Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ordinary People

Lately, I've heard a lot of complaining about relationships -- with partners, friends, family, whatever.  The things they do. The things they don't do. The things people wished they would do. The things that they wished they would just stop doing.

And I wonder: are you telling the people in your life these things? Because you can certainly tell me -- I'm here to listen -- but if you're not telling the person you're unhappy with? You're never going to get any closer to happy with her/him.

The problem with relationships is that there are people involved. Ordinary, regular, messed up folk who aren't perfect. Here's a bit of information that most of us don't consider in great detail when we're going on about our family's/partner's/friend's faults:

We're not perfect either.

No one is, as it turns out.

So what happens when two perfectly imperfect people's lives collide? Lots of good things, you hope. Some annoying ones. Generally, when discussing relationships, people take what I like to call a "reverse photoshop" approach -- instead of smoothing out what frustrates/annoys/angers them, they zoom right in on those spots and make them gigantic and glaring and the good stuff blurs into the background.

Look, I'm not an expert on anything, but I know a couple of things. Here's what I know:

*You have to ask for what you want. ALL OF THE THINGS. If you're not getting what you need out of a relationship, you need to ask for it. No one is a mind reader.

*You have to be willing to compromise. There are a bajillion ways of being and doing in this old world, and your way is not the only way. Case in point: I know someone who is frustrated because her girlfriend doesn't take the trash out. Ever.

"Did you ask her?"

"She should just KNOW," said my friend.

"But have you ASKED her?"

"No. Because when she does it, she does it wrong."

All I could think was: you've trained her not to empty the trash by not asking for the help you want -- AND for telling her that the way she does it is wrong. She can't win, so she's not going to try, unless you decide that you can be okay with her "incorrect" garbage removal. (Also, I don't know what it means to take the trash out in the wrong way. I wasn't ready for that particular rabbit hole!)

*You have to decide what's really important.

This might be the hardest thing for people. It's the hardest one for me, at any rate. What can you not live with/ not live without? What is not forgivable?

Compromise comes into play here, as well because sometimes, relationships don't look like we thought we wanted them to; that doesn't make them wrong. It just makes them different from what we were expecting. Again, you're imperfectly dealing with another imperfect person. The way they express their caring and love for you might not be exactly the same as the way that you express yourself -- and that can be okay if you can let it be. For example, some people don't do words so much, but they will perform all of the actions. Some people are gift givers and some are not, but they will give you their time and lend you a hand all day long.

Look, I'm not suggesting -- and never will suggest -- that you tolerate a terrible relationship of any kind. Sometimes you have to end relationships/ friendships/ whatever because they don't meet any of your needs, or because they're toxic. We all have that experience.

But I do think we could look at how we conduct ourselves within the framework of relationships. Are we accepting of the people in our lives? Do we communicate with them? Do we appreciate the wonderful things they do? Are we willing to meet them where they are? Are they willing to do the same for you?

We're all just regular, ordinary, imperfect people. If we all start out by embracing that? Maybe we could make everything better.

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