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“The wrong person will give you less than what you’re worth…but that doesn’t mean that you have to accept it.”
I was married the first time at twenty-two years of age… just a baby really. It lasted only one year. I distinctly remember getting the divorce papers and feeling so old inside. My insides were shattered into a million s hards of glass, each representing something I was experiencing that stabbed me from the inside out for a very long time. Failure. Embarrassment. Sorrow. Anger. Regret. Shame. I could go on and on…
Let’s face it. Relationships can be incredibly hard if they’re not right. From a sterile standpoint, we enter into them for many different reasons. Security. We settle, thinking it’s the best we can do. We’re running away from something. We need someone to fix. We worry about being alone. We want children. It seems like the right thing to do. Oh, and for love.
Here’s what my first marriage taught me: There are worse things in life than being alone.
Man. That sounds so harsh. But it’s the truth. I never knew the depths of despair a human being could sink to until I said “I do” the first time. When I finally got the courage to leave, I was barely recognizable to anyone who knew me, or to myself. And it took years for me to come back to life….
I became a flight attendant soon after my divorce and escaped reality for many years and traveling around the world. It was therapeutic for me. But years afterwards, I was still convinced I would never, ever marry again. My motto was: “Once was enough!” And I stuck to it pretty fiercely.
Then one day, I walked on to the airplane to work the flight just like a had a thousand times before. Only that day would be different. That’s the day I flew with Miss Betty. She was an older lady and seasoned flight attendant. Miss Betty was demure, oozing with old-school class, petite and perfectly coiffed.
After our service, we sat on our jump-seats and sipped on a hot cup of coffee. It was going to be a long day. We began to talk. She asked me if I was married. “Oh, no,” I laughed. “I did that once. Never again!”
Then she turned and looked directly into my eyes with a sincere expression, “You’ll marry again.” She patted my hand and smiled. “Only the next time, you will be smarter, stronger. It’s not about working harder to make it all work. You see dear, when it’s right, it just works. Simple as that.”
I left that flight a changed woman. Somehow Miss Betty had tapped into the very core of me and for the first time since my divorce was finalized, I actually felt a wall coming down on the inside. I was different. I had changed.
All those years of being afraid of relationships wasn’t a trust issue with others, it was a trust issue with myself. But Miss Betty was right. I was not the same person anymore. I was smarter and stronger this time. It was right then and there I decided it was to close my eyes and jump back into the dating market again. But this time… I had boundaries.
These are some suggestions to consider when entering (or for exiting) a relationship.
How to tell if you’re in a healthy relationship:
- You’re the same at the foundation-core. By this I mean, you both have the same values and want the same things out of life at the core of your foundation together. Yes, it’s true that opposites attract and can enhance relationships because it tends to balance one another as a couple. Opposites-attract examples are, outgoing personality vs. introvert, high-strung personality vs. calm personality, driven and ambitious vs. laid back and content personality. These “secondary traits” of a relationship are considerations to be worked through but not as important as the “primary traits”. These traits include qualities such as loyalty, honesty, dedication, children, family, careers, money, affection and sex. These are but a few of the foundation blocks upon which every relationship stands on. If these “primary traits” are not in sync, it’s very likely you will eventually see cracks that may not be able to withstand a happily-ever-after.
- Mutual Respect for one another’s lives and aspirations. This can be a deal-breaker for many people. In traditional homes and relationships, there can be an underlying “understanding” that the man’s aspirations and career take precedent over the woman. But times are rapidly changing from how it was in my family growing up. These days, women want more. We want our share of the success pie. We want to showcase our gifts and talents. We want the proverbial company watch for a job well-done. Yes, we still want the love of our families, children, a home…We just want it all, don’t we? 🙂 But for many women, it’s not a matter of “Can we?” (of course we CAN!) Sometimes…many women are faced with “Either or” situations. Either dedicate yourself to the family OR have the bustling career you’ve always dreamed of. This is where you must be on the same page and completely honest about expectations. Make sure you’re both well aware of each other’s personal ambitions. If there isn’t mutual support and respect in this area it can lead to unmanageable resentment later on.
- It’s all about the little things. I remember my mother telling me, “You know you really love someone when there’s one piece of pie left on the platter. You REALLY want that delicious slice of pie. But you look up and see that he really wants it too…and you give it to him gladly.” When someone loves you, they will make sacrifices for you “gladly”. They will bring you chicken soup when you’re sick. Flowers for no reason. They will tell you “you’re beautiful” over and over again. You’ll wake up to find them gazing at you and smiling. They say things like, “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” They cherish you. They protect you. They take up for you when others say something critical. They will work overtime to be able to afford to buy you something nice for your birthday. It’s no big deal to come in second place in a loving relationship. Sacrifice is not looked at as sacrifice because if it makes the other happy, then it’s worth it. Healthy relationships nurture one another in this way because “true love” only wants the best for the other person…sacrifice the slice of pie, always.
- You’re not responsible for one another’s happiness. This area can become a issue very quickly if not respected. In life as well as relationships, happiness is a solo sport. You are not a unity candle on this one. Your happiness is your responsibility. If you are depending on your partner to make you happy, you are setting them and you up for failure. Finding out what makes each of us happy is an autonomous journey regardless of your relationship status. And we owe it to our partners to be independent in this area. Falling into the trap of “I can fix him or her” is a recipe for disaster. It takes two “whole” people to form a happy, healthy relationship.
- Fighting vs. arguing. These two forms of disagreement are worlds apart. All couples disagree from time to time. But how you disagree says a lot about the health of your relationship. No doubt about it, life stress can up the ante in just how passionate your disagreements can be. The question to ask is, “Is our arguing escalating to a point where I am afraid?” If the answer is yes, then when you are calm, you and your partner need to talk about boundaries during disagreements. Only you know how heated the situations can be. If you find that you fear disagreeing with your partner… you may need to rethink the relationship.
- Needing one another vs. depending on one another. Needing someone puts unnecessary pressure on the other. When we need someone, it signifies we aren’t able to do for ourselves. Being in a relationship doesn’t suddenly mean you can turn your problems and issues over to the other person to solve. Being in a healthy relationship means you are there because you want to be there. And that’s a two-way street. You can’t fix them and they can’t fix you. You’re still independent entities. Depending on the other means you are working together for the greater good of the relationship. There’s a difference.
- Fun! Healthy couples are on the same page with having fun together! Whether it’s through travel, social gatherings, time with friends and family…you each enjoy the moment to the fullest! Your motto is: Work hard, play hard! Balance is the key and laughter is the best medicine! If you’re in a relationship that stimulates your sense of adventure, a zest for life, you yearn to discover new places together and experience new things together… you’re halfway to a healthy relationship! If you’re not compatible in this area, it is a personal choice as to whether or not it’s important enough to be a deal-breaker. But consider this: Life can be a long road without some adventures and a whole lot of laughs along the way…Make sure you’re giggling from time to time.
In closing, I began this article with the somber end to my first marriage. However, the wonderful news is that I found my “happily-ever-after” and have been married to an amazing man for almost twenty-seven years!
Going through life with someone to love, who loves you in return is the best. So don’t ever settle…
Because it appears Miss Betty was right.
“When it’s right, it just works.”
Love & Blessings,
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