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.
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.