Interdependent, not independent

If you’ve not heard the word interdependent before, rest assured that you’ve been doing it since you were born.  Interdependent simply means that we depend on each other.  Now I’ll be the first gal to say that we should be self-sufficient.  We should be able to change our own tires (or at least call the automobile club), take care of yourself while ill, and organize like a ninja with OCD.  We should not, however, have to do all of it without any support.

There are two steps to becoming interdependent:

  1. Get over yourself;
  2. Surround yourself with the right people.

The key to getting over yourself is perspective.  While life can be serious business, nothing should be that dire.  When faced with a stressful situation, ask yourself how things will look in a few minutes, in a few weeks, and in a few years.  Base your decisions on that information, not how you’re feeling at this exact second.

Then take a look at the people in your life.  Kick out the frenemies (trust me, they’ll never get better).  To the people you can’t kick out (e.g. family), have a talk with them about being supportive or realize that you can’t rely on them for the type of support that you need.  When picking new people, pick quality people.  Do not just let anyone be in your life.  If they’re not on your team, kick ’em out!  You can do better.

Now that you have your support system in place, use it properly.  Rely on it when you need help and make sure that you’re reciprocating in kind.

I love me, I really really love me

The narcissist is a man who is in love with himself.  It’s easy to spot the obvious narcissist (like a sociopath) but it can be more difficult to the more subtle narcissist, as it can masquerade an overly-healthy sense of self.  There is also the problem of not wanting to unfairly label someone, so we sometimes hide from the truth.

So what should you look for?  The classic sign is an inflated sense of self.  Arrogance and entitlement are fairly apparent in one’s personality.  It can be harder to discern a lack of empathy (watch for how they react to the pain/misfortune of others) or a fragile self-esteem (do they over-react to criticism).

A lot of successful men are somewhat narcissistic, (which is why so many of them are surprised when they’re caught doing foolish things, they thought they were too smart to get caught).  Narcissists can be quite charming and their belief in themselves can be quite seductive.  If you get ensnared in their web, it can take a while to see the truth.

So perhaps being involved with a narcissist is not so black and white.  While the easy advice would be that you should run immediately, perhaps the better advice is to tell you to determine how much of a narcissist he is and to ask yourself if can you live with that?  Is the upside worth the downside?

Are you on the right team?

Much of the time we’re so busy living our daily lives that we forget to ask ourselves if we’re being treated the way we deserve to be treated.  Fully believing that you get what you give, are you treating your partner the way that they deserve to be treated?

Don’t get so caught up in the minutiae of your day-to-day life that you forget to ask yourself some hard questions like, is this really the right relationship for me? Do I feel supported in this relationship?  Are my needs getting met in this relationship and if not, is that likely to change in the future?  Is my partner happy and fulfilled in this relationship?  What are my responsibilities toward improving this relationship and am I willing to commit to those responsibilities?

Every relationship will ebb and flow (if it doesn’t then one of you is not being honest).  Knowing when to stick it out and when to call it quits can be challenging but everyone should give 100% until the game is called.  Difficult times will build character and unity so the benefit of strife should not be discounted.  On the other hand, one can not live their entire life without some sunshine warming their skin.  Remember, you are not a victim in this relationship – you are choosing to be there.

Nature vs. nurture in relationships

The general nature vs. nurture relationship has been debated for a few hundred years and it certainly won’t be decided with this blog post.  Some people may believe that a relationship will take care of itself and that you never have to “work” on it.  A better belief is to nurture your partner to achieve the relationship that you want.

Nurturing your partner is not about mothering him or attempting to control him.  Nurturing your partner is about creating an open and consistent environment in which both partners can flourish.  A word of caution:  a nurturing environment can not solve your relationship problems, it can only provide a framework within which both partners can solve their own problems.

  • Do not lie, cheat, steal, or engage in any behavior that is contrary to a healthy relationship.
  • Be supportive but also be honest about your abilities, do not over-promise and under-deliver.
  • Create a non-combative environment within your home where either partner can speak their mind without fear of reprisal.
  • Actively listen when your partner speaks and give them your full attention.
  • Develop a fair and uniform set of rules that both partners adhere to.
  • Negotiate any changes to the relationship in good faith.
  • Demonstrate relationship cohesion whenever possible – stand up for your partner and make them feel cared for.

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

After the newness wears off and time passes, it’s normal to become less enchanted with your partner.  The passion may be less so than it was in the beginning.  You might have heard all of his stories – twice.  You might start to be more critical and less enthusiastic about their goals.

This would be a mistake.

Humans are attached to our dreams.  They represent our inner lives, what we wish to achieve, and how we see ourselves.  When you are careless with someone’s dreams, you are being careless with their most vulnerable self.

It is important to be patient with and supportive of your partner’s dreams.  No, they may not be realistic but that doesn’t make them any less important to the person who holds them. When you demean your partner’s dreams, aims, or desires, you belittle the person and you harm your relationship.  You may not be aware that your attitude is negative so it is important to watch the tone of your voice and your words when speaking about them.  You may even wish to ask your partner how you can be a better champion of their ambitions.

When you committed to your partner, you also committed to be supportive of your partner.

(Title borrowed from William Butler Yeats)

Change can be difficult – on others

Surprise!  Not everyone is going to want you to change.

It takes a village to raise a child.  It can also take a village to support you on your way to your goals.  However before you rush out and shout your goals from the mountaintop (preach it sister!), you may wish to consider if the person you’re telling is going to be supportive of or detrimental to your goals.

Share your goals on a case-by-case basis as undermining can be overt or can be subtle.  It can be an outright refusal to help you with your goals or it could look more like this:

  • Oh you don’t need to lose any weight.  Be happy with your body as it is.
  • It’s your birthday/Friday/the holidays, eat whatever you want.
  • Another class?  Haven’t you learned everything yet?
  • (Complete silence or changing the subject when you bring up your goals.)

Alternately, you may find it helpful to seek out whole communities that are in-line with your goals such as professional organizations, groups based around common interests, websites or perhaps sub-sets of your current social group.