As always, my goal for the new year is to write more consistently than I have in the past. Thankfully I got an early start last year as I got the opportunity to write some articles on mental health. However, as I’ve continued to learn and work in the field I’m seeing the value of placing my thoughts on paper or rather typing it out on my phone. I’ve bought more books, focused on growing my private practice and taken a more intentional approach on learning more about relationships. Last year took everyone by surprise and like most, I found myself having to make some significant adjustments. However, one small mercy was that I was already working from home to a large extent so it wasn’t as difficult to transition. This year I want to invest in myself and in my relationships and take the time to enjoy the present. I want to be more consistent in self care and give myself the same grace that I give others.
I ran into this picture and thought that it was a great idea to utilize for couples who just want to try something different to build their relationship and emotional connection. It’s more ideal for partners who live together but anything can be modified for social distancing or living apart. Happy June!
I recently realized how much my circle has changed. I’m not in close contact with many of the people I grew up with and over the years I’ve also grown apart from some friends I met during my college years. One thing I like about my current circle is the fact that everyone wants to do better. There’s intentionality around improving personally and professionally. One great quality of a good friendship is that you feel accepted as a person. You aren’t judged or made to feel like your friend is trying to change you. However, I’ve come to realize that the mark of a good friend is one that challenges you to grow—even if it’s an uncomfortable process. They aren’t trying to change you but they also realize opportunities for growth that you may not see so they challenge you to be better. Constructive criticism feels different when it comes from someone you know who genuinely has the best intentions for you. Instead of becoming more defensive, it’s easier to internalize what they’re saying. This type of a friend is rare to have and if you find one be grateful and keep them around.
There’s a lot that’s been going on and lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of compatibility in a romantic context. I’ve always been someone that hated the small talk part of getting to know someone. I’d rather ask deep personal questions that one should never ask on a first date that tend to illicit an awkward reaction. One of the most important compatibility aspects is the fact that both partners have shared outcomes. While they may not share the same favorite color or food, their values and life goals are compatible. They are on the same page about monogamy (or the lack of it), life philosophy, and other important big picture stuff. It gives them something to bond over and talk about because they’re on the same page and they see similar things in the future. Having increased positive interactions can help them in dealing with the everyday relationship stresses. It’s not always glamorous, but compatibility on a deep level works wonders for relationships success.
I’ve been attempting to write a bit more consistently and it’s been quite a challenge. One thing that has been interesting for me has been the recent increase in working with couples as a therapist. It is such a different vibe than seeing a person by themselves or a family as a whole. A spouse/partner can be your best friend or worst enemy and a lot of things in between. One thing that many of my clients have in common is the fact that they failed to make the small changes that would have helped them to avoid the major issues that came up. They grew apart over the course of months and years and they became so comfortable with avoiding meaningful communication that the other individual has become a stranger. But the truth is that you can’t undo years of damage overnight; there’s too much disconnection and both people have been going in different directions. It’s in those times that a major course correction is necessary. One of the things that I’ve learned is it the importance of making minor course corrections when they are still minor. Checking in, talking about tough stuff, and making time for each other are some of the things that have to be done intentionally because it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture and take your partner for granted. Developing healthy communication patterns and fighting respectfully and effectively while remaining emotionally connected is a narrow tightrope to walk on. However, the things that are worthwhile are worth doing well. Great relationships don’t happen haphazardly. They are maintained through intentional effort, time, and emotional connection.
I can appreciate constructive criticism. It’s one of those things that can be difficult to hear but also very necessary. I don’t always want to be told what I’m doing wrong but I know that I want to improve so sometimes correction has to happen. I recently had a conversation that triggered a paradigm shift for me. It was an extremely rare occurrence but I have continued to feel the ripple effect of what I learned. Life is rarely fair–even though we want it to be. My dating life (or lack thereof) is proof of that fact. It’s interesting how often I’ve been told to keep my standards high and that settling will end in pain and heartbreak. Standards give us a way to quickly eliminate possible options because we think/know that it would never make us happy. However, there are plenty of women holding out for a significant other because they have yet to meet one that meets their standards. They are well rounded, intelligent and have it together. And yet they crawl into bed every night alone with their standards intact. Standards aren’t the best to cuddle with. Let’s be honest. There has to be a way to circumvent this unfortunate circumstance in my life before it continues on for another decade. Enter my recent conversation where I was told point blank that I needed to change. That I had to do something that put me ahead of everyone else because personality wasn’t enough. And the truth is that it’s not really fair, however, it’s reality right now. There’s a proverbial fork in the road. I can (figuratively) die on the hill of my standards or I can make some changes and adjust my mindset. Either way is hard but only one option gives a legitimate possibility of getting what I want. So it’s time to make some changes.
Lately I’ve been more consistent with limiting some of my time on social media. It tends to be a highlight reel of sorts and it can make you feel as if you don’t measure up. While I’ve accomplished a few things it’s easy to feel like I’ve done nothing and that I’m well below the curve as far as life goals. But the truth is that each person has their path and there isn’t a set time frame to get things done. There are people who accomplish great things later in life and there are those who have an earlier start. I’m starting to learn that it’s ok to do things on your own timeline. Accomplishments don’t mean less because they happen at a certain stage in life. There isn’t one way to do things because we are all different and our purpose differs as well. So I’m learning that is ok to cut yourself a bit of slack. Although I really do need to write a book and publish it I can recognize that it will happen but that it’s fine that I have not gotten around to it quite yet.
I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of dating. It can be tough to find genuine people. The irony of my life is the fact that I know a good amount of eligible people but they don’t want to date me. Such is life. I’ve decided that there are three things that pretty much capture characteristics of the person I’d like to run into one day. Consistency, Communication, and Chemistry. I know that part of adulthood is having responsibilities to fulfill and that everyone isn’t by their phone all the time. However, it shouldn’t take hours upon hours to respond to text messages. Phone calls are still a good thing. Communication is one of those things that you really can’t go without if you want to get your relationship off the ground. Everyone has a different way of communicating but there needs to be clear expectations. Constantly guessing and playing it by ear gets old really quick. Chemistry is one of those really important things because it’s something that really can’t be manufactured. Sure, there are people who become attracted to each other but sometimes you just know that there is no way that chemistry is present. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong, it just means that two people aren’t compatible. The funny thing is that the more grounded that I’ve become, the easier it is to identify bullshit from miles away. My radar has definitely improved and it’s made me more appreciative of the short and brief moments where I’ve gotten the opportunity to interact with individuals that have those characteristics. Maybe one day the consistency thing will kick in.
I’ve never been a fan of those “get to know you” type of conversations. They tend to seem very rehearsed and canned. The typical, “have you been married?” “do you have kids?” questions get old after a while. Then inevitably a question that is a part of the impromptu compatibility interview is, “what are some of your pet peeves?” Like a traditional interview, I typically have my answer already ready and I know what I want to say. I say something about the fact that my pet peeves are long dirty fingernails and bad grammar/writing skills. But, curtesy of my most recent romantic relationship debacle I’ve discovered that my absolute number one pet peeve is being ignored. Previously I knew that it bothered me but it was lower on the hierarchy. But nope, that’s not true. I don’t think there’s anything as frustrating and annoying for me. I’m not the kind of person who wants constant communication (although it would be nice) but I do want my text messages and phone calls returned in a timely manner. It’s not rocket science, it’s common curtesy. Looking back, there’s been some friendships I’ve actually ended because of this. I’m someone who likes to talk things out and process. I know how to work through conflict but you have to give me something to work with and not ignore me. I know that I can’t make someone change their ways and I understand that everyone has something going on in their lives. Stuff happens. However, it’s an indication to me that the relationship/friendship/whatever is not important to you and thus I have to act accordingly. So yeah, new number one pet peeve.
Lately I’ve started to watch a new show that has both intrigued me while simultaneously horrifying me. Usually I try to watch light hearted tv shows because my empath sense is very strong and I work in a helping field. The show that I’ve been watching is called Handmaids and it’s on Hulu. One thing I will say is that it’s definitely not a comedy but if you want a thought provoking and extreme view of what might be the future then it’s a must see. But that’s not what this post is about. One of the main characters said, “you like because, you love despite.” And honestly that’s the truth. I work with couples who have lost so much of their original passion and excitement for each other because things have become so mundane. They’ve taken each other for granted and it has taken a terrible toll on the relationship. The emotional connection is very strained or sometimes nonexistent. I think many times people think that therapy fixes everything but it doesn’t. The truth is that therapy can give you the tools that you need to be successful in your relationship. It takes a lot of effort and intentionality to change the trajectory of a relationship but it definitely can be done if both people want it and are willing to work on it. One person cannot sustainably carry the whole relationship on their back. It can happen for a while but there are always consequences. One thing I really enjoy doing with the couples I work with is doing exercises that help them remember why they fell in like with each other and what made them love the other person. It’s always eye opening and helps to start the process of reconnecting with each other.