Someone asked how to “be” the right person. I know it’s all over this blog but probably not in one place. I knew that people here who are putting these wonderful lives together after a breakup KNOW what “be the right person” means. So this is my take on it, first pass. As always I will probably have more to say on it and do a followup post. And these are in no particular order.
1. DO YOUR WORK. Whether it’s grief work, unfinished business, family of origin work or if you have been addicted to people or substances, get the help you need. Do the Relationship and the Life Inventories. If you need counseling, GET IT. If you need 12 step meetings, GO TO THEM. If you need support groups, FIND THEM. Read books, go to seminars, lectures, retreats, workshops, classes. Chase it and chase it and chase it. And don’t stop chasing it when someone comes along. Keep doing what you are doing.
2. DO NOT MAKE A RELATIONSHIP THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR LIFE. Never ever ever make a romantic, intimate relationship with another person the thing that always comes before all else. It’s a losing strategy. Your relationship with YOU is the most important thing. Make sure you have absolute uninterrupted “me” time each and every week. Makes sure you are putting your needs first some time. Make sure your children, interests, friends and future goals are all a priority in your life.
If you have children, they should be high on the priority list, if not number two, right behind YOU taking care of YOU (because if you don’t take care of you, you can’t be a big help to your kids) and most times and most days much more important than any love interest.
If a train was coming down the track and you could save one person, your love or your child, you must be able to say AT ALL TIMES you will save your child. If you can’t say that (and some of you parents will be horrified at this), and some people can’t, lose the relationship.
People who are in 12-step programs will say that their program comes first and it should (but does it really or are you just mouthing those words?), people who go to church will say God or whatever higher being they worship comes first (but does it really or are you just mouthing those words?). You should be active in community groups or meetups or book clubs or hobby groups or SOME SORT OF SOCIAL GROUP that happens separate and apart from the rest of your life. And you don’t give it up when a new love comes along.
At times your time with your friends should come first. At the VERY LEAST, your friends should be a PRIORITY in your life. At the VERY LEAST, there should be times that you tell your love interest that you need to be with your friends. There should be times you are willing to tick off the love interest in order to spend time with your friends, your kids, your church group, your fellowship and YOU. Hopefully you have found someone who is also a whole person and has these things in his or her life. If not, you might not have found the right person. Make sure that you are looking for well-rounded people who have more interests in their life than just you.
There should be times the love interest takes an ABSOLUTE back seat to everything else in your life. If there’s not, Houston, we have a problem. If not, it’s called addiction or enmeshment, not love. Being the right person means you fall in love, not that you become addicted or enmeshed.
I’ve had friends in relationship where they tout “togetherness” that is really enmeshment. The more time they spend together, the less they can tear away. I ended a friendship with someone who said, “I just don’t want to be away from K.” and never thought of that as a problem. If one other person is your entire world, if that person gets hit by a bus tomorrow, you have a problem.
HAVE OUTSIDE INTERESTS. Have goals, hobbies, groups. And do not stop having these things when a relationship comes along.
3. MAKE YOUR RELATIONSHIP A PRIORITY. Does this contradict 2? No, it does not. A healthy person realizes that a good relationship needs nurturing. That you dont’ take advantage of your partner. You don’t sneak around, use or abuse anyone. You don’t lie or manufacture tall tales. You treat your person with respect and you demand respect.
You love what you give time to. You should give and receive special time but again, not at the sake of all else. You should not be feeling slighted by your friends or family. If you are, you need to re-evaluate those relationships to prepare for expecting reasonable time from a person you’re involved with.
A healthy person LIVES a balanced life. Has interests and is interesting to EVERYONE, not just to the flavor of the month.
4. SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY. Say what you mean and mean what you say without being mean. Being the right person means being honest and open. It means telling the truth and being able to express who you really are and what you really want and being okay with that. It means being able to say, “I hurt.” “I want” “I feel” and not being afraid of that. It means not repressing your feelings and thoughts, but not hitting someone over the head with them either. It means leaving martyrdom and dramatics behind. It means knowing who you are and what you want and accepting that for what it is. Are you afraid to speak your mind? Then you’re not being the right person and you won’t find the person.
5. HAVE A FILTER. Do not reveal everything to everyone. Do not say everything on your mind. Have some things that you only share with a precious few. Life is not true confessions. Have discretion and reveal what you need to reveal to your partner, your children, your counselor, your 12 step sponsor, your minister etc etc etc. This does not mean to dump all of your stuff on any one of these people. A healthy person has a variety of people in their support group. A healthy person does not become a burden to any one other person. They spread themselves around and get that, in order to grow and change, they need to let the garbage out but that doesn’t mean dumping old banana peels and horse manure on the head of whomever is close by. It means using discretion in revelation.
6. DO NOT VIEW LIFE THROUGH ROSE COLORED GLASSES I talk to people who are simply not seeing the forest for the trees. They have put up with so much for so long, they can’t “get” that they are being mistreated or that so and so’s behavior is just flat out wrong. Learn to observe and to keep the “rules” in place. Meaning, if you have a rule, it applies to everyone and that just because you’re dating someone doesn’t mean they get to break the rule or that you will blindly ignore the fact that they do.
7. HAVE BOUNDARIES. Boundaries simply say I begin and end somewhere and you begin and end someplace else. Make sure you are not a boundary crasher and you are not involved with a boundary crasher. Boundaries are good things to have and if you don’t have them, then nothing else will work in your life. The key to healthy relationships are good boundaries. And this means with your friends, family, children, love interests, the vet, the corner grocery clerk, the taxi cab driver…. EVERYONE. Have good and healthy boundaries and don’t change them for anyone. Remember what Melody Beattie said: you cannot set a boundary and take care of someone’s feelings at the same time. So when setting a boundary, how the other person feels about it is none of your business.
8. HAVE GOOD SELF ESTEEM AND KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Do your affirmations, positive self-talk and know that you are the best person you can be. Continue to work on yourself but constantly give yourself good and loving thoughts. Make YOU and YOUR LIFE and your self-image a priority in your life and continue to get your self-worth from YOU and not from anyone or anything else.
Make your safety and security the NUMBER ONE CONCERN in your life. Make it clear that you are important, you are special and anyone who does not reflect that IN YOUR LIFE can take a flying leap. Do your affirmations, spend time with you, treat yourself well and insist that others do the same.
Be PERFECTLY OKAY with who you are. Even if you are a work in progress. Because you are ALWAYS going to be a work in progress. Know that you have things to work on but be okay with who you are at any given moment. Know that you are a good person, a smart person, a loving person, a loyal person and a a fun person. And anyone in their right mind would be thrilled to have you because you are FABULOUS. And keep working on the things that might not be as fabulous as you want them to be. And let the world know, “This is me. Like it or leave it. I don’t care. This is me and I’m okay.”
Be a person who is dignified in all things NO MATTER WHAT. This means speech and behavior. The pop culture is so classless and clueless. If you’re behaving like people on reality shows, there is a problem.
Bring some class and dignity to your behavior, your language and your demeanor. I can trash talk with the best of them and can let go a string of profanities at any given second. I was raised in the Bronx and my middle son made a remark to his friends the other week, “My mom has traveled the world and has a first class education, but if you make her angry, the street comes right out and you will not believe what comes out of that well educated mouth of hers…” But I don’t conduct myself like that every minute of every day. Reign it in people.
Ladies: conduct yourself like ladies…like women of grace and dignity. Gentlemen: conduct yourself like gentlemen…like men of pride and stature.
Everyone: BEHAVE WITH DIGNITY.
9. KEEP YOUR HEAD WHERE YOUR FEET ARE Unless you’re doing a specific piece of work like the relationship or life inventory or setting goals for the future, stay in today. Stay out of other people’s heads and stay out of who is doing what when unless they invite you to know and understand it. If you want to know what someone is thinking, ask them. If you want to let someone know what you are thinking, tell them. If it’s not said, don’t project as to what it is or what it means.
Think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Think about what you’re saying and what someone else is saying. Hear, REALLY HEAR, what you are saying and what others are saying. Learn to take people at face value. If you suspect that their face value is total horse crap, then hit the buh bye button. If you don’t like their face value, hit the buh bye button.
10. Spend some time alone and unplugged every single day. There are two modes that NYC commuters can take to get in to and out of the city (other than driving). There is the train and the bus. The train can be loud, well lit, and people talk on their cell phones and have their iPods so loud that a person 3 seats away can figure out what song they are listening to. It’s a fairly annoying and harsh experience but the trains tend to leave and arrive on time and have more interesting terminals.
The buses, thanks to the Lincoln Tunnel and traffic in general, do not always leave and arrive on time. There can be days where you sit in traffic and do not get to or from the city as fast as you would like. But on the bus, it’s quiet.
There is an unwritten code on the commuter bus that says that everyone needs to shut the hell up. It’s usually dark and quiet. You don’t even hear iPods and you definitely don’t hear cell phones because someone would toss them (and the offending talker) out the window. The bus commuters have gotten a bit Zen about the whole thing. They just read or look out the window. Many nap. It’s a longer ride than the train but so much more pleasant. Deciding between the bus and the train is not easy. You get where you’re going faster on the train but it’s so damn loud and noisy and bright.
Make sure you are having a “bus” experience each day. That doesn’t mean take a commuter bus, but make sure there is a stretch of time each day that you are unreachable by phone, by email by in person. Make sure you are spending quiet down time.
Remember, a ringing phone is a request, not a demand. You do not have to be available to everyone for everything. You do not have to answer every phonecall or email. Learn to decided who you want to talk to and when. DO NOT BE CONSTANTLY AVAILABLE.
Put some quiet, uninterrupted, unavailable time into EACH AND EVERY DAY. If you’re walking along the street or even at the mall, shut off the cell phone and blackberry and let your head and your experience be where your feet are. And do not excuse or explain this. If people are annoyed because you are incommunicado for a few hours, you’ve got boundary issues and you need to lower their expectations of you RIGHT AWAY.
If you can, spend some time each day relaxing or meditating. Spend time with just you without interruption. If it’s dark and quiet, that’s even better.
If you’re the one addicted to texting and being connected, get un-addicted. You will be in control of you and your behavior and not be sucked into someone else’s craziness. Learn to walk away from the phone.
11. CONTINUE TO TAKE PERSONAL INVENTORY This is lifted from the 10th step of 12 step programs. In 12 step programs you do a 4th step inventory and some people do several, but the 10th step is there to say you keep doing this on a smaller scale every day.
With GPYP it’s the same thing. You do your relationship inventories and your life inventory. What did you learn from these inventories? You learned how to take responsibility for your stuff, how to recognize other people’s stuff and how to work through it and move on. You KEEP doing that. You do it every day. If you’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a journal, keep keeping it.
12. KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID. A friend of mine who has been sober in AA for many years says his philosophy of life is simple: “Don’t drink. Trust God. Help others.” If you can get your philosophy into 3 phrases all the better. It can be “Don’t hook up with bananaheads. Trust the process. Pay it forward.” or whatever you want it to be. Think about it. Can you get it into 3 phrases?
13. You take responsibility for your own behavior and you keep your side of the street clean. Nothing more and nothing less. You do not do what others should be doing for themselves. You do not take on things you do not own. At the same time you take responsibility for yourself and your life. INCLUDING YOUR PAIN. And you do something about it. Life happens. Sometimes being in pain is no one’s “fault” but you are still responsible for doing what you need to do to work through it and come out on the other side.
14. WHEN SOMEONE SHOWS YOU WHO THEY ARE BELIEVE THEM. Don’t split people. Listen to all they say, even the bad parts. Learn to observe people and judge whether or not they deserve 5 minutes of your time. If they don’t, flush em. If they do, care for them. Don’t lose yourself and get confused because you are trying to tease out the truth. The truth shall ring true. Love is an action. Don’t lose sight of that. You have to be willing to hit the buh bye button to anyone whose behavior is not in keeping with your standards.
15. Have high standards. For yourself. For others. For the world. Go forth and do great things. For yourself. For others. For the world.
When you are hurt you need to tend to that hurt. When you are writhing around in emotional pain, you can’t think of anything else. But do your work and do your healing and come out on the other side more healed. Demand good things from others and give good things to others. Don’t rescue and don’t neglect. Don’t coddle and don’t ignore.
And when you’ve done a fair amount of straightening out of your life, give back to others. Whether you donate to a charity or volunteer or pass on the nuggets of wisdom that you know, give something to someone once you have something to give.
16. Be good to you. ALWAYS.
Take care of yourself. Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Don’t drink except occasionally. Don’t drug. Try to curtail the coffee and give up the cigarettes. Meditate. Relax. Plan vacations with just you. Take yourself out to dinner. Take a train ride. Take a boat ride. Do good things for you.
Spend a “me” night once a week. Spend time with you and for you. DO NICE THINGS FOR YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT.