It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of these State of the Relationship articles. This is mainly because things have been going good for me as of late and sometimes it’s harder to know what to write in exceptional times as opposed to those of turmoil.
For the last six months I’ve been dating one person and I’ve learned so much from the experience. I’d like to talk about a few of those things here because I think that people don’t do this enough and it may be as helpful to you as it was me.
1. Push Your Boundaries
It helps to keep an open mind when you are dating or in any relationship. If I had stuck to my old habits and deal breakers I would have never met the person I am with now and trust me when I say that I would be poorer for it.
Obviously, there are boundaries you don’t want to cross. Dating someone with a recent history (or maybe any history, though I think people can change – see note 3) of perpetrating abuse on another is one that immediately comes to mind. I’m not asking you to step over that boundary. That’s a healthy one to have.
Take a look though at which of your deal breakers and boundaries are built upon biases and assumptions. Challenge them head on. I went against what I thought was my better judgement at the time to date the person I’m with now. I’m so glad I did because not only did I stumble (I can be inept despite my best efforts) my way into a relationship with an amazing person, but in exploring her personality traits that I thought were deal breakers I discovered that things weren’t at all what I had imagined them to be. Learning about my partner helped me understand her better. It helped me discover things about myself even and created some wonderful bonding moments for us. I don’t think these things could have happened had we not both pushed our boundaries and taken the time to understand one another.
2. Being Open Doesn’t Mean Being Completely Open
So I’m pretty much an open book. I have no real secrets and in a normal day to day conversation (I’m not sure I really have these, I tend to gravitate to deeper topics) I might tell someone any number of things about me that some people are guarded about. I’ll talk about my sexual proclivities, the fact that I cross dress and how it makes me feel and pretty much anything and everything else.
This helps people see who I am and it generally allows them to feel as if they can open up to me. Most eventually do and I love sharing that experience with them.
However, I’ve learned that there is a limit to this. I’ve always said that being open and honest is not an excuse to be cruel. Now I have another caveat to add to this, which is that it also doesn’t mean that I can share the details of other people’s lives without consideration. I thought that being open and true to myself meant that I had to be completely open about everything. I’ve since realized, with some help, that this should only extend to myself.
At first, this felt like a betrayal of everything that it meant to be me. How could I be open if I had to keep some things in reserve? Then I came to realize that having people open up to me was a measure of trust and that with this came responsibility. Now I realize the importance of privacy and to be truthful, I like the balance so much more. Some people need greater levels of privacy than others and navigating the differences in respect to the needs of my friends seems much more responsible
3. People Can Really Change
We’ve all heard the mantras about how humans don’t change who they are. Whether it’s “once a cheater always a cheater” or whatever other label you want to put in that cliche. The truth is though, some people change certain behaviors and some don’t. There is no rule that spans across humanity in general. The key is finding those people who want to change while trusting and helping them to do so.
Reading through the second item on this list should have been a really good example of how someone can change. Being open is a defining characteristic of who I am and changing that in any way was painful to me. However, through some talk with others and introspection I came to see that there was a better way of doing things and that it didn’t mitigate my need for openness or change who I was in any negative way.
The human experience deals us a mixed bag. Most of us have those personality traits that we can recognize as beneficial and valued by others. All of us have insecurities (or anxiety, ADHD, depression, etc.) and sometimes those insecurities or states of being lead to behavior that isn’t generally approved of by others. Knowing this about yourself is a good thing because the extension of this is that it is also happening to everyone else around you.
If someone is trying to tackle their obstacles head on then that’s pretty fucking huge. Give them some slack. Better yet, talk with them if possible to understand their situation and see if there’s any way you can help. Don’t expect to be their savior, you can’t be, just be there for them and do your damndest to understand what it is they’re telling you. These are the people that are capable of change and they deserve a chance to show you how awesome they really are.
4. Understand Before You are Understood
I had forgotten this little gem of wisdom, passed down to me by my grandmother, but her words came back with importance as of late and I’m glad they did.
So often I’m so concerned with making sure that someone knows where I’m coming from that I forget to really listen to what they are saying. I just want to make sure they aren’t hurt by something I said, but my inattentiveness can hurt even more. However, when I calm my mind and listen to their feelings I get a better understanding of them. That’s pretty valuable for obvious reasons. I really do care about them and taking the time to listen and understand them first is a way to demonstrate that. When I do this, the usual outcome is that I end up addressing some need that I hadn’t thought about before. This is an emotion that would have gone completely unattended had I not taken the time to understand my partner. I also learn how to better express my feelings to ensure that we are both talking about the same thing. This is relationship gold folks and you have my grandmother to thank.
The End: Be Prepared to Stop
So there you have it. Some things I learned about myself that I hope you can apply to your life. What are some positive things you have learned in your relationships to others? Please share those or your thoughts about this article in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you either way.