Love, All Grown Up

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. Be a tree, give fruits, flowers, shade to others without expecting anything from others. Whatever you want from others first you have to give that to others. Whatever you give to others, you will be given in return. If you give love, respect to others then surely you will be given love and respect from others. That’s why we should learn to give good things to others.”- Deepak Panwar freeimage-814506 A couple years ago, my husband and I found ourselves in the midst of a marriage crisis. We had no idea how, but we had gone from twitterpated young lovers to disillusioned married people. We fought constantly, and our words were almost always disrespectful, sarcastic, and unkind. We tried everything we could think of to reconnect: Date nights, talking more, sharing interests… it all just ended up serving as the Band-Aid over the gunshot wound. We were toeing the line of ending a marriage and splitting a family.

I stumbled across an advertisement for a marriage self-help book one day. In my head I scoffed and thought about how silly and trite it probably was. But, part of me knew I was running out of options to save my marriage. I ordered it, and jumped into reading. Of course, some of it was exactly what I expected in terms of catch phrases and fluff. To my complete shock, the main message was absolutely revolutionary to me. It told me to stop demanding and expecting from my partner. To stop speaking and behaving disrespectfully. My brain rebelled, “But, he makes me angry! He disrespects me! I’m not going to roll over and let that happen to me! I’m not going to bend over backwards for someone who won’t do the same.” I sat with these feelings for a good week until I finally figured I could probably swallow my pride long enough to give it a go… because honestly, what else could I do?

We decided to table the issues we had been arguing about for months. It wasn’t about better listening or communicating more clearly. It wasn’t about expressing needs asking for concessions. The focus was on the here and now- our words and actions towards each other in each moment. We were challenged to behave as we did in the beginning of our relationship with random acts of kindness and love. It wasn’t overnight, but change started to happen. We began to look at our relationship in terms of what we could bring to each other, and not what the other person owed us. Hearts softened, and we learned that though we couldn’t take back old slights and wrongs, we could forgive them without having to battle over who was right or responsible. Our words and actions towards each other became kind and respectful. The knot in my stomach that was all the old hurt and anger I had been hanging onto started to melt away, and I felt like I could breathe again. Of course, no couple is perfect, and sometimes old habits like to run amuck. But, we continually came back to the idea that we were in this relationship to love each other, not to tear each other down or win emotional battles.

What is left today is a relationship that feels all grown up. We are happy and, dare I say, still a bit twitterpated. We are tackling life one day at a time, and we do it knowing that we are a team. Not because we have to be, but because we choose to be. We love, laugh, trust, respect, forgive, and keep moving forward.
couple on beach
Relationships grow and evolve through so many phases- lust, twitterpation, adventure, comfort… But I truly think that love grows into its finest form when you realize that your highest calling to your relationship is to treat your partner with infinite kindness and respect. When you can look at them and know that you want nothing more than to never be a source of pain or disrespect to them… and that is reflected back at you. That it’s not about being right or in charge. That it doesn’t matter who makes more money or has more success. I think it’s when you realize that you can take on the world and anything in it… because you are a unit based in respect and driven by the desire to do right by each other. That binds you tightly to each other, and how can trials tear you apart if there isn’t a gap for a foothold to be had?

#Erin

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Where’s the life button for De-friend?

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A Reader:
I need advice, how do you de-friend someone in life without hurting their feelings? Me and my neighbor became close when she moved in. Our kids would play together all the time etc., we have been friends for over 2 years BUT she tends to ask for favors a lot mostly taking her places, she complains about her husband A LOT. He is an ass but I am tired of hearing it if she isn’t gonna change the situation, and honestly after getting to really know her I don’t like the person she is won’t go into detail there.

Erin:

This is always such a hard situation, especially as women when many of us tend to carry this idea that we are obligated to care take even when it is burning us out. I think firstly you will have to decide what level of involvement you want her to have in your life. Do you want her totally out? Do you want your children to still play together and have minor contact with her that way?

Whatever you decide, you will have to be ready to draw some boundaries with her. Since your children are friends and you guys are neighbors, it seems like a gentle approach may be the best so as not to cause unnecessary tension. Maybe slowly reducing the amount of contact with her is a way to start. That said, I think you will need to be ready to answer questions when she asks if you are avoiding her.

Marie:

This is quite a pickle to be in because it will require a thoughtful response to properly extricate yourself from this situation. Most typical responses would either be a direct approach to stop the relationship all-together or a passive-aggressive approach to let it quietly die out. I’m usually a fan of being direct because there’s no games and no pussy-footing around, but you will have to tread lightly so as not to create more trouble and hurt feelings. Which route you pick will depend on your and her personalities. There’s also the option to try to change the dynamic of the relationship (all relationships are essentially contracts- an agreement between two parties for some sort of trade and benefit). However, I get the feeling from your question that modifying your relationship with her isn’t a goal- ending it is.

To passively and slowly stop the relationship, don’t reach out to her anymore. If she contacts you for a “small favor”, kindly tell her that you won’t be able to help. You don’t even need to give a reason, just say no. (It works for drugs, it can work for annoying neighbors.) If she pushes you for a reason or to help at another time, just kindly tell her that you’re really busy and won’t be able to help. After she calls for requests and is denied a few times, she’ll likely stop calling. You can still be polite and conversational if you run into her in the neighborhood, but just emphasize how busy you are. And maybe buy some good window shades.

Since she is your neighbor and not a stranger you’ll never see again- be careful if you choose the direct method to end the relationship. This will give you the cleanest break but must be handled with tact or feelings will get hurt. This should consist of sitting down with her- in-person to explain that you’re not really going to be available to help her much in the future. Be honest with her that hanging out with her is hard for you because she is clearly unhappy and yet unwilling to make changes and that is difficult for you to observe. Let her know (only if you’re willing!) that in the future if she’s made changes and needs help, that you would be there to support her, but that until she’s willing to make the hard choices, you have to make the hard choice to remove her from your life. Be clear that you’re not judging her, but rather that seeing her in pain or constantly upset and negative is too much of a burden for you to bear. Definitely also encourage her to get help from qualified professionals (a counselor or therapist) if she is willing to make changes in her life as she’ll benefit from the support of a professional.

Negative Nancys are hard people to get rid of. They’re really good at asking for help and being selfish and terrible at being present and aware of others and reciprocal. It’s good that you’ve recognized her pattern of behavior now as you’ll have the best shot at eliminating her negativity from your life by being vigilant and sticking to your decision.

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