Relationship Advice I Would Give to My 16-Year-Old Self
5 Things That Can Make the Difference Between a Fairytale and a Nightmare
I remember when I was still living at home with my parents, I’d often dream about the future relationship I wanted to have. Up until that point, my only exposure to relationships had been my parents, friends’ parents, and those I saw in media. I was a sucker for romance. I loved to see passionate expressions of intimacy and often fantasized about what it must feel like. Yet, I was never really “allowed” to date, so my goal was always to get married to my soulmate. But with no real experience in the arena, what was I to do?
One day, my mother and I had a conversation about the power of writing things down. Someone in our church had apparently done something similar and manifested a wonderful relationship. So one day, in a stroke of inspiration, I decided to write down the things I wanted in a partner. Mind you, I was sixteen at the time.
I can recall the very first thing I wrote — and I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I had written that I wanted someone who loved me more than I loved them. This desire sprang from my very deep-seated insecurities, and fear of being cheated on. I had seen far too often, women around me crumple into heaps of tears over the pain of infidelity, and I promised myself that I would NEVER allow that to happen, and I’d make sure of it. I thought this was the #1 surefire way to cheat-proof my relationship. It would be perfect if someone loved me more than I loved them because they would cherish the ground I walked on, and be terrified of hurting me, right?
Fear is a POWERFUL motivator. But what I hadn’t yet learned, is the importance of being aware of which emotion influences the basis of my decisions. When we make decisions from a place of avoidance, or fear, rather than for the fun or the pleasure, then the result is always going to be the exact opposite of all that I’d hope it to be.
For example, I am going to stay in this job because I’m afraid of the volatile nature of entrepreneurship or the lack of stability. Then 20 years later, I’m resentful and bitter because I didn’t pursue my dreams. On the flip side, what if I just decided, if others can do it, why not me? What if J.K. Rowling decided to continue working in coffee shops rather than write Harry Potter? What if Oprah decided to keep looking for jobs as an anchorwoman, rather than embrace her true passion for talk show hosting?
What I didn’t quite understand, was the power of intention and focus. My intention and focus were not on pleasure or happiness. It was focused on avoiding pain. This is not a positive intention, but I didn’t realize what I was doing back then. A powerful quote that’s served me well, is:
“You cannot expect a happy ending to an unhappy journey.”
I was so focused on avoiding pain, that fear and insecurity influenced nearly every major decision I made. I had no idea how serious this was until the bitter dose of reality nearly smacked me right in the face.
It wasn’t until I was 32 and entirely dissatisfied in my first marriage, to the point of almost cheating on HIM, that I finally had to face my creation. I had manifested this situation, and there was no denying it. I even wrote it into existence! The very thing I thought would “cheat-proof” my marriage, was the very thing that made ME want to cheat. I had to admit, first to myself, that I didn’t love my partner as much as he loved me. Then, the real mess hit the fan when I had to admit it to him.
The acknowledgment came out during our first session of couples counseling, along with another acknowledgment, that I only one month after our honeymoon, I had said “Oh s***, this is permanent,” to myself.
Now, I know better. I may not have all the answers for everyone, but I do believe these are some things to consider in your quest for your next partner. Whether you’re seeking something long-term or a casual fling, it works just the same. I wish I had read something like this when I was 16. But, who am I kidding, I was, and still am to an extent, someone who learns best by life experience. But, I am always willing to collect information and adjust as necessary.
So if you are someone who wants to collect data, I present the top 5 things to consider before getting into a relationship:
- Values: It is so important to understand your own, core values and standards before you get with someone else. If you do not, then you have no clear roadmap, or compass to help you navigate tough situations with another person. Oftentimes, (women especially) will look to a man to lead and have the “vision” of the relationship. But, when he is confused, or lacking clear direction, women may resent him. But, this is the perfect time to take a clear look in the mirror and ask yourself those very same questions. Where do you want to go? What do you want for your future? If you don’t take control of your ship, someone else will. But the problem is, if it’s not where you want to go, you will resent them because they will inevitably steer you off your path. However, can you blame them? Since you never took control of your ship first, it’s not really their fault, now is it? It was never their job to control YOUR ship because they have their own. Without self-awareness and taking inventory of your values and standards to see if you’re still on track, you won’t even recognize you are off path until years have gone by. By then, when you finally realize it, you’ll likely be consumed with bitterness and resentment. On the other hand, if you ARE in alignment with your own values, and the person you meet complements and also aligns with those same values, then BINGO! It’s a match!
- Trust: This is incredibly important, but note, the key factor of trust is not necessarily in the other person to do right by you. Why? If you are in a relationship, you can presume that their intentions for you are reasonably good (if not, why the heck are you with them?!). But, what you do need to understand is, relationships are not 50/50, they are 100/100. If you are expecting your partner to be 100% trustworthy, but you don’t even trust yourself 100%, then that’s a recipe for disaster. It’s also unfair. It’s kind of like going to someone with a cup half-full and expecting them to fill your cup to the brim, simply because you can see their cup is full. Yet, they made the effort to fill their entire cup, and you want some of it even though you were fully capable of filling your own cup yourself, but simply didn’t. Does this sound logical, or even loving? This isn’t to say that you may have weaknesses in areas where your partner shines. This type of complementary dynamic is what creates harmony and balance. But if you do not trust yourself to make good decisions, then you will inevitably give your partner the side-eye in many areas. The reason for that is, you can only interpret reality based on your perception. If your perception of yourself is judgmental, untrustworthy, and critical, what do you think your perception of others will be?
- Communication: I get it, you’ve heard this before. We all hear that “communication is key” to successful relationships. Yet, far too often, many words are spoken, but not enough understanding is going on. Have you ever felt like you’re just being talked at, or you’re just talking to a brick wall and your partner has a glossy look on their eyes? You don’t just want communication, but you want genuine, honest dialogue. It helps to assume that your partner has good intentions before you jump to negative conclusions. In most cases, this diffuses tensions before things escalate into an argument.
- Willingness: Along the same lines of communication, you must first take a self-assessment. Ask yourself, “how willing am I to make this relationship work?” One way that I knew my first marriage was over, was because I had lost willingness for it to work. Once a person reaches that point, there is no amount of communication, trust, or values that can turn things around. Another, perhaps even more critical piece to willingness is how willing are you to stay committed to your happiness, your values, and your vision for the life you want? If you’re committed to your own happiness, you will do what it takes to stay generally happy. When you are generally happy, you won’t make it your partner’s responsibility. This will naturally increase the satisfaction level of any relationship, I guarantee you.
- Differences: Without a little friction, you will not be able to learn and grow. It’s not a question of whether or not your relationship will ever challenge you, but rather, how you adjust. With two people coming from entirely different walks of life, it is highly likely you will find yourself coming out of your comfort zone every now and then. Some intensity and contrast can keep things dynamic, interesting, and even a little fun. Healthy debates, anyone? The problem comes in when you are constantly on different pages and don’t see eye to eye on anything. You do want some contrast, but keep in mind, there’s no need to be a complete saint. If you are finding that the relationship is causing you to overly stress or compromise too much of yourself just to make it work, then it might not be the right place for either of you. Most people generally aren’t looking for a test of spiritual strength when it comes to a relationship. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out. It’s okay to say, “this isn’t for me. I want something else instead.” Then, just pivot and move in that new direction.
Selecting a partner doesn’t have to be a matter of life and death, but I do think it takes some careful consideration. You don’t want someone random, even if you are just looking for a casual partner. The best relationships are the ones where you have a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual connection. But, before you can connect with anyone else on any level, you must connect with yourself first. Take some time to find out who you are, what you value, and what direction you’d like your life to go. Once you have that compass well-developed, you’ll proceed with clarity and certainty into your next relationship. If you’d like help in better understanding yourself and what you want out of life, feel free to contact me at email@example.com for 1-on-1 coaching.