While technically Valentine’s Day is over, I was reminded today while scrolling social media of all the years that I wanted to be in a relationship. While that goal was accomplished last year, it’s been interesting how much less the holiday means after being shown love and kindness throughout the other 364 days of the year. There were a lot of sad people today who spent the day alone or with people that they may not have genuinely cared about or loved. Relationships are so much more than what happens in a 24 hour period. While I love grand gestures and gifts, I’ve come to a deeper appreciation for the small meaningful things that make life easier. Being able to delegate difficult tasks, having a friend I can talk to, requesting an occasional foot rub are all things that at one point in my life I never expected to have. As I’ve continued to work with couples, I’m reminded of the importance of consistency in relationships. Trust and commitment don’t happen overnight. They both are traits that are cultivated through time and energy and many people don’t make the investment that is necessary for success. When something is important to you, you make time for it and ensure that it is a priority. Taking the time to water your own grass (figuratively) and invest in the health of your relationship will reap benefits. Just make sure you’re with the right person.
After years of waiting and hoping I finally got into a relationship with long term potential about a year ago and things are going well. The thing that has been surprising is how different my expectations were from reality. I work with black women who have educational and financial standards for their future boyfriend or spouse and honestly I used to be one of them. No one wants to be in a relationship and do worse financially then they were before. However, in the past year I’ve learned more about some of the intangibles that mean more than what a guy makes or his level of education. Women can easily get caught up in what a man does instead of evaluating who he is. One thing is significantly less obvious than the other. Dating a project isn’t about trying to rehabilitate a man but it’s not the same as supporting a man who has a clear path and plan for the future. Many times the past is a great indicator of the future. Instead of asking about a five year plan, it’s better to ask a man about a five year plan he’s has in the past and what year he’s in presently. It’s easy have aspirations but it’s much hard to put in the work to manifest them. If a man is serious his actions will show it. Giving you a girlfriend label doesn’t indicate he’s serious. Is he applying for jobs to move closer to you? Has he given you his timeline for moving in together? Is he introducing you to his circle of friends? These are all indications that there’s a good chance he’s sees a future with you. Women are quick to complain that a man has wasted their time but in reality they have wasted their own time because they weren’t being held hostage and they got committed too soon without verifying that the other person wanted the same thing. Taking inventory means that you understand where you are in your life and you intentionally choose to make decisions that align with your long term goals.
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 was having a conversation the other day with a woman who was at a crossroads in her life. She had focused on her career and had finally come to the realization that she wanted to have a husband and children. The challenge is that the made the decision in her 50s. Now, I know the whole cliche about how you get wiser as you age and the fact that age isn’t anything but a number. However, the rules are different when trying to find a significant other after a certain age. Chances are that a younger woman has a better chance of getting married and having a family than someone who is middle aged. It’s not necessarily fair but it’s reality. I remember the decision I made to focus on my career and while I didn’t regret it, I also realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to focus on long term. The relationship that I’m in right now is the result of a conscious decision to grow personally so that I could be my best self in a relationship. I’m glad that my focus has shifted because it’s been valuable in defining what’s important to me and how I want my life to be moving forward. A lot of changes have occurred and I’m looking forward to what is next.
Earlier this week I cruised alone for the first time ever. Typically I go with someone but I wanted the experience of being able to chill out without having a conversation or conferring about the next activity. Aside from missing my significant other, the whole experience was great. It was nice to be able to relax and think about upcoming changes. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone needing some space. Cruises are filled with couples and families so as a single person you’re invisible and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
I’ve always had an interesting relationship with my birthday. It comes once a year and usually I feel unprepared. Last year and this year I decided to get away and take a trip. This year has had a lot of ups and downs. I moved, traveled, taught, and adulted through a lot. I’ve made some new friends and let some others go. I’ve reconnected with people and had an opportunity to take on some new responsibilities professionally. Lately I’ve reflected on the last decade of my life and it’s crazy how much can happen in ten years. Here I am four degree and several cross country moves later. It’s been an interesting ride but I’m looking forward to more personal and professional growth and new experiences. Maybe staying home for a change and putting down some roots for real.
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 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.