Lesson 17: Know when and how to properly walk away from a fight or argument

This is probably one of the hardest things to do in any relationship, romantic or otherwise.  Emotions are running wild, chemical levels in your body are all over the place and completely out of control.  Ego steps in.  Or maybe it is pride.  You want to strike back and you even get that feeling like what you are about to say is going to put them in their place and establish your dominion in the land of “I am right.”  

Let me tell you something about the land of “I am right.”  It is also the land of the alone.  The land of the jerk.  The land of the one not getting anywhere in that relationship.  Potentially, even the land of the “This relationship is over.”  Arguing without any kind of calm or control is a great way to get the person you are arguing with to resent or despise you.  If that is where you want to be or where you feel comfortable, then, by all means, fire those opinions away.  

The satisfaction you will get from being right is momentary.  The damage to the relationship is long term.  My recommendation, walk away, tactfully, and cool off.  Not only does it help you collect your thoughts, but it also allows you to approach the situation in a much calmer and more collected mind.  It becomes a conversation, rather than an argument.  Arguments tend to have a winner and a loser.  Conversations can be won by both.

I am not saying that it is a conversation that needs to be, or should be, avoided.  Quite the contrary.  If it gets to the point where emotions are starting to come out in a negative way, it is most definitely a conversation that needs to take place.  That doesn’t mean it has to take place at that moment.  There probably isn’t a worse moment you could try communicating about the problem.  Tell them that you need to step away and tell them why.  You would be surprised at the results.  The heat begins to cool immediately.  Let them know that this needs to be discussed but not right then.

Like anything, this is not a guarantee that everything will be OK.  Walking away shows a level of emotional maturity where words can’t.  It demonstrates that you care enough about them and the issue to want to take a step back and put some real thought into the matter.  Once emotions and tempers ease, it is much easier to reapproach the situation and have a productive conversation.  Problems are so much easier to solve when you work together on them.


Lesson 16: You can only say “I’m sorry” so many times

It is important to admit when you’re wrong.  Showing fallibility is a strength, not a weakness.  No one is perfect.  There is a sense of integrity and trustworthiness that is associated with a person that can be honest enough to admit errors.  That being said, the words “I’m sorry” don’t always have the power to fix whatever mistake was made.

You can’t unsay or undo what has already been said or done.  No matter how honorable or noble you are and no matter what the circumstances, everyone has their own personal standards.  The lines that they have personally determined cannot be crossed if relations with them are going to continue.  Perhaps, so long as you are willing to admit your fault, it can be worked out.  But it is not usually forgotten.  It may fade, over time, but it will always be there.

There is no easy fix.  Similar to being unable to buy forgiveness, there comes a point when enough becomes enough.  Words are our most valuable resource, but they are only as valuable as the people using them determine.  If you keep making the same promise, but never deliver, your promises lose their value.  The same goes for saying “I’m sorry” too many times.  If you keep apologizing, especially if it is for the same thing, what value do you think gets placed on your apology?

Say the words too often, the words lose the little healing power they possess.  While capable of fixing minor infractions, they add up.  Eventually, the power wears off.  The words get drowned out by how many times they have been used.  It eventually becomes unclear whether you actually mean it, or use it as a crutch for flaws that you know you have but are incapable or unwilling to fix.  They become irrelevant when the person receiving the apology loses faith in the value of the words and the source they are coming from.


Lesson 15: Don’t wait until it’s too late

This isn’t just about apologizing.  This can be anything.  Waiting too long to apologize.  Waiting too long to carry out a promise that was made.  Putting off doing that thing you said you would do.  Before you know it, tomorrow has arrived, but the time to execute has already passed.  Just because you are willing at that moment, doesn’t mean the right moment hasn’t already come and gone.  Time can never be recovered and what is done is done.  There are no take-backs and do-overs will always carry the weight of previously missed opportunities.  

You can always apologize afterward, but it doesn’t matter.  Even if you come up with the best phrase or best solution of all time.  It isn’t worth much if you are too late.  Once the damage is done, in most cases, that is it.  Timing matters and that timing is not always, if ever, up to you, or on your side.  Don’t wait.  Short of an emergency, there is no reason to not do that thing you said right now.  They decide when enough is enough.  It isn’t up to you.  They determine whether or not your efforts are too late or you took too long to realize you missed the opportunity.  Once that opportunity is missed, nothing else matters.   

You can have a life-altering epiphany.  One that will change your entire outlook on how you want to treat your significant other.  Maybe you see that you have not been sensitive or compassionate enough.  Maybe you realize that you have something spectacular but have never really shown your appreciation or gratitude.  You decide that enough is enough and you are going to do something about it.  Something for them.  Something that will show them what they mean to you.  Come morning, they will know an entirely different, much better, more desirable relationship experience.   It all counts for nothing if it comes after the decision has been made that things need to end.  

Think of your relationship and timing as glass and missed timing is that glass being dropped.  Once the glass is broken, it can never be completely fixed.  Sure, you can put the pieces back together, but does it ever really look, feel, or function the same after that?  The best tools can’t undo the damage that is already done and will forever remain.  Timing is critical.  Don’t wait to show them how special they truly are.  They chose you.  Make it count for something every day.  Show them they are worth the effort of being vigilant every day.  Pay attention to everything, big and small.  The signs are there, but they are not always so easy to notice.

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Lesson 14: Ask questions instead of making assumptions

This is where that pause you take while using that mind-mouth filter comes in handy.  A quick answer only comes off as intelligent if the answer you gave actually answers the question in an intelligent way.  Sound confusing?  If you know the person you are talking to well enough, it shouldn’t be.  Regardless, make the effort to understand and empathize with whoever you are talking with.  It will prevent you from looking bad.

If you don’t understand something, ask them.  Or, ask someone that knows.  If a text message is too confusing, or you even think it could be interpreted in more than one way, ask the person to clarify what they mean.  If something looks bad, it is not necessarily bad.  Rather than jumping to a conclusion that could be wrong or way off base, ask.  If the person you are asking has a problem with you wanting clarification, there is likely a bigger issue.

You don’t know what is happening on their end of the message.  Their microphone might have picked out the wrong word, the predictive text might have changed something without them noticing, or maybe they meant one thing but didn’t realize it might cause you to interpret something else.  In the end, if you are unsure whether it is a good idea to ask them to explain or clarify, ask yourself whether you prefer to possibly annoy them by asking for clarification, or make an assumption or conclusion that could potentially lead to a verbal or physical altercation.

Asking for clarification serves other helpful purposes as well.  It helps you to better understand the thought process of whoever you are talking to.  It helps you get to the bottom of what the actual issue or message might mean.  It will guide you into a much more productive conversation and put you on the same page as the other person so there is no confusion.  Most importantly, it demonstrates that you care.  You care enough about the other person to make sure that what is being said is understood and you want to make sure that the message is properly received in the way it was intended.

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Lesson 13: Stop caring so much about what others think

Your relationship only belongs to you and whoever you are with.  No one is going to make your choices for you and no one other than you and the person you are with has to live with the consequences of your decisions.  It is yours to be shared with whomever you choose who also feels the same way about you.  An outside perspective may be nice, and in many ways, can be very helpful.  The trick is to understand that, no matter what is said, that perspective is coming from a person that will never have all of the information available or necessary.  

It is so easy to forget that everyone has input when it comes to the lives of others.  Everyone has their own opinion.  Everyone has their own way of how they believe everything should be and their opinion on the matter is the one and only relationship truth.  That doesn’t make their opinion yours.  The only opinions that truly matter are the opinions that you decide matter.  Even then, in the end, the decisions you are making are yours.  Others don’t see everything.  Their opinions are based solely on their encounters with you and your significant other an  

It is one thing to let someone spout their opinion, it is another to let that opinion unjustly impact your own.  Others may think that they understand or see, but they are missing a lot of the little details that have a tendency to make the greatest impact.  Little things that seem insignificant, but when mixed with enough of the other little, unseen things, end up making a big difference.  It is also important to understand that the consequences of letting others dictate how your relationship should go, do not just impact you.  They will affect your significant other as well.  Pick and choose the opinions that matter to you most, but remember, that never has to be what you think.

At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters is what is between you and the person you love.  They are the ones that you come home to and they are the ones that your life will continue to be associated with.  Others can say and think whatever they want but when talking about the relationship of others, remember that they are not the ones going home to face them.  There is a lot that takes place out of the view of others.  It is a balance and you have to determine what is acceptable to you. 

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Lesson 12: Forgiveness can’t be bought

Money can buy a lot of things, but not the things that most reasonable people would consider to be of actual value.  The gifts are nice.  Thoughtful gestures are almost always welcome.  They are great for special occasions and even better when done randomly, and for no other reason than to let your significant other know that you were thinking about them.  Like everything in life, know the limits.  Be sure you can see the line and make an effort not to cross it.

There comes a point when your “thoughtful gift” can portray the wrong message.  Sure, flowers accompany an apology quite well, but the time will come when the offense is repeated and your thoughtful gift starts indicating that you might actually believe that forgiveness can be purchased.  That there is a price tag on apologies and so long as you can foot the bill, all will be forgiven.

There is no excuse for being a jerk and there is less for someone who believes that forgiveness can be bought.  There is no excuse.  There is no quick fix.  There is no present or surprise.  There is no price tag or four-wheeled beauty that can make up for being a jerk.  Words cannot be unspoken.  Actions cannot be undone.  Hurtful exchanges, last.  There is no fix.  That sting will always be there.  The pain will always be remembered.  

The only way to remedy the tragedy that follows an unforgivable word or action is not to have said or done it in the first place.  I don’t understand why it is so difficult, because being kind, loving, caring, and affectionate, in theory, is so much more simple.  I am not saying that you cannot be authentically sorry and forgiveness is never given.  I am saying that those flowers, the box of chocolates, a nice new convertible, are not enough to take away the sting.

It is your actions and words from that point forward that make up the path to forgiveness.  Apologize, of course, and flowers are the perfect gift for an apology but don’t make the mistake of thinking it ends there.  The price of forgiveness is the commitment to never saying or doing whatever it was again and letting the time increase without it ever happening again.  Words and actions are the true currency, and being better is the only price on the price tag for forgiveness.

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Lesson 11: Develop a mind-mouth filter

Get one.  Plain and simple.  For me, the military mindset worked when I was in the military.  NEWS FLASH FOR ME! I am not in the military anymore.  Whatever worked in the past, in different circumstances, you have to learn to adjust.  The mentality, attitudes, and language were understandable back then, in those circumstances.  Maybe it is even all well and good when you are talking to the guys or gals you are pals with.  It is another to treat the love of your life with a faulty arrogance that is actually rude, despicable, uncalled for, dispassionate behavior.  

It was bad enough that you went through these hardships.  It is even understandable, to an extent, having to use such philosophies and attitudes to get through difficult times.  Eventually, you have to ask yourself what purpose it continues to serve afterward, other than to demonstrate a complete lack of compassion and an absence of social decency.  All it takes is a little discipline and empathy to make the changes necessary to be a decent human being.  

Not everyone has a military background to attribute their raunchy sense of humor or more extreme beliefs and social behaviors.  Maybe it was a rough neighborhood, a tough job, poor family surroundings, the list can go on.  I am not saying that your background doesn’t matter.  I am saying that it isn’t a reasonable or acceptable excuse when it comes to your relationships.  Especially a romantic relationship.  It is difficult to make changes, especially when it comes to behavior that you have developed over a long period of time, but it is doable.

Your background is irrelevant when it comes to being a tolerable person in any civilized society.  It is behavioral conditioning, nothing more.  Conditioning can be altered by conditioning yourself to be better.  There is no excuse for being a jerk.  There is no excuse.  It only seems like it will take a large amount of effort to not laugh at something inappropriate or make that comment that was concocted to cause laughs or get a rise out of people at someone else’s expense.  Know when to speak.  More importantly, know when to keep your mouth shut.

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Lesson 10: Follow through with your words and actions

Finish what you initiate or start.  A little teasing may seem fun and innocent, and in some cases it is.  To a certain, and agreed-upon extent.  Like everything in life, there are limits you need to be aware of.  Too much teasing for too long and failing to follow through on enough occasions can bring you into dangerous territory.

This one semi falls under the mistake of getting stuck in your own world.  When it comes to teasing too often without following through, you are basically being a sensual bully.  It is one thing to do it with a more casual encounter, it is quite another to continuously do it to someone you claim to love.  Your significant other is not one of your pets.  They are worth so much more than that and you need to treat them that way.  Don’t tease without the intention to finish.  It is selfish and just plain rude.

Failure to follow through can also have many other negative effects on the relationship as well.  Your word is the most important and most valuable asset you have.  Communication can be both verbal and nonverbal so your actions speak a lot for you as well.  If you say you are going to do something and then fail to do it, your words lose value.  The same goes for your actions.  When you touch or behave in a sensual way towards your significant other but continuously fail to follow through, it can have the same effect.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing they will always put up with it or that, because they love you, it is OK, or that because they put up with it on a few occasions, they will always put up with it.  A slight tease here and there is one thing, but doing it long or often enough will serve only to reinforce the idea that you are deceptive and misleading.  Just because it doesn’t feel like lying to you, doesn’t mean you are not convincing them that you are a liar.  Know and understand the person you are with.  If you don’t see or know the boundaries, then ask.  Better to ask and understand, then assume and lose.


Lesson 9: Don’t get stuck in your own world

Take a look around from time to time.  Try and see or feel things as you think someone else might.  Empathize with those around you.  It is so easy to make mistakes and get things wrong if your point of view is nothing more than tunnel vision.  This is where a lot of relationships end.  This is where communication can easily deteriorate.  You are not the only one with a problem and there are few problems in existence that you need to or are required to face alone.  Ask for help.  Let others in.  

The greatest people in history believed in themselves.  They believed in something beyond the scope of their own petty needs.  They committed to actions that they believed were in the best interest of the people that trusted them, but they never believed they were great or that they did not need the help of others.  At least, not outwardly.  Humility is a tool.  People value those who can be humble.  It is OK to ask for help.  It is OK to admit from time to time that you don’t know everything.  Closing yourself off from input cuts you off from everything that can make you better. 

Great men and women throughout history knew they were smart, knew they were capable of great things, and did the best they could with what was available.  They also learned to listen to and accept input from others.  They knew that there is no idea that is so great that it could not be made greater with help from others.  The ones that thought they were better than the ideas they had, that no one else could possibly come up with something better, typically ended up not being all that wonderful.  

Any time you feel like you are the top of the world, that you are the one that makes the winds blow and the skies filled with water whenever it rains, is the time for a reality check.  Karma exists.  It is real.  You get what you deserve.  It might be too late to change what has already transpired, but there is always hope that you can be a better person just by making others feel better.  


Lesson 8: Reciprocation

It is so wonderful to receive things.  Love, affection, thoughtful gifts, dinner when you get home from work, sensual touching, the list goes on.  It is OK to like these things.  It is OK to accept them.  Even rude not to in many cases.  Just make sure you are paying attention and that you are equally giving back.

It is unreasonable to expect and accept without giving back.  Like communication, reciprocation goes both ways.  This one should be among the most obvious.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  So many actions require reciprocation in order for there to be any value.  Hugs are pleasant, but it is the return hug that turns it into a shared experience.  A kiss is good, but it is so much better when the kiss is returned.  

The bedroom.  The place where reciprocation can be the most crucial.  They deserve to be happy and enjoy the experience too.  No one should ever walk out of the bedroom upset or disappointed.  To allow the other to leave the room without shared satisfaction is to demonstrate that their feelings and happiness are not nearly as important as yours.

This rule is all about balance.  Like any scientific or mathematical equation, love requires balance.  Without balance, it is impossible for the structure to last.  Sure, maybe it will be able to stand longer than you or others might expect, but without balance, without reciprocation of generosity and love, compassion and truth, failure is inevitable.

I would love to sit here and tell you it is never too late, but that would be a lie.  The longer you wait, the more likely it is the structure will fail.  I am a firm believer that anything is possible.  Unfortunately, that also includes the possibility that you wait too long and a point of no return is reached.  Receiving is a great feeling, but giving is too.  Maintain the balance.  Reciprocate, and the structure of love will remain standing and strong.