When failure isn’t even on the table for discussion.
As a serial monogomist, my modus operandi in the past has always been the same. Find a man I like that likes me back and settle into an instant relationship. It’s how I ended up married to my second husband.
Our courtship period didn’t really exist. I invited him over one Sunday for beer-can grilled chicken and football.
We accidentally caught the chicken on fire and laughed until we cried. I used to joke that he came over and never left. From that day on, we were us. It just happened.
It wasn’t that magic something hanging about us that made everything instantly right. It was just comfortable and easy. We grew to love each other. It was never work. Until it became more work than I would do alone.
It’s been 21 months and 19 days since I handed my ex-husband divorce papers and officially gave up on us. That was almost nine years to the day that he first came to my house and we accidentally lit that chicken on fire.
During this time, I’ve made solid effort of dating. Kind of. I’m horrible at it. Truly. I surmise I’ve had about three dozen first dates and only four have resulted in a call back. That’s my own doing. If I couldn’t see the instant relationship there, it meant work. Then, I would shut down. Out the door I would go.
I met someone a few months ago. I wasn’t supposed to keep him. But, I did. I was supposed to let go. But, I didn’t.
Holding on made absolutely no sense. I did it for one reason and one reason only: I wanted to.
To be honest, I wasn’t going to give him my number after we’d met. I couldn’t see a relationship being feasible and I didn’t think he’d call anyway. Still, I did it. Two hours later, I got a text asking if I worked the next day.
For the first time, I was not even remotely thinking about the future, where this was going, what the plan would be or even how we could logistically make something work.
I had resigned myself that it was never going to end in forever so I might as well try living in the moment and enjoying what was in front of me.
Failure stops being a concern when you stop focusing on succeeding.
I had nothing to lose. Enter the Practice Relationship. The kind where you realize the person is not going to be “The One” so you figure you might as well allow yourself to make mistakes you can so that when “The One” comes along, you’ve learned from all those mistakes.
My entire thought process changed. I had a different intention. I was going to take an incredible opportunity, with someone I genuinely liked and cared for and explore a different kind of work. Work that didn’t involve trying to keep someone there. Work that didn’t involve moving the ball down the field. Work that didn’t rely on an endgame.
There’s a wisdom I didn’t think existed in the Practice Relationship. The work becomes being the best god damn version of yourself you can possibly be for your own betterment and for the good of whoever the person is with you.
I started doing things in relation to my own self that I never did. I looked hard for patterns of behavior that didn’t suit a healthy relationship. Out they go. I sought opportunities to speak what I had to in a way that was kind. I looked to be heard, respected and appreciated.
The work isn’t all about me, though. It’s learning how to treat someone else. Communication functions differently. When you seek to be heard you become hyper aware of what the other person is saying as well. Their needs are more visible because you make the space for them to tell you.
Establishing and practicing boundaries becomes a daily exercise. Admittedly, I have either been someone who gives way too much or not at all. That sweet spot where the give and take is balanced is foreign to me. We can’t ask someone else to do something for us that we won’t do for them. You learn to read people to meet their needs.
When you learn how to give more where you have it and to ask for more when you need it, that sweet spot starts to materialize. And it feels strong. And whole.
Vulnerability is hard. It cracks us wide open. It’s terrifying for one huge, ugly reason. We fear rejection. Remove the fear of rejection from the table, because you don’t fear losing the relationship, and it becomes just acting as honestly and as forthright as you can. There is tremendous freedom there and it’s freedom I desperately need.
It occurred to be that every single relationship we’re in is a Practice Relationship. Every relationship deserves that kind of effort that becomes natural because you want to be a good partner regardless of how casual or serious a relationship is. It doesn’t have to put the relationship on a certain level. It doesn’t need to be overthought.
Eventually, we stop practicing. We get it right. Getting it right doesn’t have to result in forever. Healthy, wholehearted behavior becomes so innate that no matter if the person is in your life for six weeks, six month, six years or a lifetime, it’s time well spent. It becomes something you recognize your happy to entered into. Who wouldn’t want that?