I don’t claim to be the guru of relationships. In fact looking back over all of my relationships I made a muck of some of them and made poor choices at times on who to enter into a relationship with.
However, I learned a lot to get to where I am today – in a very happy relationship with my wonderful husband, Jon.
But I definitely went through the school of hard knocks to get here…
So that you all can benefit from my ‘doing it the hard way’ – here are some lessons learned, not just from my own relationships but from watching friends and family along the way.
I figured there might be people out there who could benefit from these pearls of snarky wisdom that I learned the hard way.
So here we go… Hold on to your hats and remember, these are just my opinions. If they help you or speak to you, use them with my blessing and well wishes. If they don’t, then let them just leak out of your brain and back into the Universal Consciousness.
First let’s start with the stuff most of us WANT:
When I used to say my daily affirmations around romantic relationships, I always said this sentence: “We have a happy, honest, trusting, passionate, loving, empowering, fulfilling, equal partnership, best friend & lover, soul mate and very affectionate, and committed relationship where we can both be our true selves with the other person and be totally accepted and loved for who we are.”
And really that’s what I wanted and what I think most people want. I’m lucky to have found this with my wonderful husband, Jon. But it took me lots of years and tears to get here.
But in order for me to get to this point, I (and others I’ve observed) had to follow some common sense commandments!
1. Thou shalt assume positive intent with your partner. What this means is that you give them the benefit of the doubt in things, and don’t automatically assume negative intent. After all, if you’re in a relationship, you should care deeply about this person and there’s a certain amount of trust inherent in that. That does NOT mean that if you walk in and find your partner butt naked in bed with another person that this isn’t exactly what it looks like! And don’t let them off the hook that easy. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t buy the, “I tripped and fell naked inside your best friend, who also happened to be naked,” excuse here. But unfortunately, I know lots of people – both women and men who have bought that kind of reasoning. There’s assuming positive intent and then there’s letting yourself be a doormat. Use common sense and go with your gut!
2. Game playing does NOT a good relationship make. This means all the buying yourself flowers in an effort to make him jealous, spraying yourself with another woman’s perfume to make her ‘appreciate you more,’ leaving stuff at his apartment so you can have an excuse to call him, pretending to get calls or texts from other men to make him realize that you’re a “hot commodity” and everything else that falls into this game-player category is totally manipulation and bull, and has no place in a mature relationship that encompasses all the good traits I listed above in my affirmation.
3. Thou shalt not hit or abuse in any way your partner! This is what it sounds like – no physical abuse, but also no mental abuse, and definitely no sexual abuse. This would include mind games, manipulation, guilt trips and plain old hitting etc. Now I’ve told every guy I ever dated that if he ever hit me I was gone – no second chances, no do overs etc. Gone and done. Period! I grew up in an abusive household, and I know that has no place in my adult life, and I don’t want my son around it either. There’s absolutely no excuse for this kind of behavior. None. If you have anger issues, get them taken care of. Don’t take them out on someone else. Get yourself healthy and THEN find a relationship.
4. Thou shalt still remain your own separate person once you enter into a relationship. We’ve all known those people who when they enter into a relationship, they cease being their own person – and become an amalgam of their previous self and their new partner. Now a certain give and take in a relationship is expected and healthy. But totally giving up who you are – in essence becoming a “chameleon” of the person you’re with is not only unhealthy for both of you, but also extremely annoying to the rest of the world at large. I know a few women who are “relationship chameleons” and to be honest, I have very little respect for them. I don’t feel sorry for them – even though they end up unhappy in their relationships – they have a choice and choose to give up their personalities to become what they THINK the other person wants. Don’t let this happen to you! You CAN and SHOULD remain YOU in a relationship.
5. Thou shalt openly and honestly communicate at all times – I.e. Say What you mean, Mean what you say, and carry through with what you say you will. This should be a no brainer, but sadly, I know many people who break all of this…often. In any relationship honesty and good communication are extremely important, but in a romantic relationship – they are absolutely imperative. I’m not saying to keep a notebook of everything your partner says so you can remind them every time they mess up (which will lead into our next commandment), but be a good communicator and be straightforward and honest – your partner and your relationship will be better off for it.
6. Thou shalt not “keep score.” You know what I mean. Many people have a mental tally list of each time their partner messes up or does something wrong. This is NOT a good way to keep a healthy relationship going. People make mistakes, and if they are truly sorry and make amends, then make up, and LET IT GO. I.e. Forget about it and don’t continually bring it up. I’m not saying that everything is forgivable – it’s not. And it’s up to each individual what is a deal breaker to them and what is not. But keeping score will only eat away at your relationship like acid until it crumbles around you in ruins.
7. Thou shalt be an equal partner in your relationship. This one is important. I know a lot of people, both women and men, who want the other person to always take care of them, make the decisions etc. If that’s the kind of relationship you truly want, then I wish you well – but I’ve been in relationships like that and I only ended up miserable. I want a partnership. I want both of us to have an equal say, both of us to pull equal ‘relationship weight’ and both of us to be just as invested in the relationship as the other. I took a sociology class at Arizona State where we talked about “The Principle of Least Interest” – which means the person with the least interest in the relationship has all the power. I’m sure we all know how it feels to be that person with less power in the relationship because that means the other person is not very interested in seeing the relationship succeed. And you should probably end things and find another more healthy relationship. By the same token, if one of you is always the one who contacts, initiates sex, asks to see the other one, always does the calling, planning, etc. – that’s not fair on either side and will wear on the relationship and both of you over time. Respect yourself and your partner enough to make sure you have an equal partnership relationship – you’ll both be happier for it.
8. You and your partner are not static beings. Leave room for growth and change. In any relationship, but especially in romantic ones, people are going to change over time as they experience new things and grow. There has to be room for this within the relationship and both parties have to feel safe enough that as they grow and change their partner will still love and accept them.
9. Thou shalt not change your relationship expectations mid stream and be angry with your partner because they don’t adhere to them! In my first marriage, he was attracted to me because I was so different from the girls he grew up with. I was independent and outgoing, an overachieve and a doer. But once we got married and had our son, he magically expected me to transform into someone who no longer wanted to work outside the home, a gourmet cook who did crafts and kept a meticulous house, and got my entire sense of self worth from my house, my family and my “homemaker” accomplishments. Yeah – you can imagine how well that worked out. He changed expectations mid stream and was disappointed when I didn’t adhere to them. People don’t work like that. And while relationships bend…they also break. Be honest about your expectations up front and don’t expect your partner to magically transform to meet your new ones. This doesn’t mean that if your partner is an alcoholic that you can’t ask and expect them to get help and get clean and sober. But that leads us to our next commandment.
10. Thou shalt fix your own issues BEFORE you subject another person to them! If you have anger issues, abandonment issues, jealousy issues, addiction issues or whatever – go get help and work through your baggage BEFORE you subject some other poor soul to that. We all have baggage, triggers, hot buttons etc, but do your due diligence up front and work through your own “crap” and you’ll have much happier relationships. Because what happens is both of you bring your baggage, triggers, hot buttons etc into the relationship – and a lot of time, your “baggage, triggers, hot buttons” etc – don’t play nicely together. Those are your defense mechanisms, and they come out automatically until you work through the issue that causes them. For example, because of my abusive childhood, I have an issue with people lashing out at me – I shut down. I’ve gone to counseling and I’m a LOT better with this, but even to this day – if someone lashes out at me, I shut down and they’ve lost the argument – I’ve already stopped listening. That’s my trigger and my defense mechanism. I’ve had relationships where we both needed to learn to NOT trigger each other just so we could have time and opportunity to communicate and work out whatever we needed to talk about. It CAN be done with patience and love and understanding. But we all know people who have TONS of personal issues – baggage, we usually call it, that they take with them from relationship to relationship and they end up leaving a trail of pain and destruction behind. Things would be better all the way around if they spent some time working through their own baggage so they don’t keep dragging it with them.
11. Sex is NOT a manipulation tool. It’s a beautiful physical expression between two (or more…yes, I went there…lol) people who care for each other. But we’ve all known people who use it as a punishment (by withholding) or a manipulation tool (will only put out if their partner does X…etc.) This makes sex a tool and not a sharing, intimate experience that brings you closer like it should be. So repeat after me: “Sex is not a tool to manipulate my partner!!” By the same token, you should take equal part in initiating sex. And my total rule of thumb is: Anything between two consenting adults is fair game. Just make sure – you’re both consenting ADULTS and that you both consent to whatever it is you’re proposing doing. Then from there – feel free to get as freaky as you BOTH want….and enjoy! If you need some ideas – my Cassie Ryan author website has a list of my smokin’ hot erotic books. The Seduction Series has quite a few fun ideas, as does the Sisters of Darkness Series.
12. Thou shalt make your partner and your relationship a priority in your life. This does NOT mean that your new partner takes precedence over the well being of your children, your job, your existing friendships or family relationships etc. But this does mean they need to be prioritized in there with all the rest of these things. If your partner feels like they always come last in your life – they most likely won’t be your partner for long. Relationships are living things and need time, love and attention.
13. Thou shalt always be mindful of the children in any relationship! As I mentioned above, I had an abusive childhood. I’ve been a step kid, had stepfathers, step siblings etc. There were many times where I felt like I no longer mattered and that I had fallen to last place on my mom’s priority list. For that reason, I was always very mindful of my son whenever I entered into a new relationship, and I was very mindful of the children of anyone I dated. I know how it feels to have someone new come into your life, and I know how jarring it can be when you feel like you’re suddenly cut off from your parent because this new person has usurped your place in their life! Try to take a look at things from your child’s point of view and make sure they still feel like they are an important part of your life and that they still have access, love and support from you, or their parent. If you’re the new step parent or even the new girlfriend or boyfriend – be mindful that the kids were there first, and there’s a certain inherent priority that SHOULD come with them being their parent’s child. That doesn’t mean that if they are little hellions and their parent doesn’t rein them in that you have to just sit back and take it! See my commandment above about open communication! But being a child means there are a lot of things you are powerless about in your own life – and new relationships for your parent can be scary and jarring. Try to make this as pain-free for them as possible.
14. If you’re unhappy in your current relationship, then listen to your gut and take appropriate action. We all know someone who constantly bemoans how unhappy they are, but never want to do anything to change it. There are ALWAYS options…even if you don’t like what they are, and life is too short to be miserable! So put your big girl panties or big boy boxers on and FIX IT! This may involve openly communicating with your partner, seeking 3rd party help like counseling, or even deciding to end the relationship and leave. Respect yourself enough to choose to be happy and make the hard choices that will help you get there.
15. Thou shalt respect yourself enough to know you deserve a happy relationship. There are some people out there who either consciously or unconsciously think they don’t deserve a happy relationship. Respect and love yourself enough to know that EVERYONE deserves to find happiness and a happy relationship is just part of that! If you can’t get to that point – it might be time for that third party help to work through your past issues that are keeping you from seeing how worthy you are! Don’t let the past dictate who you are. YOU dictate who you are in the future!
I’m sure I could keep these going to 100, but I learned the hard way and I’m sure a lot of you have too, so if there are any I’ve missed, please feel free to comment and add. And to everyone – I wish you a happy, honest, trusting, passionate, loving, empowering, fulfilling, equal partnership, best friend & lover, soul mate, very affectionate and committed relationship where you can both be your true selves with the other person and be totally accepted and loved for who you are!
Blessings & All Happiness