I have a friend that I spend lots of time with and he and I spend a great deal of time talking about our lives. We talk about our hopes and dreams, areas of improvement, thoughts and feelings. It is so funny because sometimes when I talk about where I am on this personal journey, I feel a little like the damaged girl. Truth is we’re all just trying to figure it out, but sometimes other people won’t freely admit that they are just as conflicted as I feel. With him I never feel like the damaged girl, I just feel like a person being honest about my life.
We’ve clocked hours and hours talking about pretty much everything under the sun. Our families, our interests, what we really love out of life. We really connect and it is through these conversations that I have come to understand more about what it means to be a healthy individual.
There are so many things I have learned over the past year. I’ve learned that I am a strong woman and I can do just about anything I set my mind to. I’ve learned to be more in touch with my feelings and to really trust them and always rely on them to help me make decisions. I’ve also learned how to quickly judge other people for the right reasons and based on the right things. When I look at people, I really look at them. I’ve learned to trust my gut and stop second guessing myself. I always have an open mind, but when I get that solid feeling that someone isn’t good for me, I trust those instincts.
Despite all that, I am still struggling with being emotionally codependent. Wait, that’s not true. I’ve learned how to be emotionally independent. I function just fine on my own, more or less. But I still keep everyone at arm’s length. Little by little I’ve allowed deeper connections with friends, but romantically I am still stumped. How do I have a healthy relationship that is also deep and meaningful, like some of my friendships?
Well, during one of this amazing talks, I finally came to the conclusion: human beings are fundamentally codependent creatures. We thrive on relationships with all kinds of things. We thrive on our relationship with our job, our friends, our passions, and our partners/loved ones.
Okay, so if I accept that as being the truth, then why is it that every time I get deep with anything, it almost always ends badly?
Answer: I have been picking the wrong things to invest in.
We, as people, should need things. We should need our jobs, need our friendships, and need intimate relationships. It creates harmony and balance with our own independence. So when we reach a point where we feel more or less stable, how do we get close to things and people without it consuming us?
We pick the right things to invest in.
Investing mass amounts of energy and emotion into a job that makes you miserable? Stop it right now. You are literally pouring your heart and soul into this thing you call a job – but get nothing out of it in return. I have found this to be a problem time and time again. Currently it is not a problem for me, and it feels as if a weight as been lifted. I put myself into my job and I get something back in direct proportion. When we invest in our jobs and we feel that we do not out of it what we put in, we commonly say that we are overworked and underpaid. What we really feel is that there is not harmony and balance in that area of our lives. And now that I have a job where there is harmony and balance, I am so happy in this area of my life.
In friendships, I have carefully – CAREFULLY – selected individuals to whom I invest and I have received, in proportion, the same investment from those individuals. It is more harmony, more balance, that makes this girl extremely happy. I can have codependent friendships because they are not hurting me. I can need my friends because they need me, too. And there is respect there. They see what I am giving them and they respect me and give it right back. Whenever it goes too far one way or the other, we can openly discuss it because I have also created mature and grown-up friendships with other adults. I can trace every unhealthy friendship back to a lack of respect and a lack of balance in the giving and receiving.
Once I realized this about my job and my friendships, I had a sudden clarity about the long list of boyfriends I’ve had. In almost every single situation there was a serious lack of harmony and balance and respect. I was giving and giving and giving – but receiving nothing in return. There is nothing wrong with making sacrifices – but only if your partner makes sacrifices, too. And I happen to think that a person does not necessarily choose for themselves what they are willing to sacrifice – then it’s not a sacrifice at all. It has to be an open communication. There has to be respect for the other human being’s needs and desires. We have to fully appreciate when a sacrifice is made and make sure that the person never feels taken for granted.
So, knowing this, it became glaringly obvious: I have been picking the wrong kinds of men.
There are obviously other pieces that go along with it. Communication is key, starting slowly and building a relationship is key. Can’t jump in the deep end of the emotional pool before actually knowing who someone is. And the generosity and sacrifice should be proportional (and therefore appropriate) to the length of said relationship.
I felt such a rush of relief – having this conversation with my friend – sitting on a bridge and listening to the sound of white water nearby. A sudden clarity, an audible clicking noise in my head as the last piece slid into place. It is not that I am too generous, nor that I am too giving or too forgiving. It is not that I am “too” anything. It is that I can be all of those things and as long as I am receiving the same treatment in return, we are in a healthy place. I can be exactly who I am and have a healthy relationship. I don’t need to be someone I’m not. I just need to make conscious decisions when giving myself to others, rather than reflexively. And I need to continue paying attention and trusting my instincts.
Being in an intimate relationship does require generosity and love and vulnerability. Giving these things to someone is precious to the infinite power. The opposite needs to not only cradle these things carefully, but also give the same back in return. This is how trust is formed, and we all know how important trust is in relationships. Perhaps we can get to know someone and make the safe bet when it comes to picking a boyfriend or girlfriend, and we can follow our heart, but ultimately we are going out on a limb by handing them these incredibly delicate parts of who we are. Thus, when the partner does not carelessly shove it in a pocket or toss it on a coffee table for review at a later date, we learn to trust and feel safe.
THAT is what it’s all about. So, armed with this new and empowering knowledge, I feel I am ready to go to that next level with someone. I have met a lot of different kinds of people in the past few months, but only with one have I had that gut instinct that it’s a good idea. That it will go somewhere really awesome, that it’s a high likelihood for success. I wish I could just follow my hormones and throw my heart around, but it’s been tossed around so much as it is I have to approach this kind of thing logically. Scientifically. It seems heartless and cold but it’s the only thing I haven’t tried. My other methods have failed me thus far. So let’s see what happens when I make an informed decision rather than just let my pelvis lead me around.
I’m really pleased that I have reached this point relatively quickly. I spend so much time analyzing myself and my choices and my feelings and my instincts and my everything… I feel I am nearing the place where I have finally figured it out and can just enjoy my life without having to question everything.
To review: live in a world of color. Abandon a grey-scale existence and embrace the things you need: people, passions, interests, careers, and the like. But take your own emotional temperature on a regular basis. Do I feel fulfilled? Am I getting what I need out of my relationship? What are my instincts telling me about this situation? And communicate! Communicate with yourself, most importantly, and then when you know how you feel, communicate with others. Tell your boss that you are seeking a new challenge (or that you feel overwhelmed and need help). Tell your friend that you need more balance in your friendship. Tell your lover that you need more respect or more time or more sex. And give positive feedback as well. Tell your boss that you appreciate the efforts to create a harmonious environment. Tell your friend how thankful you are for all that he or she gives, and that you hope he or she is getting as much in return. And finally, tell your partner that you hope you add as much color to their existence as they add to yours.
Most importantly – love yourself. Nothing can go wrong.