Always Finding the Wrong Person? Here’s Why

I have a lot of friends who talk to me about their being unable to have a good relationship. Now, these people are all single but having a good relationship is for both single and marrieds of course. But to have that good relationship there are certain things which must be true first.

Everything which follows is dependent upon your ability to be completely honest with yourself first, and then with the other person. Without honest, a failed relationship is guaranteed. The first thing you need to do is to take stock of yourself. What is your self-image? How do you truly feel about yourself? Do you love yourself? Do you even like yourself? If you even feel a little bit of negativity about those first questions, then you should not even attempt to date.

One of the first things you need to come to terms with is the fact that you are not perfect. Every member, without exception, of the human race is flawed. The person in the successful relationship has either fixed those flaws or come to terms with them as simply being a part of you that you cannot easily fix, that is, if they are repairable. The worst thing you can do, absolutely, is to deny a flaw you know you have. It is also dishonest which breaks the first rule: total honesty is an absolute.

Another part of taking stoke of yourself is to admit to those things in your past which have been hurtful to others. But knowing those things is not enough. You have to take a step back and find that character flaw that caused you to do what you did. Then you must go about fixing that character flaw so that it does not repeat itself. Lots of people admit to character flaws but it is on a small subset of them who actually do something about it. But once you have successfully taken actions to either eliminate or reduce that character flaw, you must seek out the party you offended and make amends. That does not mean you simply apologize. You tell the person about the character flaw and that you have either fixed it or are working on it. Then you get to apologize.

We called such misdeeds “the wreckage of our past” and to be successful in the future we must clean away that wreckage. Ah, but then there is that person you wronged who you have entirely lost track of and have no way of contacting them. In this case, the simple act of repairing the character defect is all that is needed.

By this time, you have realized your imperfections and worked on them. But there is still a lot of work to do. People who have truly successful relationships have taken care of their physical, mental, and spiritual health.

The physical part is the easiest. You simply visit your primary care physician and attend to any physical problems that are brought up, weight, diet, medications, etc. By doing what I have suggested previously you are dealing with your mental problems. But here’s the thing, you must have a confidant who you trust implicitly and relate to that person all the things you are doing. This does not mean you need go to a therapist, but it does mean you are talking with someone who will give you well-reasoned, thoughtful advice. It also means that this person will tell you that you are falling short of your goal, who will have the courage to not only tell you that they do not think that you are being entirely truthful but will suggest how to be truthful. This person is also the person who is going to help you exorcise those demons inside you that you have been too scared or too embarrassed to relate to another person. When you courageously push through these things, good mental health is almost a guarantee.

Spiritual health is by far the most important and most difficult part of being an entirely healthy person to maintain. Spirituality does not have to be a part of religion and for my purposes here, it does not. Spirituality comes when you have successfully finished those things you I talked about before. It means that at the very least, during the worst of times, you will know absolutely that you are a good person, that you are doing your best, and that you are always seeking out the next right thing to do. How do you know the what is the next right thing to do? Sometimes it will be obvious but many other times it will not be apparent. At such times you try to think it through, seek out another person’s opinion, or, if it is something that requires immediate attention, then do what in your heart you think is that right thing. But if you find it was not the right thing, have faith that in trying something different a second or even a third time, is perfectly acceptable. The key here is allowing yourself the right to be wrong.

Once you have a good relationship with yourself then you are ready to make a foray into having a relationship with another person. That relation also starts with complete honest and progresses into the area where you feel like this person is your best friend. When attempting a relationship, always have a short list of things you consider deal breakers. For example, mine was that I would not date a smoker. Another might be that the person must the same religion or same politics ideals as you. If you do not do these things, your chances of a healthy loving relationship is nearly impossible.

There are people who look absolutely gorgeous or stunningly handsome on the outside but when you find out what’s on the inside, you see not just a horribly flawed person, but someone who is truly mentally and spiritually sick. Such people are always a bad choice.

You may say to me, “but I’m not beautiful or handsome.” What’s on the outside need count very little to not at all for the person you want to be with. This assumes that you are taking care of yourself, physically clean, well-dressed. Think of it this way, the most intelligent people in the world are highly sought after but all that intelligence is hidden from view. The beauty of the intelligence only shows itself when the person speaks on his specialty. This applies to you because whatever is going on in your insides comes out when you do some, say something, feel something.


Looking For True Happiness? Take Care of Your Shortcomings

I have found that one of the best and most keep-able New Year’s resolutions, or any other sort of resolution, is to promise myself that I will identify and deal with all my shortcomings. It was a little less than 20 years ago that someone suggested I do just that so that I could be happier and feel freer. But he suggested I use the “seven deadly sins” (wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, I had to look these up) as the basis for this discovery. I have to admit that once I saw what those sins are, I was skeptical, to say the least.  I thought some were actually desirable or that I was just not willing to relieve myself of them; they were comfortable and seemed necessary. But then it came to me, those “sins” are meant to be a starting point and to consider them only in their excess. That is, if I were lazy, sloth, was I being so lazy that it was detrimental to me in one way or another. Or if I over ate, gluttony, am I doing so in a way that endangers my health. When looked upon that way, it made more sense.

But then I had to do a self-inventory. In this it was suggested that I start at two points, fear and resentment. As I blogged about earlier, resentment is when I drink the poison I wish someone to fall ill from. Most resentments are between two people but a resentment can exist between a person and an organization. The latter is much easier to deal with so I will take it first.

A guy gets fired from his job. He complains that he was unfairly dealt with, that he was treated poorly by his boss, and that he was not appreciated. A good friend asks him a series of questions: How often were you late for work? How often were you out sick when in fact you were just looking for a day off? Did you always complete your assigned work on time, completely, and to your boss’s satisfaction? The guy honestly reflects upon those questions and finds that he was guilty on all counts. And then the friend asks if he had been the boss would he have fired himself. The guy realizes the answer is “yes” and suddenly the resentment vanishes.

Now I will deal with the tougher of the two, the resentment of one person towards another. This is particularly important when it concerns two family members. The worst are resentments children hold towards their parents. There are some exceptions to this, e.g. the father deserts the family and the children are resentful. This is one place where a parent richly deserves the resentment. Resentment in such cases are entirely understandable, however, the resentment still only hurts the person holding the resentment. Resentments are always poisonous for the person holding it. The person holding onto the resentment is not allowing for his other feelings to surface, a healthy reaction. Having experienced the feelings he can move on to resolutions that will allow him to go on with life without the resentment. He can also feel free to consider the reasons the parent deserted the family. I suggest cowardice as a good one. You label the person a coward, you feel sorry for them, and then you move on. You are not excusing the person from their misdeeds but are simply defining them as best you can. Comfort can be found in reason.

Sibling rivalries are so common that for such a thing to not exist is probably an exception to the extreme. One of the most common complaints and basis for resentment is the old “mom always liked you best.” But even in cases where that is true, to what end does it help to hold a resentment towards your sibling? It is common for the eldest to feel displaced by the youngest. I know that for fact being the oldest of three. But there came a time when I had to look at my parents as human beings and detach their parental status. I needed to consider their shortcomings as best I could fathom them. In doing so I quickly gained a better understanding for both my parents and realized that so much of parenting is trial and error. My father died at a young age so I don’t have a lot to draw on from him but my mother lived 89 years. As time passed I think I understood her well, understood those actions of hers I felt resentful towards, and in the end found I was basically an idiot for not having done this at a much younger age. My parents were exceedingly good people doing an exceedingly tough job, trying to raise me. I was a handful to say the least. My parents always did their level best but being human failure on occasion was inevitable. They are not to be faulted for those failing, just understood and where needed, forgiven. The central question to their relationships with me was, did they love me? The answer is a resounding yes and that being true, I need to be satisfied.

All this introspection brought me to a conclusion about all of humanity: fear is the most pervasive feeling all humans have and the most difficult with which to deal. And a large portion of the human race does a poor job in dealing with fear. But fear is the one shortcoming that also owns a necessary place in our existence. But fear holds a special place because of its dual status. Fear is that extremely basic thing within all of humanity that was responsible for our survival from the earliest of days. It kept the human race alive back in its infancy and it keeps us alive today. No soldier who has ever been on the battlefield was devoid of fear. Even those who receive medals and are revered for their bravery will admit that they had a healthy amount of fear going in. Fear puts the body on alert that it is in danger and that a defense may be necessary. Fear heightens all our senses. That is the good fear. That is the type of fear that we not only cannot overcome but which we do not want to overcome.

But even that type of fear, that primal instinct of self-preservation and all others, come from a person’s lack of knowledge when faced with situations that require an action of them. We fear judgement. We fear being wrong. We fear rejection. We fear heights. And when we look at ourselves long and hard, we find that we all have a rather long shopping list of fears. Those fears range from the easy to deal with to the impossible to deal with.

One of the more common fears is that of being judged, particularly when that judgement comes from a person with whom we have a personal relationship. This is a tough one because it is human nature to desire to always been seen in a favorable light. This fear, however, can lead us to another character defect, honesty. People will say they were less than honest to save a person’s feelings. You are not responsible for another person’s feelings! If being honest means hurting a person’s feelings it may be better that way. But if it is one of those rare occasions where hurting the person’s feelings achieves nothing, then be judicious with your words but keep each word fully honest. You might find it wise to respond by saying “I need to think about that” or words to that effect. All of us are confronted with questions everyday but not every questions needs to be answered an instant later. Many question needed to be considered at some length before being answered. Most of the time saying “allow me to think about that for a minute” should suffice. Sometimes you will need to think longer. Regardless, engage your mind before engaging your mouth.

But there is one thing which is absolutely necessary. You must talk about your fears with someone you trust, if not a therapist. Many times a fear that is bouncing around in our heads loses all its power when shared with another person. Just our saying the very words “this scares me” frequently reduces the level of fear if not eliminating it entirely. I can say with absolute certainty that regardless of what scares you that exact same fear is shared by others and may actually be very common. One of the best things which can happen with sharing a fear with another person, is that person validates our fear by admitting they share the very same fear. Another frequent result of admitting a fear is finding a resolution to that fear in the process.

I have already touched upon honesty but it deserves further discussion. I have adopted a principle of absolute honesty even to my own detriment. That simply means that when someone asks a question of me, particularly a question which will require me to reveal a part of me of which I am not proud, I will give a fully honest answer. The only qualification to that is that the person asking the question has a right to the knowledge I hold. My wife has a right to ask absolutely any question she wants and I in return have an obligation to answer her honestly. But my sister, parents, other relatives, and friends do not have a right to access that information. What I cannot do is lie instead of telling them it is none of their business.

I have some young friends who have decided to not drink anymore and they struggle with how to deal with friends who use peer pressure to get them to drink. I tell them when asked why they are not drinking to reply that they simply do not want to. And if that person persists even after having asked twice, I suggest that they ask the person questioning them, “why it is so important to you that I drink?” This is shifting the burden in place of lying or of revealing a part of themselves they consider private. You are questioning their motives.

At this point I need to bring up the principle of “owning your own crap.” Everyone screws up, some of us more frequently than we care to admit, and yet it is still true. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is “I wasn’t caught.” Yes you were! It does not matter that no one else saw your indiscretion, you saw it, you know about it and you need to own it. The principle here is you cannot get rid of any crap you do not own. That is just logical. Let’s say you put an old refrigerator out behind your house, then an old car next to it, then a box spring, and before long you have what appears to be a junk yard. The city comes by and tells you that you need to get rid of your crap because you are in violation of an ordinance. You tell them it’s not yours. As ridiculous as this scenario seems, this is something people do every day with regards to non-material crap. They deny they have done wrong, they deny they lied or were less than fully truthful, they deny that taking a bunch of paper from work is wrong, etc. But as long as they use denial of the truth as the barrier from taking rightful responsibility, they will suffer its consequences. The consequences is that these things are additive and they weigh upon you. That weight gets heavier and heavier and frequently leads to a loss of friends, relationships, of trustworthiness and even jobs. There are few things more freeing than to admit that you screwed up. Having taken ownership of the screw-up you can then commence a course of relieving yourself of that crap. This should bring into sharp focus the concept of denial as being a major shortcoming. People use denial regularly do not realize they are lying to at least one person, themselves, and probably others. It creates unnecessary barriers. It keeps them from enjoying a lot of happiness and freedom.

Some of my other shortcomings are laziness, procrastination, over eating, and many other things I just cannot think of at the moment. The thing is, I accept that I have each and every one of these shortcoming and that to overcome any one of them, I need to take some sort of affirmative action. I think it unlikely I will ever overcoming my overeating tendencies but I task myself with a certain level of exercise to overcome the shortcoming, or at least lessen its effect. It does not always work but it is a solution among the several available. My shortcomings keep me from being as happy as possible. But by acknowledging them and having a method of counteracting the shortcomings, I am assuring myself of much more happiness than by not doing these things.

Finding That Special Someone

You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. That sounds extremely trite and hackneyed but it is also true. It is always better to find Mr. Right, or Mrs. Right as the case may be, than Mr. Right Now. But there comes a time when we all want to stop dating and start a long term relationship. The problem seems to be with the first date and how your figure out if he, or she, is someone you want to be with. In doing so, you have taken on an almost impossible task. It is rare that you find a person who you have just met as being someone you are certain about, someone with whom you feel perfectly comfortable. In that light, give yourself three or four dates before you come to any conclusions about someone. That is assuming you do not find something in the person you have just met that you consider to be a deal breaker. A deal breaker for me, when I was dating, was smoking. I made it known up front that I could not be with some who smokes. Once or twice my date denied she smoked but then she never should have kissed me because non-smokers are very sensitive to the existence of nicotine.

That leads me to rule number one of dating, honesty. Many people today attempt to find partners via dating websites. That is all well and fine, I found my wife that way, but total honesty is a necessity. That means you do not put up a five year old picture because you favor how it makes you look. If, however, that is the only picture you have, be certain to mention that in your profile. Dishonesty of any sort should be, and usually is, a deal breaker. You have a right, and should insist upon that from the person you are interested in.

Once you decide you want to meet someone make that meeting at a location which does not serve alcohol. I like coffee shops. The reason is simple, you do not want your judgment and perception, or his, clouded by alcohol. You also do not want that person using alcohol as a crutch to better present himself. If you know you are shy and withdrawn, you need the other person to be accepting of that. This too is honesty. And you need to know how the other person acts fully sober. A shy person can still be an extremely attractive person.

Eye contact is not the sign of honesty, it only shows the person is capable of maintaining eye contact. Inveterate liars have no problem maintaining eye contact. But you can get to the truth of the other person by asking questions that are really important to you. Ask the other person questions like where they work and what their plans are for the future regarding their profession. Ask what they like to do in their free time, about their siblings and parents to see how they handle what should be important relationships. A bad relationship with a parent or sibling should not be a deal breaker. I like to say all families are crazy, it is just a matter of degree. But it will speak to how they handle difficult and important relationships.

If you love cats or dogs, you probably want to find out how your date feels about them. If you are a college grad and want the same in your date find that out. If you cherish your independence, make sure your date enjoys the same feeling. If your dating history suggests you have dated people who have eventually cheated on you, ask yourself what sort of person he generally was in the beginning and if you are seeing that in your new date.

Let date one be an interview only. You meet at the coffee shop, or where ever, and when you leave that location each of your goes your own way. Sex needs to be off the table.

For women, do not be afraid to tell the person you have met, after an hour or so, that you need to check in with a friend that you are safe and well. If he is offended by this, leave, he is obviously insecure and unconcerned with what is right for you. A keeper will intuitively understand and encourage your action.

If you got to the location of your date via public transportation, do not allow your date to take you home, regardless of how good you feel about him. If he becomes insistent, it is not wrong for you to take that as the sign of a controlling person, someone you probably do not want to be with. A good mate respects your wishes. Respect is absolutely necessary in a successful relationship. Demand respect.

Most importantly, be yourself. Do not try to be the party girl when you dream is to be a soccer mom. Talk about things you find fascinating and things you love to do. Accept that you are going to find things he likes or does that you do not like. Just consider it as a piece of the whole and how much it would matter in a long term relationship. For example, I love NFL football and make my wife an NFL widow. She neither likes nor understands football but we have more than enough things we do together, and things she does by herself, that more than compensate. For example, she enjoys her “girls’ night out.” I actually encourage it.

The first date ends when you want it to. If you do not want to see him again, say so. If he asks why mention the deal breaker and that as a deal breaker, it is not open to compromise. However, if you did not come across any deal breaker, I recommend you move on to date two. Keep date two limited to being taken out to dinner or something similar which requires conversation. This means going to see a movie or concert is inadvisable as such things do not promote an exchange of ideas. But unlike date one, date two can cover more important and intimate things. Thoughts about marriage should only come up as a natural extension of other discussions but not as a question in itself. The early dates should encompass only your mutual compatibility and nothing more.

Those first dates must be about your mutual compatibility. You need to see if he would make a good friend and if you say no to that, then say no to continuing on. With each succeeding date, you should feel increasingly comfortable in his presence. You should feel less and less guarded about your feelings and the things you share because you are increasingly confident that he will accept you as you are. You should be able to say something as simple as you are afraid of thunderstorms and have him offering you comfort and not laughing at such things. We all have fears and shortcomings. That special person will want to be at your side no matter what.

When you start this sort of dating, remember the goal, to find a life partner. To a reasonable extent, control the conversation. Know your boundaries and do not let him inside any boundary before you are ready. Have a firm grasp on your deal breakers and what is important to you, and make sure he meets such expectations. Compromise well within your comfort zone and if you are not comfortable with any comprise then don’t! Your future happiness depends upon your up-front willingness to stay within your principles.

The Sucessful Relationship

A young friend of mine told me this morning that his fiancé moved in with him last week and that they are getting married in two weeks. They have been together for some time now so there in nothing rushed in what is happening. But he could not wonder what the future holds for him. His most basic question, one that many people struggle with, is “why me?” He wonders why she wants to spend a life with him. I told him it is because she really likes what she sees and that he gives her everything she wants. Now I have to admit that I speculated a bit on that point because I have never met his fiancé. But Adam is a really good guy and I believe my assumption to be a safe one.

He then asked me how long I have been with my wife. I embarrassingly had to stop and think about that for a second and decided that telling him how long we had been together was even more important.

My back story is one of too many failed relationships prior to the one I am in now. There are many reasons for those failed relationships and good deal, probably 90% or greater, are the result of my decision making. That decision making is more than just who I chose, but how I acted, what I said, what I did and a plethora of other things during those relationships. My failed relationships spanned from a few days to many years but finally I got my head out of my ass and took note of what I had done wrong. The things I had done wrong can be boiled down to a few basic truths: dishonesty, disloyalty, fear, doubt, and insecurity. And I can wrap all those things up by saying, I just did not know how to talk or to relate to people, not just women, but everyone.

I told Adam that probably the most important thing in a relationship has to be honesty. And that honesty has to start well before the marriage. This is where fear always crept into my psyche. I feared that if I was totally honest about what was going around in my head then certainly the woman I was with would go running for the hills. What I failed to do was consider that that might have been the relationship saver rather than killer.  The other relationship killer, absolutely, is resentment.  Resentment is the poison you drink while you wait for the other person to become ill.  But in truth resentment is simply the surfacing of our own shortcomings that we either deny or are unwilling to overcome.

I think we human beings have a natural amount of insecurity which shows up in our lives in a variety of ways. I feel badly for women because they are bombarded with the commercial world’s definition of beauty. They compare themselves to the reigning queens of beauty in music, on the silver screen and in the advertisements of the magazines they read. I can tell you from personal experience that I have known any number of women who were truly gorgeous on the outside and either hollow or some other negative characteristic to the core. Then I know a lot of people who are absolutely gorgeous. Most will never turn a head but what springs forth from them is a beautiful heart. True beauty is an inside job. Now this is not to say that physical attraction should not play a role in a good relationship, it does of course! But that can only be the start of things. There is a natural progression from that point that must happen.

I stated in an earlier post that you should marry your best friend. That is, this is the person you talk to freely and easily. The only time you edit your speech is to be politic about what you are saying without sacrificing honesty. Honesty is the bedrock of all good relationships. Partners who have been together a long time not only know their mate’s good qualities but also their shortcomings. All human beings develop a host of shortcomings. Those who desire to better themselves reduce or remove those shortcomings as much as possible. I like to use the common shortcoming of jealousy. I call it one of the two most useless feelings any person can have, the other be resentment. But I chose jealousy here because I firmly believe it can be entirely defeated. That is because I believe jealousy is a measurement of an individual’s insecurity. The secure man takes pride in other men admiring the woman he is with. In fact, if he could, he would invite it. He also does not worry that his wife is out with friends some of whom may be male. This is also the trust aspect of good relationships, you trust your mate no matter what.

I suggested to Adam that, if he had not already done so, he talk to his fiancé about his fears and his insecurities. I explained that everyone has them and anyone who claims they do not is a liar. Not only does your mate need to know such things so (s)he knows what is going on with you, but has the right to know such things. I think it an obligatory part of successful relationships.

To this Adam said he had always seen himself a “the rock” in the relationship. I asked him why since, as I explained, a rock never moves forward. I suggested he look at the relationship as mutually supportive as you move through life so that when one or the other has a weak moment you have all the support you need in your mate. They instinctively understand and are ready. They have you by your arm ready to hold you up when you stumble, which you will!

Society today in general seems to have a lot of trouble listening. When someone is explaining something to you not only is it polite to quietly listen until they are done, it is crucial to understanding one another. Some people just cannot seem to help themselves and interrupt the other person by talking over them before they are done. This has the effect of turning a nice discussion into a confrontational one. It is always best to hear the person out, take breath, literally, and then in considered terms, respond to what they have said. At the very least this shows respect for what has been said. That is particularly good when you find yourself in the position of having to disagree with what has been said. What is at work here is respectful consideration. People like to think what they say is of value but when they are interrupted it says just the opposite and who wants to be disrespected? In a marriage as soon as one party starts thinking the other does not respect them, it does not bode well for the future. It is then that questions of commitment and love also come into question.

I think it wise to take, at the very least, a mental snapshot of the person you are marrying or otherwise entering into a long term committed relationship. Remember the reasons that got you there, why you found that person so attractive. Those things you find attractive will not change much except in a positive direction. A good heart is always a good heart, it does not change. A kind, caring, considerate, deeply committed and honest person also does not change and those are the qualities that take you through the years. Outer beauty fades, sex drive fades, and energy level fades among other things. But that is to be expected and that happens the successful relationship realizes that just being with that other person makes their day. Their love is shown in a thousand other ways and even though they feel extremely comfortable in the relationship, they have also committed themselves to always working on it. But when everything and everyone else seems to fail us, we can count on our loved one because we know for certain they are always there for us.

Navigating Relationships in Your 20s

As human beings we are social creatures by design.  We are not meant to be alone and certainly not meant to live alone.  Somewhere around the age of 12 we all experience the desire to be with a special someone.  Unfortunately, schools do not teach us about friendships and relationships.  We learn by watching what other people do, what our parents do, and, unfortunately, what we see on television and the internet.  The last two, of course, are absolutely the worst places.  Still, we all seem to get into relationships that are doomed from the start.  Women, unfortunately, settle for “Mr. Right Now” instead of waiting for “Mr. Right.”  Men look for someone to take care of them, someone to replace mom.  We men will never admit to that but it is true.

Life is all about priorities and choices.  Young people, myself included when I was young, I am 66 now, seldom prioritize anything and are prone to bad choices.  Also, life is messy, just accept that truth and do not worry about it.  As much as you might think you do, you definitely do not know what someone else is thinking about you, never assume.

I recommend that all young people stay in school as long as possible.  Getting well-educated for young people must be priority number 2.  That assumes that priority number 1 is taking care of yourself and whatever that means.

It is not just young people who find the concept to self-care illusive, it is older adults as well.   I believe the most basic element to solving absolutely any problem we have or will have is that we keep a very sharp focus on taking care of ourselves.  Those basic things include eating healthy, annual visits to our primary care physician and dentist, regular exercise, and even something as basic as dressing ourselves.  The old cliché’ of dress for success is true.

That done we need to have a plan for our future.  This is also a self-care issue.  Until we finish the highest level of education possible or necessary, our education has to be priority number 2.  Few people at age 18 know what career they want to pursue.  Even some of those who think they do really do not.  What I recommend is that high school seniors who are undecided do one of three things: 1) take a year or two off from school and enter the work force while you discover yourself, 2) join the military, 3) when you enroll in the college of yourself do not decide upon a major, go as “undeclared.”  During the first one or two years in college there are more than enough courses all college students must take to qualify for a degree.  Those courses almost always are enough to fill a freshmen year and at least in part a sophomore year.  And during that first and second year discover what truly thrills you.  Discover what your dream career is and then ask questions of college advisors what it takes to achieve the highest level in that career.  With a few exceptions, physicians, lawyers, nurses, and some others, your course of action will probably not be obvious.  But regardless of what college you attend, there is someone there who can give you the advice you need going forward.

I have a B.S. in computer science and a masters in U.S. History.  The latter degree came from an extremely good university and I pursued that degree because I really like U.S. history.  But had I had my senses about me after I finished my time in the army, I was 21 at the time, I would have pursued a career in astro-physics.  At the time I would have complained that I sucked at math.  But the truth was simple, I did not know how to study and overcome obstacles.  Math would have been tough but manageable had I had a plan.  When I retired at age 58 I was sprinting away from a 30 year career because I simply could not stand going to work anymore.  I made a lot of bad choices and did not have the courage to pursue my dreams.

Between the ages of 18 and 25 young people are usually absolutely obsessed with being with that special person.  And unfortunately this obsessions becomes priority number 1 in their life.  In my priority list here it does not belong even in 3rd place, still too high.  But relationships in general do belong in place number 3.  One of the craziest ideas people have is that they should never date a friend for fear of ruining a friendship.  I believe people who think that way have only a tenuous hold on what makes a good relationship.

Our most important relationships necessarily are with our family of birth.  Our parents and siblings are our first relationships and given all the years such relationships exist, should be our best.  Too many times, however, that is not true.  Sometimes it is for good reason but I think that is the exception rather than the rule.  Young people, myself included at the time, think our parents do not understand us.  It is a ridiculous thought but prevalent.  What we all need to do is put forth whatever effort is required to understand our parents, where they came from and from that why they are who they are now.  There is no substitute for understanding.  Within the family unit one of the most common negative emotions felt is resentment.  Resentment, along with jealousy, is one of the most useless feelings we all have.  Resentments are founded in fear, doubt and insecurity and serve no good purpose.  When you feel a resentment ask yourself why and what happened to make you feel that way.  Then take good honest look at yourself to find the role you played in developing that resentment.  That done, let it go, get over it.  Resentment is the poison you drink while you wait for the other person to fall ill.

I have three daughters.  When she was in high school my eldest daughter came to me and complained that she did not have any friends, that no one liked her.  I knew that could not be true and asked her if she had one good friend.  She responded that she did.  I told her that she already had all the friends she needed and to not worry about anyone else.  She later told me how good that advice was when she suggested to her younger sister that she come to me about friendship advice.  It is my belief that people should practice being a friend and how to have friends prior to moving on to something more serious.  That is not to say you should not date, you should.  Just refuse to commit to anyone before you are ready and certainly not before you have the friendship concept down cold.

It is at this point people oft times find themselves interested in a good friend for a more serious and intimate relationship.  If you still feel you cannot be intimate with that person for fear of ruining a good friendship then I suggest you still do not have the friendship concept down.  Why would you want to be in an intimate relationship with anyone who would not also qualify as a best friend?

Try to avoid getting married before you are 25.  Considering 50% of all marriages fail, why not wait it out as long as possible?  I am not saying you cannot find that right person prior to 25 you can.  But when you think you have that right person in your life make sure you ask and answer the tough questions.  You want someone who is secure, devoted, monogamous, honest and who, when you are not engaged in sex or having a conversation with, you can sit quietly with and enjoy their company fully.  This is also the person who, when you are about to do something dumb, will lovingly suggest you consider your options.  This is the person who is not jealous, always courteous, thoughtful, and loves you when you are at your worst.  This is the non-judgmental person with whom you share your greatest fears and who knows all your shortcomings and loves you all the same.  But even my short list here suggests that you must be willing to invest a serious amount of time in the relationship prior to agreeing to marriage.

The long and short of all this is simple, make sure you can exist happily on your own before you make a commitment to be with anyone else.  Sometimes even with our best efforts relationships fail.  And when they do, do not be that person who has to scramble to find a place to live, to feed yourself and otherwise take care of yourself.  Do not be the person who will have difficulty in making ends meet.  Do not be the person who thinks because the relationship failed you are a failure too or that you are unlovable.  And definitely do not be the person who, on the heels of that failed relationship, quickly jumps into another because you feel desperate, lonely or anything else that puts you in a negative light.  Without being annoying or narcisstic about it, always consider yourself a catch and that whoever might want to be with you should be lucky to have you.

Parent Child Misunderstandings

Many years ago, on a trip to Canada, my father lost his patience with me.  He exclaimed, to my horror, “you’re just like your mother!”  My father was an incredibly patient man, but more than once I pushed him past all reasonable patience, and into something else.  That was just one such time.  I remember that incident so well because I could not believe what he had said.  And for years afterward, I made it a mission to insure that I was not anything like my mother.  She and I had always had a contentious relationship, and that is putting it mildly.

My father grew up in an upper middle-class house while my mother grew up dirt poor, and adopted by an aunt and uncle who could not have made her feel more unwelcome.  They were married shortly after World War 2.  My father was a WWII vet and met my mother after he got back.  It was a set up but a mutual friend, but a good one.  My view of my parents’ marriage was that it was excellent, a model of what a good marriage should look like.  I have not changed that view at all.  But what I have changed is my view of them as individuals.  Unfortunately, my father died right before my 21st birthday, and I never really got to know him.  That was in large part due to adolescent and teenage selfishness on my part.  I forgive myself that because I believe it is something most, if not all, teens go through.  While teens we think how dumb our parents are, and when we get older, we discover how dumb we were.

My mother lived to age 89.  I firmly believe she could have lived longer if she had desired.  But I think she gave up living.  Along the way she had lost the only man she ever loved, and she adored him.  Of that there is no doubt.  Then she suffered the loss of a child when her son, my brother, died.  That almost killed her, literally.  At some point after that I decided to discover who she really was.  My mother was very tight-lipped, and did not care to talk about her childhood.  It was miserable so why would she?  Her father had deserted the family when she was only 4, and then her mother died when she was 11.  She was shuffled around between relatives, not uncommon in those days, until she settled with an aunt and uncle.  She graduated high school and went to a hospital that sponsored a nursing school and took up her profession.  She was, by all accounts, an excellent nurse, and it served our family well during some lean times we experienced.

I was so angry with my mother for years for doing this and not doing that.  But at no point did I stop to consider the tools available to her for bringing up a handful like me.  She called me a bull in a china shop, an apt description, as I was my own little force of nature when I was young.  I had to have my way which frequently collided with her having her way.  Seldom was it a question of right and wrong, just a question of who would prevail.  That made it difficult for my father, brother and sister to contend with but I don’t think either of us ever considered that very much.

In my 30s I suffered from a particularly severe case of depression.  Although I know the reasons, they are not germane to this.  What is important is that my mother did not take the news well.  I know now that at the time she viewed it as a failure of hers.  It was not, of course, but that was what she grew up believing.  I found out some years later that she had suffered an extremely severe case of depression of her own that required ECT.

Then I became a parent and had children of my own, three daughters.  I adore them but I know for fact that my good intentions do not always come across that way to them.  I am certain they have thought of me as intrusive, and not being sensitive to their desires.  It is this realization that let me know that I was indeed, in many ways, very much like my mother.  We parents have this tendency to take our children’s problems personally, and our distaste for something they are doing is really our fear that they will be hurt.  We do not always express ourselves well, and I know that was the case with my mother.  My mother had the extra problem of having virtually not support system when she was a young parent.

The human being has yet to be born who does not have one serious problem during their life.  Usually it’s many.  As parents we want only the best for our children.  We want them to have better lives than we experienced.  We want them to be happier.  We sometimes, foolishly, want to shield them from failure, sickness, and bad people.  That is simply impossible.

If your parents are still alive, get to know them all over again.  Ask them lots of questions about what they experienced when they were children and when they were your age.  I had to learn about my father through his sister because, as I said before, he died at such a young age.  And parents, just be sure to tell your children that you love them, and be big enough to admit that you are still capable of making mistakes.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

When I was younger, much younger, I had two mental lists. The first list was of everything I wanted, and the second list was of everything I believed I could have or could get. The second list bore only slight resemblance to the first. That should not have been the truth, but it was. That first list was not a truth for me because I did not believe that those things were within my reach or that I was capable of gaining them. That, I believe, is the exact definition of selling yourself short.

As a young adult I had an absolutely miserable self-opinion and my body image was not much better. That was at the base of all my problems. People always said, “just be yourself.” But what good is that when you don’t know who you are? Even that would not have been such a great problem if I had someone to bounce things off. That meant I needed someone in my life who would be non-judgemental and give me good advice. I actually had such a person but I was so fearful that I could not get up the courage to talk my mind to her.

This person in my life, Pat, was one of the more beautiful and intelligent women in the community I was living it at that time. I mention that because I was living in Italy at the time and in a rather small community of Americans living over there at the time. Pat was kind, compassionate and understanding. I could have confided anything in her and gotten good advice in return but my insecurities did not allow for that and so I suffered.

In my senior year in high school I was smart enough and had good enough grades that I was able to secure early admission to Boston University. I don’t know if things like that happen anymore, but at the time it meant I had my letter of acceptance from B.U. in November of my senior year while others had months of waiting in front of them. But when I got to B.U. I failed miserably. Why? I did not believe in myself and once again my insecurities did not allow for my owning up to my shortcomings and asking for help from my advisor. Of course I flunked out of college. They didn’t throw me out. I left because I knew I was failing and didn’t know what else to do. I resolved that by joining the army, not the greatest idea in 1968 but not the worst either.

The things I have just spoken of are classic examples of “fear of success.” It sounds like an oxymoron but it is not. I could not handle success so I made certain I torpedoed any success I was having by some sort of ridiculous action. Let’s say, for example, I was dating that gorgeous blonde. I would inevitably allow my insecurity to take control and say something that made her want to run for the hills which of course meant an end to the relationship, such as it was.

While I was at B.U. my advisor one day said that I should have gone to Harvard. I thought he was kidding me, of course, because I definitely was not smart enough to go there. But he wasn’t and so I set up an interview. I was usually good at interviews but I was so intimidated by where I was that at the end of the interview the man told me that I should never even consider going to Harvard ever again. Many years later I went to, and graduated from, graduate school at Harvard but that is another story. I does show, however, how much I was selling myself short. Rather than take what the interviewer said as a challenger, I took it as fact.

Earlier I mentioned a fear of success. The other half of that is a fear of failure.  I was projecting.  I was always going to worst case scenarios and thinking that failure was the only possible result.  What didn’t occur to me was that it was okay to have failures along the way as long as I kept with it until I succeeded.   I had a course at Harvard once that I got a C+ in.  That is an unacceptable grade in graduate school and the course does not count towards the degree but that 2.7 does get figured into your GPA.  That stopped me dead for a while.  But once I got my wits back about me, I pushed onward, wrote my thesis with a lot of help, and graduated.  Decades later I recognized, fully, what I was capable of if only I allowed for failure.

I heard someone say recently, “don’t worry if you are shooting for the moon and miss.  It just means you will end up among the stars.”  And so much of life really is that simple.  Relationships failure, we fail in school, work, sometimes stumbling just walking down the street.  We feel foolish briefly but we move on.  In the long run, regardless of what happens, I know I will be all right.  Not everyone is going to like me and accept me as I am and that is all right.

I wrote this because I was inspired by a young man today who had just left a toxic relationship and was feeling badly about it none-the-less.  I advised him that he can have anyone he wants and that he need only continue on as he is.  I didn’t mean that he can simply go out and point to any woman and she’ll be his, no.  I mean that when he meets someone he truly likes and is compatible with that he is the quality kind of guy a good woman will want to be with.  That’s the “don’t sell yourself short” part.