When I was a teenager, my father gave me the best advice about men that I still remember to this day. I think it applies to both women and men, however. It’s true that I struggled a lot in the past with dating and relationships. It’s when I finally started to use this piece of advice, that I was able to make faster decisions on whether or not I should keep a guy, or throw him back. It really helped to simplify the process.
The advice came from my Poppy, actually. He’s my step-father who raised me since I was four years old. He really is my dad and the title step-dad was too small, and didn’t serve him justice. He raised me with my mom, and has been there for me as long as I can remember. I started to call him Poppy and now my children call him that too.
I still remember when he first told me this piece of advice. I looked at him with this perplexed look on my face. Kind of like a puppy dog when it cocks its head to one side. I was dating some guy in high school who did something really crappy to me. I wasn’t torn up about it, but I remember I was really unimpressed with this guy’s behavior. He acted like a total ass. Funny, I was still considering dating him! We had just started going out, and I can’t even remember what he did.
Of course, I did the usual thing that most of us do. I tried to come up with some rational explanation to excuse his poor behavior. I tried to rationalize in my head that he only did it because of “fill in the blank.”
I say, “fill in the blank” because it doesn’t really matter what he did, or why he did it. The point is that what he did was crappy, and I deserved better. That part I remember! You see at the very beginning, we tend to rationalize people’s poor behavior. We have on our rose-colored glasses.
We don’t want to face the fact, that this person we have started to emotionally invest in, may not be worth the investment.
It’s kind of like, when you get a new puppy. At some point, you seriously rethink the decision. The dog starts crapping all over your carpet and chewing your stuff. I don’t care how much of an animal lover you are, you have that moment when you think. Should I have done this? LOL.
I know it’s not the same thing. Puppies are supposed to do that. Humans however, are not supposed to crap all over you.
The little things don’t bother us as much at first, because we aren’t immediately that emotionally invested. Then we get deeper and deeper into the relationship. Before we know it, we are are too emotionally attached, and then we really start to make excuses for bad behavior. We get emotionally attached and maybe even fall into love. Or what we would like to think is love. Sometimes, we fall in love with the idea of a person, rather than see that person for what he or she is really like. We don’t really fall in love but rather fall in lust.
My Poppy told me, in his very persuasive manner…
Niki, the way a guy treats you at the very beginning is the best he will ever treat you. In fact, once you’re together for a while, he will actually get a little worse! (wink, wink) “
That was and still is the best advice he ever gave me. It had a huge impact on my dating life. My maturity level at the time didn’t allow me to fully understand what he meant. As I got older and had more dating experiences I remembered what he said.
When we first start to date someone new, we are on our best behavior. We put our best foot forward. Then as you spend more time together, we start to get comfortable. We start to loosen up a bit and inevitably fall back into our regular habits.
This is when you need to pay close attention!
This is also why, you shouldn’t even consider being exclusive until enough time has passed, and you see who they really are. On the flip side, you also need to be sure that they accept you for who you are.
When you first begin to date someone, you are not seeing everything. You are seeing what you want to see and what that person allows you to see. Of course, eventually, you begin to see the real person. Flaws and all. Everyone has flaws. You have to make sure that you can accept them for their flaws, and that they can accept you.
You will not change each other, and you shouldn’t have to. That’s pointless.
A lot of people tend to jump right into a relationship before they really get to know the person. We think everything is great! Wow, this person is awesome! We start to get comfortable and then BOOM! Something happens. Then you get that “oh shit” feeling in your gut.
This is a crucial point in the relationship.
Do you ignore it and rationalize the behavior even though it may seem odd, or make you uncomfortable? Do you make excuses for that person’s behavior? Do you let it go by the way side? You know how it goes, we tend to think…
“Oh, they just did (insert action) because (insert lame excuse).”
When something happens that you don’t like, or it makes you feel bad. Nip it in the bud. You don’t have to be rude, and you shouldn’t be, but this is the time that you need to assert yourself. You need to find out more about this person. This is your opportunity. This is when you finally begin to see the real person. You need to find out more, before you continue to emotionally invest in this person.
There is nothing wrong with stating that you do not like a behavior, or that something makes you feel uncomfortable. Nothing at all. In fact, this is what I consider the make or break moment. This is when you learn how you will be together as a couple, when things go wrong. (Which they always will). How you handle this moment and how the person reacts, will tell you a lot about who they really are, and if you are going to be able to communicate effectively with each other. This will ultimately determine your happiness level as a couple.
Did your person do something you don’t like and now you’re not sure how to bring it up? All you need to say is this.
It makes me feel (insert bad feeling) when you did (insert action). “
For example. “It made me feel bad when you were late the other day. I respect you and your time, and I try to make a point to be on time.”
Then you can even add:
“Listen, I don’t ever want to tell you what to do. I enjoy spending time with you, but that just doesn’t really work for me. What do you think about that?”
Yes, I am telling you to use your feeling words. LOL. Of course you need to adjust a bit based on the circumstances, but I hope you get the idea.
Also, I know it’s hard when you’re mad, but try and keep it as objective as you can. Come from a good place. Don’t simply try to win the argument or get the upper hand. You want to come to a conclusion, not dominate and conquer! Take a deep breath beforehand if you are super mad, and think in your mind. “They probably didn’t realize it was an issue for me, and we just need to talk about it.”
It’s all about the delivery.
If you can deliver the message in a non-hostile way, then you give that person something to work with. Just practice your patience, use your feeling words (lol… I know), and don’t attack him or her.
How the person responds to you will tell you a lot about him or her. It will also tell you a lot about how that person handles conflict, and how you will handle conflict as a couple going forward.
If you delivered it firmly, but kindly, and the person immediately gets defensive and jumps down your throat, that is not a good sign. If he or she immediately tells you that you are crazy, or there is something wrong with you, and they can’t even have a conversation about it? That is a very bad sign.
If they start yelling and screaming at you, move on. Of course, throwing things, punching things, and hitting anyone is totally unacceptable and you should get out now. That is a person who cannot control their emotions, and it’s not safe, or mentally healthy.
(If you are in a relationship that is physically or verbally abusive, then you have to leave. Period. That person needs help, and you cannot help them. Only a professional can help and they have to admit that they have a problem. If they can’t admit it, then it will never change, and highly likely to get worse. Get out now).
I know everyone likes to joke about using your feeling words, but it’s a joke for a reason. Sarcasm is based on truth. Using our feeling words, does work. When you tell someone how it makes you feel, instead of attacking them, the reaction has greater potential to be one that is helpful, and not harmful to the relationship.
Calling someone out in an accusatory manner and calling them a jerk, will just get you into an argument. Do you want to fight, or do you want to resolve the issue? Telling someone how it makes you feel, helps them to focus on the feeling itself. Calling someone a name will only make that person jump into defense mode. It’s a natural response, and nothing will get resolved.
A person who is emotionally mature, will be able to stop, think about what you said, process that information, and communicate with you in healthy manner. Then you have a conversation. It should be a conversation, not an all out fight.
If you feel like you are constantly fighting with your spouse or romantic partner, you may need some help on your communication and delivery. Or, they may need some help. It is so important at the beginning of a relationship to communicate, not only what you are happy about, but what doesn’t work for you. What’s even more important is to learn how to communicate in a healthy way. You should have conflict! Not all the time, but a healthy relationship MUST have conflict at times.
When you are able to communicate in a healthy way, and resolve your problems, that’s when you get to the good stuff!
Intimacy, or in other words, closeness, togetherness, and warm affection.
Healthy conflict resolution = Intimacy
Intimacy = Happy Couple!
If you never have conflict, then its superficial. It’s not real and someone is getting the shit end of the stick. Sorry, but it’s true.
Remember, you determine your value. You are the only person who is going to ask for what you want. No one will ask on your behalf. You shouldn’t go around putting demands on people, but we all have basic needs. Our needs differ and it takes a while throughout the dating process to identify those needs. More importantly we have to then determine if we are able to provide for that person. Sometimes the answer is simply no. It doesn’t make us evil or bad, it just makes us human.
There are plenty of people I’ve dated in the past, that I could not provide for. I tried, but I was unable to meet their needs. We are all only capable of what we are capable of! Everyone is different. Everyone has different needs. If you are seeing poor behavior with the person you are dating, especially at the beginning, that’s as good as it will get! I’m not saying you shouldn’t be together, but that person is not going to magically become someone they are not.
Think that guy or gal is going to change their ways, or get better? You are wearing Rose Colored Glasses. You have to make a decision. You either accept them for who they are, and what they do, or you move on and you find someone else who better meets your needs.
Trying to tell someone they should be a certain way, is not only a waste of your time, but it’s simply not your right. You do have the right; however, to tell someone what you need. If they are unable to provide it, then put on your big boy pants and move on. Don’t try and fit a square peg into a round hole. We often put so much effort into trying to make someone fit the mold, when there is someone out there who already does! You won’t change anyone, not really. You might inspire each other to be better and that is great! It’s very difficult and rare that you can really change who a person is on the inside. While it’s possible to change their actions, it’s highly unlikely to change who they are. If you are at the very beginning of a relationship, then I suggest you put your effort into finding someone who is more suitable for you. Put more effort into something that has a better likelihood of a return.
So, do yourself a favor. If you’re dating someone, and you don’t like their behavior, stop exhausting yourself. Speak up. If they don’t get it, then move on and find someone who is a good fit for you.
On another note, if someone is telling you that you are crazy and are wrong for how you feel, then you should move on. I firmly believe that no one has the right to tell you that you shouldn’t feel a certain way. That’s like saying, you shouldn’t feel hungry, or you shouldn’t feel sleepy. Feelings take place in the brain and heart, and as far as I’m concerned are just as biologically driven as the need to eat or sleep.
You can’t help if something another person does makes you feel badly. You can however, decide if you should keep that person in your life. So, talk about it and figure out how to make it better. If you can’t, move on.
This is yet another reason I say you should date more than one person at a time. (Old School Dating) You are able to think more objectively when you aren’t 100% invested in a person too soon in the dating process. You are able to deliver your dislike for their behavior without as much emotion.
Find out how you handle conflict together, before you emotionally invest. Also, trust your gut. Don’t have great instincts? Find a person you respect that you can bounce things off of. If you’re constantly in conflict in a relationship and its new, its probably time to move on, or take a break and look inwards. Find out what you need first, and then ask that of another human being.
If you find you are constantly in conflict with everyone you date, you probably have some issues you need to iron out. Maybe, you just need to work on your delivery. Find someone you can talk to. Don’t have anyone? Get a therapist. Figure out what’s going on. There’s no shame in that. It’s actually a lot braver and admirable to admit you have a problem, then it is to avoid reality.
Don’t be exclusive right away, date a lot, and find yourself. You can’t force love. You can’t force a person to be someone they are not. There is someone out there for you. Get out, enjoy your life, have some patience, and stick up for what you believe.
Someone special will show up.
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