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Updated: Aug 9, 2021

Throughout our lives, we find ourselves engaged in various types of relationships, mostly voluntary as we are free to choose who we spend our time with. Others, we have no say in the matter such as our familial relationships with our parents, siblings, grandparents and the like (it’s probably a better idea to reserve the details of any “relationship” you might have had with that inappropriate uncle on your mother’s side, for that weekly forty-five minute session with a qualified therapist.)

We would hope that a majority of us were fortunate enough to have parents who remained constantly interested in their children’s lives. The love a parent has for their children is what selfless, unconditional love really looks like, and we would all become that much wiser, and have much healthier relationships if we tried to gain a better understanding of how we could apply the same to the other relationships we have with the people we truly care about.

We had childhood friendships, born originally out of innocence and then evolving through shared learning experiences. Chances are, those friends were responsible for convincing us to commit our first criminal offense (shoplifting was the first thing that popped into your head, wasn’t it? Criminals).

It’s harder to assess the value of these relationships as the bonds created were based more on proximity and convenience, than on emotional connections. Additionally, they were often overshadowed by the greater amount of control and influence our parents had over our lives and our actions. But more on that later.

We had friendships from our high school days, jam-packed with more controversial, violent drama than a gay pride parade in Afghanistan. Embarrassing times when we look back now, as I’m sure we’d all prefer to forget about those lunchroom gossip sessions, which at the time, we perceived to be a gathering of some of the most influential minds in modern history, deliberating potential solutions to some of the most psychologically challenging experiences ever faced by mankind (or: “peoplekind” if you’re one of those idiots who subscribe to the nonsense spouted by one of the worst politicians in the world today: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.)

Senior year, the lunchroom was packed with kids segregated into small groups as decided by their rank within the popularity hierarchy. April rushed to her best friend Amanda’s side with an urgent bit of gossip so critical that it justified body checking the overly-friendly janitor and knocking him to the ground. He was short and stocky with thick Coke bottle glasses who, in spite of missing a chromosome or two, was able to call out to every student by name as he waved incessantly at each of them.

After hitting the ground like a two-hundred-pound bag of concrete, he popped back to his feet and, much to the relief of no one, shouted: “Don’t worry, I’m okay!” He then turned to April, the aggressor responsible for the assault. “Hi! I think you are very pretty” he confessed while bashfully diverting his eyes towards the ceiling and nervously wringing his palms together, exuding a level of force equal to that of five men. A stark warning for anyone who might consider allowing him to hold their pet baby bunny would be a decision inevitably resulting in a guaranteed death sentence for the bunny.

“Holy shit Amanda! It’s really bad!” April screamed as she launched herself over two lunch tables, juice boxes and hot Cup-O-Noodles sent flying through the air. “Kevin texted that fat slut Becky a pic of his Pee Pee and wrote: ‘Thoughts?’ underneath it!” After inhaling deeply to catch her breath, she continued: “Then Tara said Becky was going to text him back with a pic of her Hoo Ha saying: ‘Why can’t we be friends?’ Which was really shitty of her because she knows how much you really like him!”

Nikki, the Goth girl dressed in all black from head to toe, including a thick layer of black lipstick and heroically sported a pair of heavily overgrown eyebrows, chimed-in to the conversation with her dark sense of humor: “So…? What’s the big deal? That janitor you just knocked over sent me a dick pic yesterday and I didn’t freak out. As a matter of fact, we have a date tomorrow night.”

Jesus… Other than the obvious short-term rewards reaped by Nikki’s well-timed dark humor, I imagine one would have a challenging time trying to figure out how our high school relationships made any kind of positive contributions to our lives. But unfortunately, those memories prove far more difficult to dump down our memory hole, so we might as well use them as a means of deterring our inclination to infuse unnecessary drama into our adult relationships.

Then there are the friendships we had in our college years. These became unbreakable bonds forged by the flames of life-changing experiences. Where alcohol set us free from our inhibitions and better decision-making skills, allowing us to have sex with a complete stranger in our dorm room while our roommate “slept” less than three feet away.

Despite the significant bonds created under such circumstances, these friendships tend to have a 7-8 year post graduation shelf life at best (so much for being unbreakable.) So, if you haven’t already, you might as well just go ahead and have experimental sex with your roommate now and get it completely out of your system so you can move on to the relationships that have far more potential.

The value of the relationships outlined above are equally deserving of review, providing an opportunity to assess their individual contribution to, or detraction from our happiness. Afterall, we’ve all heard that the meaning of life is to find happiness, and few things have as much influence over our happiness as do the interactions we have with other human beings.

However naive you believe them to be, most adults equate happiness with being in a loving, passionately romantic relationship alongside their soulmate, destined to be separated only by death. Which brings us to the type of relationship that reigns supreme in the eyes of most, the “Romantic Relationship”.

With the “meaning of life” hanging over our head it’s not surprising that we feel compelled to invest so much of ourselves into finding our soulmate. A quest that only intensifies as time passes the “unspoken for” by. All those soulmate impersonators, responsible for wasting so much of our precious time, are merely negative line items in our portfolio of failed investments as opposed to valuable lessons learned. We overcome our contempt for such past deceptions by regurgitating relatable half idioms such as: “Well... you’ve gotta break a few eggs...” Our resentment of the time wasted, being something that we can never get back, eventually leads to desperation compounded by a sense of urgency that inevitably influences our decision making, and not for the better. Instead, we optimistically press on, turning a blind eye to the mistakes of our past, we return to where we started, following the same path that leads to unhappy endings, hoping it’s our luck that changes instead of our minds.

Our resilience is put to the test each time a failed investment knocks us on our ass. We brush the dirt off our jeans and jump right back on that horse, remaining steadfast in our repetitive approach to achieving our goal, regardless of the perpetual threat that approach poses to our integrity and dignity over the long term. Perhaps that too is somewhat understandable considering the alternative future involves a small one-bedroom apartment; twenty-three cats; a highly-active TikTok account; and a DVR filled to capacity with marathons of The Bachelor. Talk about a compelling mental image that should motivate single women in their mid-thirties to step up their game.

It should also come as no surprise that few are willing to wait patiently for that proverbial knock on the door, our soulmate standing on the other side concealing a quarter-carat diamond ring while repetitively whispering a semi-well-rehearsed proposal, plastic-wrapped roses in one hand and in the other a box of chocolates he stole from some slow-talking half-wit imbecile sitting on a bus stop bench while babbling on about shit his mama used to say.

The rational-minded realize that opportunity rarely knocks twice, if even at all. If we want it, we better accept that effort and sacrifice must be made if we are ever going to find that elusive, yet still available soulmate who is patiently waiting for us to cross their path.

We keep our finger on the pulse of the active love seekers society by scouring social media profiles or dressing like a tramp as we attempt our best drunk cat walk with our hips splashing back and forth, lips puffed out past the tip of our nose and our chest stuck out as far as it will go while strutting along like an intoxicated ostrich performing an elaborate mating call across the floors of as many bars and nightclubs as possible, believing we’re improving our odds of finding Mr. Right, only to end up leaving with Mr. GoodEnoughForNow.

The adrenaline comes rushing through the moment we notice someone new who has the physical attributes we find attractive. That ‘butterflies in the stomach’ sensation kicks-in immediately after locking eyes with them, exchanging blatant gestures reassuring the other that the attraction is mutual, and they may both proceed in good faith. That sensation is more addictive than heroin, and once our eyes have glazed over and rolled back into our head, we begin to ignore how much power we’ve surrendered while under its spell, and accept our willingness to do pretty much anything to sustain that high for as long as humanly possible. Nothing poses a greater threat to maintaining that high than a corrosive conversation that quickly erodes confidence in whether or not the attraction remains mutual. In an attempt to mitigate the risk of that happening, we slip the potential relationship a poison pill when we find ourselves willing to abandon our loyalty to upfront honesty and replace it with covert strategies intent on manipulating the other person’s perception of us.

Unfortunately, we begin to sabotage the romance’s potential from the moment of introduction, on. Everyone needs to learn how to deal with the fact that we’re all a little crazy when it comes to love, and we do our best to try to hide it from the other person for as long as we possibly can. As a matter of fact, all the things we don’t want the other person to know about us are equally suppressed out of fear that it might change their perception of us, sending them running in the opposite direction without offering us an opportunity to correct the record. The same applies to bad habits, like biting your fingernails or tipping below 20% at restaurants. Logically, one would assume this to be the perfect time for you to consider working on changing some of things you don’t like about yourself, but nah! Now’s not a good time for ‘me’, so let’s just bury all those things down next to that whole “Uncle Relationship” thing for now. We’ll worry about fixing things later, after they’ve got a vested interest in the person they thought they were getting. Yeah, what could possibly go wrong with that plan…?

Now unsure of our stability in these fresh waters, we audit our inventory of available confidantes, trying to align their individual strengths with our current weaknesses to determine what steps will help us reach solid dry ground. We choose to sit insecurely on the edge of our seats, nodding in bovine agreement with the terrible advice being given to us by those sitting on the sidelines (benchwarmers, for a reason). Despite the blemishes reflected in their own past performances, we surrender to the source, latching on to every syllable, overly confident that the merit of the words once aggregated will blossom into a rose petal-lined path that leads directly to happily ever after.

Once we’ve spent hours becoming much more inadequately enlightened by the helpful insight we needed from our armchair quarterbacks, a strategy to win the heart and mind of our crush has been reborn, carefully reformulated by masters in the art of breaking hearts, and will be initiated as if we were at DEFCON-1… We’re going to lie like hell for as long as needed, in order to make them fall in love with us. Done! Perfect! Execute! Deploy! Deploy!

Basically, from the initial moment we meet someone new, we begin to lie and pretend to be someone we’re not. From that day forward, we find ourselves walking on eggshells until which time we eventually believe it’s safe to let our flaws and faults slip out one-by-one, perhaps just after the first child is born…?

And for what? A temporary glimpse of what it feels like to be loved? The only thing we accomplished was conning a mark into falling in love with the image of a person we wished we were? It was nothing more than a character we created by erasing the things we don’t like about ourselves and embellishing the things about ourselves we wish were true. It isn’t real. And yet people seem caught off guard when a relationship built on a foundation of lies comes crashing down around them. Lies reduced to rubble and ash smoldering under our feet. We try to tape the pieces back together haphazardly, hoping we’ll be prepared to reuse them at the next opportunity to catch a tiger by its tail.

We run directly towards the eye of the storm, lit torch in hand, raising it above our head triumphantly signaling to those who are paying even mild attention that the games have officially begun. The commencement of a power struggle designed to mislead our opponents into believing we are much more of an elusive target than we actually are. And we believe the most effective way to accomplish that goal is by pretending that we like the other person a lot less than we actually do. We can’t make it appear as though we are too available, even though we’re absolutely willing to make ourselves available, no matter how great the sacrifice. Ooooh, looks like my new crush will be spending this weekend in: Some Shithole Town, USA. I’ve come up with an intricate plan that is so bulletproof the NSA won’t even be able to figure it out! (Great! Now all my emails and text messages are going to be monitored). Here goes it: I’ll gag and hogtie my poor mother, throwing her headfirst into the trunk of her own car so I don’t have to answer any of her annoying questions as I drag her along for this cross-country colossal waste of time, piling up the miles on her odometer, under the false pretense that it would be some kind of bonding experience for the two of us, but in reality I just needed someone else with me who I could blame for dragging ‘me’ reluctantly to this exact area, on this exact day and this exact time in the hopes I might ‘bump into’ my crush without them being any the wiser. “Oh my gosh, what are you doing here? Yeah, my mom has some business... dress rehearsal... colonoscopy... audition... award... funeral thingy here, I guess... And she dragged me along for the bonding experience or whatever... so annoying. Holy shit! I can’t believe you’re here, too. No, I’m totally free to hang out, my mom has to get to the... veterinarian’s office for that... speech thing she has... to cover with toilet paper... or else the onions... will go bad... thing I was telling you about just now before earlier. No, not at all, we can take my mom’s car and she can walk to the... hospital... Oh please, it’s not even midnight yet, she’ll be fine. Wow! I still can’t believe you’re here, too. This is so unbelievably random!”

Notwithstanding our unique ability to create bulletproof chance encounters, or our masterclass-level skills in the art of distraction by way of jabbering incoherently, we put the fate of our new romance into the hands of pernicious rules that inevitably leads to selling ourselves short. Rules such as never being the first one to text before the mandatory waiting period has expired. But the one rule that must never be broken, no matter what:.. Never, and I mean NEVER be the first one to admit how much you like the other. I’m tellin’ ya, you better not let that little secret out of the bag prematurely or else, bye-bye soulmate; hello cats.

If you have ever had really strong feelings for someone, and you were fortunate enough to be one of the few who actually got to hear the other say the same in return, then you understand how incredible it feels when the reciprocal words finally breach their lips. It’s a gift that destroys self-doubt and stressful anticipation. It takes a great deal of courage to be the first one to be up front and honest with the other about their true feelings, but it establishes a foundation worth building upon. If you’re able to give that gift of utter joy and relief to someone you truly care about, then you should. And you should believe they deserve to hear it. If the feelings are unrequited, you should consider the fact that, although the truth might be painful for the other person to hear, allowing them to continue living in a mental prison of uncertainty is far more agonizing for them. By being honest, they can at least now begin to accept it and put their imagination to rest. God forbid we’re ever just up front and honest with the other person and tell them how we really feel about them. An archaic approach to communication that has somehow managed to avoid becoming a prerequisite for physical “intimacy”.

Once a “physical connection” has been made, we still aren’t safe to feel comfortable speaking honestly. After having just spent the night with another human being, engaged in what is supposed to be considered the most beautiful state of shared vulnerability, we’re still not sure if we are crossing a line by being in their bed once morning breaks. Even if you managed to make it that far, what’s next, an invitation to have breakfast together…? “Oh hell no! I’m not ready to have kids.”

Unfortunately, we lack conviction when it comes to having an honest dialogue with someone we want to have shared experiences with. But there’s no denying that being honest would certainly be a much more productive and rewarding way of doing things. It sure as shit would make sex a hell of a lot more enjoyable, not to mention a worldwide reduction to the size of landfills by decreasing the amount of discarded fully discharged AA batteries.

Before we go running frantically into our next romance, each person needs to be honest with themselves about what they want out of the relationship, and need to do so in spite of what each believes/assumes about the other’s perspective. Only then should they be forthright, allowing both to have a better understanding of what they can expect from one another. If one wants something different and/or values the relationship more than the other, the one who values it less will always remain in control. If you’re the one who values it more, the challenge of reversing the roles becomes an obsessive game that never ends well. We should be able to live with the consequences if the other isn’t on the same page and have the courage to walk away from something that is different than what we are looking for. At least that way, we can be confident that any sacrifice we had made up until that point would be far less than if we had chosen the dishonest path.

Instead, we tolerate mixed messaging from the other, allowing it to manifest into volatile uncertainty, inevitably challenging our self-confidence and discouraging a rational based strategy to overcome such obstacles through honest dialogue and working hand-in-hand with our new adversary (I mean crush). Inevitably we become overwhelmed and find ourselves willing to blindly adhere to a default set of well-known, therefore predictable techniques designed to perpetuate the age-old tradition of playing cat and mouse.

If you’re guilty of playing the games I described above, you’re not alone. In hindsight, we all know there’s a better way of doing things, so what the hell do you really have to lose by trying the upfront and honest path for once in your life… And the starting point to begin your journey down a path of honesty, is staring back at you from the same mirror you use to make sure you look your best for when you finally get there.

Human beings are social creatures by nature. We seek out relationships because we find social interaction to be both stimulating and personally rewarding. We lose sight of the fact that interactions based on volatile uncertainty aren't necessarily the healthiest source of stimulation, and trying to satisfy our shallow and selfish desires to help us overcome our insecurities offers little in the way of reward.

Although we might be hesitant to admit it, we pursue those who pose the greatest challenge, not because they are the right person for us, but because if we succeed at making them fall in love with us then we will feel better about ourselves. Immediate gratification derived from vanity rarely produces the long term results you’re looking for. And as you walk down the aisle towards the man who finally fell prey to your charms after years of utilizing manipulation tactics designed to tip the love scale in your favor, keep in mind that you are more than likely running directly into the arms of a volatile relationship, instead of walking away from one.

We want this to be the one that lasts forever, so we approach our new romances with such enthusiastic, almost forced optimism that oftentimes we subconsciously dilute our standards in order to justify our continued pursuit of someone who fails to meet those standards. Alternatively, when considering the scars left behind by the negative experiences in our past, one would assume the opposite should be true. We should be far more skeptical than optimistic and allow our skepticism to have much more influence over our ability to abide by better rules that govern our choices in favor of protecting our best interests. What good is it to have standards if you’re unwilling to uphold them when you need them the most?

We can all recognize the attributes of someone we would want to be in a healthy, balanced relationship with, so it’s safe to say that we’re equally capable of recognizing those who we should avoid. Yet, we allow attractiveness to influence our better judgment and we choose to pursue those who are not right for us because we refuse to admit to the probability that they will eventually cause us pain over the long term. Mark Twain said it best: “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

We all want to believe that we are instinctively good, thoughtful, and considerate of others. We can certainly recognize when people are being inconsiderate towards us. Joe Rogan has a personal animosity towards those who refuse to return shopping carts to their designated areas, considering them to be a prime example of “inconsiderate lazy fucks”.

Oddly enough, we tend to be more considerate when dealing with total strangers than we are with the people we have established relationships with. That is, unless we’re talking about someone who appears to value the relationship less than we do. As pointed out earlier, pursuing such a challenge is a game that never ends well, so perhaps it would serve us well to learn how to recognize the red flags that mark the beginning of the end.

You can always sense when you haven’t managed to get the undying attention from your “challenge”. In responsive desperation, you up your game by increasing the frequency in which you ‘perform’ random acts of sacrificial kindness, believing it will make them happy, and be damned with those minor scrapes on the knees as they will heal in time. But the truth is, your motives are far more selfish than they are sacrificial. As the underdog, we all find ourselves once again trying to tip the love scales in our favor. We convey random acts of kindness for the undeserving, which are more than obvious blatant attempts to manipulate their perception of us. We anticipate them being appreciative of our sacrifices and we hope it will help improve their opinion of us, thereby becoming more attached to us, wanting to spend more time with us and compliment us more so we can feel better about ourselves. Well, when you put it that way, we do sound kind of selfish. Don’t worry, it’s not entirely our fault. Turns out, our parents are the ones who fucked us over!

Selfishness is in our DNA. When we were babies, we cried for the things we wanted, like wanting to be fed, to be held, to receive attention. Then, as toddlers, we progressed to the intolerable “MINE!” phase. A phase which might have involved a violent strike to another child’s face followed by a steady stream of urine to mark a “do not cross” line encompassing our precious Lego collection and other toys which might fall prey to false claims of being communal property.

Our selfishness becomes so annoyingly intolerable when we are toddlers, that our parents spend the next decade trying to break us of it. They do so by way of threat vs. reward. They threaten us with solitude, claiming no one will ever want to play with us again if we don’t share; and reward us when we do. Eventually, we fall in line and share our Legos with the other kid. Our parents then recognized our actions by praising us with high-pitched screams and a standing ovation for Best Performance In A Childhood Drama Series. But let’s be honest, we didn’t share because we all of a sudden became any less selfish. I mean deep down, fuck that kid! Get your own damn Legos, am I right?! We shared because we were scared of having to play alone, we were scared of being disliked by others, and because our brain was begging for a shot of patronizing approval to avoid going through praise withdrawals.

Lessons like these serve as nothing more than a poor example of how we should approach future relationships. They marginalized the value of individualism by reinforcing dependencies on relationships; and motivated us to mask our selfishness by mimicking behaviors that create the illusion of selflessness, using the proverbial 'carrot on a stick’ method (the irony can’t be unseen). Basically, they relied upon selfish-based motivators to discourage selfish behavior, motivated by their own selfish desire to slam back an entire bottle of Chardonnay uninterrupted in their new happy-hour-based bathroom between the hours of 12:30 in the afternoon until…? Something I’m sure will be tempting to bring up at the next family meeting.

Deny our selfishness all you want, but the truth is we all pursue certain relationships because we tend to equate our self-worth to how well we are accepted by others, especially by those who we desire the most. We can’t help feeling better about ourselves when others accept us, pursue opportunities to spend time with us, admire and respect us. But what we desire most is to have someone show us that they find us attractive and desire us as much as, if not more than we do them. Why? Because those insecurities impact our optimism when envisioning our probability of success in finding a long-term relationship with someone we are attracted to. Qualifying those insecurities as the most vulnerable to criticism. These desires eventually manifest into a reliance upon validation from others in order to overcome self-doubt, subside our fear of existing in solitude, and diminish our ability to remain loyal to protecting our well-being. These are selfish reasons to be in a relationship and, despite the negative implications to our well-being, they are extremely compelling in those times where we find ourselves suffering from an overwhelming lack of self-confidence. There’s a huge difference between wanting to be in a relationship that contributes to your well-being, and being dependent on them to validate your sense of self-worth.

These are the dirty little secrets no one is ever willing to admit. Right! That’s the point. But the question is: admit to who? No one ever said anything about admitting them out loud… An unwillingness to be honest with yourself prevents you from considering certain actions which could potentially be responsible for yielding the negative outcomes you’re so desperately trying to avoid. The longer that unwillingness prevails, the chances of you finding and maintaining any kind of long-term relationship deteriorates rapidly.

Undiscouraged by our history of romantic failures, the optimists will always press on. I admire all you love-sick, adventuresome warriors who stand optimistically strong atop the mountain of failed relationships, refusing to surrender at the feet of Father Time, nor bending to the will of better judgement and self-discipline. Wipe the blood from your bottom lip then wearily raise your sword once again before running heart-first into the next Battle of the Bullshitters. Raise your voice to the ear of your enemy so that it may be heard and eternally resonate across the battlefield of strewn broken hearts as you charge ahead unleashing your token battle cry: “PLAY BROWN EYED GIRL BY VAN MORRISOOOOOONNN!”

I would however, recommend you take a few things into consideration before once again starving yourself half to death anticipating the life-sized wedding portrait you envision hanging over your future fireplace, surrounded by other photographic evidence memorializing the other poorly thought out decisions that will haunt you for a lifetime. If not, then might I suggest investing a few minutes of your time checking out the current divorce rate, alongside the hourly rate charged by the average, semi-competent, yet morally corrupt divorce attorney, and start doing your due diligence on local therapists who specialize in divorce-response pediatric psychology.

We started this article by outlining the various types of relationships we experience throughout our lives and how each might contribute to our overall happiness, with particular attention paid to the reigning champion in the eyes of most: The Romantic Relationship.

Despite what some might have understood up until this point, finding happiness is not the metric by which we should measure our success in having lived our lives to their fullest. Especially considering how often the happiness we felt was nothing more than an illusion derived from a fictional fairytale we cut from whole cloth in order to satisfy our desire for it to be real and our willingness to allow others to influence our sense of self-worth. Hence the saying “ignorance is bliss”.

Our true goal in life, should there ever be just one, is to have relationships and experiences that contribute to our overall well-being. Therefore, when it comes to our well-being, the type of relationship/experience is meaningless as the only type we should invest any significant effort and emotion into are the ones which are meaningful.

If you are still so narrow-minded as to believe The Romantic Relationship is the only type of relationship capable of making such contributions to your well-being, so be it. But either way, it would serve us all well to gain a better understanding of the universally applicable attributes and characteristics that qualify such relationships and experiences as meaningful, as well as, what constitutes reasonable expectations when it comes to making contributions towards our well-being and the well-being of others. If we aren’t willing to first recognize, then abandon shallow and selfish motivations responsible for encouraging our repetitiously flawed approach towards our well-being, then buckle up for the same shit, different decade.

With that being said, regardless of the type of relationship, we should all strive to commit ourselves to pursuing and sustaining meaningful relationships, period. Meaningful relationships are those between two people who truly care about one another, feel equally compelled to promote, protect and prioritize the well-being of the other. And the only way one could ever hope to be involved in such relationships is by having them tandemly alongside those who you truly care about, and those who care equally about you.

The obvious follow-up question would be: “How do you know when someone truly cares about you?” Despite the simplicity of the question, psychologists and the like prefer that the answer be extremely complex, thereby justifying an entire series of books and courses dedicated to answering that very question. And for three easy payments of $500 each, I’ll send you the answer to that question… As far as I’m concerned, the answer is as simplistic as the question is. The people who truly care about you are those who want what is best for you. It’s as simple as that. But I’m happy to take your $1,500 if you still want to send it to me...

Identifying those who want what is best for you can be challenging to say the least. Someone merely claiming to care about you doesn’t mean they actually do, nor do feeble attempts to “demonstrate” how much they care by performing unsolicited random acts of kindness motivated by selfish objectives that seek to balance unstable relationships. So, here’s some fair warning; the more perceptive the recipient is, the more capable they are of being able to recognize those random acts as being nothing more than desperate attempts by an insecure person trying to garner attention, meaning those scrapes on your knees were earned in vain.

The people who care about you aren’t your cheerleaders, encouraging your bad ideas or harmful behaviors. They’re not just a sounding board that bounces back opinion-less affirmations while sporadically peeking over your shoulder during confrontations with Mr. ScrewedUpBigTime, blurting out their semi-conscious antagonisms like: “I know that’s right girl!” and: “You tell him, honey!”, after which they quickly organize into perfect backup dancer formation as you take center stage, turbo fans blowing your hair in superhero fashion as you break out into song: “All the single ladies! All the single ladies! Wha-uh-oh…”

The people who truly care about you pay close attention to the things that impact you the most. If something is important to you, it will be equally important to them because they are true advocates who want what is best for you. The people who care about you are the ones who refuse to watch from the sidelines and step in to be a strong proponent for the things that will contribute to your happiness, or heal your pain. They are willing to contest your flawed opinions and have the courage to challenge the legitimacy of excuses masquerading as justifications. They are unwilling to abandon you in your time of need, they make your problems their own, and they carry your burdens without you ever knowing. And they make sacrifices on your behalf without the expectation of gratitude.

Perhaps most are skeptical that such a person even exists, or if they do, they are far too elusive to warrant investing any hope into ever being able to find them. But I couldn’t disagree more. The truth is, such a person exists within us all. We just need to maintain a steadfast adherence to enforcing our standards and putting forth the effort to be the mirror image of the person we wish we had by our side. In order to be the mirror image of the person we want by our side, we need to learn how to see things from the perspective of others, and to do that we need to first learn how to listen. You have to set aside self defense mechanisms that prevent you from being able to recognize your own mistakes. It’s easy to hold others to a higher standard, but first you should be honest about how your actions or behaviors reflect those same standards.

Unfortunately, an optimistic view of our existing relationships tends to lure us into a false sense of security, assuming the mere presence of the other is sufficient evidence demonstrative of how much they truly care about us. We procrastinate asking any questions of ourselves, or of them, that may prove those assumptions false. It’s not until stress has been applied to the relationship when such questions arise out of doubt, causing us to challenge the extent to which we believe the other cares about us.

When we feel as though someone we care about doesn’t care equally about us, a perceived lack of effort on their part is always to blame. If you’re not convinced of the role effort plays, try incorporating the words: “They failed to put forth the effort to…” and you’ll begin to understand how effort is always the culprit. Actions might very well speak louder than words, however, sometimes we need the provision of words to explain the actions that potentially have more than one meaning, which brings us back to how significant of a role honest communication plays in our relationships.

When communication isn’t paramount, we are unfairly forced to confine ourselves to a dark room within our brain, stuck in limbo with nothing other than our mind’s seemingly endless supply of “what if'' and; “if that were true then why didn’t they…” scenarios. We’re sentenced to remain in solitary confinement with an equally boundless supply of possible conclusions, all focused around an unassisted attempt to ascertain a better understanding of the correlation between a person’s actions and their feelings towards us. Which, more often than not, is an obvious correlation ensconced by our unwillingness to accept it. The amount of effort a person puts forth in a relationship is commensurate with how much they care about the other person.

When we truly care about someone, we make an effort to contemplate how our actions might impact those who we care about. We do so preemptively to protect them from feeling pain as a byproduct of our actions. We also take the time to reconsider whether our actions in the past could have caused the other to feel pain, and we take a proactive approach towards helping them overcome that pain by coming forward voluntarily to provide answers or explanations that might help to alleviate it. But more importantly, we need to be prepared to accept that the other might have been living with this pain for quite some time and did so without holding us in contempt for it as they suffered in silence.

If you were the one who felt pain by another’s actions, you should come forward with your concerns when they happen. Letting things fester will never help either one of you, not to mention that the integrity of the details in each person’s recollection will erode to a point that an inability to recall the events becomes a viable excuse to seek qualified immunity.

Eventually, actions have spoken much louder than words and the person you care so much about has managed to hurt you enough times to warrant finally asking for answers as to why. You have finally found the courage after all the stars had magically aligned in your favor, making this the Perfect opportunity to finally sit the other person down and air your grievances once and for all. You reluctantly drag your broken-hearted ass out onto that limb, believing this would be the day of reckoning. Your bottom lip quivering nervously as you carefully recount the details of their actions, and how each contributed to the logical conclusion that it appears as though they care far less about you than you were originally led to believe.

Carrying those concerns, managing the stress, questioning your self-worth, and trying to tolerate the pain in silence have collectively taken a toll on you, proving to be a burden that is far heavier than you anticipated. After spilling your guts to a seemingly captivated audience, you take a giant sigh of relief, feeling as though a ten-thousand-pound weight has been lifted off your chest. The relief of shedding that burden was so prevalent to your peace of mind that you became so distracted by it that you ‘forgot’ to pay attention to what those answers/explanations were, or if they were even provided at all. Somehow, for whatever incomprehensible reason, the act of finally asking the questions became more valuable to you than did the answers/explanations themselves, making it a fruitless process that contributed nothing of value to your well-being. Without answers, the questions became irrelevant and so did the pain you felt which was the catalyst for ever having asked the questions in the first place.

It’s important for us all to recognize how Imperfect we are. No one person is above making mistakes when it comes to assessing a correlation between a person’s actions and how much they care about us. But if someone bares their soul to you because they believed that you had the answers or explanations that could alleviate some of their pain, shouldn’t you want to make the effort to do exactly that? If those questions or concerns were instead met with an irritated scoff in contempt for having the audacity to bring up such a misguided conclusion wouldn’t that person feel even more harmed? And if that wasn’t a hurtful enough response, following up with an insulting accusation that “they think too much” would be the icing on a dog shit-filled cake. Such a dismissal is typically an obfuscation by someone unwilling to think enough, at least think much about you. They tend to be overly distracted by their own self-inflicted nonsense, causing them to lose sight of their surroundings. They are the ones sitting at a stop sign waiting for it to turn green. Although there might be some truth to the old saying: “A person who thinks all the time, only has time to think about their thoughts” but it certainly doesn’t seem very fair to hold someone’s thought process against them by telling them that they think too much after you left them alone with only their thoughts and ability to evaluate the information they had access to, trying to come to rational conclusions about your feelings towards them. After all, such contemplation on their part reflects more effort to think about things that you were unwilling to think about.

If after delivering their detailed narration of past events, to an audience that is contemptuous instead of interestedly captivated, the questions they posed regarding your actions which contradicted how much you claimed to care about them were completely ignored. And if you in turn put forth zero effort to provide them with a single answer/explanation that could have possibly healed their pain, then unfortunately, I’m afraid you might have given them an answer after all. If you’re the one who made a person you care about aware of your pain and that person does nothing to help take that pain away, it’s probably fair to assume they care nothing about you.

If someone perpetually fails to put forth effort in a relationship with someone they claim to care about, they run the risk of eventually looking for someone who is no longer there. So, if someone who truly cares about you, and you about them, suffers as a result of your actions, which they perceive to be apathetic, if you want them to remain a part of your life in any meaningful way... pay attention!

Sometimes, people shrug their shoulders and move on, feeling as though they are being asked to put forth more effort than they believe the relationship deserves. Or worse, they value the relationship but are confused as to where/how their effort should be allocated. The reason that’s worse is because, regardless of their confusion, effort is effort, and if they freeze in place and don’t put any effort forth, they shouldn’t be surprised when the other person interprets that as being uncaring. And this time, it’s a meaningful relationship that’s been sabotaged, not because of dishonesty, but a lack of effort.

Jesus, this seems really demanding, and not something I’m capable of doing... Really? Think about all the obsessive effort you have wasted on conducting a psychoanalysis, body language interpretation, facial expression translation, and all the other data collection/mining/recovery/analysis you’ve done when trying to figure out if your crush has reciprocal feelings towards you, or, more apparently relevant, when trying to determine if your significant other was cheating on you. It’s not that you’re capable of putting forth the effort in certain types of relationships, but not in others, you just don’t feel as compelled to do so because you put greater value on the person who represents an unreliable, harmful “romantic” relationship than you do on a person who truly cares about you but represents a different type of relationship, despite the latter having a much greater potential of contributing to your wellbeing. Good luck with that value system over the long term.

In no way am I saying that one type of relationship is better than the other, as a matter of fact, finding your soulmate and starting a family together might very well be the most amazing experience someone can have in life. I’m merely stating that, more often than not, we make really poor choices when it comes to those with whom we have a romantic relationship, and those poor choices are like suicide bombers as they tend to unnecessarily destroy the other meaningful relationships surrounding it.

When romantic relationships die (as they so often do), we seek support and comfort from those who we know truly care about us. Your unwillingness in the past to put forth any significant effort into such friendships comes full circle, and as you knock on their door seeking such support and comfort, the hollow echoes that resonate back from an unanswered door is the sound of your past catching up with you. People have to contemplate the consequences of their choices. Like it or not, there is a price to pay for not doing enough and sometimes a much heavier price for doing nothing at all. So perhaps your parents weren’t entirely wrong when they told you that if you don’t share, no one will want to play with you. But remember, neither dishonest behavior nor fear of solitude constitute a sturdy foundation worth building a meaningful relationship on.

As our poor choices in “partners” add up, our tolerance for being involved in meaningless relationships erodes naturally. The natural way to erode our selfishness in a relationship is by choosing to be with someone who we care about more than we care about ourselves.

Sustaining a role in a long-term meaningful relationship is dependent upon unsolicited contributions of honesty and effort from both parties equally. If that’s too difficult for you, then perhaps it’s time to start lowering your expectations when it comes to the quality of relationships you are destined to be a part of.

Yes, we have the power to choose who we spend our time with and how much effort we are willing to put forth in that relationship. But we are powerless to choose who we love, nor how much effort we are willing to put forth to protect that love, because when it comes to those whose wellbeing supersedes our own, putting forth effort becomes instinctively Effortless.

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