Sunday, 12 May 2013

10 things I've learned about relationships

1. You are two animals, not one
When I got into my first major relationship at the tender age of fifteen (it lasted for three years), my mum accused us of being 'in a bubble'. And she didn't mean that in a positive way! We became totally Siamese - no decisions were made without conferring first. We wanted to have exactly the same thoughts and feelings - it was us against the world. In reality, we hadn't yet realised that a healthy relationship happens when two people invite each other into their separate lives. A bridge forms, but the bridge isn't supposed to be the only thing that exists. Being able to congratulate each other on separate achievements and debate with each other on contrary opinions is good. It shouldn't be scary and it shouldn't feel like a betrayal.

2. Keep saying please and thank you 
My boyfriend makes me dinner practically every night whilst I work on Tarot readings or videos. Every single night I say thank you to him and tell him how delicious the meal was, making mention of specific flavours or ingredients that I liked. When I make him lunch while he gets on with his music production, he does the same - always thanks me, never takes it for granted. This kind of stuff goes a long way in making ties that bind. Never let it become normal or expected. When your partner does something nice for you, behave as you would if anyone else did something nice for you.

3. Love doesn't come with a manual 
Don't focus too much on what other people's relationships look like. Even when you feel that there are problems in your own connection, measuring those problems by holding them up to a perceived image of some other partnership is never going to go anywhere good. What you see on the surface is never the full story. Each relationship is different. Most are intricate, malleable, enigmatic - and that's for the people involved, never mind the onlookers! The important thing to remember is that you're one of the principle characters in your love story so change the channel and start focusing on what's happening in your relationship, not someone else's.

4. Words work wonders 
Passive aggression, mixed signals, veiled messages, ambiguous statements, vague emails etcetera aren't going to cut the mustard. Where communication is involved, both partners need to put in the time and effort. If you feel that you can't speak openly without negative retaliation or rejection from your partner, things aren't right. Feeling able to speak your truth in your love match is essential and I'll never believe anything different.

5. You never stop learning
After you've been with someone a while you can be forgiven for thinking that you know them inside out, that you can read their emotional cues and you know their likes and dislikes. But we are all constantly evolving. Don't assume too much and keep the door of communication open constantly for checking in and generally being aware of the fact that your partner is entitled to change. And so are you.

6. Consensus is more important than winning 
Conflict happens. When it does, consider what's really important - resolution or ultimate victory? Watching ourselves in the act of arguing is a tricky thing to do but if you can master it, it's ultimately super interesting. Both partners need to be able to state their case but if at all possible, they should also have a firm end goal in mind. The end goal should look like some kind of peace treaty with hand shakes and general goodwill. Conflict can be constructive. It means that some passionate stuff is coming up. So, give each other some room to speak and remember that you love each other.

7. Leave the past where it belongs
If you don't deal with the stuff that happened before, it tends to pop up in arguments and can often form the pithy material for passive aggressive jibes. If your partner did something that hurt you some time ago and it's still grinding your gears, talk it out. Don't dance around it, don't try to bury it and don't throw it at them in an argument about something totally unrelated. Using old mistakes to win points or drag your partner down will never make you feel good.

8. Don't be an emotional punchbag
When two people live in close quarters and are privy to each other's lives on a significant scale, there comes a point when they realise that they might be using each other to let off steam. There's a difference between feeling that you can show your true feelings to a partner and actually just throwing all of your feelings at them in attack mode, regardless of whether or not they're responsible. If your boss was less than kind to you, make sure you don't respond by being less than kind to your partner.

9. Share the spotlight
Sometimes one partner experiences something tough like the death of a loved one, a job loss or emotional breakdown. This leaves the other partner is caring mode for however long it takes their lover to get back on track. Sometimes, when one partner really needs the spotlight, the other can end up feeling left in the dark and ultimately begins to feel resentful. Consider this: in your connection, can you both share the spotlight? Do you swap and change depending upon who needs the TLC? If there's balance, it's fair. If the spotlight never seems to be on you, it might be time to leave the stage.

10. Start with yourself 
I've caught myself snapping at my boyfriend for something I have a habit of doing myself. I check myself right then and there - 'You do that all the time and yet you feel entitled to throw the hammer down when he does it once?' Hmm. Might be time for a self-assessment bath. If your partner's doing or saying something that's irritating you, first check to see if the grain of truth is that you engage in that same behaviour. Try not to request changes unless you're prepared to work on those same changes yourself.