In a couple of months, I’m going to be 29. I suppose this means I am a “real” grown-up. A real grown-up with a marriage, a mortgage, 3 kids and a minivan. Oy vey! This decade has brought me closer to who I really am, yet I am old enough to realize how little I actually know. I’ve learned the most significant lessons of my life in the last five years. Though there is “nothing new under the sun,” – here are those lessons in my words.
1. My emotions do not always reflect reality. Emotions can be so overwhelming that they feel like the only things that are real. They are the way we perceive our world. The trouble is, we all experience different emotions for different reasons and to varying degrees. When I was first married, I used to get very upset at my husband and tell him, “I feel like you don’t love me anymore!” Ouch. I was so enmeshed in my own dysphoria that I could not see how wounding such a statement was. Or how far from the truth it was. Which brings me to number 2.
2. Talk to a man about the situation, not the emotion. We really do speak different emotional languages. “You said XYZ, which I took to mean _____” works much better than, “I feel like you don’t love me anymore!” This allows my husband to see what I took offense to and quickly reconcile it. Telling him I feel like he doesn’t care a twitch about me really doesn’t give him an out.
3. While in a fight, give the other person an “out.” Referring back to number 2. My typical response when upset is to tell you exactly what you did wrong, including the way you tied your shoes and took a piss this morning. But I have found that in order to “win” a fight, the other party has to feel like they haven’t really lost. Scolding them like a child never accomplishes what I really want, which is remorse for my pain. It can be tricky to get someone to both admit they were wrong and apologize for it without losing their dignity, but it’s worth the mental hula hoops I have to jump through to get it.
4. Just because love fades doesn’t mean it wasn’t there to begin with. People come and people go. Saying goodbye hurts. I’ve had to do it more times than I care to count. I try to remember that the person leaving my life and I did at one point in time genuinely enjoy one another, and that’s valuable.
5. Different friendships serve different roles. Too many times I’ve tried to jam someone into a spot in my heart that I needed to fill when they simply don’t fit there. I’ve tried to hold people accountable to the same standards. None of that works. Friendships must be mutually satisfying endeavors. If my Show Up friend couldn’t be my Give Me Life’s Answers friend, that’s not his/her fault. But if my Show Up person stopped showing up, well then, we have a problem.
6. A marriage requires introspection and self-evaluation. When guys I dated offended me, I could tear out of there in a fury and await their remorseful call. Usually it worked, but if they never called, screw them. You can’t do that in a marriage. You have to take responsibility for your own shit.
7. Do not chase people. Give and take equally. Do not force yourself into other’s lives in hopes they will see how great you are. If they haven’t caught the hint, find someone else who will.
These lessons were little breaths of fresh air when I arrived at them. I look forward to the lessons to come so I know that I’m actually moving forward instead of spinning my wheels.