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Posts Tagged ‘relationship inventory’

Falling in love is so hard on the knees.
~Aerosmith

Given the rocky road all my romantic relationship paths have morphed into, often ending up in a screaming careening off a cliff into the abyss and crashing upon crags of whatthefuckhappenedthistime, this article titled, “Relationship Advice: Want a Sustainable Romance? Here’s the First Step”, got a read out of me this morning and assigns a bit of homework.

This post is about a frequently overlooked first step towards a sustainable relationship with your current or future partner. Couples I’ve worked with find it helpful because it builds the self-reflection and self-awareness you need for growing and evolving yourself in your relationship capacities. I call this first step doing a “Relationship Inventory.” With it, you can review, understand and learn from your past relationships. Then you can face forward with greater clarity and capacity for creating and sustaining emotional and sexual intimacy in the present and future.

Begin by making a list of all your significant romantic relationships. For each, reflect on and write down what attracted you to that person and why, at that particular time of your life.

Ack! This might take a while, but since I do still hold out hope for a “sustainable relationship” somewhere in my future it seems worth the time and effort, but I’ll keep my list of “significant romantic relationships” to myself, thankyouverymuch.

First things first, and that will be defining “significant”. I suppose I could set a minimum time commitment, but that would include some whose impact was negligible even with a bit of longevity and ignore a few who made a huge difference in a short time. Most miserable subsequent heartache could be a qualifier, as well as most joyful moments, although those could go hand-in-hand. Prompters of life changes make the list, of course, as well as those who set me off to thinking in different directions, and men who pop into mind a lot go higher than those whose names I struggle to recall.

Okay …

First for pondering is: What was the pull?

What qualities of that person attracted you to him or her? Why did those qualities attract you in the first place? Be honest, regardless of how you might feel about those traits today. Consider what role your life circumstances played in the attraction were at the time, including your emotional state and needs. Describe your level of emotional development and awareness at the time of each of those relationships.

Hm.

Considering the fact that the first romantic relationship I had involved being handed a ring at the age of seven, there’s bound to be some differences in my level of emotional development and awareness.

Since I still have the ring and remember the boy’s name, he has to head the list, and the pull is still obvious to me: he was cute, thought I was wonderful, and he owned a horse.

Over the years my parameters have shifted, and I’ll have to give a lot of thought to why I invested myself in men who weren’t so cute, were not so convinced of my wonderfulness and didn’t even own a bloody car.

Also, reflect on how your parents’ relationship impacted you, in terms of the model they exposed you to of how couples relate.

The model my parents exposed? OMG! No wonder I’ve been doomed to infidelities, narcissists and multiple divorces. I don’t think I even want to go there, actually, but I suppose I must if I’m to learn about myself through this pop quiz. Fine.

Next step: Then what happened?

Write a paragraph or two describing what you think happened during the course of the relationship that led to its ending. Of course, you’re looking back from today’s vantage point, but try to portray an unvarnished story of what happened, and why. Describe, without assigning blame.

Easy enough in some cases; not so in others. And I’m not just talking the not assigning blame thing. I’m more than willing to shoulder my part of any breakup and admit where I’ve fallen from the path.

Some relationships exploded, some imploded, some simply fizzled out. Some I outgrew, some were jettisoned for damned good reasons, some I hung on to by my bloody fingernails until there was nothing left to grasp. Some ended suddenly and completely, some lingered for years; some resulted in deep friendship, a very few in a lasting rage. Some I was happy to see the back of, some I miss to this day.

There were relationships begun with the writing large on the wall spelling out clearly: This won’t last! Others started in a climate of hopeful anticipation of happy-ever-after. Some could have been perfect … if only one or two things had been just a bit different.

I am not an easy woman in the get-along-with-for-a-long-time sense of the word. I can be demanding, expecting the best of those in my life and pushing for excellence. I know this can be wearying. I am also moody, stubborn, opinionated, insecure, needy and I don’t cook, so no picnic for anyone on a long-term basis. I have very little tolerance for soothing male egos out of some traditional mandate to do so and figure a guy should be able to take a bit of constructive criticism without feeling the need to run out and find some bolstering from peripheral women to make up for it. I take commitment seriously and brook no betrayal and am far too honest to take kindly to lies.

All this, I know, does not add up to a pleasant package for some, and the fact that I’ll walk away rather than stick with something that feels slimy has put the kibosh on more than one partnership.

So, moving right along to: What did you learn?

Next, write down what you think you learned about yourself from each of those relationships that ended. Include what you think you recognized at the time as your blind spots, your own behavior or unexpressed feelings that might have contributed to the failure or to prolonging the relationship when it would have been healthier to end it sooner. Did you apply what you learned in your next relationship, or did you repeat the same things, despite what you thought you learned?

See above … but it’s double-barreled when it comes to that failure vs/ prolonging thing. The difference between dragging a dead relationship and working through issues is not always clear, a distinction made more difficult when the horse continues to be flogged on a regular basis. As I’ve written before, hope flings infernos, and sometimes I apparently like the heat.

As for blind spots … well, I really like men and that seems to fuck with impartiality in a big way. My taste also tends toward confident men, and it’s often not until some time has passed that the confidence proves itself to be a mask for insecurity and a compensatory illusion, more flash than substance and a defense that can eventually prove offensive.

Next: What didn’t you learn?

Reflect on what you now realize you didn’t learn about yourself in each relationship that would have been helpful to your growth and to your next relationship. Or, what you could have learned from the relationship that ended that would have helped you grow your relationship capacity if you had been more self-aware at the time?

Much omphaloskepsis happens with this step, an ongoing process throughout life. Since even the stuff I have learned has yet to be completely integrated … things like dealing with the fact that I don’t like being alone, my needs for touch and comfort and sex and someone to care for … self-awareness doesn’t always seem the issue.

My “next relationships” have been sometimes based on finding someone who is sans the specific issues of the last relationships, so while my list of what I don’t want gets longer, I may not be paying enough attention to what I DO want.

I also suspect I’ll again give my heart too freely, and I really should have learned that lesson by now.

And finally: What happens now?

How can you use what you’ve discovered from the Relationship Inventory in your present life, as you go forward in your current — or next — relationship? For example, can you describe the kind of personality, emotional qualities, life vision, values or “vibes” that mesh well with your own; that promote connection and positive energy between the two of you?

I can, yes. What I can’t yet do … and perhaps I’ll spend more time with this inventory … is alter the idea that it will still come down to passion, chemistry, connection, fire, and that may mean I’m doomed.

There’s a lesson in that, though, and one I may have to accept. Since I have so few regrets when it comes to past relationships … they were what there were, for better and for worse … it’s hard for me to imagine turning down many had I been armed with this inventory.

I’m thinking back to my first husband, a man I married when I was 17 … he was 19 … and wonder what my life would have been like if we’d managed to stick that one out. We would have celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary a few weeks back and there would be years of history shared, kids, life intertwined. We’d be growing old together, companions, and he is still very cute.

That, however, was not a path I was given to walk, and although I’m rather tired of ending up at Lover’s Leap and DO hope to get it right one of these days, I’m not convinced I’ve learned enough yet on love and life and men and myself to pull that off yet.

Is it unreasonable at my age to still find myself wanting a knight in shining armor I can baby?

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