Friday, September 21, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Relationships

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Relationships
New love is awesome!  The anticipation.  The school girl infatuation.  The little things that make getting to know that special new someone so euphoric.  As time presses on, those cute little things become increasingly annoying.  The infatuation subsides.  Then you find yourself faced with the decision to continue with your relationship, or bail for the next chapter in the adventures of fantasy island.  If you choose to continue investing in that partner, fighting for your relationship’s survival in today’s world means meandering through mountains of relationship advice to find what works best in your relationship.  And developing into an ideal partner is no easy task.  If you’re anything like me, you’ve failed miserably at relationships.  Trading in that school girl infatuation for mature, meaningful adult companionship can be difficult if you don’t take some time to personally reflect upon some key points. 
·         Be honest with yourself (and your partner) about who you are.
Honesty is the backbone of all relationships.  It is the foundation upon which the relationship is built.  If the foundation isn’t solid, it’s just a matter of time before the whole thing collapses.  With that in mind, you have to be honest with yourself first.  That includes being honest about who you are.  In real life.  Not that person you like to pretend to be with others.  The real you.  As your relationship progresses, this is the person that will surface.  Once you’re honest about who you are, then you can honestly choose the best partner for you.  After all, you’re going to want that person to stick around with that ugly person inside that you try to hide.  You know the one!  That dragonlady that roars and breathes fire in early mornings. Or that canine queen that surfaces if she’s procrastinated trying to meet a deadline.  Let’s just say that if the surprise in store isn’t a good one, be honest upfront about those things that might scare your partner away. 
·         Just because your partner doesn’t ask doesn’t mean don’t do.
Mutual consideration is the point I’m trying to convey here.  No one wants to always be the one to initiate fun things to do.  Or always be the one to cook dinner.  Or pay on dates.  If you’ve chosen a passive partner who may be too shy to ask you to step up to the plate, cut that person a little slack every now and then and be the person to make plans.  Or treat.  Whatever you think would work for you, apply that to how you cater to your partner.  Guard against monotony with a backrub or massage.  Keep your partner appreciative of your spontaneity for those times when you goof.
·         Nobody wants a nag. 
Nagging is so yesterday.  (The same as that expressionJ)That technique is thankfully outdated.  And if you’ve not stepped up your level of communication, it isn’t too late to make that change.  Intelligent and open lines of communication will get you farther than “barking” at your partner.  Give that person credit for being human.  Then try to understand why (s)he is avoiding doing something that you’ve asked.  It could be that not doing is the easiest way (s)he can think of to tell you that (s)he isn’t interested in doing whatever it is.  Take the hint and begin a dialogue towards reaching some mutual understanding rather than nagging his or her ear off and increasing the divide between the two of you.   
·         Fight fair.
No matter how great the two of you gel together, there will be arguments and disagreements.  Know this.  Prepare for this.  And fight fair.  I’m sure it’s easier said than done, but don’t say things that you won’t want to repeat once the argument is over.  Those earsplitting insults or hurtful comments could cause irreparable damage and emotional scars that will be difficult to rebound from.  If you’re too angry to have a heated disagreement, put it on pause and wait until the both of you are in a rational enough state to have what could be a healthy squabble.  I know you’ve heard how fun it can be making up!
·         Realize that you are an extension of your partner.
There is nothing that immediately comes to mind more disheartening than to hear a partner degrade the person with whom (s)he is involved.  I imagine this technique is used to vent and gain sympathy from friends and supporters.  But to talk so much trash about that person only to continue in the relationship speaks volumes about who you are.  You have chosen this person to share your time with.  That person is an extension of a decision you’ve made.  If things are bad, then decide how you will remedy the situation without making yourself look as though you could do no better than all those colorful descriptions you will share with your listeners.  Think of it more as how you would want your partner to share with others about you, and offer him or her that same courtesy.
·         Be realistic. 
Your relationship isn’t scripted.  Please don’t expect to have a soap opera romance and blame your partner for not knowing his or her lines.  Or missing your cues.  You won’t want to spend every waking moment with this person.  If you do, you have some attachment issues that should be addressed.  The both of you need room to breathe and miss each other.  There was a life that both of you had apart from each other that should continue.  What you are is a welcomed addition, rather than a replacement.  Your partner has friends and family that (s)he will continue to want to spend time doing things with and so have you.  Have realistic expectations of each other and each other’s time.
·         Appreciate.
A little appreciation every now and then can speak volumes.  Take time to communicate with your partner how much you enjoy him or her and appreciate the contribution (s)he has made to your life.  And you don’t have to wait until (s)he has done something to say so.  No one wants to feel as if they’re taken for granted.  Couple your expression of appreciation with some spontaneous romantic gestures, and you have given your partner attention (s)he can reflect on during those rough times when “appreciating” each other may be a bit more difficult.
·         Once you invite friends and family into your relationship, they may not want to leave.
Always consider that there is more than just you involved.  If you are at a point where communication with your partner has been difficult and kept the two of you at odds, be cautious about inviting in friends and family to mediate.  I’m not saying that it’s wrong to consult someone for advice.  But what I do want to point out is that once you open that door to let your family and friends weigh in on your relationship, you could have a hard time turning them around when their welcome is over.  Equally as important is what information you share with friends and family, or how.  You are painting the picture for them.  And if they aren’t mutual friends of both you and your partner, you could’ve unfairly cast your partner in a bad light that will be difficult to shy from when the two of you have begun to work things out.
The thrill of a new relationship doesn’t have to dwindle with time if you take a mature approach.  If we learn from past failures we can draw upon those experiences to better ourselves and in turn build stronger, better and healthier relationships. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Identifying Toxic Relationships

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Identifying Toxic Relationships

When we think of love, we imagine an exchange of warmth and kindness, intimacy, playful affection and mutual care one for the other.  We think of sharing and building a life together.  Yet, there are times when what we want isn’t our reality.  Instead of the desirable qualities mentioned above, we’re caught up in some sort of morbid coexistence with pleasurable moments few and far between.  Why is it that we continue to engage in unhealthy relationships?  And how can we begin to break this cycle?

Start with you.

There is little that can be done to mend any situation until you’ve taken an honest look at yourself.  Personal self-reflection allows you to examine your own thoughts and patterns of behavior so that you can identify what it is you continue to do that keeps you hostage.  Is it fear that keeps you clinging in an unhealthy relationship?   Fear of being alone?  Is it a skewed idea of what a healthy relationship is?  Did you learn that your unhealthy relationship is the “norm” or what you deserve?  Poor self-esteem or self-image?  Ask yourself some hard questions and do a little soul searching. 

Weigh the pros and cons.

Sorting through the good and bad of an unhealthy relationship requires us to set aside our feelings.  Chances are that you’ve remained in the relationship because you love your mate.  And as cliché as it sounds, love really can be blind – sometimes to your detriment.  Sit down and actually make a list.  Itemize each and every quality it is that you enjoy and would like to experience more of with your mate.  Then, list every undesirable quality.  Be thorough.  Include each and every annoyance.  But here’s the hard part – now list all those things that you say you do that make your mate upset.  That’s right.  Take a look at those things that you accept the blame for.  Write them on your list.  Done?  Now read all that you’ve written.  Does the good outweigh the bad?  How many of the things of which you accept the blame actually your fault?  What you’ve included on your list could surprise you.  Now ask yourself if what you and your partner share is generally pleasant, or if those less desirable moments are of such magnitude that the good times are overshadowed.  The answer to these questions is the starting point for your decision whether or not to continue in the relationship or abandon it.

Identify the toxins.

Now that you have some idea of the dynamics of your relationship and your relationship cycle, begin to pinpoint those behaviors that are ruining it.  Include your self assessment first because you are the starting point for the changes you hope to make.  Are you enabling?  Too passive?  Are there barriers to communication?  Selfishness?  Manipulation?  Emotional sabotage?  Any forms of abuse?  Identify those flaws that you feel weigh on the relationship with your partner.  It could be helpful to have him or her make a “pros and cons” list also.    

Make the choice.

Choosing to continue in an unhealthy relationship is an option.  Should you choose to stay, seek the help of a professional like a relationship expert, life coach, social worker or other behavioral health specialist, either with your partner or alone.  Decide what goals the two of you together have towards bettering your relationship.  If both of you are willing to put forth the effort, rank your goals in order of importance and begin to tackle those toxins that are holding you back.  With a positive outlook and creativity, this experience could draw the two of you closer.
 However, if the two of you are past the point of no return or are too “set in your ways” to accept the challenges, resolve as amicably as possible to part company.  Keep in mind all the things that you’ve learned from this relationship so that you don’t find yourself in a repetitious cycle of forming and nursing unhealthy relationships.   

*Blogger’s note:  Abuse of any kind is unacceptable.  The seriousness of physical abuse is not to be taken lightly.  If there is physical violence in your relationship, consider your safety first.  However, if you choose to continue in a physically abusive relationship, seek the help of a professional either alone or with your partner.  Consider removing yourself from that environment until the two of you have met with a professional and are working towards ending the violence.  To get assistance, go online to or call 800.799.SAFE. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Becoming the YOU You've Always Wanted to Be

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Becoming the YOU You’ve Always Wanted to Be

If you’ve lived a little, you already know this.  But just in case you’re a newbie, let me be the first to tell you the road of life isn’t always smooth and straight.  It can include quite a few exasperating peaks and valleys.  Sometimes it seems you can’t get to the good stuff because you’re lost in a labyrinth of road blocks, detours and dead ends that can distract you from your defined purpose.  If this seems all too familiar, don’t continue to spin your wheels in the mud.  Let’s stop and take a look at what can be done to put you back on the road to becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Nothing can be more frustrating or disheartening than to consistently fall short of your ambitions.  And if you keep coming up with less, perhaps that’s your cue that it’s time to sit down, reassess and prioritize.  Clearly define what it is you hope to achieve.  Or if necessary, redefine.  Keep those things that are directly related to your desired outcome.  Eliminate everything else that could only be serving as a distraction and cluttering your list.    
Get a map
With your aspirations clearly defined you’re at a starting point.  Now find out exactly what you have to do to make it happen.  If it’s a career, find out exactly what the requirements are.  What are the classes that you have to take?  Where can you go that would put you in the best possible position to achieve your desired outcome?  If your target is weight loss, find the best plan for you to help you manage your eating habits effectively.  No matter what it is you desire, begin working towards bringing that concept into fruition with a clear understanding of what it takes to get there from where you are.
Once you’re sure about what you want to accomplish and what it takes to get there, you’ll more than likely encounter an obstacle or two called temptation.  How many times have you decided you want to lose ten pounds and then get that invitation to some fabulous event where you’ll be surrounded by all your favorite things to eat?  What about deciding to save for a vacation at coincidentally the same time that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeballing finally goes on sale?  I know how difficult it can be to stay focused.  Just remember that each step you take towards something extraneous puts you that much farther away.  The flip side of that is that each step you make in the right direction puts you that much closer.  Those steps can add up!  Choose wisely! 

Check your attitude

Don’t become your own road block.  Whether you realize it or not, your efforts reflect your attitude.  You can limit your potential if your attitude about what you hope to accomplish is less than positive.  Do whatever is reasonably necessary to give yourself the mental boost that will enable you to begin each day with a healthy outlook. 

Try something different

Take a look at what you’ve been doing thus far to achieve your goals.  What’s been effective?  What hasn’t?  What needs to change?  It could be that a more creative approach would help in getting you there if what you’ve always done hasn’t been working for you.  Maximize all your potential.  Take all those fabulous qualities you’ve grown to love about yourself and apply them to becoming the “you” you’re working towards becoming.  Maximize all the possibilities.  Whatever it is that is directly related to your aspirations, take advantage of that.  The internet is a power source of information that could propel you closer to that desired outcome.  Research all avenues to keep you informed of opportunities that enhance your plans. 

Putting in the work necessary to becoming the “you” that you’ve always wanted to be can be the journey of a lifetime.  Each challenge and obstacle you face builds resiliency and helps you gain experience to overcome the next. And there’s no amount of compromise worth settling for less than what you’re capable of achieving. Manage those times you get discouraged by keeping focused on your desired outcome and the satisfaction that will come from knowing that you gave it your all and your all paid off.  After all, you’re worth the effort!