In fifth grade I had a crush on Daniel Johns. The lead singer of Australian rock band Silverchair had just released Frogstomp which yielded the famous song Tomorrow. A year later I fell in love with Stephan Jenkins. Anyone who knew me in middle school knew that Third Eye Blind was a staple in my musical life. I fell in love with every album that they created after the first. As my music and dating life both expand, I understand the arts of both music notes and commitment.
My taste in music developed much like our relationships do. We check out different albums and listen to new tunes. We learn what we can enjoy long-term as we go through dating. It is by these experiences that we better understand ourselves and our relationship needs. I learned along that way that what makes a great musician and what makes a great band are not created equal. The musician is the single part in the collaborative effort of the band. Much like a single person is a part of the collaborative effort in a relationship. Successful bands that stay together for years work hard to foster the relationships of its members. Bands break up and so do people. Bands succeed and so do relationships.
It is easy to be single. When you are a solo musician you have no one whose chords or lines you have to be in sync with. It takes less effort to be single than to be in an active healthy relationship. However, the rewards are said to have significant positive impacts on your health and your life. A relationship where you whole-heartedly learn the different music style of your partner and they learn yours. Where if you work together well enough those two different songs make much better music. I am not assuming it doesn’t take work to be a solo musician, but my argument is that you learn much more about yourself in the context of collaborative relationships with others. You develop the craft to be a better self when you are among others. Our culture is praising differences and independence; which leads to negative connotations when in a relationship. Some classics are “ball and chain”, “tied down” or “locked in.” It’s as if we forget that no one forced us into an exclusive relationship in the first place, but hey, we have to fight something or someone to regain control.
There is a mentality of individuality in our culture. There is a collaborative lack of commitment. I recall hearing a friend say this about not including her boyfriend in a recent decision, “It’s my body and I’ll get a tattoo if I want.” I thought to myself for a second. That is like the band that set up the play list and one member just decides that they want to begin with another song. Why are we so afraid to make collaborative decisions? You don’t loose your individuality by respecting the opinion of your partner. However, we seem to have become a society that believes the opposite.
Are we purposely becoming a society where individualism trumps hard work and collaboration? It is time we didn’t distinguish between the two. Relationships are complicated. They might be complicated because of the different ways people communicate. Maybe they are difficult because of differences in personality. But the most predominant reason that relationships are hard is because human behavior is difficult to understand. We have a ridiculous sense of having to be right and in control instead of understanding the work relationships take and humbly accepting that we can’t always be in control; that we must consider our partners opinion and needs.
When I travel, I usually have my head down working on something. Whether I am reading a book or working on a new paper, I consistently miss what is going on around me at airports, on trains or buses. It is assumed that I and most of you also miss a lot going on in other venues too. Don’t get me wrong, I love people watching, but over the course of the last several years I see the same thing, other people with their heads down too. We have all become so exceptionally busy with our phones and tablets. As I sit and write on my iPad, I’m a catalyst of the social ineptitude.
I look around the environment while waiting to board my plane. People, human beings, engaging in real conversations as strangers. Directly in front of me a young woman spoke to another woman about college. Behind them sat a gentleman with headphones draped around his informal dress of an old school MTV shirt, jeans and a dodgers hat; conversing with an older gentleman for some minutes. After the conversation ended I saw the younger man reach for something. Next to him sat his cell phone on a ledge. The ledge clung to furniture that looked like it came directly out of a Jetsons cartoon. I glanced up at the futuristic looking table, at the top a huge sign read: Charging Station. Then I began to think about all the possibilities for a sign like that. All the possibilities for human charging and not just electronic device charging. We have to be willing to give into the idea that ourselves, not just our devices need charging. We have to be conscious of the types of charging our bodies, souls and minds need.
The sign could hang above our beds, we recharge with rest there. It could be above the dinner table or in the kitchen; when we share in cooking and eating together we are recharging our souls. It could hang at the gym where we prepare our bodies for their full recharge and potential. However, we have to be visionaries like the phone charging station.
In order to prepare ourselves for “charging” we need to be conscious of noise. There is noise that goes on all around us. In communication noise is understood as anything that interferes with the communication between the speaker and the audience. Noise can be physical or psychological. In today’s American society phones have become not just physical noise but psychological noise. We have an unconscious instinction to have our devices on us, which leads to anxiety and all sorts of cognitive, emotional and intellectual noise. During the times of charging, the noise needs to stop. Electronics don’t have the kinds of needs that we do as humans, but it is important that we stop the noise around us when charging.
There is a lot of talk about mindfulness in psychology currently. This is a fancy way of saying “awareness in the moment.” However, can we actually achieve this state unless we gain some sort of social reboot? We are so untuned to our environments and connected to devises. We need to reboot. We need to engage socially so we slowly learn how to become independent from our devices.
But with all the physical noise going on around us and all the psychological noise in our head, how can we obtain such a state?
Then it happened. As I was writing this very article a woman around sixty years old knelt down near me. I was waiting for her to ask about my article so I could tell her about the fascinating ideas floating in my head. She knelt down to ask me how to post a photo from her phone onto Facebook. Strike 1.
Then a man in his late forties shot in between me and the woman as he anxiously and diligently spoke to the wire of his headphones to another human being on the other end. Strike 2.
I watched near me as two teenagers spoke to one another with no eye contact but instead utilized their phones while deciding what to snap chat. Strike 3.
This wasn’t just a generational reboot. It was a mass social reboot. If we don’t take care of our own human charging, we are going to crash. Mindfulness won’t be possible and social interaction will no longer be needed. We are creating noise because our minds lack real social connection. We have come to prefer fake over real, text over talk, internet connection over human closeness. It would be a challenge to actively participate in human charging. Its time for the social reboot.
If you are reading this article you might be curious about what it says or you might be in a relationship that seems to be going downhill. Have you ever thought that you could change something to make the relationship better? Or are you constantly blaming the other person?
Here are some ideas that you can do yourself or pass on to a friend who might be in a “relationship slump.”
1. Stop your expectations. We often expect more and more as the relationship goes forward. But try to look at it as if you just met. It is much like when you get a new job. When you first begin the job you are wide-eyed and happy to help in any way that you can. Heck, you might have even grabbed all the Starbucks on your way to the office. You were willing to take on any tasks at the beginning of the job. Then the longer you work at the job, the more entitled you feel. You don’t get coffee anymore because there are “better” ways to be spending your time. The reality is that you should never be “too good” for any task. If you can continue this type of motivation in a job, it will be easy to use the same concept in your relationship. Continue to do what made you a good partner in the first place. Look back at what you did in the past to make the relationship great.
2. The grass is not greener. The grass is not greener on the other side. The grass looks greener on the other side because you are spending more time staring at it rather than watering your own grass. Stop being concerned about what could be or what you could have or what your life would look like only if….. Start paying attention to what makes the grass green on your side. It takes work to keep up a yard, and it takes even more work to keep up a relationship.
3. Get your head out of your ass. Sorry but there is just no better way to say this. You might be thinking, “My partner is so stubborn.” I get it, you can do all these things and no matter what you do that other person will not change. Well then, you are not doing it good enough. Blaming other people and their responses will not help change happen in the relationship. Stubborn might happen for the other person, but it will not stick if you give 100 percent to change yourself in the relationship. With enough time, it is inevitable that the other person will take notice of what you are doing and how happy you are, and they will want nothing more than to join in.
4. Change your routine. Maybe as a wife you do the laundry twice a week. You are too predictable. So maybe you can change things up; leave the laundry. Your husband will take notice that things are different and it will make you happy to change it up and take a break. He will be curious to know what’s gotten into you.
You might not be able to change anyone else. So change what you do. If you order wings and a pizza and sit and enjoy eating it, your husband or partner is bound to want a piece. The same goes with change. Use actions to entice your partner to want to do it with you.
I figured that it is time to write some more articles about my personal journey; I mean what good is all the objective relationship advice and discussion if you don’t hear some of my subjective experiences. Self-realizations have to be a part of the process in order to implement change. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but it won’t do you any good if you can not put it to use.
This all began one day when I called my mom to let her know that I had some news. It went like this:
Me: “Mom, guess what?”
Me: “Jason and Jamie are getting married!” (Both good friends of mine).
Mom: “You are getting married! You and John are getting married!” (Screaming to my father). Honey, Laurie and John are getting married!”
Me: “MOM! MOM! MOM! I said Jamie and Jason are getting married.”
As I listened to my mom’s demeanor change and calm, I explained to her that John and I had broken up months ago.
I also told her that I was glad to know what excitement she would feel for a man to propose to me; even if it was a man she had yet to meet. Thank God my Dad wasn’t updating his Facebook status at the time! Why was it that every time I traveled the 2000 plus miles home, everyone wanted to know who the man in my life was? It was a typical question that made its way into conversation after conversation. I mean, maybe it was partially my fault for making my last relationship FBO (Facebook Official). Or maybe I felt uncomfortable about even being asked that question.
Whatever the reason was, it had a multitude of social and personal factors. What matters is how we react to it; it helps you discern where you are in the growing process. In the aftermath of my mom carrying on, I realized it was the first time that I acknowledged the ending of my last relationship. As I had to, once again, tell close family members and friends that I had ended yet another relationship; I began to feel the weight of what I thought would be their disappointment, but I realized it may have been my own.
So I looked back at the reasons why my other relationships had ended. I realized one common theme: that for whatever reason or another some aspect of each relationship was falling short of what I or the other person really wanted or needed in the relationship. That is the thing about dating and being in relationships with other people; we are trying to figure out what we want our best relationship to look like; the person we want to spend the rest of our life with. For some of us that happens in our 20’s, but for some of us it will be in our 30’s and on. As I get ready to turn 30 in less than a year, I welcome the idea that I have yet to find my best relationship.
During my 10 plus years of dating, if anything, I was getting much better at it. I was understanding the realities of what it takes to make a relationship healthy and long-lasting. In my mid-twenty dating, I thought I could harness change or mold the people who I was with. I now realize there is little you can do to change anyone.
The best you will get is the best that person is capable of giving you. Who they are today and the habits they have are what they will have tomorrow and forever. Everyone has faults, but if you can strengthen each other in personality and purpose in life you will find that happiness and love will thrive. So, Mom and everyone, I can not promise you wedding bells in my future, but I can promise you that I will strive to welcome it as I find true happiness and love in myself. Until then, I will be, Just one.
Do you remember back when a “crush” would call; you relished the fact that you finally got your parents to buy a cordless phone so you could take the call in your bedroom. You would yell out, “Mom, I got it,” after picking it up. Before that you would hope that the phone cord would reach far enough into the other room so you could close the door in privacy. Now all of that seemed complicated!
So if we have privacy and numerous ways to connect (social media and online dating) what makes dating so complicated now? Whether you are new to the dating scene or getting back into it after a recent break-up or divorce, dating has never been more complicated.
Dating is so complicated because:
We bring our past into it. It is sometimes unintentional but also unavoidable. Most of our grandparents and some of our parents met and married when they were between the ages of 19-23. This means that their past dating profiles were limited in comparison. In todays’ culture our break-ups and divorces stack up and make it more difficult to let our past go.
Too much freedom. The days of leaving a message at the beep are over. Text Messaging is the new way to ask or be asked out on a first date. The problem is that beginning a relationship like this makes it so impersonal.
Too much distraction. I can recall going on a few dates in which the suitor would utilize his electronic device during dinner to text or skim Facebook. Honestly, that was such a turn-off that I never went out on a second date, but some of us don’t see it right away. The distraction of smart phones becomes one that is hindering our dating lives. (And some of our relationships).
Too much talk. We become a more entitled people each generation to the next. We believe that because we graduated college someone owes us a great paying job. This sense of entitlement has carried over into our dating lives. We want someone who is going to have the full package (looks, personality, career, character, and thoughtfulness) but we are not willing to make sure we are giving the full package in return. If you complain about your 35 hour work week, don’t expect to find someone who is loyal to a job and lands a managing position after putting in 2 years of 50 hour work weeks.
You don’t pay attention to red flags. Most of the time there are hints about a person in the beginning of the dating relationship. You can pay attention to these and weed out the bad ones pretty quickly. If you have a tendency to try to look past that and find the best in people, well that is a very admirable quality, but it is not a quality to utilize in your dating life. Be smart and weed the bad out quickly.
Dating doesn’t have to be complicated. Join us tomorrow as we talk about How You Can Un-Complicate Your Dating LIfe. Don’t worry, it does not include plugging back in that landline phone.
Have you ever dated a guy that made you swoon over the way he treated you? He opened doors, he made sure to walk you to your car, or he brought you flowers so often you thought he owned a floral shop. You have been with this guy for only months and you begin thinking about details of a possible perfect wedding. Nothing could stop your fantasy dream….. but then you meet his mom.
The more and more time you spend with his mom, you begin to realize that she has no intention of stepping down as the most important lady in his life. As time goes by you begin to un-plan the wedding. Not to his discredit, as he has learned the love language of the ladies from being close to his mom.
The problem is unless his mom is willing to step out of the lead role, it will be impossible for you to fall into the role of wife. It is customary for a mother to protect her son. However, when that son is ready to go out of the nest, it is vital that the mother let him go out alone. It is important that her role is less and less as he gets closer to choosing a partner for himself. There are many different reasons for a mother to be too attached to her son; including unhappiness in her own relationships, jealousy of other or younger women and the list goes on. It is a response and a behavior that comes from something deeper. It is important for you to know that biologically it will be natural for the son to take the mother’s side. As much as you can want to have a happy family, it will be near impossible until mom steps out and lets you have the leading role. This is a difficult relationship triangle that needs to be resolved if there is going to be a successful relationship between you and your boyfriend
Family is one of the most important things in life. I am not downplaying the strength of family, but psychology tells us that enmeshed family can create maladaptive behaviors. We talk about how boyfriends and girlfriends need time for friends and need individual space, and the same is true for the immediate family. Separation is important; you can have a healthy family life with your significant other when boundaries are in place throughout all relationships.
As a relationship leaves what we know as the “honeymoon phase” both partners begin to feel less connected and more consumed with the “task” of being in a relationship. There is much to be said about the work and dedication it takes to keep a relationship or marriage connected and exciting.
Remember above all, you need two partners willing to take responsibility for themselves and work towards the same goal of improving the relationship.
The four A’s are high in the beginning of a relationship and just need tuning every so often. The four A’s are essential to improving your relationship:
Attention: In the beginning, you wanted to pay more attention to what would make that person smile and feel good. You put in work to go above and beyond; to “be cute” or let the person know you were thinking about them. We forget in the later part of the relationship how much attention is needed to keep both partners in tune.
Affection: You wanted to be close to your partner and meet their needs for affection also. Sometimes there is even a steamy part in the beginning where we can’t keep our hands off each other! It is exciting and new. Affection can be kept alive by having romantic evenings and dates paired with sexy events and reasons to get all dressed up. It is fun to see our partners in different settings on a regular basis.
Appreciation: You were thankful for the other person and having them in your life. You often vocalized or reminded them of this appreciation. Once the relationship goes on we assume the other person knows how much we care about them and that we don’t need to vocalize it anymore. However, this vocalization should continue throughout the duration of the relationship or marriage. Positive appreciation of both partners breeds positive emotions in the relationship.
Approach: The approach you took in the beginning of the relationship was different from the one you take in the middle. You were apologetic for your downfalls and open to differences. Your approach was very open-minded. You approached the beginning of your relationship with fascination and hope. In the middle, we begin to get defensive and often have trouble being as open and forgiving as we were in the beginning. Try to look at your relationship with a fresh approach each and every day.
You can improve your relationship at any point, if you are willing to work hard. It is never too late to implement the same principles that you used in the beginning of the relationship. These simple changes will help both partners to better understand one another and to bring back the happiness and love that has always been there.