Nice to see you again.
Let me preface this piece by sharing that I’m a cocktail of hormones. Estrogen pills, progesterone ass shots...it’s a daily ride around alarm clocks to ensure that I take the right medication at the right time.
Some days my emotions feel normal, and some days I feel like I’m a body shell inhabiting the mind of a raging lunatic. I’ve given Dennis fair warning to take everything I say and do with more than just a grain a salt – with an extra large smattering. He’s in the middle of a wild ride that we both hope ends sooner rather than later.
Needless to say, this hormonal adventure makes relationship challenges especially challenging at times. Especially this one:
“It takes two people to create a pattern, but only one to change it.”
(That's Esther Perel, a woman I need to place on an alter and worship every day because I think that highly of her.)
I mean, I could end right there, because that’s really all I’m trying to say: relationships at 100/100, but, ultimately, it’s up to you. We can’t change our partners, or our friends, or our colleagues, or whoever else we, at particular times, wish would just [fill in here].
I do believe that we can influence their decisions in what might be construed as helpful ways by providing other perspectives. To quote Augusten Burroughs, "While it’s true that you cannot change another person, it is also true that you can do or say or be something that inspires them to make the change within themselves." I try to do that sometimes.
Sometimes it’s for the relationship as a whole, but sometimes it’s definitely just about me. I am stuck in some ways, so my “suggestions,” no matter how gently I present them, very likely come off as less than supportive at times. That said, other people can be just as stubborn and set in their ways, which can create a grating, nails-on-a-chalkboard, silverware-scraping-a-plate experience that gets absolutely nowhere.
The raging hormones don't help, especially when my patience is the size of a pinhead, or when I want to punch everyone in the face for no reason whatsoever.
But, even in those moments, I know that the more we butt heads with others, the more exhausted and frustrated we become – even if we win. That’s my experience, at least. The moment I can glide into acceptance and move on, even try a “kill ‘em with kindness” approach, the better I feel, because I’m no longer letting things get to me.
No matter how much someone is annoying you, it's because you’re letting it get to you.
It’s up to you. Yes, it can be disheartening when you feel like you’re the only one trying to change. However, odds are, the other person is also putting in effort. Plus, they’re more likely to put in effort if you make an effort, too.
The smallest of shifts can make a world of difference. Waiting two seconds before you respond or challenging yourself to respond in a way that might not feel intuitive can change the dynamic in surprisingly powerful ways.
We choose to be in relationships. The problem is that we’re continually learning about the other person. For example, I didn’t realize just how much Dennis was on his best behavior during our early months together, and he thought I was a hippie love child when he proposed. He didn’t know about my piss and vinegar, and I didn't know that he would sometimes treat me like a frat brother. It has certainly made for an endlessly interesting relationship.
Would we have chosen each other knowing all that we know now? Yes. Without a doubt. We bring out the best in each other, we love and laugh like it’s our job (which it kind of is), and we both continually work on strengthening our relationship.
Loving and caring about someone requires doing your best – whether that means participating in impromptu percussion improv using shaker eggs and a güiro or joining in a celebration of “bellies on parade” (both of which are recent occurrences in our apartment).
The other night, as we watched This Is Us (or, as we call it, This Is Sad), Dennis said, “I’m really good at calling ‘end scene.’”
“You're good at a lot of things,” I replied. “You're really good at loving me!”
“I think that’s what I’m best at.”
We are who we are, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t evolve in relationships. It’s less about changing and more about shifting in ways that fit into the larger narrative you want for yourself and the one you love. Even if you happen to be a hormonal, raging lunatic, you keep doing your best.
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.