Friday, July 28, 2017

When to Say F*ck It and STAY in Relationship

Originally posted on Dumb Little Man on July 27, 2017

In Mark Manson’s article entitled “Fuck Yes or Fuck No,” he asks the crucial question about being in relationship. If a person really just isn’t that into you, then why waste your time? This critical advice has hopefully saved a lot of heartache for those who have held on to relationship hope past the expiration date.

Recently, however, a different slice of the same pie was delivered to a friend. Beth had been casually dating Greg when he had a complete meltdown – something about her roommate. Riddled with anxiety, he completely broke down, and the two had a brief conversation about what was going on. My husband talked to her the next day, and the two agreed that the relationship seemed like more trouble than it was worth. After all, it was early days yet. Wasn’t this supposed to be the easy times? Beth decided that it was too much for her and broke it off. She decided she wasn’t so into Greg that she wanted to invest any time in the relationship. She was a definite Fuck No.
My opinion about the matter differed. I saw total value in staying in the relationship long enough to talk about what had happened, using this as a practice run. Let me explain. Beth and Greg had little invested in the relationship as it was so new. Because of this, I felt it could be helpful for Beth to gain some relationship experience (she was very inexperienced) by having a more difficult conversation with Greg.
She could have listened to his fears and revealed some of her own. She could have told him about her turn-off. She could have had a potentially crunchy conversation in a very low-stakes relationship.
This would mean practicing her communication and transparency skills, so when she was in a high-stakes relationship, she’d have more skills. It means that if it didn’t go well and the relationship ended, then she wouldn’t be crushed. Hopefully she’d reflect, learn, and move on. And if it did go well, then she might see if the relationship was truly workable, and perhaps it might evolve into a high-stakes relationship.
low stake relationship
First things first, what is the difference between a low-stakes relationship and a high-stakes relationship? A low-stakes relationship – unlike a casual relationship – still has a level of commitment. It might mean seeing the person every two weeks, once a month, or once a year. It means you value the relationship: it’s not disposable or expendable or fast food. You nourish it even if you think it might only last a short time.
A high-stakes relationship has a higher level of commitment. Think: life partner, long term, family relationships. These ones have weight, (sometimes baggage), and are deep on our hearts. These are the ones that often need the most work. This is where low-stakes healthy relationships can help. (Note: It’s always worthwhile checking in about whether or not you’re in a healthy or toxic relationship. Toxic relationships clearly aren’t worth your time or energy!)
In staying in such a low stakes relationship, it’s not about whether the relationship is right or wrong for you, it’s whether both of you can actually learn something from being in the relationship. Now, if there’s not enough connection from the get-go, then by all mean, don’t stay in.
If, as Mark Manson says, the person just isn’t that into you, then leave. But if you seem to share values and enjoy one another’s company, then why let one upset upheave the whole thing? What can you learn by staying in? Lots, I’d say, but only if you really want to do the work.
long term relationship
You might ask yourself, Do I have a lot of healthy relationship experience? Have I learned how to communicate in relationship? Do I know what it’s like to be transparent about my needs? Have I learned how to apologize when my words and actions have had a negative impact (seen or unforeseen)? How can this current low-stakes relationship teach both of us these skills?
And if your answer is Yes, I can learn more… Yes, I want to be able to weather the storms of an intimate relationship – maybe not with this person for long-term, but for right now – then do it. Step into the storm. See what you can learn about connecting with this person. See how you can stretch and grow. See what it means to be messy, human, and compassionate. See what happens when you say Fuck it. It’s not why stay, it’s why not stay.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Your reward is that YOU are happy


Picture by Roberto Voiterra (creative commons)

Published on www.losethecape.com


The infamous book by Adam Mansbach “Go the F*** to Sleep” has the lines:


There’s a reason this book resonates with so many parents.  Sometimes getting your child to sleep can be a trial, mistrial, and re-trial unto itself.  This is not a blog post about sleep techniques.  I know I’ve tried a bunch of them.  Sometimes they just don’t seem to work.  Over time,  my 6 year-old son has certainly grown out of many things - and mostly gets to bed well.  When he doesn’t, it’s usually due to artful delay tactics or not enough exercise.

About a month ago, my son seemed to be going through something else.  When I would go out at night, he would totally melt down.  An hour of crying, constant check-ins by his dad (the hubs). I did everything in my power to set him up.

  1. Conversations in advance.
  2. Extra hugs and kisses.
  3. A “mama-love” blanket.

Nothing seemed to work.  After one particularly bad time, he informed me that he had “snotted” his pillow so much he’d had to turn it over, so he could drench the other side, and then he needed a towel.  When I asked him why he was so upset, he didn’t seem to know.  None of us could figure it out.  We had lots of time together, things at school were going well, but somehow, my going out (once a week) totally unhinged him.  At one point,  my husband figured out that if he promised our son could watch Dinotrux in the morning, he would calm down and sleep.  That seemed to help a lot but not completely.

One evening, I had a babysitter stay after I had put my son to bed.  While I considered not telling him I was going out, I decided honesty was the best policy.  I’m not sure what magical combination of words worked, but he went down fine and gave the babysitter no grief.

The next evening, I told him how awesome it was that he had gone to bed so easily.  He turned to me and said, “What’s my reward?”  I thought for a moment and responded, “Your reward is that I’m happy.” That was it.  I didn’t want to reward his behavior every time with a video or sweet treat, but I did want him to know his behavior had an impact.

And then I realized it ran deeper than that.  “And,” I added, “your reward is that YOU are happy.  It’s so much easier on YOU when you go to sleep right away, and you’re not so upset.”  He contemplated this.  “It’s okay if you cry,” I said.  “I just know it’s really hard on you when you get so worked up.”  I didn’t want to demonize his tears or shame him, but I also wanted to see how much we can contribute to our own suffering.

And he seemed to get it.  Since then, we haven’t had such teary nights.  It’s not to say he still isn’t training to be a lawyer with razor-sharp negotiation techniques, but at least for that moment, he got that he has some control over how he feels. And that is golden.



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

It's Okay If You Scream



The timing was perfect.  The birthday candles were lit.  The little girls in their flouncy dresses had gathered around the table.  My sister had started to sing Happy Birthday when one of the little girls had a meltdown.  Total Meltdown.  Lisa screamed in one of those high-pitched glass-breaking voices, and I knew I had to act fast.  This was the reason my sister had requested Lisa’s mother stay; this is also the reason Lisa’s mother had dropped her off and sped off.  It was a complicated family situation that had added to Lisa's complicated behavior.



I took Lisa by her hand and marched her into my sister’s bedroom.  She was sobbing and wailing.  I got down on her level and looked at her steadily.


“I’m okay if you scream,” I said in an even voice.  This jolted her out of her screaming.


“I’m okay with it,” I said again.  “I know you lost your bracelet, and that your bracelet is really pretty and very important to you.  I know you’ve been looking for it.”


She continued to sob but didn’t scream anymore.


I knew that letting her know her crying a) wouldn’t bother me b) wouldn’t manipulate me and  c) wasn’t going to get her the attention of everyone was the right move.  I’d read tons of A-ha parenting articles and found that creating connection and empathy before going on to set boundaries was always helpful.  Once Lisa got that I was connected to her, she settled down.


“Oh - ,” she exclaimed, “there’s my bracelet.”  It was on my sister’s dresser.  She grabbed it, wiped her tears, and smiled.  “I’m so stupid,” she said.  “It was there, the whole time.”  


“We found it,” I said.   I didn’t agree with her assessment, but calling herself stupid seemed like something she had probably learned from someone else. I didn't need to add to it.


On cue, she began crying again.  “I wasted all this time, and I missed singing Olivia Happy Birthday!”  Tears flowed anew.  I waited with her.


“Sounds like you like singing Happy Birthday, “ I said.


“I do!”  More wailing.


“Sounds like you like making people happy,” I added.


“Yes!”  More tears.  Not ironical, but still had some irony for me.  Here this kid was crying, saying she wanted to make others happy while she wallowed in sadness.


“Well, you can go out once you’ve stopped crying.  I’m happy to stay here as long as that takes.”


She stopped and stared at me.  It was clear I wasn’t unnerved, annoyed, or having any sort of emotional reaction to her tears.


She wiped her face.  


“I’m okay,” she said.  “I’m fine.  I’ve stopped crying and can go back out.”


I led her to the door and we stepped into the other room.


She was seven years old.   Apparently from a highly dysfunctional family. Notoriously difficult and unfocused at school. Disliked by her peers.  They hadn’t wanted her to make bracelets with them, but with adult intervention, she was allowed to do so.


Her father picked her up from the party, and I explained what had happened.  He thanked me for my support, turned to his daughter, and told her it was time to leave.


“I don’t want to go,” she wailed.  

“Stop crying and get in the car,” he snapped, and he took off towards the car, his daughter trailing behind him.

I took a deep breath in and exhaled. My heart went out to her. To her parents. To those around her. Just a minimum of attention had made a small difference in those moments I was with her. Imagine if her parents gave her even more than that?

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