Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about the changing paradigm I hold for relationships. I’ve become more aware of my emotional and thought-based routines and how I can rewrite them. After all, our brain is a collection of instructions and habits that shape nearly every aspect of our personality. Our habits were first written by our childhood interpretation of reality. It can be unsettling to uncover these habits and recall the reality in which they were first written. However, rewriting them brings me insight, serenity, and optimism. With up-to-date interpretation of reality, a habit can be written to suit current needs. As a side affect, I also notice my memories of events can change from this new perspective. Digging into my habits in romantic relationships has been so fulfilling, I wanted to share.
I believe habits in relationships start at birth and grow and evolve, taking on influence from key players. Early, non-romantic relationships with parents, siblings and friends often shape how one approaches romantic relationships. We see examples come up in literature and society like Oedipus complex, daddy problems, and codependence, to name a few. As I look back on my relationship timeline, I can see repeating habits, which slowly evolved from lessons provided by my parents, brother and college friends.
I now recognize a few influential stories I repeated in my head to reinforce my unintentional habits. First, my idea of a life-long and equal relationship was defined by my parents.They were, and are, a loving couple partnered for life. My childhood memory includes them loving and supporting me. They didn’t fight in front of me or my siblings. They would kiss each other goodbye and goodnight. And they respected each other and pitched in equally on supporting the family. This sounds to me to be overly ideal, but this is the memory that I set in as a child and what I would compare my relationships to.
I know now that I’m really good at avoiding something that I think I will fail at. For a long time, I saw the chances of recreating this ideal relationship in my own life as slim-to-none. For a long time, I proclaimed marriage was not for me, when what I really meant was that I could not obtain this perception of marriage, it seemed out of reach.
I learned another perception of romantic relationships from my male romantic role models: my brother and college friends. When I was twelve, my brother was eighteen and starting college. His most common stories or advice were about the recent ‘conquests’ he’d had in fraternity lifestyle. If I wanted to be like him, and successful romantically, I’d adopt a hyper-masculine mindset. Joining a frat myself reinforced this chauvinistic formula, success was measured by how quickly and frequently I could get a girl in bed. I would second-guess my worth in a relationship if I wasn’t performing as a hyper-masculine man. I placed a lot of importance in the beginnings of relationships in creating sexual desire. As a weird feedback loop, I noticed the ‘me’ I presented may not have attracted the ideal mate for someone holding the ideal of a the life-long partnership I held from my parents. As most times where expectation is not met by reality, this caused stress and ultimately NOT a happy dating life.
I’m writing this now because I became aware of these thought habits, allowing me to reinterpret my reality and re-write them. I’ve realized my parents were human too, they had flaws and their relationship wasn’t the ideal I remembered. Sure, they had disagreements, everyone does. They weren’t perfect, but neither was their youngest and they still loved me. These realizations of forgotten memories shattered my unrealistic ideal. I deserved and could obtain a love worth a lifetime.
More recently, I became aware of how my priority on performance was ultimately out of character and always felt like acting. I’ve never been a Don Juan, and nothing drains you more than pretending to be someone else. Especially when the goals held by that archetype are not the ones that motivate you. With my newfound goal of finding a relationship lasting a lifetime, I’ve shifted the way I approach dating. I show my true colors, act as a man with mindfulness tolerance, curiosity, love, creativity, tenderness, and romance. My hope is to both live as one would in a lasting relationship, and to have my actions attract those who share that goal.
With these experiences and new habits, I feel equipped to find someone great. Ultimately a union in sharing our best to make the other better. I love asking questions to experts. To those in a truly amazing partnership I ask: What are the qualities that most struck you when you met your partner? What advice do you have for someone looking? Any mistakes you’d rather others not repeat?
If you would like to share your thoughts, I’d love your feedback.