6 Things I’ve Learned About Men (and Relationships)

Do you ever take a step back and think about how far you’ve come in your dealings with the opposite sex and relationships since, say, high school? Heck, since college even? Er, since the last year? You should! You might be surprised.

Right now I’m in the middle of a very painful and the-end-is-nowhere-in-sight project: cleaning out my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house. There’s so much crap that I don’t know what to do with it! I’ve been selling stuff on Amazon for the last month like crazy. (The people at the post office recognize me now.) Still, I feel like I’ve barely made a dent. What stays, what goes?

In the process, I stumbled upon about two dozen journals that unabashedly chronicle (with the obvious angst and embarrassing detail) my journey from age 11 to 22. Middle school to college grad. Only a few will I keep, but before I shred (burn, destroy, ANNIHILATE) the ones that are just too loathsomely silly to make the cut, I’ve taken the time to peruse them. I’m glad I did. Because even though I’ve had to readjust myself from the perpetual cringe I found myself in, I’ve determined that there are definitely some gems of lessons I’ve learned since I was that self-conscious adolescent:

1. You Really CAN’T Hurry Love
Diana Ross, and then Phil Collins, were spot on.  I spent my high school and college years trying to start things that were never meant to be. I over-romanticized what was in front of me so I wasn’t looking at reality correctly. I rushed because–what? At 16, 19, 22, I thought I knew what love was? And I might as well pin down “The One” as soon as possible? Love comes on its own timing. And you know what? Getting to know someone, and taking things at a painstakingly slow pace really eliminates all that getting carried away with idealized fantasies thing.

2. Having the Last Word is Highly Overrated!
You do have to choose your battles. And if you’re gonna be any good at healthy relationships, you always need to look for the high road. Besides, the one who gets the last word is usually the one who gets eaten up inside waiting for a comeback…

3. Love Isn’t a System You Can “Hack” Into
A strong, lasting relationship is hard work. There will be plenty of non-communication, miscommunication, and totally wrong timing. You just have to deal with it. No matter how many relationship books I read or compatibility quizzes I fill out, I know now that you can’t take those things too seriously. Love is not a game you can win by reading some tricks and tips. You get better at it as you become a more real, authentic individual. Men and women might be quite different, but you eventually have to stop relying on the public wisdom and move beyond male/female stereotypes. Learn to read the other individual. (This goes for everyone in your life, not just romantic partners). Don’t rely on generalizations and never underestimate your gut!

4. Boys Will Be Boys
OK, so I just said not to generalize, but until I meet any guy who doesn’t fit this bill, here goes. A guy will try to get away with whatever you let him get away with. Sometimes he’s being a jerk, and sometimes he’s testing you to see how you take it. It might be intentional, or it might be just for fun. Learn to tell the difference and put your foot down (nicely) in either case–it will help you separate the bad ones from the keepers.

5. _____ Isn’t Everything
Looks, money, religious views, political alliance, whatever. One thing shouldn’t break an otherwise really awesome deal. You really have to be willing to be broad-minded and dig a little deeper. Chemistry, knowing how to manage whatever amount is on your paycheck, how he treats and speaks of others, whether he knows how to go vote–those things are much stronger indicators of romancibility and compatibility.

6. The Biggest Time Wasters? Asking Questions When You Already Know What Answers You Want AND Worrying About Things Out of Your Control
Never ask anyone for “brutal honesty”. They, especially guys, will give it to you.  The rule of thumb: unless it’s a facts-only question, anything with potential responses that you’ve already categorized as “acceptable” or “best answer” in your mind is a NO GO.
And as for worrying, well, if you can limit that to things you can reasonably put on a to-do list and NOT on the what-ifs, you’ll do yourself a huge favor.

It might not be pleasant, but your past can really be an eye opener. I think I’m finally getting into that more comfortable, wizened stage of knowing who I am and what I want. The who and the when and the how might still be grey and hazy, but that’s OK. One thing at a time!

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