The Real Deal About Relationships
There’s a standard norm we’re expected to live by. Grow up, get an education, get a job, marriage, kids, retire, die. I have no scientific data to provide with my claim other than we’ve all had it forced in our faces for as long as we can remember. Did I do those things? Sure, minus the retire and die part.
As I grew older the most valuable lesson I learned is the only thing we can plan on is nothing going as planned. It wasn’t the type of light bulb moment we often experience when we stumble upon a realization.
It was more like the universe kept pounding it into my head that I’d fucked up again. Why didn’t you plan for that? Well shit, because it was never part of my plan. So while I didn’t quite learn from my mistakes I did learn to be prepared for everything falling apart, always.
I’d become a pro at picking myself up and dusting myself off. Aren’t we all pros, though? Even those of us who don’t realize it? Even a perfect life isn’t perfect and if you think it is, I strongly recommend counseling.
I did things differently and out of the societal order. Basically by my standard, not anyone else’s. I didn’t marry for the first time (and only time) until I was 41. By then I had a more mature understanding. I had the ability to compromise without compromising myself.
I avoided marrying young for the simple fact I was young. The human brain isn’t even fully developed until twenty five years of age. How are we expected to know what our relationship preferences are when we don’t even know who we are?
In our twenties we have no concept of our personal boundaries, our interests or our future plans. We might have some notion but there’s a wide open gap to evolve and change. When we commit ourselves at such a young age we’re giving up our freedom to explore the transition from parented child to self sufficient adult.
The reality is we have to get dumped and do the dumping in order to learn what those things are. There are no standard norms for that stuff. We are each unique and must learn for ourselves what makes us comfortable and uncomfortable.
I remember my first real boyfriend in high school. He was one of the most popular guys in school. I was a freshmen and he was a sophomore. To this day I have no idea what he saw in me. Although I have changed over the course of two decades my foundation has stayed the same, an introverted, book nerd who had not quite developed womanly features.
I was elated living in the moment as his girlfriend. I was young and hormonal. I craved attention. I was in awe any guy would have interest in me. At fourteen years old it didn’t matter which guy. He and I being a couple became my identity.
The intimacy of our relationship progressed in stages.
We began by spending hours sucking face, then shifted into touching various parts of each others body and eventually we were full out fooling around. But that was as far as I would go. I was devastated when he broke up with me for a girl who would have sex with him. I was forced to accept the fact that nine months meant nothing unless I put out.
My feelings were hurt but through that experience I learned what one of my boundaries are. I learned I won’t be pressured into doing anything I don’t feel comfortable with and hey, it was his loss, not mine.
With each relationship I learned more and more about my boundaries. I was intrigued by the fact that what one person may think made me an asshole, another found it to be an admirable quality. It didn’t take long for me to develop the attitude of, I don’t care what anyone thinks of me other than me.
Not only were these experiences lessons learned for when I would eventually marry but they were lessons I could pull out of my parenting toolbox whenever one of my children experienced a break up. I knew just how soul crushing it felt at a young age.
I was able to say, “Hey, wait! Before you throw yourself off that bridge, or drown yourself in 47 different flavors of Ben& Jerry’s ice cream while tears stream down your face as you struggle to make a final decision which chick flick you’ll watch on Netflix so you can twist and turn that knife into your heart just a bit more- this is normal. You need this to happen so when the day comes and you are truly ready to commit to that not perfect person who is perfect for you, you’ll be ready.”
Honestly, I never thought I’d ever get married. I’d accepted years earlier that I was the woman everyone would whisper about after leaving the room, the one who couldn’t make it through a Thanksgiving dinner without someone asking, “When are you going to find a good guy to take care of you?”
“I take care of me. WTF?”
I never thought I’d get married because what guy would want to spend his life- until his dying day with someone as intolerable, opinionated, independent and introverted as I am? What makes me even worse is that I’m okay with who I am and have zero intentions of changing any of those qualities about myself. There’s nothing in my biological make-up telling me I should learn how to be a better cook, or be pleasant or change my thoughts and views to satisfy someone else.
As it turns out there was a guy. He was right there the entire time I was struggling to find it within myself to accept it would never happen or decide if I even wanted it to happen.
Over the course of a decade we were friends. He fell in love with my inability to sometimes say the right thing, my free spirited personality causing me not to care and my self-righteous obnoxiousness.
He’d stand back and let me do my thing when I was out of patience with the school administrator for stuffing my kid into a box. He’d go along with me wrestling him to the ground and lying on him inappropriately, because who cares what the neighbors think? He does. He was okay with me saying, “Yeah, no, that ain’t happening,” each time he’d so much as suggest we should conform to any standard norm.
In turn, I was provided the opportunity to learn new things. I let my guard down and became less resistant. I was now this person who could listen to his Republican views without vomiting. I developed an understanding of how someone never wanted to relax. I couldn’t grasp it before because my goal in life is to be as lazy as humanly possible.
“I’m filling time,” he once said to me. What does that mean? According to his definition it’s the opposite of wasting time.
I’ve learned Iowans drink Busch Light beer out of a can on purpose. Before that I’d never thought I was a snob about anything. My husband and Busch Light taught me I was wrong.
Nowadays we can choose to marry and have children, marry and not have children, never marry and have children. The possible equations continue to expand, but there’s always going to be that voice saying, “When are you going to find a good guy to take care of you?”
It’s a generalization, but we still allow society to dictate our relationships choices. We feel ashamed by being true to ourselves. It’s ass backwards. I may not have lived up to the standard norm. I’m good with that. I did it my way. What I believed was the right way for myself.
Now my husband and I sit with the kids whenever they’re heartbroken. We each have our own favorite flavor of Ben& Jerry’s. We vote on the chick flick we watch. We remind them through the challenge of surviving this pain they believe will be the worst they’ll ever experience they’re learning what their boundaries are and that they’ll keep learning through every relationship. Society doesn’t have to live with their choices. They do.
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