Catherine and I were talking yesterday at a Cracker Barrel outside of Columbus about relationships. She's moving to Columbus to start vet school at OSU, so naturally that arrangement puts relationships on the brain, even though we're pretty confident, for now, about what we're doing.
What we find ourselves obsessed with is actually relationships that some of our close friends are in, and how bad they are. Yeah, maybe that's arrogant to say we know better, especially as a divorcee and ex-engagee (is that a word?), but we both feel like we get it after making a lot of mistakes. I'm not suggesting that we're perfect and can make it work with anyone, just that we understand the foundation.
The thing lacking most with our friends is honesty. It's something that touches so many areas of your life, and we're often astounded at the extent to which our friends spend energy on maintaining lies or hiding true feelings. The lies range from cheating down to destination replacement (telling your man you're getting your nails done so he won't want to go out to lunch with you and the girls), but regardless, that should never be a component of a relationship. That's the first and biggest problem. Other warning signs to go with dishonesty...
You make excuses for the behavior of your mate. That one pisses me off, and it extends the lies in the form of self-convincing to compensate for glaring problems. One friend tries to laugh off disrespect as being cute. It makes everyone around her uncomfortable and embarrassed for her. Some things she won't even tell other people about because she knows they're bullshit.
You live in a guilt-reward system. Actually, this one can apply to most any kind of relationship, including non-romantic situations. If you are made to feel bad for doing what you want to do, no matter how small, that's a problem. Even if you do what you want anyway, no one should ever project that nonsense toward you.
You make compromises you shouldn't have to make, or your partner is oblivious that you're making those compromises. I'm guilty of that one. Back in the day I pretty much locked Stephanie into going to a grad school that was not ideal because I was totally hung up on my job at the time. I don't know if I would've done things differently, but I was looking out only for me, and it probably didn't have to be that way.
You don't get the support you need. For some reason, a lot of people don't even bother to ask when they need help. If you feel like a burden to someone, that feeling is at least half caused by the other person. You should never feel like you're inconveniencing someone, and never be afraid to ask them for the things you need. They're always free to say no, as you are to them, but if you can't even ask, or they flat out make you feel bad for asking (see guilt system), then that's a problem.
A lot of these things are rooted in self-worth issues, believing that what you feel and need is valid. But the core value is that honesty and transparency. Only time will tell if Catherine and I are totally right for each other, but we don't have to guess because we enjoy total disclosure. Yes, that means some scary feelings are out there, but I'd rather know about something like that then have to guess or extrapolate questions into out-of-control assumptions that stress me out.
So why do we even give a shit about others? Well, I suppose it's because we're the type of people (her even more than me) that invest a lot in our friendships. We want our close friends to be happy, because we really do love them. Sometimes that puts us at personal risk, because we ask them, "What the fuck are you doing?" But that's the same honesty we apply to our romantic relationship, so why not do the same in our friendships? We don't have all of the answers, but we do have the framework to find them.