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.
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.
I ran across an article recently and it described many of my thoughts and feelings as I reflect on my life and the past few years specifically. Life can be challenging for empaths and feeling your own emotions plus the emotions of others can be taxing and difficult. On the professional front it took me years to be able to sleep without staying up and worrying about the problems that my clients had. There aren’t many things I read where I find myself agreeing with almost everything the author states and I have to admit that this author shared a fear that I have as well. And maybe fear is the wrong word because it’s not a perception and there is a good chance that it might happen. You can read the article here. There’s a huge opportunity for growth when we are willing to be honest with ourselves and face our fears head on despite not always feeling adequate to do so. It’s not a quick thing but I think that the results are worth the self-work and intentionality that are required.
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.