On loving Love and Relationships

I’m almost surprised how much has not changed in my life in the last year. Or, if we want to be real here, since graduating college.

I’m in the same job.

Same living situation.

Going out to the same places.

Hanging with the same friends.

Living in mainly the same haircut and wardrobe.

(Which is mostly without complaint, so we’re clear.)

But I know I’ve grown in the last two years. And it’s clear to me that my changes – even largely reflected within my blog content  – have come from one very strong dimension of my life: relationships.

By this, I mean more than just my realization that I should be treated well or that I can have a real, communicative romantic relationship [ala the infamous blog post on Discovering Grown-up Relationships, later followed up with an essay for Facets Magazine (page 25 – 27 of their February/ March issue).]

No – what I think brought my 20’s and post-college life into maturation was the new token of transparency I found across my peers. It was establishing new forms of trust and communication with those around me and seeing strangers post honest blog posts about their relationships. It was reading psychology articles about maintaining love in a marriage and the chemistry behind why we love. It was when my friends finally started sharing the stuff behind-closed-doors; stuff that I complained about, too, but thought made me crazy.

And transparency was just the catalyst. I’m no longer afraid to touch on any aspect that goes into love and relationships because they’re all important and real and I hate that we cover them up. Sex. Arguing. Compromise. Growth. Sex, again. Break ups. Marriage. Doubt.

I understand the need for privacy – especially across certain mediums – but finding a new level of comfort with discussing these matters has filled my life with a whole new passion. Sharing has brought me closer with people I never could have imagined and has brought on several realizations about myself.

I am finding a new hobby in my desire to learn about the reasoning, psychology and chemistry behind love.

I hope to not imply that I am extra nosey or invested in other’s private lives, but simply: I think I am finding a passion and potential career prospect in love and relationships much the same way as others dedicate their lives to learning and helping others with nutrition or fitness.

(Maybe that’s why I own 15 different relationship books just for fun, or spend hours reading a bloggers “how we met ” story and comments, or offer to listen to my friend complain about their boyfriend for the 14th time, or secretly look up a master’s or PhD programs in marriage and family counseling so I can do more research on the subject.)

Maybe I’m crazy…

But, just tell me your story.

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That Time You Cried at the Eye Doctors’ (On Questioning “Tough Love”)

As a woman, it is engraved in me by my environment (I’m looking at you, media) that I am an emotional being.

I’m told that my instincts or reactions shouldn’t be trusted because I will react in an emotional, and therefore irrational, way.

So why is it that many people – from strangers to family – feel compelled to push certain emotions onto me? Why do they feel preying on my emotions is the quickest way to get what they want?

I think that is the point of “tough love,” right? The initiator intends on creating an emotional response out of the other person. Whether the point is to provoke fear or guilt or sadness or reality, the threats or tones are used to extract a certain feeling.

But, you know, the thing I’ve noticed about trying to elicit an emotional response from someone is that you have no control of what emotion that person will extract. What if you just wind making them angry…or numb?

I will admit, I rarely need help feeling. Emotions protrude out of me.  So when someone tries to inject an emotion into me, I think it can backfire.

In reality, what I need most from people who are trying to show me some “tough love” is facts. I want to know why they are worried or why I should be scared. I think in terms of mental maps and cause and effect plays a big part into that. Naturally, I respond best when my mother tells me the specifics of why she feels taken advantage of because I learn how to prevent it in the future.

So today, when my eye doctor wanted me to know my situation was dire and that I needed to take his advice very seriously, I wasn’t prepared to respond to a firm talking-to. The doctor wanted to alleviate me of my poor use of contacts and teach myself to be more careful, lest I wind up with severe cornea damage in only a few short years. “Your eyes are priceless, right?” he asked me. But a stranger offering me “Daddy’s tough love” (his words) only made angry. The more he spoke, the more defensive I felt of all the factors leading up to the situation. I got that things were bad. I knew I had been doing something wrong. That why I was there!

In this case, I think I wanted a doctor. I wanted someone to tell me the facts of how everything led up to where they were. I wanted a game plan of how to remedy my poor infected eyes and how we could proactively prevent this from happening again.  I wanted to feel comfortable coming back to a team treating me like a patient, rather than a scared teenager afraid of being yelled at. Additionally, I wonder if I would have guilt-tripped myself worse than any stranger could have provoked out of me?

The whole thing has me thinking about how there seems to be no formula on the proper way to treat a patient. On the one hand, I think several people do need an emotional wake-up call or intervention. I hear this much about people recovering with eating disorders. On the other hand, I can’t help but think of the obsese patients at the physician’s office who probably know what they’re doing to their body is wrong, but are looking for how to stop and how to know when they’re doing something right.

So what do you think? Am I being a baby or responding out of embarrassment? Should I take someone’s general concern and try to listen and not react? Is it just that doctors are too overloaded to begin with? Or was this doctor wrong to assume an emotional role to get his point across?

Ps. By the way, I kind of think that a man who told me that my eyes naturally water because they are dry shouldn’t expect anything but tears.