this is all making life seem too complicated and not worth it –it is complicated. Way more complicated than you can know. But it’s totally worth it. It’s why I’m writing. If you don’t see your own value you can waste your life not living it. And that’s bad because life is great even with all the crap.

Don’t forget, a lot of problems moms have, got caused by their husbands. And even if they didn’t, if she’s in pain she’s in pain. Don’t expect her to show that because she has to be strong for you. So her pain’s gonna come out as anger. Remember that. Your mom gets mad when she’s hurting.

A friend of mine went to see Oprah talk. She was shooting a movie –Oprah I mean, not my friend. And the director had to teach Oprah how to tuck-in the girl playing ‘her daughter.’ She didn’t know how because she had never had that happen. Her mom had a hard life and was cold and her grandma was mean. And mom’s –or anybody– can’t give away what they’ve never been offered.

What matters is, Oprah’s life turned out great. So a girl can have the worst mom in the world and still have a great life. And your mom’s a long way from the worst. Your mom’s so good I had you with her. She loves you it’s just –you’ll see. Being an adult is not parades and parks and ponies the whole way I’ll tell you that. She’s doing better than you think.

You deserve the love. You do. You are perfect exactly the way you are, pain and scars included. Never forget: just because people can have trouble showing it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It already hurts us when we can’t show it, so you being mad just makes it worse.

If a kid asks for love we should give it to them. We should. But sometimes we just won’t be able to. You probably have stuff now that you wish you could stop doing –or start doing– and those things are probably easy too. I’m not sure why we can’t do that stuff, but your mom’s got stuff like that just like you and me do.

When she feels unlovable, every time you push her to get love she’s going to find a way to protect herself. It freaks anyone out when someone asks another person to do things that scare them. Moms are people. Dads too. We screw up and get stuff wrong. But none of that means you’re not loved.

Don’t spend your life angry. You’re loaded with so much potential you wouldn’t even believe it. But I’ve seen people waste that on anger or on being sad. Even if they have reasons to be, it doesn’t do any good!!

We have to make something of our life because it feels better when we do. We have to be selfish about that. I guess it’s like grandpa used to tell me. He used to always say, ‘life is its own reward.’ Huh. Now I’m him. See how that happens? (Some day you’ll have a daughter that will be mad at you.)

I hope you and your mom find a way to connect better and not fight so much. If that happens I’m glad. And if not, well, remember: Oprah turned a mean mom into a great life. Yours isn’t even mean. 🙂

So do what Oprah did with your dumb, absent Dad. But your mom is there. And what she’s doing is hard. She’s making way more sacrifices than you’d think. So just try to remember that her anger is pain. And remember she loves you. Because she really does. So don’t forget to love her back.

Now go be awesome.

Love, Dad