Letting Go of Expectations

From hectic life in the USA to island life as a stay-at-home-wife, this blog follows the musings of an anxious Type-A as she learns to slow down and tune in to the important things in life

 

Tag: empathy

If You Can’t Handle Me at My Worst

You’ve probably heard the saying before. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

This quote (whose actual author is unknown but which is commonly misattributed to Marilyn Monroe) seems to resonate with a lot of people.

It does with me as well, but a lightbulb moment changed the message of that quote for me. Now, those words speak to me in a much different way.

The Aha! Moment

It started when I was mad at Husband about something or other. We had just uprooted our lives in the States and moved to Grenada. He had just started medical school. We were both maybe a little stressed out. Ok, maybe a lot stressed out.

As I was sitting there, being mad, the quote popped into my head. If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.

Things were hard. And different. And he was really, really busy. Our lives had suddenly changed completely and he wasn’t able to support me as much as I needed or wanted during that major life transition.

I felt like I was at my worst, or close to it. I was at my worst, and in that moment, he wasn’t able to deal with me the way I wanted to be dealt with.

My mind went back to those words. If you can’t handle me at my worst-

But then it occurred to me. What if you turned the phrase around?

If I can’t handle him at his worst, I don’t deserve him at his best.

That changed everything.

How it Affected My Relationship

I realized that, though he is quite a bit more unflappable than I am, he had just gone through the same move that I did. On top of that, he was starting med school. We were both probably at our worst, or close to it.

Suddenly I began thinking about how I could be more supportive in our relationship, instead of just ruminating over what I needed out of it. I thought about how I could help him so that I deserved him at his best.

It seems really easy, in relationships, to think about what you want out of the other person. We spend time, even as we’re growing up, thinking about what qualities we want our partner to have and how we want them to treat us.

But how often do we think about what the other person wants or needs from us?

That is not to say that one person should bear the brunt of the work in a relationship. It is important that both people contribute equally. But maybe, if you give a little more, you’ll get back at least as much as you gave.

When I started thinking about what I could do for Husband to “handle him at his worst”, we both became happier.

The small steps that I took to help him become less stressed out also reduced my stress level because it gave me actionable things that I could do to improve our relationship. On top of that, when he was less stressed out, tension in our relationship dropped, and he was more able to provide the support that I was looking for from him.

Does the World Really Need More Relationship Advice?

The original quote is all about loving and accepting yourself for who you are, flaws and all, and making sure that the important people in your life do the same. While being treated right is incredibly important, it is also important to step back and make sure that we’re giving what we want to get.

I tend to be very stuck in my own head (hello, Anxiety), so maybe this reminder to step back and think about what you can give to your relationship is more obvious to some people.

But in a world where celebrity marriages end as soon as they begin, where the divorce rate seems to keep climbing, where people are always moving on to the next newer, better thing, maybe I’m not the only one who could use a reminder to think, not just about what you want to get out of a relationship, but what you are willing to put into it.

How to Improve Your Relationships

If you can’t handle them at their worst, you don’t deserve them at their best.

Try it on for size. Think about it. The next time you encounter a situation where you feel like someone isn’t able to “handle you at your worst”, try flipping the tables. When they were at their worst, what did you do for them?

Maybe the answer is that you did a lot for them. In that case, that might be a person who is using up a lot of your energy and maybe that’s not the kind of person you need in your life.

But maybe the answer is that you could have done more. Maybe you could have been more understanding, or taken a little more time out of your day for them, or sent that text message, or checked up on them, or brought them coffee. If that’s the case, and you value that person, maybe you decide to do a little more the next time.

That may just be the best bit of relationship advice that I’ve ever had the good fortune of stumbling upon-

If you value someone, think about what you’re doing for them to deserve them at their best.

Photo by Farrel Nobel on Unsplash

Connect: One Idea on How to Make the World a Better Place

I had the most touching interaction with a stranger the other day. I was walking out of the post office carrying a box and my unnecessarily large purse. I got into my car and was arranging everything on the passenger seat when I heard a voice behind me.

An older man had walked up to my open car door and as soon as I turned around, he said, “I wish to be of assistance. Do not panic.” With that, he gently closed my car door and was on his way.

I was struck by the quiet kindness in the man’s eyes and the kindness of his gesture. As I drove home, I replayed the moment over and over again in my mind, and I began to tear up.

Most of the time, if a strange man followed me to my car and walked up to the open door, it would have made me nervous at the very least. This interaction was different, though. I immediately recognized his demeanor as kind, and his words were honest and comforting.

He wasn’t looking for the thanks that I uttered to my closed car door as he walked away. He just saw that I had my hands full and genuinely wanted to help me out.

Of course, I would have had no trouble closing the car door myself. But had that man walked past my car without taking a moment to interact with me, I would have missed out on a moment of feeling connected to another human being, and feeling that you don’t have to know someone to care about them and making their day a little easier.

Then another thought occurred to me. How is it that we live in a world where shootings and bombings are commonplace, but where a simple act of kindness by a stranger was enough to leave my teary-eyed?

In a world that is so vast, that is populated by so many people, how is it that we still feel such a large void when it comes to feeling a connection to the people around us?

I wish I could say that I had the answers to those questions. Or, better yet, I wish I had solutions. But I don’t.

I do know that we crave a feeling of closeness, connectedness, and honesty with other people. Look at the success of Humans of New York or Post Secret. While it can be much harder to seek a connection with strangers in real life than it is online, that makes those real life connections even more enriching.

The discourse that surrounds having meaningful interactions with strangers tends to focus on helping other people or performing random acts of kindness. While that can be a great place to start, I believe the sentiment could – and should – go much deeper.

In thinking about what we can do to help people, it is easy to think about it in terms of what we are willing to do for other people that will make us feel the best about ourselves. I might feel really good about myself for giving $20 to the homeless man as I walked by him on the street, but it may not have been the most effective way I could have helped him. Maybe a few honestly kind words would have made his day more than the $20. It is easier, though, to put money in his cup and keep walking.

I think that a more effective way to think about “helping people” would be to think about what you could do to show someone that you see them and that you care about them. And I mean really see them. Understand them. Respect them. Empathize with them.

The man who closed my car door the other day knew that I might feel nervous that he approached me. He understood that, respected that, and was able to put my mind at ease before I even had a chance to react negatively. And even though he knew I might react negatively, he put himself out there anyways.

These are the types of actions that can start to make the world a better place to live in. If we could all look at our neighbors or the people we pass as we walk down the street and put just a little bit of effort into seeing them as individuals, absent of any judgment, the world be changed for the better. If we then took that seeing and understanding and – even occasionally – showed those acquaintances and strangers compassion and caring, the world would be a much better place.

I’m not saying that it is going to be easy. I’m not saying that I am good at it. But it is something that I am going to work on. Instead of giving sympathy to strangers, I will work on giving empathy, and making their day a little better through honest interaction.

It is something that can be applied on a much larger scale as well. Think about groups of people who are different from you. Maybe they are different in their age, race, gender, religion, or any other way. Make an effort to see things from their point of view. It may not be comfortable. It will likely challenge a lot of the assumptions that you had about that group. It may be difficult, but it needs to be done.

In a world where we are connected on so many levels, we are divided just as often. We identify ourselves as being part of certain groups, ranging from gender and race to political affiliation and which sports teams we like. If we surround ourselves with only others who are like us, it then becomes easy to see people who don’t fall into the same groups as “others”, but we must resist that urge.

It will not be easy. It will not happen overnight. If you are doing it right, you will be uncomfortable at times and pushed outside of your comfort zone. But start small. Start somewhere.

Start, perhaps, by letting a stranger know that you see them, and show them that in some way – no matter how small – that you care about them.