Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Happiness Series: 14 - Happiness Exercise 4: Relationship Exercises

Romantic Relationships

In modern days, romantic relationships are more important than they have ever been. The social and family networks we used to rely on are fading out. Community is giving way to friends we see once a week, or once a fortnight. Our romantic partner can easily become our primary support network in every aspect of our life.

Honestly, I think this is a huge problem. Particularly for men, who are often now in a position where the only physical contact and support they can receive is a romantic partner. Its not fair to expect your wife to do all that emotional labor. Get friends you can hug and talk to, for fuck’s sake.

Anyway, my personal feelings on toxic masculinity aside, your romantic partner is often you partner in every way. Financial, parental, they help you with problems, be they logistical or emotional, you are tethered together in every way people can be.

So it is important to have a healthy, happy, successful romantic relationship.

How To Fix What You Have

Maybe last week you did the exercise and you realized you aren’t in the relationship you want to be in. Maybe your partner doesn’t meet your needs and you’re wondering if there is something, or someone, out there who is better.

I’m not here to end relationships. I am here to strengthen the good ones, to make them better. So before you make a decision, I want you to do something for me… and, for you.

You want thinks from your partner you aren’t getting. I want you to think really hard about the things they want from you they aren’t getting. Would they like you to be happier? More attentive? Sexier? More helpful around the house?

For two months, I want you to throw EVERYTHING YOU HAVE into being the best partner you can be. No nagging, no arguing, be an enthusiastic, welcoming, giving lover, do more than your share of the housework, let them have their way, be considerate, give everything you have to being THEIR perfect partner. No matter how they act, no matter how little appreciation they show. Give them the best two months of their entire lives.

That is the exercise, but to facilitate it, take a moment to write down your goals for those two months. Make a list of all the things you think your partner wishes you did/said/didn’t do/didn’t say, then make a game plan for how you are going to avoid those things. EG:

‘Ravi hates it when I nag about dirty clothes on the floor, when I see clothes on the floor, even if they aren’t mine, I will just put them in the wash basket and say nothing.’

If at the end of two months, they haven’t changed, you can make the decision to end it. But don’t make that call before you have given 100%, until you have down everything in your power to meet THEIR needs, so they can meet yours.

This is a great exercise, even if you are in a happy relationship. You might find you can be in an even better one, with just a little more effort, love and understanding.

(And if it still isn’t working out, well, don’t be afraid. You have just proved how awesome you can be to a partner, how much you have to give when you really put the effort in, and now you can find someone willing to put in the same.)

How To Find What You’re Looking For

Maybe you are single. Maybe you don’t want to be single. Maybe you are struggling to find the sort of relationship you want to be in. If this is the case, I believe there are three possible reasons for this.

1. You aren’t prioritizing dating, time wise.
2. You are dismissing people before getting to know them.
3. You are presenting yourself very poorly.

Lets talk about 1. If you are bemoaning not being able to meet someone, but you haven’t gone anywhere it would be possible for you to meet anyone that week, you’re a moron. Its like complaining you didn’t win a prize when you didn’t enter the competition.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of online dating. The pros are that everyone is looking for a date, so it would SEEM you are talking to more eligible people than, say, at a party where most people may already be married. However people are hard to read online. There is very little information, so we tend to place too high of a value on the information at hand. Maybe you want someone who loves dogs, but not every dog lover is going to put it on their profile. They might fear it is a turn off. Or, someone who says they love dogs might just be trying to look more friendly. However if you are out with someone and they point out every damn dog and talk about their dog and show you a photo of their dog, they probably like dogs.

Plus, body language is important. Confidence, openness, expressions, interest, or lack their of in what you as saying. None of this can be assessed online.

So if you spent two hours swiping on tinder, don’t tell me you spent two hours trying to meet people. It doesn’t count.

You are better going to events and, *gasp* talking to people. There are thousands of things you can attend, often for free, where there are like minded people. Rallies, music festivals, food markets, dog walks, church, art events, book launches, exercise classes, choirs, dancing classes, library events and classes, sporting groups, friend’s parties, etc, etc.

The trick is, not just to talk to people you think are hot. Talk to everyone, make friends, connect. Please just connect.

Exercise: Commit to spending X number of hours a week meeting new people. Use those hours in situations where you can meet and talk to people face to face. If you don’t make conversation with new people at those events, you don’t get to count them toward your hours for the week. And when deciding on the number of hours, make sure it reflects how important you SAY finding a partner is. If it is your number one priority, I expect you to put in 10+ hours a week, not two.

Back to the list, 2. You are dismissing people too quickly. It takes time to get to know someone. Hopefully, if you met someone at a class or group, you can keep meeting them there. But if you go on a date with someone, and it didn’t go well, they might have been super nervous. If someone was a bit dull, give them a few more chances. Let them come out of their shell.

Exercise: Get to know people, don’t just compare them to some mythical person in your head, then decide they’re not close enough and move on. If they aren’t a creep, and are interested in you, give them at least three dates to prove themselves.

And number 3, you’re coming across poorly. This could be a lot of things, from how you dress and your personal grooming, to the things you talk about, or it could be your body language (no one is attracted to anxious, needy or insecure body language).

If you think: “Well, people should like me for me!” but you have pit stains and bad breath…, no they shouldn’t. Its disrespectful to show up looking like a slob. Its also disrespectful to bore the other person stupid talking about yourself for an hour.

Exercise: Identify your weaknesses. If you can find someone of the gender you want to date who is willing to be very honest, they may be able to give you a list of your flaws. DO NOT ask someone you are attracted to, the blow to your ego will take a long time to heal. Look for the sort of person you want to date, and listen (genuinely listen) when they describe the sort of things they want in a partner.

PRO TIP: Its not as much about looks or money as you think. Men tend to want people who are kind, fun, generous and who think they are sexy. Women tend to look for people who are confident, kind, fun, generous and who treat them with respect. Ask yourself how you can demonstrate those traits with your actions. Don’t be that idiot who goes around trying to tell people how ‘nice’ or ‘smart’ you are. No one believes you.

Exercise: When you have identified your weaknesses, go on youtube, and learn about personal grooming and fashion. Go on youtube and learn how to be a more interesting, engaging conversationalist. Go to acting classes and toastmasters to learn how to have more confidence. There is no single thing on the planet that you can’t be taught if you are willing to put the effort in. You are never going to be happy or find someone by moaning.

Stop bitching and improve.

Family Relationships

This is the hardest one of all. We can’t choose family. They are family regardless of if we estrange ourselves. And, often, that fact seems to make some people think they are entitled to things from you, and that they should be able to act however they like and still be forgiven.

Oddly, we often don’t want to be vulnerable to family. We don’t want to tell them how we feel—we expect them to know. Sometimes the solution to family problems is communication.

1. Make a list of the problems you have with family, big to small.
2. Write down how those behaviors or words make you feel.
3. Craft a short, self focused statement you can say the next time it comes up, that explains how it makes you feel. Try and use ‘I’ statements and don’t accuse or go on too long. Say something like: “When people make jokes about my weight, it makes me feel very sad. Often I go home and I cry about it. It makes me not want to socialize.”
Likely, they will say something in their defense, like: “I just say it because I’m worried about your health.”
Stick with the same accusing tone and self focus: “I don’t feel motivated when I hear those things, I just feel sad and hurt and unloved.”

Then, once you have expressed those feelings, it may be best to walk away, distance yourself and give them time to think about it. Don’t lash out, stay calm, be honest. You may have to have this conversation several times with the same person. If they mock you, or are intentionally cruel, it may be worth estranging yourself from that person permanently. However its worth being vulnerable first. You don’t loose anything, it doesn’t make you weak—sharing your feelings makes you strong, and braver than them.

Friends And Connections

Friends can be the best thing that happened to us, or the worst. Friendship is dangerously devalued in our society. Divorce is seen as a life-changing, devastation, but you could end a twenty year friendship and have people shrug and changed the conversation.

Friendships can have the same problems as romantic relationships—friends can abuse you, hurt you, betray you, damage you—just as deeply as a romantic partner. They can also lift you up, support you, and be as important to you as a romantic partner.

The difference between friends and partners or family, is you can have lots of friends, you can make new friends all the time, and you can often adjust the intensity of friendships, leaning in or pulling back as life dictates.

Friends should be a lot more important than they are. Your friends should be the bulk of your emotional support, possibly even your physical contact. Spreading your emotional needs over many people, takes pressure off your partner and kids to be sole support for your needs.

So it is important we have good friends, and it is much MORE important that we ARE good friends.

1. Write down ten traits you want your close friends to have. (EG: Loves animals, believes in equality for everyone, loves books, kind, relaxed, passionate, supportive)
2. Write down ten traits you want to have as a friend to others.
3. Write down at least two ways you can demonstrate each trait to your friends.
4. Add all your close friends birthdays to your yearly planner, and stop relying on facebook to remind you.
5. Write down ten ways you can be a better friend to your friends. You might get some ideas from the demonstrating trait’s list.
6. Look objectively at your close friends and identify the friendships that are doing you harm. The friendships you are putting all the work into. The friendships you are chasing, with no reciprocation. The friendships where you are being dragged into drama and bad behavior you don’t want to be part of. First, stop chasing people who aren’t willing to put the same effort into you. Secondly, think about how to disengage from the bad behaviors. If a friend always wants to drink and you end up doing things you regret with them, see if you can arrange to do non drinking things, like going to the beach. Or if a friend is constantly negative, tell them you love them and you think they are great, but you don’t want to engage in negativity and gently prompt them to talk about positive things around you.
7. If you realize all your friends are toxic and ditch them all, go out on a mission to find the sort of friends who have the traits you want in a friend. Be the friend you want to be with them. Enjoy new, awesome friendships!

Moving Forward

Wow, that was a long post. Are you still here, reading this? I am so impressed with you! Next week we’re going to talk about the perfect week. Its an exercise I love talking about, and I hope you love reading about it.

Jake, In Summary:

A few years ago I realize I had let myself focus on toxic friendships. This was mostly because I was so ill, I thought I had to be friends with whoever would tolerate me. Some of them had to go, and some of them had to change.

I stopped chasing people who didn’t care about me. (If I stopped messaging you all the time, now you know why. Shoulda picked up the damn phone, peeps.) I addressed some problems, and I let some people go entirely.

There were, of course, lots of friendships that remained untouched. I have a lot of awesome people in my life. But what really surprised me, was when I cut out the bad stuff, so much good stuff flowed in. I thought making new friends would be hard, but over the past two years I have met so many fantastic, lovely, wonderful, supportive people. I am honored to be friends with them and love and support them. And now I am open to it, I see potential new friends everywhere I go.

Toxic people stain you, and they scare away the good people. If you clear them out, and are committed to being good yourself, you won’t be lonely, I promise!

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