I have a confession to make. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been doing my bestest to learn about love and relationships. Now, if you knew me when I was younger, you would not call me the warmest, friendliest person in the world. When I was six, my peg for cool behavior was Maricel Soriano, for crying out loud. She’s the reason I thought being mataray was waaaaay cooler than being cheery and bubbly. hahaha
But despite the tough love personality I liked, at every opportunity I could, I would listen to stories and advises and thoughts about love and relationships. I listened to both sides — those who stayed faithful and those who found no reason to stay loyal and just wanted to have fun — to the point that I can argue both sides na! When I got into a relationship, all the more I became hungry and interested in seeking advise how to build awesome relationships. I need all the help that I can get!
Friends all around me now are in various stages of love. Some are getting married, some have just recently gotten into a new relationship, some are quietly praying for children, some are back to being single, and some more are in loveless marriages with children they had too early in life.
With a deep breath and a gulp, here is my first attempt at collating all the gathered wisdom I learned about relationships.
1. Begin with having one with yourself
Back when I was in high school, my brother told me that being in a relationship brings out all your life issues and insecurities. You begin to discover a side of you that you never knew existed — your jealous tendencies, your neediness, your pure cheesiness and dramatic antics. He told me that you can save yourself and your partner a lot of grief if you become self aware about all these issues you will be bringing into the relationship. I took it to mean that it’s best to be in a relationship with another person only if you’ve gotten enough time to get to know yourself and when you have learned to live with yourself.
I always think it took me this long to be in a relationship because I needed to make sure I was a whole person first before I became part of another person’s life. I needed to find myself and build a strong foundation of who I am. I needed to know how to make myself happy so that I needn’t be depended on another person for my happiness. As a single girl for 28 years, I have great experience to say that it’s not that scary or sad. In fact, I fully enjoyed being single. Many of the things in my thankfulness list happened when I was a single girl with happy relationships with awesome friends and family.
2. The magic words of relationships: consideration, appreciation and kindness
Be in a relationship with the intention to make your partner (and not just yourself) deliriously happy and these three things should come naturally. For me, this basically means you should try to have an ego-less relationship.
– Prioritize considering your partners needs before your own.
– It doesn’t matter who was wrong or right, you say sorry because the other person is hurting.
– Say thank you for the littlest things. Take nothing for granted.
– Take care of each other as if God himself gave you to each other.
– Give and take. Let each other win alternately if a win-win situation is not possible.
3. Learn to argue well
The wise saying is to not stay angry when the sun goes down, but we all have different ways of arguing. I think it’s best to be self aware. Some people are confrontational, but some people shut down and can only express themselves by writing letters or emails. Some people can argue immediately but some need to mentally process things first.
I’ve never seen my parents fight, but my mother taught me to be very careful when I’m in an argument. Stay quiet and do not add wood to an angry person’s fire. And so now, I like to always pray first before I argue my points. I pray for wisdom, the exact words to say to express my emotions without needless collateral damage.
4. Passion beyond your relationship
After the honeymoon stage of a new relationship or the start of a marriage, after you have told all your life stories with each other, after you have determined that your partner has the ability to feed himself three meals on a daily basis, what is there left to talk about?
I like what the older ladies have told me – don’t lose your passions. In fact, find new ones when you are in a relationship. The more interesting you make yourself, the more your partner will never tire of patting himself on the back for being a smart one to catch you. But the moment you allow your world to revolve only around your partner is the moment you begin to lose yourself. Always come to the relationship thinking how you can add more to your partner’s life and not just suck the life out of him.
Listen with no prejudice. Listen with no agenda. Listen with no rebuttal. Instead, listen with every intention to hear and understand. This nugget of wisdom came from a man who longed to be emotionally safe with his wife.
6. Articulate your expectations
I had this revelation when I realized how much effort God makes to explain how He wants our relationship with Him to look like. He gave specific instructions how He wants to be worshiped — the when, the where and the how. He wrote it all out for us in His word. Humans have not yet evolved with the ability to read minds, after all.
The courting stage is tricky and almost deceptive because that is the time when a man has total focus on a girl, but he rarely is able to sustain that focus when the relationship starts. Work takes over, family life takes over. But a woman will always want to be courted and pampered and will always want to be the focus of a man. This is a typical conflict that setting of expectations can alleviate.
So, at every opportunity explain yourself to your partner — what will make you happy, how you want to be treated, how you should be handled. And do the same with him or her. At every opportunity, ask how to make him/her happy, how he/she likes to be treated or be handled (e.g. when she has a terrible PMS) My sister told me about this book about the languages of love. Each of us, by our upbringing and culture, have different ways to express love. It would be good to define these things to each other and avoid misunderstandings and grief.
7. Be in a relationship for the right reasons
The funniest comments from married people I get is to never take relationships seriously until you’re sure you’ve found that one person you are willing to spend the rest of your life with. “Just have fun, meet many many people and don’t commit until you’re ready to settle down. Only then and only to one person.”
I guess I kinda took them seriously. I’m so thankful I do not have added emotional baggage to carry from previous relationships. I’ve learned many things from other people’s relationship stories and didn’t need to learn the hard way via experience. Do not fear to be alone. Do not think it is sad to be alone. It all depends on your mindset.
A wise man told me that kids these days have failed marriages because they have a way out. They don’t have to work so hard at their problems and issues. Separation and divorce have become socially acceptable and legal options. We have failed to build the stamina to endure the fight. He told me, come into the relationship with no side way glances at how to get out if things get hard. Choose well who you marry and stay committed.
This post is brought to you by all the generous people who shared their heart and learnings with me. I shall do my bestest to be a good steward of your wisdom by living it and sharing it with others.