Relationship Resumes: Things I Now Know Thanks to Failed Relationships

Several months ago, I was hanging out with two friends I’ve known since high school – a close girl friend who moved to Chicago and a visiting male, who also happened to be a former flame and my first real love.

The topic turned to relationships and experience in the field and I mentioned the notion of relationship resumes – the list of knowledge, skills and practice we draw from when dealing with significant others or summon on dates, showcasing prior successes, saving the failures for later. Personally, I look for partners who have their resume filled in a bit, like my own, indicating they are not novices to relationships or love.

Turning to the guy, I said, “Like you; I would use you as a reference as an example of one of my successful relationships.”

My friend interjected, “Well I don’t know if I would say you guys had a successful relationship….”

“Why not?” I asked

“Because, success means marriage.”

 

The idea that a successful relationship means more than “to death do us part” struck me in June right before my break up, in July a few weeks after and again Sunday morning with a re-print of a Chicago Tribune article on relationship myths.

The article reads:

“So many people stay in relationships for too long because they feel if it ends, that is a sign of failure,” said Tim Ray, author of 101 Relationship Myths: How to Stop Them from Sabotaging Your Happiness. “One of the things I work with clients about is to be more psychologically mature and part of that is to realize that people change and things change. The belief that you need to stay together can lead to people staying in an unhappy relationship or marriage despite the fact that they have grown apart and the relationship is no longer working … A relationship can be a success even if it ends.”

While in some ways I wish my hunt for my right person was a lot easier than the twists and turns it’s taken so far, I’m proud of each little bullet point on my resume that has gotten me to where I stand today.

My high school self would perhaps feel a little uneasy that I never found the right match in high school or college, like originally expected. But me, right now, 24-year-old me, can’t imagine anything else. She knows it is not the norm to grow with the same individual through every stage of life; that her growth comes from time alone.

I’ve detailed relationship lessons learned in previous blog posts, but what really strikes me is that there certain things I only could have learned from going through a break up. Things I now know about myself that my friends who have been in the same relationship for most of their life may never know or have to learn.

For all of us who have had to start over, say good-bye or learn the hard way: I think our collection of experiences, from former flames and exes and loves, is sometimes less important than the strength we now have from the scars and scrapes it’s taken us to gain them.

Things Failed Relationships Have Taught Me About Myself: 

  • I know how long it takes me to fully heal from a heartbreak. And more importantly, I know I can heal – that some love can simply cease to exist.
  • I believe break-ups mean something; I don’t believe they can be open threats or taken lightly into on-and-off occurrences.
  • I understand I am not afraid of getting hurt; maybe I hate being wrong about love, but the fear of being wrong won’t keep me from falling in love just like the fear of being alone won’t keep me in a wrong relationship.
  • I know what real work looks like in a relationship – how to productively work to build the foundation of communication, to keep getting to know each other, keep doing nice things to each other. And I know what it looks like when someone isn’t actively participating in the partnership.
  • I can recognize when a relationship is headed downhill. And though I hate the anxiety at the pit of my stomach, I know now there is relief at the end.
  • I know that even if you don’t ultimately get back together, even if your partner doesn’t say it outright, there will always be a point where your ex misses you or remembers your or fears to let you go.
  • I know that there isn’t really a race to the finishing line, to the win. Any ex that will be with someone else just to spite you, isn’t ready to be with someone else. Finding your own match is more improtant than the rate it takes to locate them.

And you know, I think my 16-, 19-, 23-year-old self would be proud.

What do you think failed relationships can teach us?

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On Fitness: Gym Anxiety

A little over two months ago, I stepped into my gym with a goal to clear my head, get my blood pumping and hit an emotional high before diving into a particularly traumatic conversation immediately following where I parted ways with my long distance boyfriend.

While most aspects of life have progressed as fun and normal since then, my love and affinity for my gym has waned as I’ve found every excuse to not keep up my routine with my personal training plan.

I’ve opted to keep seeing the gym regularly but I wonder if my romantic split is battling custody over my relationship with the gym.

For the past year, I’ve likened the gym to my private reflective place where I completed solo missions and awarded personal accomplishments.  But now I can’t help but feel my bond with the physical entity is somewhat tainted.  Looking absentmindedly at my phone has a way of reminding me of the anxious feeling from two months ago, where I kept counting down the minutes, trying to fit in my work out before the scheduled time I promised to place the phone call.

Even now, I am left with a terribly anxious feeling at the memory.

And I’m not quite sure what to do about this.

In early July, at the mercy of some free personal training sessions, I completed some of the most mentally and physically challenging circuits, thinking to myself “If I can get through this, I can get through anything.” The personal high afterward affirmed my self-confidence at my ability to move forward.

But I may have spoken too soon.

Whether I’ve needed a new water bottle, new headphones, new gym shoes, new podcasts or music, I can’t seem to get my act together to complete a full scheduled week of workouts. Additionally, my appetite is all over the place, switching from ravenous to completely void.

I’m left contemplating how to change-up my routine; how to bring back that loving “spark.”

I have grand ideas of pursuing a more group-centered approach, accepting my humbled loss of strength, spending more time stretching and dancing. I know, most importantly, my priority is to keep up my fitness – I am proud of pushing myself and proud of the physical results that are more important than ever.

So how do I make fitness a priority when one of my more sacred places has been corrupted? Is there a good goal I could distract myself with? Honestly, I’d love your ideas.

“Sorry, I have a boyfriend.”

I am guilty of this.

You make a new friend of the opposite gender or maybe strike up a simple conversation at a networking event or giggle with a table-mate at a wedding or reconnect via Facebook chat with an old high school friend. And they ask you for your number and if you’d like to go on a date. And you say, “Oh sorry, I have a boyfriend.”

But lately, I’m finding this statement fully loaded and bothering.

Technically, have we been saying that all that stands between us and a potential hookup is our current commitment?

IS that all that stands between us and a potential hook up?

(Source)

I’ve recently upped my weekly dosage of Dan Savage as I’ve transitioned his podcasts into my workout routine background music. This has led me to pursue a bit more about his personal life, specifically, his take on monogamy; that monogamy is harder than we allude to and that our society values being with one partner over honesty, trust, communication and an established relationship.

So you know, I’m all about monogamy. I feel miffed if my guy tells me he ducked out of a night a little early because some girls were overly flirtatious. I want to be mentioned! Why didn’t he remind them about me?

But I think Savage has some valid points. It’s not too far fetched to assume that being in a relationship and being committed aren’t strongly correlated.

My friend expressed something very similar the other day when a guy wouldn’t stop texting her.  “Isn’t it clear I’m not interested?” she shared, “I told him I have a boyfriend!”

Maybe it’s not clear. Maybe that’s not enough.

Gossip, news outlets and even history share that celebrities and politicians falter into infidelity everyday. And I have witnessed plenty of people who wouldn’t care if the person they pursue has someone else at home.

So what’s the best way for me to paint a picture of an honest, trusting, communicative and also monogamous relationship? One I’d rather choose over anything else?

How you turn someone down?

  • Leave out the chance for future reconnections:  “Thank you but no, I’m not interested.” Is that rude?
  • Focus on the reason behind your relationship: “Oh sorry, I have a boyfriend who l am very in love with/ satisfied by/ consumes most of my time and thoughts.” Is all that necessary?
  • Make an active statement: “Oh sorry, I’m dating someone.” No possessives necessary?
  • Realize that 80% of the population will respond to the usual cultural norm:“Oh sorry, I have a boyfriend.” Fine?

Thoughts? 


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.

How To Be In A Love Triangle

March marks a funny time of year for me – because this time last year, I was just getting myself into a very interesting, tricky, exciting relationship situation. A love triangle, if you will.

March to September 2011 was filled with thrilling moments as I struggled to carefully maneuver between a timeline of two men: LA Boy & a longtime, faraway friend and former fling.

In reality, the era was not about finding love or dates in two different guys. For me, it was a time of learning. A time just for myself and my own best interests. I think I will always associate those months with feelings of strength, security and desirablity in who I was.

And as you may remember, eventually my lessons added up and romantically it made sense who I was supposed to be with. (Just as with any famous love triangle, no?)

So for fun: a little Draft revisited from 6/15/11, with edits throughout July 2011. Partially fictionalized to protect all hearts.

Alls well that ends well?

How To Be In A Love Triangle

Disclaimer: Please do not try this at home.

  1. Fall for two different guys on opposite coasts of the country
  2. Find their personalities and histories different in almost every way imaginable
  3. Upon a suggestion from a very wise Ex, refuse to commit to either until the same commitment is promised to you
  4. Ride the roller-coaster as emotions and contact come and go in waves from each party
  5. Ensure neither visits at a time to conflict with the other
  6. Avoid any mention of this
  7. Over-read Astrology compatibilities
  8. Recognize that real friends won’t pick any “Team” – except your’s
  9. Laugh and then cry when both of them send you thoughtful birthday gifts
  10. Fear hurting either man
  11. Fear hurting yourself
  12. Wonder which guy you will reveal the situation to first..wonder what that will mean
  13. Ask yourself if this is the real definition of “dating”
  14. Shake your head when people demand why you don’t just meet a guy in your own state
  15. Panic when you realize the situation could potentially go on for a long time
  16. Ponder if you really imagine much of a future with either of them
  17. Decide to keep playing single with your friends for as long as you can
  18. Understand that no one really cares about your “white girl problems

Discovering Grown-Up Relationships

I haven’t blogged about my love life – or any part of my life – in a long time and I think part of the reason is the lack of stability or consistency I’ve felt lately. It seems 23 will be a year of shifts and changes, something I’ve heard many times about being in your 20’s and really discovering who you are.

But there’s a great lesson I’ve learned since I first began mentioning relationships on the blog and it is perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve felt. Better than anything food or fitness has ever taught me.

What you need to know, is that I used to have a deep-seeded need to WIN in relationships. That meant I withheld showing feelings or affection until my partner took the reins first.  I thought by not openly showing my partner that I cared, I stayed in control and kept myself from showing hurt (ie: weakness). I used to say I was forced to act this way because I was perpetually attracted to men who were afraid of commitment or who were such players that they didn’t show they cared. But really, it was my own mentality that doomed me to failure.

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Because before, I thought the only way to feel special was to be the girl who could put up with (sh)it. Who toughed out rough situations and played the “game” better and stronger than many men. I could handle day long gaps of communication because I busied myself up instead. And I could handle pangs of jealousy and lack of commitment because I just tried to mirror the issue. I believed this was worth it because I was occasionally rewarded with a few personal, meaningful moments of affection.

And I thought this was a good thing – I thought I was different from other girls because I could put my own needs aside and be cool. I thought other girls were crazy for being so nit-picky. I thought I was awesome for “winning the game.”

Really, I got hurt a lot because I never spoke up and implied anything was wrong.

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I attribute the significance of LA Boy in my life to the fact that when he came in my life, for the first time I could love the way I wanted to love. I could give love without fear and speak my mind without analysis. His own honesty and realness inspired me to get out of the game and make an effort!

And it worked!

I stopped feeling insecure and nervous and started feeling special. In return, he felt special that I shared myself with him. We grew close in a shorter time span than it’s ever taken me to get to know someone. I stopped daydreaming because the reality was wonderful.

The greatest lesson I learned from my relationship with LA Boy was that relationships are about being yourself and opening up about your thoughts, feelings and problems. 

I almost feel silly how long it’s taken me to realize that no girl can ever be the cool girlfriend forever. I was compromising part of my sanity in order to achieve such status before.

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As I approach further relationships, it is my belief now that relationships happen when two people give. It will not happen when two people withhold.

Moreover, I don’t want to wait for months of the game anymore to figure out if I am with the right person! I’ve made it my goal to put myself out there about my intentions and goals and thoughts. I’m letting a partner and I make honest and realistic decisions about where we could be headed. I’m attempting to own my faults instead of placing the blame on the men – who really only assumed our relationships were fine because I never spoke up.

This challenge is hard on my heart in it’s own way.

The most interesting consequence this change has meant for me is that it makes commitment scarier than before. When I was in these serious, but uncommunicative relationships, commitment felt right because I didn’t have time to think about playing the game with 2 guys at once. Commitment was the ultimate sign that I’d “won!” Oh but now…but now, commitment is scarier than ever! Because if I’m committing myself to someone I’ve learned about and expressed myself to that means shit is real. It means I’m on the adult relationship trajectory. Combining Lives. Thinking about marriage. Etc.

Scary.

But so so exciting!

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My lesson is on the power of letting go of the game. It can only take you so far. You can only really “win” once you realize that winning a relationship only means losing a meaningful one.

And..if you want the real juicy part.. there is someone else who made me realize just how life changing this outlook will be…