Remember, I told you I wasn’t going to sell you a superficial guide to love, and in an effort to do that, I am going to help you clear out the shit that’s not benefiting you in your relationships, so that we can make some room for the real stuff.
Some of these may seem obvious, but very few of us really get down to the root of why these can become issues, which is where the bed of problems lie. So, as with most things on this blog, we’re not going to skate by with surface-level understanding and conclusions. We’re going all the way in.
Here are three things we need to stop doing in relationships:
1. Telling Everyone Everything: Privacy isn’t just a luxury on social media. The more people you talk to about the problems (and successes) of your relationship, the more people you are inviting to give their opinion–and that can become a problem. It’s natural to want to talk to your friends about what’s going on. I do it all the time, and then I half-regret it. Don’t get me wrong–my friends are the best, and any time a guy enters the picture, they want all the details, because they’re excited for me. And hell, I’m excited, too! So we start compiling a proverbial folder of information similar to a CIA file–full of convo screenshots, pictures, stats, etc.–and constantly update each other on everything that arises with the new boy. I know a lot of people who do this, and it seems innocent. But I’ve learned that a lot of the time, it can do more harm than good.
Because they are your friends and they don’t want to see you get hurt, they do what they think is the right thing to do, which is watch out for red flags, ask a lot of questions, give their two cents and be protective. The intention of all of these things are in the right place, however, we need to remember that a lot of their responses are rooted in their own projections of what love and relationships look like. Any time someone gives you advice on something, it’s coming from their own personal experience with that situation (or what they think is the right thing based on society’s conditioning), which may be completely different than your actual circumstance. Plus, when your friends ask you a million questions that you don’t have the answers to, guess what you’ll be doing for the next day and a half? Overthinking.
Ever been in a situation with someone that seemed to be going great, then all of a sudden they switched up on you and the vibes are all out of whack? What happened?! Well, chances are they talked to their friends about something, and their friends either freaked them out or planted seeds in their brain that made them look at that relationship differently. Or even worse–they read an article about “6 Ways to Know He Loves You,” and struck out on over half of them. People! You can’t generalize what love looks like! Stop searching for answers with outside sources that have nothing to do with your relationship when everything you need to know lives within you! Just listen to your gut and stop second-guessing yourself.
Keep your private life private, especially if you’re in a situation that’s not a clear-cut dynamic. If you’re unsure about how you’re feeling, tune in with yourself first, then if you need an outside opinion, confide in one, maybe two friends (max), but make sure those friends are listeners. Most of the time, we just want someone to listen, not tell us what to do, because deep down, we know what to do. But more importantly, if there are problems in the relationship, talk to your partner first! And those conversations need to be honest, open and active, which brings me to my next point…
2. Surface-Level Communication: So many of us get into arguments with our partner over what may initially seem as frivolous shit. You know what I’m talking about. It’s those fights that have you thinking, “Are we really fighting over this?!” The answer is no, you’re not. Chances are, if you dig a little deeper, that silly fight is rooted in something greater that you two have yet to work through, which is why we need to stop these surface-level conversations when it comes to problem solving.
For example: A common argument that I see springing up between couples is liking photos on social media. “Why did you like her bikini picture?!” or “Oh, you fell for that thirst trap, didn’t you?” so on and so forth. The action is a simple double tap on a screen, but it’s the idea and conclusion we draw from it that causes the problem. It’s not so much that he “liked” a woman’s bikini photo that makes us angry. It’s not even so much that other people may see that he liked that photo and then make us feel dumb, because they know we’re together. It’s the thought that he finds this woman’s body sexy and alluring, and maybe we don’t have that body shape, so now all of a sudden we’re insecure, because we think our man wants that girl, or a girl who looks like her, and that ain’t us. Unfortunately, we are so quick to devalue ourselves and what we bring to the table when different physical attributes are highlighted and fawned over in other women.
The beneficial way of handling that argument would be to create a space where the woman can get to the point of saying it makes her insecure (because she’ll probably run down a list of 241 things before admitting that, which is the root of the problem). In order to do that, it takes work from both partners. When you’re in a relationship, you need to cultivate a place for open and honest communication. It doesn’t just happen. That means that both partners have to come into it with a commitment to be honest with how they’re feeling and with an openness to not only communicate that, but to do some self-reflection so that they can even become aware of where their anger is coming from. That also means that you need to create a safe space for your partner to feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with you. That is so, so, so important. For that to happen, you need to learn how to approach arguments in a calm manner. Don’t press buttons to get people all riled up. Don’t throw verbal jabs. Don’t judge. Don’t get defensive. If anything, use every therapists’ recommended template of, “I feel [blank] when you [do this that or the other thing].”
When I meet men who make me feel safe in not only feeling what I’m feeling, but talking about it with them, we’re able to nip shit in the bud and never talk about it again because we don’t let it happen again! That is the goal with every argument! If you find yourself having the same fight over and over again, chances are it’s because you didn’t get down to the nitty-gritty and figure out what was really wrong. Take the time, grab a gallon of patience, and practice open, honest and vulnerable communication. It won’t be quick or easy, but it’ll be substantial in the long run.
3. Conditional Love: This is something that can sneak up on you. We’re always praising and vowing unconditional love, but how many times have you entered a situation where you thought to yourself, “Well, would they do that for me?” I understand where that question lies, because I’ve asked myself that a million times with different relationships and people in my past, but I can’t say I love someone unconditionally when I’m basing my actions off of a tit-for-tat mentality. You know what that breeds? Conditions. All of a sudden, I find myself loving someone conditionally without even realizing it. And guess what? A lot of that stems from talking to people about my situation, and them feeding me ideas that make me believe I’m being taken for granted (see No. 1). Sometimes, though, they’re right. I am a very giving and loving person, and there are people who take advantage of that, but the best response isn’t so much to now base my giving on what they’re reciprocating. It’s coming back to why am I doing this? Am I helping, loving, being supportive to this person because I genuinely love and care for them? If the answer is yes, then it doesn’t matter what they are or aren’t doing. However, if I’m only acting that way to hopefully inspire and spark a sense of love and care back from them, then that is rooted in self-serving behavior and is disingenuous. I’m not doing it because I love them, I’m doing it because I want to be loved by them.
Loving unconditionally is harder than it seems, because a lot of us are looking to be replenished by those we love, when in actuality, that responsibility lies within ourselves. It’s an absolutely beautiful thing to have someone in your life who fills you up emotionally, spiritually and mentally, without even having to think about it, but that’s not always guaranteed. If you do find yourself getting drained and hurting, then you need to check back with your discernment. Yes, you should love unconditionally, but don’t forget that the first and most important person to receive that unconditional love from you is yourself, so if you’re investing in people who are hurting you, it is your responsibility to cut those ties that do not serve your spirit.
However, should you choose (because it is always a decision) to love someone unconditionally, you need to be aware that you are loving them wholly. You are not basing your actions on their reactions. You are not only giving what you get back. You are not playing a game of chess with their heart. In fact, you shouldn’t be playing anything at all. You’re just loving–completely, sincerely and unconditionally.