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Category Archives: relationships

I’ve wanted to write this for over a year now, but summarizing the core values that are at the very heart of your being, and putting them into words is a rather daunting task.  But it’s on my list of 43 Things, and it would be nice to check another one off.  If you’ve never heard of This I Believe, it’s an idea based on a radio show from the 50s, in which notable people would write an essay about “the core values that guide their daily lives,” and then read them on air.  On their website, you can listen to the essays (read by the author) of people like Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson, Oscar Hammerstein, Maria Von Trapp, and even Albert Einstein.  Hearing the deepest beliefs of such influential people is a pretty damned cool thing.  So I decided to write my own (narrowed down to a few key subjects).  I was afraid that my beliefs would change over time, but what’s important to note is that these are your core values, and really they shouldn’t change very much over time.  I will say that trying to sum things up into a short essay is very difficult, so I will just do a few topics right now.  Perhaps in another year I will write on a few more.  So…here goes nothing:

My interest in politics is rooted in my passion for basic human decency, self-pride, justice, honor, family, morals, charity, and of course, democracy.  This conservatism was already in my heart long before I was old enough to know what a government is, and I learned these ideals from my parents.  I believe that the root of all decency is in a good family life.  Parents have the ultimate responsibility – creating and molding a life that will contribute to our society.  Involved parents breed good students, and good parents create more good parents by their example.  My parents* taught me good manners, honesty, how to be a hard worker, how to live within my means, and how to help others.  It is often painfully obvious who grew up without good role models.  At the funeral of a friend’s father a few years ago, I learned that he was a very loving man, and that one of his beliefs was that “the greatest gift you can give your children is to love their mother.”  This sentiment truly touched me – he and his wife were still very much in love after decades of marriage.  His sons (who by the way, were not his biological sons), learned how to treat a woman and show love through his example.  In a world where most men still view love as a weakness, I truly value this lesson, and I seek it in my relationships (platonic and romantic) with the opposite sex.  Fathers have a great responsibility to teach their sons how to be good men, and to teach their daughters what to look for in a mate.  Mothers are the example of womanhood to their daughters, and set the example of a future wife for their sons.  Together, the parents show their children the inner workings of a relationship, and it is repeated through the subsequent generations.

I believe that it is better to be kind than to be right.  The best example of this is during an argument.  Being passionate about values and politics, I could potentially get in a lot of arguments with the people I care about.  But I care about them – I would never want to say anything to make them feel badly.  But some people often throw out insults such as “that’s stupid,” “you’re crazy,” and the like.  I cannot imagine insulting the intelligence and sanity of another person, especially one that I care about.  It is perfectly possible to prove a point without resorting to insults.  It’s also possible to not insist on proving a point at all.  People will believe what they believe, and one conversation is not going to change their mind – certainly not one riddled with insults.  If being right means knocking someone else down, or crushing their belief system, perhaps it’s not so important to be right.  We are all very different.  It is impossible for someone to think exactly as you do.  We all have a different frame of reference, different experiences, and different influences that have brought us to this very point.  Forcing beliefs on others has never been successful.  Perhaps you could just listen, and appreciate the beliefs and ideas of another human being – even if they are vastly different from your own.

* I feel it is important to point out here that my parents divorced when I was 15, and yet they were still able to successfully co-parent (and still do!).

As always, if you are viewing this on Facebook, it looks much better in its original form.

Grace

1. elegance and beauty of movement or expression; “a beautiful figure which she used in subtle movements of unparalleled grace”

2. seemliness: a sense of propriety and consideration for others

It has taken me most of my life to learn this thing called “grace.”  It never even occurred to me that I had it until someone told me that I handled a situation with more grace than he could ever hope to have.  I certainly was not born with it; grace had to be learned the hard way (as have most lessons truly worth learning).  A lifetime of overreactions, road rage, tantrums, throwing things across the room,  and stomping my feet (yes stomping my feet) when things didn’t go my way had finally segued to thinking before acting, calmness, and this thing I like to call “sleeping on it.”  I’m not going to say that I always do the right thing, but it has made me much more aware of people who act on their emotions and thus burn some very important bridges that could have taken them somewhere really special.

The easiest example that comes to mind is rejection.  Rejection sucks.  We all know it.  We’ve all experienced it in all sorts of forms – interviews, school applications, love, friendship…hell even a pet can reject you.  So when you’re rejected you have the choice between grace and bridge-burning.  Let’s play it out:

“Hey Tim, I really like you.  Would you like to go out sometime?”

“Well, I’m actually seeing someone right now.  I think you’re really nice but I just can’t.”

Bridge-burn: “What the hell?  You’ve been flirting with me for months!!  It’s because I’m fat, isn’t it?”  Then you completely avoid Tim, severing any kind of friendship you had.  Tim feels like a jerk and is completely uncomfortable around you.

Grace: “Oh jeez!  That’s great!  I’m so embarrassed…well best of luck…”  Then when some time has passed, you and Tim are back to being friends.  He introduces you to some of his cute friends, he remembers how mature you were and recommends you highly.  OR – things don’t work out with the other chick and he can’t wait to see how things will turn out with you since you were so cool when he had to turn you down.

The same thing is true with most things in life – you get turned down for one job, but maybe a month from now the interviewer has a friend at another company that needs someone with your exact set of skills.  Your wife comes home from work in a terrible mood and is rude to you – you can react and be rude right back, or you can give her some time to calm down and ask her if she wants to talk later, maybe even confront her about how rude she was.

Luckily I have had some good influences over the last few years that showed me what it’s like to be graceful in a tough situation.  Unfortunately, I’ve been at the receiving end of some not-so-graceful behavior as well.  After my experiences of the last year and the experiences of my friends,  I’ve decided the worst part of dating is having to tell someone that it’s not going to work out.  You just never know how they are going to react.  For me, hearing those words is a blessing, a relief of sorts.  Being honest is a good thing.  I’d much rather have someone tell me that he isn’t into me than to just stop calling, or worse – keep up the facade until I come to the same conclusion (that’s also known as dishonesty by the way).  Sure, it sucks and it’s disappointing, but isn’t the alternative much worse?  For some, that kind of honestly is SO disappointing that they become hurtful and mean.  These people burn bridges without thinking, and lose the respect of their peers in short order.

Food for thought: In a game of chess, you have to think 2, 3, or even 4 moves ahead.  If you do the same with your relationships and the choices you make every day, chances are people will notice.  Practice grace in all that you do.

5920_684227181320_23931995_39718031_1271769_nHave you ever formed a friendship in an unexpected way?  For example: one of my best guy friends (Josh) I met through a bulletin on Myspace – it was a serious bulletin inviting people to tour the American Airlines maintenance facility, and his reply was, “want to go out?” I thought it was funny…friendship ensued.  Another good friend (Mike), I dated about 11 years ago.  Man after what we went through I never imagined he’d be one of my closest friends.  Shana, my go-to girlfriend, hated me when we first met.  Ashley and I used to chat in the same channel on IRC and we couldn’t stand each other.  Anyway, long story short – my best and oldest friends have come from experiences that I never believed would win anyone’s affections.

So, I am not all that surprised to feel a connection with Sarah, my ex-boyfriend’s current girlfriend.  Honestly, I didn’t go out with him for very long (2 months) and it wasn’t one of the more important relationships in my life.  It was very tumultuous and he and I were so different I really thought we would never speak again.  But you know…the dust settled and everyone found their place and sure enough, he chose a wonderful woman that I can relate to, confide in, and admire.

It’s so funny that he should choose a woman who so closely mirrors my morals, beliefs, and opinions.  Sure, we probably don’t agree on everything, but we talk about relationship issues more than anything, and it amazes me that she and I are so much alike.  Some of the same issues he and I clashed on, she has been able to communicate her desires more clearly and in a much more palatable way so that he could understand and even agree.

I could go on about Sarah all night, but when it comes down to it – I am in awe.  I am in awe of her and her amazing woman-power to change a man so drastically (for the better – I am 99% sure he is happier in general).  I am in awe of my ability to get to know her objectively and love her for who she is.  I am in awe of her ability to love me despite our “history.”  I am in awe of Graham’s ability to forgive and forget.

Life is too short to hold grudges, and too short to not get to know someone because of their “status” or however you may have met them.  I’m not saying you should go out and be-friend your ex’s current love interest, but when you’re ignoring someone for a real stupid reason…you should consider that she just might change your life.

I love being single.

History:

Age 18-19: first “real” relationship

Age 19-21: relationship with future husband

Age 21-24: married

Age 25-26: horrible controlling 2 year relationship with an abusive alcoholic

Age 26-28: relationship (a good one this time)

Age 28-29: relationship

Does anyone else see a problem here?  I have only had a few months of single-dom over the last twelve years.  There were a few short-terms mixed in, lots of first and second dates, and I did have a good six months free in 2007.  I really don’t have any regrets about the relationships themselves (ok, I should not have gotten married, and I should not have stayed with the alcoholic for so long), but I sure do regret not having much time to myself.  Luckily, I’ve had quite a bit of time this year and I’m almost back to center.

As I re-enter the world of dating (slowly), I find myself thinking about these past relationships a lot.  First of all, I feel that it’s necessary to just say up front that I am divorced.  How awkward would it be to come across my marriage license, or to see one of the bridal portraits a few family members insist on keeping on display, having no idea that I had been married.  Also, when you scan my driver’s license (like at a bar), my married name comes up and I’ve had to explain the situation to the doorman in front of a date.  Awkward does not begin to describe.  I always freeze with fear in anticipation of telling a guy that I’ve been married.  There have actually been a few negative reactions.  It’s never been a dealbreaker, but I usually have to redeem myself with an explanation, dredging up some rather painful memories.  It’s really not fun to get that personal on a first or second date.  Also, I usually explain that I spent a long time in an abusive relationship.  I developed some self-preservation behavior during that time that has been hard to shake.  I may as well wait to explain this one if it becomes an issue though, instead of overwhelming a poor guy.

So “they” say that you should make a list of your “must haves” and “can’t live withs.”  I think all of this experience I’ve had has made my list very long.  But why shouldn’t I keep raising my standards?  I’ve been overly forgiving in the past, and I’ve consequently more unhappy within a relationship than on my own.  So I’m wondering: How picky is too picky?

On one hand, being picky seems smart because I almost always choose men that are obviously wrong for me; ignoring red flags, friend’s advice, forget the signs I know what I’m doing, right?  Wrong!  I am incredibly sick of relationship failure.  It makes me sick to my stomach just to think about it.  It’s stressful, it’s painful, it hurts.  No matter what side you’re on, if you’ve got anything invested in this relationship (even if it’s just time), it’s going to take you a few months to recover.  Sometimes just the fact that yet another one didn’t work out makes me terribly sad.

But, being picky usually gets you labeled as a bitch.  I’m not kidding.  Because I feel that the guy should take charge and plan and pay for the first date, I’m apparently greedy and looking for a sugar daddy.  Why can’t I just want a man to be in charge and for there to not be awkwardness when the check comes?  If you get another date, it’s likely that I will pay or at least split it, unless you insist.  This particular “must have” comes from experience: on our first date, my husband walked up to the ticket booth at the movie theater and ordered one ticket.  It was a good thing I had cash, but I spent the rest of the evening miffed – if he didn’t have the money, why did he ask me on a date?  Was it really a date?  In hindsight it seems like such a douchebag thing to do and I’m so mad at myself for not paying more attention to my own feelings way back then.  Since then, I have actually paid more attention to this and it seems to be a good indicator of things to come.  So in general I “must have” a take-charge kinda guy who likes to show me a good time.  You could also lump this in with wanting a guy who is generous.  Hey, I don’t want your money, I don’t need to be showered with gifts (although it is nice), I just want to know that you want to share because I will definitely be sharing with you.

I also like to see how a guy acts towards my friends.  I’m not very close to my family, so my friends’ opinions are very important to me.  If you’re not at all interested in the most important people in my life, it’s a key indicator that you don’t care about me, period.  The best guys have been very interested in my friends, and take the time to get to know them.  They don’t sit and text their friends the whole night.  So I’ve been criticized for that one as well – I shouldn’t let those closest to me make my decisions.  Um, they’re not making my decision, they’re sizing you up and you’d better impress them.

Just plain not being interested makes me a bitch sometimes as well.  I’ve lost countless male friends when they decided they wanted something more from our relationship.  Am I not entitled to like whomever I want?  Is my friendship completely worthless because we’ll never have sex?  How is getting angry with me for not sharing your feelings going to make the situation any better?  Sure, I’ve been disappointed before, but I wouldn’t want to burn a bridge.  I may not feel that way about you right now, but perhaps if you don’t get angry with me I might consider you in the future.  Way to go, now you don’t have a girlfriend OR a friend.

My list of must haves is pretty lengthy; I’ll just mention a few more: intelligence, sense of humor, good friends/family relationships, hobbies, good manners, opens doors, calls instead of constantly texting, acknowledges my birthday, politically conservative, wants kids, enjoys live music, friendly, gregarious, ambitious etc. etc. etc.

I can’t live with: infidelity, lying, drugs, bad drinker, rude to waitresses, negativity, unwilling to do stuff with me, drama, laziness, pushiness… I suppose those are pretty basic.

I would like to have a family with the “right” guy some day in the next…oh…five (?) years.  So why do I feel guilty about having a list??

Having an ex around can be tricky at any time, but is especially so when one or both of you has a new love. I truly and honestly believe that it is possible to be friends with an ex. Going further, I believe that it’s possible for your significant other to a)not be threatened, and b)call your ex a friend also. The key to it all, is your actions. Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be an ex. It could be a one night stand, someone who had a crush on you, you went on one date and it didn’t work out…anyone of the opposite sex (or same sex, if that’s your thing), can detract from your relationship if you let him/her.

First of all, I only have regular contact with one ex and we dated TEN years ago. With the others, we just aren’t capable of being friends, or there are still feelings there and some more time needs to pass. I think that whether or not you have moved on to someone else, contact with exes needs to be nonexistent. Only under the most mature of circumstances can there ever truly be a friendship.

I’m going to do my best to write this from the perspective from either sex. So instead of advising guys how to deal with your girlfriend, it’s advising YOU how to deal with your SIGNIFICANT OTHER.

I’ve had boyfriends handle this situation really well (I learned a thing or two), and I’ve had them really stink it up and throw me to wolves. I’ve written this because I feel like I’ve finally mastered the concept well enough to spread my knowledge on to others.

Before you waste your time reading this, ask yourself:

1. Are my ex and I truly friends?

· We haven’t had sexual relations (not even a drunk make-out) in a while (you decide what a “while” is).

· No feelings, positive or negative, are remaining from the relationship. We have said all of our apologies, and/or are completely over all issues from our relationship.

· We don’t even mention the relationship anymore because it’s just not necessary.

· I care about this person just as much/little as any other friend.

· We talk and act the same toward each other, whether I’m in a relationship or not.

· I am very comfortable with my ex and my significant other being in the same room.

· My ex visibly cares about my significant other because he/she cares about me, even if not for any other reason.

2. Am I ready to be in a mature, committed relationship?

· If you still plan on sleeping around, you’re not going to be able to comprehend what I’m saying, and your inevitable criticism will only confuse the others.

3. Do I truly care about my significant others’ feelings?

· If my significant other told me that something about my ex is bothering him/her, will I actually care and try to do something to fix the problem?

If you cannot answer YES to any of these questions, then you might consider ending your current relationship. It sounds pretty hopeless to me dude.

If you answered NO to question #1, but YES to 2 and 3, then the ex/friend situation will NEVER work with your new relationship*. My best advice is to try to talk things through with the ex – explain to ex/friend that you’ve met someone, and it is key that your past relationship doesn’t cause problems. If the ex/friend is anything but understanding and supportive, you need to discontinue talking to this person until he/she can be understanding and supportive of your new relationship. Keep an eye on the situation. If you notice ex/friend being anything but kind and friendly to your significant other, you need to have the chat again.

*The few outliers that could make this situation work are not statistically significant.

If you’re in a relationship, and you’re feeling uncomfortable about your significant other (SO)’s friend, be sure to ask yourself this:

Am I a stable person with good self-esteem, quality friendships, and a non-jealous disposition?

· If you don’t have good self-esteem, EVERYONE will seem like a threat to your relationship.

· If you choose crappy friends who don’t care about you, they’re not going to treat your significant other well no matter what you do.

· If you have jealous feelings often, you are probably with the wrong person. The right person will make you feel secure and comfortable the majority of the time.

You have a new love, and your ex is in the picture.

Do

Don’t

Introduce them IMMEDIATELY after the relationship has been established as exclusive.

Hang out with the ex alone before they have been introduced.

Give the two something to talk about. “Hey Sam used to live in DC too, what part of town did you live in James?”

Talk about your past experiences with your ex in front of the new person. Make sure they’re not bothered if you must.

Listen to your significant other (SO). If something is bothering them about the situation, listen and try to work something out.

Write off everything your SO says as jealousy or insecurity.

Watch your ex for signs of “cattiness.”

Be friends with people who are rude to your SO.

Ask your ex to back off if he/she is making your SO uncomfortable (and you think it’s necessary). If your ex is a true friend, it shouldn’t be a problem. Brownie points for doing so without SO asking.

Be a pushover. If you know without a doubt that your ex is a genuine friend, and is not being hateful to your SO, it might be better to ask SO to try to be friends again.

You have a new love, and his/her ex is in the picture.

Do

Don’t

Genuinely try to get to know the ex.

Be rude to the ex in any way.

Show appreciation and thanks to your significant other for being sensitive to the situation.

Put up with behavior that is disrespectful to you.

Accept offers to hang out without your significant other present.

Be so attached to your significant other that you’re afraid to hang out alone.

Bring immature behavior to your SOs attention.

Overanalyze.

Keep trying, as long as the ex is trying. Remember this relationship is important to your SO, and it should be important to you too.

Be a “frenemy.” You need to be honest with yourself and your SO and yes, even the ex.

You’re the ex.

Do

Don’t

Genuinely try to get to know the significant other.

Ignore the new person.

Try to find things in common.

Talk about your past experiences with your ex in front of the new person. Make sure they’re not bothered if you must.

Keep being friendly, and keep the conversation going, even if you don’t like him/her!! Crucial!

Bug your ex to break up.

Back off a little if you guys are real chummy when you’re both single.

Cling to your ex.

Keep in mind that friends come and go. Just because you dated doesn’t mean you are required to stay in each other’s lives.

Be possessive. He/she isn’t yours anymore!

General tips for social situations:

Introduce your significant other to EVERYONE you encounter. Don’t pull this lame-ass excuse “I couldn’t remember her name!” If for some reason you miss the chance, you’d better fix it as soon as possible. There is absolutely no reason to not introduce your significant other unless you are ashamed of them, or you’re being shady. In either case, break it off. Think about it – if you’re not proud to have everyone meet your new love, why are you with them??

o Dialogue for so-called “forgetfulness”:

Stranger: Hi! It’s so good to see you Charles!!

Charles: Oh, hi. Yeah wow haven’t seen you in so long. Hey! This is my girlfriend, Sarah!

Sarah: Hi I’m Sarah

-pay close attention, at this point Stranger should say her name-

Stranger: Oh it’s so nice to meet you Sarah, I’m Elaine!

-If stranger doesn’t say her name, train your girlfriend to ask for it

Stranger: Oh it’s so nice to meet you Sarah!

Sarah: I’m sorry what was your name?

Stranger: Oh, sorry, I’m Elaine!

I don’t ever want to hear that sad excuse for not showing off your significant other ever again. Rude!!

If your SO doesn’t know anyone or is having an “off night” at a party, club, or other social outing, don’t leave them alone while you talk to others. Imagine if someone else used the opportunity to talk to him/her and they run off while you’re being rude!

-Alternatively, if your SO knows everyone and is still being clingy and annoying, they have issues (or they’re pissed at you). Time for a chat!

If your SO isn’t friendly to your family and friends, they don’t care about you. Plain and simple.

If your SO doesn’t care if you hang out with members of the opposite sex that he is unfamiliar with, he doesn’t care about you. I don’t care what he says or how “cool” he is with it. He doesn’t care.

If your ex wants to be good friends with you but doesn’t make an attempt to be friends with your SO also, he’s not a very good friend.