I’m just going to jump right in with my first topic and boy is it a big one…dating as a single mom is tough! And unless I finally do become that crazy cat lady I’ve threatened to become this is probably a topic we’ll revisit again and again.
So, I’ve recently had my heart broken…again. (Hang in there little buddy, just a little more duct tape and you’ll be good to go.) I was ridiculously happy! I’d found a man who seemed to be at a good point in his life, was not scared away by my millions of kids (ok, four…) and he liked me, me! And then of course you all know what’s coming…it ended. And it ended in confusion and hurt. But then I decided I’d had enough wallowing and believe me I wallowed hard and for longer than I should have. I decided I needed to pull on my big girl panties and treat this like any other homework assignment and learn.
What I learned from this relationship was love is compromise. He constantly regurgitated guru type advice and gave generic cliche answers to issues and at first it was endearing. He talked about healthy boundaries and not holding on to past hurts. Finally, someone who has done some work on themselves! Ladies, he was a good talker! But I noticed through a series of arguments about things like communication and making time for each other that talk is cheap. These are pretty big parts of a relationship! Talk is just a flow of sounds escaping that hole in your face unless there is understanding and action…and the action? Well, it never happened.
You see, I believe very strongly in a few things. First, an apology means acknowledging that you hurt someone and then trying not to do that thing again. Seems simple, right? But it’s a struggle to follow through with that action! Second, the steps to a healthy resolution of conflict include discussion, bouncing ideas of how it can be “fixed” off of each other, agreeing on one of those ideas which generally means compromising and then working like hell to keep up your side of that bargain. Again, not easy but attainable!
What I believe happened, and this is very obviously just my side of the story, is that conflicts were never resolved and “I’m sorry” didn’t necessitate any sort of change. I am not blameless in this. I might have used “I” statements instead of accusations; I might have suggested ways to compromise but what I also did was push. I pushed for that resolution that I needed. I pushed for words that never came and actions that fell short. I pushed because I was sure that this time, this time, I wasn’t going to let my feelings be stomped on and my thoughts be ignored. I was going to be heard! Well, I was heard. The sound coming out of my mouth was unmistakably heard but I wasn’t listened to. I wasn’t able to communicate in a way so that the problem was heard, the solution decided upon and a compromise met. Part of that is my own doing and to swing the pendulum the other way part of it was his shrugging and saying “I don’t have this problem with anyone else”. Clearly. Clearly, that statement did not validate my feelings in the way I thought they should be validated and that’s when another of my problems, my white hot visceral reaction came out to join the conversation. It wasn’t good and I regret some of the particular ways I worded things. I am working to rein that beast in, she’s a big one.
I also learned that sometimes people mistake “healthy boundaries” for a rigid stance that means no discussion and no compromise. Yes, have boundaries! Yes, don’t compromise on your ideals! Yes, hold fast to your truth! But do not believe that boundaries mean you don’t listen to others. Do not believe that boundaries mean you are rigid and unbendable in your relationships. Do not hold fast to the belief that what you hear is what was said. We hear and understand issues based on our unique experiences. What I hear from that little voice in my head will not be the same thing you hear so clarify! Communicate, clarify, discuss, compromise, agree, make-up and then let it go! I’m still working on all of that and this relationship was a step in that journey. I learned about boundaries and I will set boundaries but boundaries are not there to control another’s actions they are there to dictate mine.
So while my poor bruised and cracked heart is healing here are the things I have learned about myself. I have learned that if a conflict is not properly resolved it will eat at me. It will nag at me. It will push me until I have brought it up for the second, third or millionth time. I need those final steps. I need a discussion and an agreement even if the agreement is to understand each other’s views and respect them enough to disagree in a way that allows the relationship to grow. I need to know that the person I love really heard me and also felt heard. I need to know that going forward we have a plan, we are a team, we have beaten that conflict that we had, together! I need to trust that my feelings and my thoughts are valid and acknowledged. I need to be able to calmly express this need. I need to be able to communicate that compromise doesn’t mean one of us is wrong and one of us is right. I need to be able to have a discussion about how compromise means that the relationship is more important to both of us than being right and I need to be able to do all of that before I’m trying to make my point for the millionth time by pushing. I need to stop pushing.
Love is messy! Love hurts sometimes. And I truly believe that little things become the big things and that communication, understanding, trust, compromise, respect and the desire to change for each other are what love is. Please notice that I did not say the desire to change each other…I said the desire to change FOR each other. Because the right partner will encourage you to change and to be the best you you can be! No one is you-ier than you… thank you, Dr. Suess! I will never be the type of person to sweep an issue under the rug and leave it there. And despite all of the talking I do and trust me it’s a lot I need to learn to communicate better.
I have learned that I will not settle. Ok, that’s wrong… I will try not to let my loneliness let me settle. I have learned that I’m ok and that ok means I can still be working on myself. I have learned that I am not my past hurts or my past behaviors. And I have learned to trust myself and others again. On a side note I also learned that I dislike, no probably hate, hearing an inspirational meme quoted in response to an actual question!
So here’s the take away: love yourself, hold tight to your values, bend when you can, communicate clearly and effectively, change the parts of you that need tweaking, love deeply, listen to another’s perspective in order to understand what they are saying not simply to respond, go through all the steps of conflict resolution even though they are hard and most of all trust yourself. And then if the relationship fails know that it was just a step in your journey. It was a lesson to look deep in yourself to see if you are the partner your future partner will want. If you aren’t then get to work! The only consistent thing is change….yes, I got that off of an inspirational meme.