Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Rules

Everyone has their own take on what constitutes appropriate behavior, their ideas and philosophies regarding romantic relationships.  These can come from friends, parents, literary works, even television commercials.  I don't pretend to have the best or most unique view on relationships.  But I do have a lot of friends, and most of them come to me with their romantic problems.  Hearing my friends make the similar choices, have similar concerns and end up similar places, and also reading a lot of books on the subject, has given me a very pragmatic view on relationships.

1) First and foremost: People. Don't. Change.  A very dear friend of mine once told me that there is no such thing as a clean slate.  You can add to what you have already done, but you can never undo, unsay, or unthink anything.  In life, there is no Control Z.  That's why people who have been in AA for ten years still call themselves Alcoholics.  Its not that they no longer have the disease, they're just in treatment, and like any life-long disease, as soon as they stop treatment, the disease will rear its ugly head.

If you hate that your man can't hold down a job, you better change your mind about the job or the man, because no matter how much he wants to, withouth counseling or concerted effort, he can't change.  If you hate that your girlfriend gets crazy jealous when you talk to other girls, either dump your friends or dump your girl.  People can affect their behavior.  A deadbeat can get a job and a crazy bitch can take a chill pill, but they are who they are.  Those kinds of things are fundamental characteristics, the kinds of problems that take years of work, therapy, and most importantly, personal commitment.  No matter how much a person loves you, they can't change who they are for you.  And what's more, it's selfish to ask.

2) To that end, your Exes are Exes for a reason.  No matter who broke it off with who, who said or did the awful thing that was the clincher, the root issue is that you two simply were not right for each other.  You were people with fundamental differences that did not mesh well.  If you think you are different people now, please see Rule Number One.

3) Relationships are hard.  Even when they're going well, they take work.  It may seem like you and your sweetie have one brain, and don't even need to say things out loud.  You are wrong.  Just as you think 100 different things a day about the same thing, so does your partner.  They are just as insecure, crazy, needy, and affection-starved as you.  And here's a secret: so is everyone else.

What does Rule Three mean?  It means you need to work at love.  Tell your spouse you love them when you think of it, not when it's convenient.   Show them you care.  Everyone has a way that they best interpret affection, whether by words, gifts, touch, quality time, or favors.  Find out what yours are, and ask for them.  And find out what your partners are and give it to them.   Ask yourself, "How would a person who is In Love act right now?"

You'd be surprised how important that last is.

4) Allow yourself to be surprised.  We have control over every aspect of our lives today, and sometimes it's hard to let go of that control enough to see opportunites for what they are.  If you are in a relationship, you never know when your loved one is going to subtley express a need they have, or a desire you can fulfill.  If you are single, you really, truly, never know when love will walk through the door with a winning smile.  Falling in love is one of the greatest and most wonderful surprises in life, and sometimes you just have to let it happen.

So those are the bare bones of my philosophy.  I don't know if they'll help anyone, but they certainly help me.   I'd be very interested to hear everyone's opinion.

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