Lesson 5: Taking things for granted

No one owes you their heart and love.  No one.  You can’t remind them enough of how much they mean to you.  You are not better than them, or anyone for that matter.  To think you are better than anyone automatically makes you worse.  It was never about who is better for who or what changes you can make to their life.  If you think you are better than someone, you have already proven you are not.  

You can be better without thinking you are better.  Have you ever thought that you were the best thing ever to happen to someone?  You look at their past and think, “Oh my aren’t they lucky I came into their life,” or “I am clearly an improvement over everything I can see in their past.”  Guess what.  You might have been, but that train of thought just demonstrated that all you are is different, not better.  

Just because someone tells you that you are the best thing that ever happened to them doesn’t mean that you don’t have to continue to prove it.  Continue being the best thing that ever happened to them.  Just because you are the best thing in their life today, doesn’t mean that will be the case tomorrow.  Like most things in life, it is an ongoing, never-ending process.  

You have to continually show that you are the person they love.  The person they want to be with.  The person that makes them feel like there is nothing in the world that is more special than the love that you share.  You have to be all those things every day.  Never let it get to your head.  You are allowed to be comfortable, but try to avoid getting complacent.  Things are continually changing and you have to constantly adapt.

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Lesson 4: Focusing on the wrong times

I had so many plans.  So many dreams.  They were supposed to be a crucial part of all of them.  Without them, the plans will so easily fade away.  These plans were all well and good, but they lacked the most critical component, timing.  In the rare instances where hopes and dreams are gifted by luck and happenstance, then I say embrace the blessing.

Have you ever been told not to celebrate too early?  Envision the finish line, but don’t get too far ahead of yourself.  Planning the rest of your lives together is advisable, but losing sight of the present could completely negate even the most well-laid plans.  The love may very well be there, and the potential for a bright and wonderful future might seem inevitable, but just like constructing a building, plans require day to day attention.

What good is it to have the wedding, honeymoon, and a 20-year plan in place, if you neglect the day to day issues that will most likely come up.  You can spend all of your time fantasizing about the future, but what is the point if you stop paying attention to the present.  There is nothing wrong with a fantasy unless you let it overtake the reality.  You end up falling in love with what hasn’t happened yet, and the reality tends to suffer.

There is no set time on this.  Everyone has their limits.  These limits are based on whatever it is they want to base them on.  This isn’t a law or even a rule.  It is a guide.  Plan for the future, but don’t let that get in the way of living in the present.  Don’t allow yourself to be blinded to what is, by what isn’t.  Open your eyes and don’t let the wrong time and place distract you.

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Lesson 3: Communication

From the deepest, and most heartfelt argument, to the easiest of texts to show consideration and respect, communication is critical.  That doesn’t just go for romantic relationships.  That goes for any relationship.  Communication is just especially important in romantic relationships. 

Communication is how understandings are reached and expectations established and shared.  Understanding the importance, not just of what was said, but what was intended, or meant.  It is so easy to misunderstand or misinterpret messages and it is a quick way to an argument.  Arguments are so easy to avoid, in theory, but in the heat of the moment, poor communication, misunderstood and misinterpreted messages are the fastest way to a disagreement that can get verbally or even physically violent.  

Ask as many questions as you can or need, but be tactful.  Get clarification and ensure you actually understand what was said or intended.  When they ask you where you were, that isn’t just about where you physically were.  It is also about why you weren’t where they thought or were under the impression you would be.

Pay close attention to tone and body language as well.  Any seemingly innocent or inconsequential question could have the type of underlying meanings that are not so innocent or inconsequential at all.  The same statement or questions, spoken in different tones, can have two entirely different meanings.

Think about times when you were asked “How was work?”  Sometimes, you are actually being asked how your day was at the office, store, etc.  Pay close attention to how it was asked.  You of all people should be able to tell by a certain point when there is some distress in their voice.  Perhaps they are asking this question as a hint that you should ask them how their day was because it was miserable and they need to talk about it.

Treat communication as a pleasure rather than responsibility and things will go so much better.  Disagreements will happen no matter what.  No matter what, you are different people with different experiences and clashes are inevitable.  How you communicate will always determine the outcome of these clashes.

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Lesson 2: Not showing enough affection and love

You could say “I love you” a thousand times.  They are some of the most powerful words you can speak.  They possess the greatest meaning of any phrase ever spoken.  They are magical for the ears and medicinal to the soul.  Remember, at the end of the day, they are only words.  The meaning and value can only be defined by the actions that accompany them.  

Small actions like holding hands a little more tightly and a little more often.  Maintaining those hugs and kisses a few seconds longer than you normally might.  Looking into each others’ eyes with passion.  Holding that gaze long enough to realize that you are both seeing more than just each other’s eyes.  Caressing their face gently with your hand, reinforced with all the love you possess.  

In most cases, all of these are so much more desirable than a meaningless butt grab.  While fun at times, these serve no further purpose than demonstrating childishness and disrespect.  Don’t get me wrong, in the right setting, the right context, a consensual grope in certain areas can have a good, loving, and desirable effect.  Knowing when, where, and how these gestures are appropriate should be communicated with the other person.

They deserve to be shown every day and every night how much love you have for them.  All of the little gestures of love and affection add up.  Love isn’t any one individual moment.  It is all the moments.  All of the moments added up over time.  Like a beautiful plant, it needs to be continuously tended to.  Without constant effort and attention, it will wither and die.

 Grand gestures are the best, but they are not the only way.  Instead of buying them a bouquet of flowers, go out and pick one.  Instead of taking them to a restaurant, cook something.  Cooking together is nice, but having something ready when they get home is nice too.  Instead of going to a bar or club, put something nice on the radio and dance around your home.

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Lesson 1: Learn to actively listen

There is a big difference between hearing what was said and actually listening.  It is so easy to confuse the two.  It is also easy to get distracted.  Maybe it is even just by the sound of her beautiful voice.  News flash.  The words coming out are important too.  You might want to consider hanging on to them.  Especially over time.  As time goes on, it becomes easy to lose track of things.  Something that is said and doesn’t come up again for a long time.  The message can get lost because not enough importance was placed on it.  Things you didn’t know you were expected to remember.  Even if the importance of it was never emphasized.  

In a relationship, in love, everything is important.  It doesn’t matter if it is a deep conversation or a quick statement while out in public.  A quick little, “Oh my gosh I love that shirt,” or “I have always wanted to go see my sports team play against their biggest rival in our stadium,” may not seem like much at face value.  Maybe you assume it is just something the opposite sex always says.  It is easy to overlook these or brush them aside.  

Take notice.  These are opportunities.  No matter how small.  Opportunities to show that you were listening.  Showing up with that exact shirt on Valentine’s Day, their birthday, or Christmas.  Randomly whipping out a pair of game tickets and surprising them before dinner.  It doesn’t matter.  The message they receive is clear and of immense value.  You love them.  You care.  You care about what they want and what they have to say.  Most importantly, you are listening to them and they matter.  What they say matters.

Listen.  Learn.  Remember.  No matter how big or small.  There are few things in a relationship that matter more than listening.  No matter how many times you say “I love you.”  No matter how much you think or know you mean it.  The words don’t possess nearly as much value unless they are accompanied by the actions that demonstrate they are more than just words.  Listening matters.

Lessons Learned, Relationships

Flubbed Love

Everyone deserves a happily ever after.  No matter how tough, how cold, how emotional, everyone deserves to find the person that completes their heart.  Compliments their soul.  Brings out their best, and stands by their side at their worst.  You and I are no exception.  Somewhere out there is your special someone.  Your Prince Charming, your Cinderella, your other, better half.  Keep searching, and one day you will find them.  Maybe you already have.  Either way, I hope that what follows will help to ensure that happiness will always follow.

I am not here to tell you what to do.  You don’t need to be told.  I am no expert on relationships.  This is about showing you what I have learned.  Failure is life’s greatest teacher, but failure will always follow you if you don’t see and learn from your mistakes.  Most of your romantic relationships will fail.  It is a fact.  Most of mine have.  I am here to tell you, that is OK.  It is inevitable when you stop to think about it.  Only one relationship can be your forever and it takes time and a lot of failure and heartbreak to get there.  And if you are one of the lucky few who found their forever on the first shot, congratulations.  Good for you, however, you are missing one of life’s greatest lessons.  Heartbreak happens, life can become difficult, disappointment happens, but your ability to persist will make you stronger than you were before.

Do not mistake my meaning or intent.  Getting your heart broken sucks.  It is awful.  It feels like your world has shattered into a million pieces that can’t possibly be put back together.  They can’t.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t take those pieces and build something better.  Something different.  Something entirely new.  Lessons are learned.  Personal and emotional evolution takes place.  That is why I am here.  This isn’t about any one specific break up.  This is about them all.  What did I do wrong?  What did they do wrong?  What could have been done better?  What should I or they have done more?  Less?  

Some people may think these are dangerous questions.  I couldn’t disagree more.  These are the only questions.  Rather than looking at them as drowning in a sea of doubt and despair, look at them as guideposts along your path to becoming better.  Acknowledge your mistakes.  Identify theirs.  Come up with ways to change and improve.  If you ignore the problems, they will never get solved.  If you dwell on them, the same result.  Careful consideration.  Practical application.  If you think you don’t need to always get better, constantly improve, you have bigger problems than relationships.

This is about telling you my story.  What I have learned.  What I hope to do better.  What I want and need to do more or less of.  How I view the way I have behaved in relationships, but also, how I perceive what I was told by the person I was with.  At the end of the day, your opinion matters, but theirs does too.  If more than one person identifies an issue you have, it might be worth you looking into it.  That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you.  Far from it.  All it means is that more than one person is perceiving the same thing.  It isn’t an anomaly, it is an observation from multiple sources.  I am not telling you to believe the crowd.  You are responsible for what and how you interpret things.  The more open-minded you approach anything in life, especially relationships, the more likely you are to succeed, even if it isn’t today.

Whether you are currently in a relationship, in pursuit, or just trying to improve, I sincerely hope that what follows will guide you on a path towards living in a happy and healthy relationship.  Read it all at once, or one at a time.  However you learn and improve, I encourage you to embrace it.  You deserve to find that special someone, and they deserve to find you too.