Two to Tango

It takes two to make a relationship.

I thought about that today. In order to have a relationship, there must be at least two parties at all times and when something changes in said relationship, both parties are considered to be responsible for said change. While I believe that to still be true, I’ve come to learn that it does not take two people in order to make one person act.

In a more specific scenario… In previous relationships and even in the beginning of this one, I always thought it was my fault that the other person didn’t want to do XYZ. That the other person wouldn’t love me enough because I could do this or that. That if the other person wanted to leave, cheat, lie, etc, it was because I was inadequate, that I had somehow caused him to do or act in a certain way.

But those are not true. Those thoughts are not true. While my behavior may affect another person, while my behavior may encourage someone to act a certain way, I am not making that person act. I am not making the decision for him to react, to behave, to do anything. If he cheats, lies, whatever, that is not on me. He chose to cheat. He chose to lie. He chose to act in a way that was detrimental to our growth.

So in the end, while it takes two to make a relationship, it doesn’t take two for someone to be an asshole. Or leave. Or do whatever else.

If there’s anything that I am learning in the course of my work, it’s that we must take control of our actions and our behaviors. We cannot expect someone else or the environment to change for us if we are unwilling to take a look within ourselves to make our own changes. There is always going to be an asshole out there and how we respond to that makes a difference.

TL;DR – You are not the cause of someone else’s bad behavior. They are.

Meaning

Who determines if your life has meaning?

Is it you? Does your impression on how you view your life make that determination? Should you do the things that matter the most to you, the things that make you happy? Because doing so would make you feel as if your life is worthwhile? If you are satisfied with what you have accomplished in your life, then your life has meaning?

Or does your life have meaning because others have found meaning in it? Does your life matter because someone else has been positively affected by your existence? That for whatever purpose you served on this mortal earth, just you being you made an impact in someone’s life?

What does it mean for your life to have meaning? What are we all searching for?

Grief

There are no words to describe it.

I went to a training for grief and loss two years ago. One of the things that I remembered is that these feelings can come from anything. When there is a loss, a loss of a life, a loss of a relationship, a loss of a stable life – everybody experiences grief. There are no “stages.” Everybody lives on a continuum that is forever changing. Nothing is constant and people will always go in and out of their feelings of happiness and sadness.

That is why I can say that there are no words to describe what grief is. Everybody, no matter how well connected to a person or how far removed, experiences it. The death of a community member, a celebrity, a friend, a family member… It doesn’t matter. Somebody somewhere is experiencing what that loss feels like. Whether the loss is expected or not, there’s no telling how someone can react.

Let’s just say that no matter how far removed, everybody feels something. I am feeling something. For everybody involved. Even the person who inflicted this pain.

Totally cliche, but life is short. Life is too short.

Change

People say one of the only constants (outside mathematics) in life is change. People will continue to change and be changed. The boy asked me the other day, after contemplating on the many years we had been together, “Have we changed?”

I would like to think that our experiences with one another and in our lives outside of one another have changed us, made us either better or worse than before. Sometimes it’s an experience we have that forever marks who we transform into. Sometimes it’s a relationship with another person that molds us into another being. Sometimes, it’s just the fact that you’ve eaten pizza rolls with a lack of exercise that forces you to change your life or change your clothes.

But when you have a relationship with someone, who changes? Is there a compromise? Can there be a compromise in which no one person “changes” who they are? I tell people that I’m quirky, I’m loud, I’m crass, and a lot of the things I do would probably be socially inappropriate. I know these things and I defend them because I have internalized these traits to be a part of who I am. If someone were to challenge me to do things differently, I’d have to think about what the purpose would be and really decide if I am modifying my actions and behavior for this person, or for the person I want to become. It’s not an easy task to distinguish between the two.

As I was typing this post, the entire stages of change went through my head. Also one of those social worker jokes.

“How many social workers does it take to change a light bulb?”
“Only if the light bulb wants to be changed.”

And in those cases, when the light bulb refuses to be changed, or isn’t ready to change, we back off. In the cases with whom I have relationships, I am realizing that I cannot do much if the other is not ready for change. However, I cannot be the only one that modifies myself if another is unwilling. Perhaps I am missing that value, perhaps there’s something that’s unclear and yet to be seen in the midst of this emotional fog. At the end of the day, this will still change me. For better or worse.