Two years. Two long ass, emotionally exhausting years. That’s how long it took me to snap out of whatever pheromone-induced spell I was under. To this day I wonder what degree of codependent masochist I must be to rekindle the same shitty “situationship” over …… and over……and over again. Until one day I woke up and was just…over it.
For me, reflecting on ex-relationships can resurface several unpleasant feelings like regret, anger, sadness… disgust. Fortunately, I’m extremely private about romantic relationships. So, I didn’t have to endure the humiliation that comes with ending an overly exploited relationship. This allowed me to spend less time pointing fingers and more time reflecting, forgiving myself, & figuring out what made me make such poor decisions (which is so not like me).
Was it my desire to love and nurture someone/thing and he just happened to be standing closest to me? Was I addicted to the familiar dysfunction that he brought? Or was I just looking for a distraction from other unpleasant realities I was experiencing? All of that probably. PTSD aside, the experience lent me with some very useful wisdom for whatever relationships the future holds…and not all bad…but mostly relationships are hard AF.
First things first: Your needs are nonnegotiable.
As a natural giver, making others happy makes me happy. So, I had to learn to be mindful of when I’m pouring into someone with no ROI and being sucked dry. Love should be a symbiotic relationship that constantly recycles love, effort, compromise, and understanding. Obviously, everyone has areas of improvement and no one can be everything, but if someone truly loves you, they’ll actively work to be a good partner who reciprocates effort. Anyone (including you) who is not ready to work at satisfying needs and making someone happy is not ready for a committed relationship. Say you need compliments every day at 3pm and to go on occasional walks before sunrise, well dammit your partner should do it without making you feel guilty because your needs aren’t the most convenient. That said, don’t be unreasonably needy and don’t be uncompromising. Find a balance (maybe try walks at dusk).
If someone wants to love you on their own terms and not the way you need to be loved, cut it. Nothing is more exhausting than giving your partner everything they need and being rejected when you need an ounce of effort. Don’t settle for not being nurtured. Find someone who speaks your love language or is at least willing to learn how.
Numero Dos: Communication is Key
It might seem cliché, but word on the street is that all the healthy, functional adults are doing it. I feel it’s best to avoid letting negative feelings fester and tactfully discuss things that bother you, but also be willing to listen (without ego) when it’s not your turn to talk. It’s also important to discuss feelings before actions are left up for interpretation, meaning don’t let your intentions be misread because your pride won’t allow you to be vulnerable. Communicate what you need, don’t try to make your partner guess and don’t assume you already know what they need based on a preconceived notion. It’s easier to talk.
3: You have to consciously and consistently make time for each other
You must be willing to do the work.
Note: Not having similar interest will make spending time together that much more difficult and makes the effort that much more important.
It will take real effort to stay interested and if you want your relationship to last. You will need to set aside specific time to give each other undivided attention. This helps lay a solid foundation. Spend time learning how and why their interests mean so much to them. It’s another way of saying their uniqueness matters. Find something to connect on that isn’t physical because no matter how much you enjoy that part of the relationship, even that shit gets old if you’re bored in between sessions.
IV. Establish expectations and boundaries up front
Frankly, in today’s swipe right date culture, I’m not sure that people discuss deal breakers if someone ticks superficial boxes. And I won’t lie like I wasn’t ignoring the big ass red flags because a couple of my boxes were ticked. He was on his best behavior for a while. Once he thought I was locked in, I was shown his true colors without even having warranted them. Dude had me looking like Mr. Krabs.
And I just went along with it, which was weird because I’ve always been the one to call bullshit, and I’ll hit yo’ ass with a “(oh hell) No” in a heartbeat. I don’t take anyone’s shit. I mean… if I don’t tell people how (not) to treat me, how else would they know?
But I wasn’t on my game this time. Thing is, setting expectations can be tricky and almost certainly lead to disappointment and I clearly remember at this time in my life not being able to stomach yet another disappointment. So, I just skipped this part period. I’m not suggesting you sign a prenupt on the first date. However, an honest convo about my triggers once things got serious would have saved me a lot of premature aging. Expectations are what you expect the other person to do to protect you and provide accountability for learning how to love you. Boundaries, on the other hand, are accountability for you to protect your own health and pieces of yourself you might be willing to sacrifice to appease your partner (who might be an undiagnosed sociopath).
It’s hard to experience true love when you don’t feel like you can ever be fully vulnerable because you have to constantly protect yourself from the other person. So instead of a big, unhealthy wall, boundaries serve as little shields that check a motherfugga in their tracks when they violate. How you handle violations is up to you, but you have to be just as serious with yourself about your boundaries as you are with others about your expectations. Boundaries keep you from making excuses for someone else’s bad behaviors. Nothing is wrong with this, because unfortunately, not everyone is good at doing what’s best for you, regardless of how they feel about you. There’s unconditional love and then there’s enabling. Life is too short to try to re-raise and change a person’s character for them.
Five: Loyalty should not be mistaken for love
Be careful not to confuse the fact that a person sticks around with the fact that they love you. Convenience is a helluva drug, and I’m guilty of indulging myself. I was in some form of love, but I wasn’t proud of my relationship. I knew something was off, but even the thought of starting over was exhausting. If you ever get to the point you’re just keeping someone around for the sake of having someone you’ll come to understand my last point…
#6: It’s best to move on before you start resenting and/or retaliating
I could write 1000-page list of petty, passive aggressive shit we did back and forth to intentionally push each other’s buttons. I wasn’t happy. We were toxic for each other. I was annoyed by his breathing, blocking displays of affection, and rejecting his (late) attempts to try. I started being angry at myself for not wanting to be alone (especially considering how much I enjoy alone time).
The NERVE of this fothermucker to smile!! *immediately finds a way to f*ck up his day*…Why not? He was f*cking up my life, right?
Keeping score? Check. Spitefulness? CHECK.
Minimizing each other’s feelings? Check, CHECK, aaaaand CHECK!
I was blatantly not feeling it, but I was staying in an optional situation because………only God knows why. Could’ve been insecurity.
At the end of the day, I take full ownership for my half of the experience. Even the best of us have our moments, and sometimes those moments last 2 years. I know, I know…two years is nothing, Bri. Try (insert however long your sucky ass relationship lasted). Luckily, it’s not a competition. In retrospect, I can say I was searching for a very specific feeling (that’s somewhat hard to describe) and I was digging and digging in the wrong person because he had potential. He doesn’t owe me anything because I allowed myself to be unhappy. It was my choice to sacrifice general happiness in order to try to achieve that feeling. He’s a great guy, just not for me. And that’s fine.
So tell me…What have you learned from relationships (both good and bad)?