Building emotional connection

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!

February 29

Today is the extra day in the year that only happens once every four years. I remember being amazed as a kid that there were people who didn’t have birthdays every year because they were born on a leap year. I think back to the last February 29th in 2016 and I was totally in a different space. I had just started a cubicle job and was wondering how long I would be able to make it because I knew after only three weeks on the job that it wasn’t a good fit for me. But I was excited to finally have a stable job and the opportunity to see what corporate life was like. I was reminded today of how disconnected I’ve become from some of the aspects of my life that previously held such great importance. Since then I’ve finished school, held several jobs, relocated multiple times, and got into a relationship. It’s been quite an eventful four years and I’m hopeful to what the next Leap Year will bring.

Post-Valentine’s Day

I’ve always been somewhat of a hopeless romantic. I love the idea of a grand gesture for the holiday where someone declares their undying love and affection. This year has been pretty low key but also better than previous years. I spent quality time with my significant other without the hassle of trying to outdo anyone or prove that the actions of one day are an indication of the level of commitment of both partners. I saw a slew of v-day posts on social media and this year I was particularly annoyed with the amount of meaningless advice that attached women posted and addressed directly to “single women.” The “wait and see” approach to finding a significant other is outdated and is rarely ever effective. One thing that I’ve learned is the importance of letting go of comparisons to other relationships. Everyone is different and there’s not a “one size fits all” approach to relationships. It’s important to build your relationship the way that you and your partner want it. Create your own personal definition of fidelity and commitment through discussion with your partner and be ok with the fact that it may look different than other relationships. There’s too much at stake to not be honest with yourself about what you want and what you expect from a partner.

2019 Reflections

This past decade and this past year has definitely been one of changes. I started out the decade as a junior in college. I was recovering from a major heartbreak with someone who I thought that I had a future with. I was so excited to finally have someone in my life and it ended quite abruptly. I focused on school and had a great senior year that also had some lows with the deaths of several of my classmates. I was so excited to be at the end of my college journey. While it was a great one, I knew that my education had to continue and as I spoke to my family and friends at my graduation dinner I remember telling them that one year later I would be finishing graduate school and it happened. I moved across the country to a place where I did not know a soul. It was just me and my dog. I met some great people and had a lot of my beliefs challenged for the first time. Graduate school finished and the job search started. It was a really rough time. I applied for hundreds of jobs and while I found a few, they weren’t exactly what I was looking for. I decided that I was bored after graduate school so I made the somewhat impulsive decision to start a doctorate while I was stuck in Colorado getting hours for my professional license. So the doctorate started and I kept working. I quit several jobs that just weren’t a good fit for me and I eventually started working a night shift job. While the money was great, I quickly realized that the no sleep life was not the life for me. However, due to a series of unplanned events I found myself resigning rather quickly and relocating back across the country where I found myself in limbo as I tried to find a new job, settle into a new apartment and remain independent. But I persisted and got a cubicle job that paid the bills for a while. I decided that I wanted to make traveling a priority and I wanted to find a job that allowed me to do both while still using my degree. I found the dream job and quit my cubicle job the same day and relocated from Georgia to California within a week. After a few years on the road and moving several places I realized that it was time to settle down. The beginning of this year found me back in my home state with a resolution to stick close to home for a while. After traveling to Italy and Portugal I decided that I wasn’t quite done with being on the road so I decided to spend the summer on the East Coast. I decided during the summer that I wanted to settle outside of my home state and due to a series of fortunate events I moved across the country again and got a great boyfriend along the way. While I don’t know what this next year will bring, I’m excited for the opportunity to focus on personal development and fulfill some of my personal goals in this next decade.

The New Normal

For the longest time I considered myself to be terminally single. Nothing and I do mean nothing actually worked out. There were a whole lot of frogs, the most recent being an older retired guy who didn’t want to talk about anything other than the cars that he was restoring. While I like old school cars, I felt my brain cells dying after the first half hour lecture about the kind of parts that he was ordering. Needless to say, it was great motivation to proceed with the plan to relocate out of the area. I knew that I needed to do something different and so I did. An opportunity to explore relationship possibilities just randomly landed in my lap and I took the chance. The end results have been that I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process and it’s given me the opportunity to finally see what it’s like to have a significant other. It’s been a major learning curve and also outside of my comfort zone but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m settling down and the idea of finally putting down some roots doesn’t feel as paralyzing and confining as it used to.

Shared outcomes

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.

Course Correction

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.

Counterfeit Commitment

I recently heard the saying, “Commitment without cash is counterfeit.” It immediately reminds me of someone entering into a relationship solely for material gain. However, I also thought about the value of money. People equate money with time as an example of the fact that once it’s gone, it cannot come back again. Standard old fashioned dates are not the rage anymore. People are more reluctant to part with their hard earned money in order to impress a potential partner. Each person would rather walk away without having any skin in the game i.e. parting with their money than to make an investment of money and time and hope for the best. I’ve had more invitations for parking lot (literally) meet and greets than I have liked and I think that it all relates back to this concept. One way to show interest is to give of one’s time and money. While it may not happen initially, it needs to happen before any type of significant commitment is made.

Reason and Lifetime

Sometimes I think that it’s easier to process through writing than it is through speaking. There’s the opportunity to delete, revise and edit in the writing process and talking out loud doesn’t come with those same privileges. I remember either hearing or reading somewhere about Reason, Season, and Lifetime people and I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in my own life. It’s fairly easy to meet seasonal people. You cross paths with them while doing routine activities like going to work or attending a class. Being in a familiar place again has been eye opening and also challenging in a way that I had not anticipated. There’s something to be said about feeling the push and pull of relationships that seem to hover between the Reason and Lifetime. It’s one of those grey areas that can be a bit anxiety provoking because you don’t quite know what the outcome will be. There can be emotions that catch you off guard because the process is full of surprises along with disappointments. While you may have a preference, there’s not guarantee that the cards will play out the way that you want them to. The process isn’t linear because relationships and emotions aren’t linear and they rarely fit into a nice neat little box. The perfect solution in your head is at odds with the conflicting emotions in your heart. There is no easy answer because the questions are too complex. It’s almost like making a house out of cards and wondering which card will crumble the whole deck. One thing that I can appreciate is that the process makes you take an honest inventory of yourself in the context of relationships. Time can often be the deciding factor of which category the relationships will land in.

Nobody’s Fool (the movie)

On a recent 11 hour flight I had the opportunity to catch up on some movies that I did not make an effort to see while they were in theaters and I ran across Nobody’s Fool. The premise of the movie is pretty simple. There’s a successful woman who has a sister released from prison and the sister comes to stay with her. This woman is in a yearlong relationship with a guy she has never met in person. The movie revolves around finding out the truth about the mystery guy and a budding romance between her and a local coffee shop owner. However, the more subtle messages that seem to accompany most of Tyler Perry’s movies were definitely front and center with this one. Most of his movies involves a successful woman who is missing out because she won’t give a guy with a colored background a chance. Or, the heroine is with a good guy already but she wants excitement so she gives it up for someone more attractive and loses everything in the end. In this particular movie, the main character was struggling with being attracted to someone with a felony and history of substance abuse. But he had changed his life and was now a productive member of society. It’s not a secret that everyone is not born with the same opportunities. Mistakes that are made between the ages of 15 and 25 can drastically change the trajectory of someone’s life. While I understand the importance of not judging someone based on their past, it’s also important to take their past into consideration. The movie ended on a happy note with the successful woman professing her love for the changed man in the rain. She had found someone who loved her but she just needed to look past his past. It was a (seemingly) lovely message but the real world tends to be just a bit more complicated. Changed people aren’t always changed and sometimes old habits can die hard.