You Can Quote Me On This

I’ve written a lot of little thoughts down lately, as opposed to full-length posts. But that’s no reason to keep them to myself. Here’s a list of them, and I hope you can get something out of my experiences. Enjoy.

If you find yourself surrounded with people who bring out the best in you, hold on tight; you’re moving in the right direction.

Listen and you will learn about the world. Create and you will learn about yourself. Practice both equally and often.

Whenever I look around a room of strangers, it always appears that everyone is confident in who they are and have it together. But it only takes a few minutes of actually talking to them before you realize no one does. Life is easy for no one, and the worst thing you can do is feel intimidated by illusions. You’re better than you think.

If you’re not completely happy with something in your life, and you’re not making changes, you’re wasting your damned time.

Stop expecting and just roll with it. The best things in life are usually unplanned.

Snapping out of denial is like waking up from a dream. Whether it was a good dream or a nightmare, nobody likes to get out of bed.

Every once in a while you need to stop. Reflect. See where you are. Decide where you want to go next. Cut off any dead weight holding you back. And latch onto the things around you that will take you where you want to be like rockets.

You’re never going to find a person who doesn’t have some irrational moments here and there. You just need to find one that can laugh at their self afterwards.

Never let your past define you. Take each day to evaluate your life and live how you want to live from now on, and not just how you’ve been living so far.

The world isn’t black and white. But it also isn’t gray. It’s full of color.

It seems like every time one person disappoints me, five people step it up and impress me. And here’s the key to enjoying life: focusing on those five people instead of the one.

Measure success by how many people are there for you when things get tough.

Just keep pushing the limits of patience, understanding, open-mindednes, and responsibility until one day you find you’ve matured into a respectable adult, and not just some kid who got a little bit older. Then push a little more.

Just spent some time in my dark empty house. Went into the attic and found a box of old cute love letters filled with ink from a time where not being together seemed impossible. Found a box of old video games from a time where 3D graphics seemed unimaginable. Found an old guitar from a time where learning to play it seemed terrifying. And it all reminded me that the future is going to surprise us no matter what, and we’re so much more than the confines of our limited imaginations. That’s exactly what I needed to remember tonight. To not forget.

We need to continue to be there for each other and reach out any chance we can because the best way to not feel alone is to be constantly reminded that you aren’t and never will be.

You never know where you’ll be in a year. Or six months. Or a week. Not even tomorrow. But just as things can take a turn or the worse in one day, so can they take a turn for the better the next. Keep moving, you never know what the tide is going to bring in tomorrow.

Three Keys to Relationship Arguments

Have you ever had an argument with your spouse? No? Good for you, we’re all really impressed.

For the rest of us actual humans, this occurs regularly, and unless you suddenly start agreeing with your spouse about everything and communicate flawlessly, arguments in relationships aren’t going away any time soon.

So what can we do to keep these arguments from ruining our day and possibly even the whole relationship? Plenty. But here’s three for now:

1. Learn how to communicate.

I can probably write an entire book on that alone, and we’ve all heard it a million times, so I’ll keep this part as brief as possible. If you notice a trend (not a a single event, but a string of them) that the person is doing something that bothers you… SPEAK UP! That doesn’t mean to begin yelling when you get pushed too far, it means thinking about what exactly has been bothering you, and then finding the best way to tell the person without triggering their defenses. If you attack the person (as most people do when they get angry) and say “THIS IS THE TENTH TIME YOU’VE DONE THIS!” then guess what’s going to happen? They’re going to yell right back because you took a shot at them. Have you ever had a screaming match with someone and had it end with one person understanding the other’s point? Not likely.

When it comes to arguments, the key to making an actual productive change is to not argue. Sounds kind of silly, right? But there is no reason why two people who love each other need to argue just because they disagree or because one person is upset.

Keep in mind, everything is easier said than done, so arguments are always going to happen no matter how hard you try to avoid them. Just realize they won’t get you too far, so try to minimize their frequency. Usually the only part of the argument that evokes some sort of solution is the part where both people are tired of yelling and the argument turns into a civil conversation. So now you’ve just wasted a ton of energy and frustration just to get where you should have started in the first place.

2. Accept that you’re both human beings with very flawed brains.

If you’re having trouble apologizing for something, it’s probably because you don’t want to “lose” since that would mean you’re not as perfect as you thought you were. If you can accept that you’re nowhere near perfect (and if you think you are nearly perfect, you need to cut that out RIGHT now), then it won’t be such a big deal to give up a few battles.

Remember: being right might be what’s best for your ego, but it won’t help your relationship one bit.

Have you ever had this argument?

“You said this!

“I never said that!

“Yes you did! I remember you saying it!”

Here’s a news flash: this is a stupid argument because no one has a perfect memory. If you study cognitive psychology, you will learn all about how terrible our recollection of events are. Eye-witness testimonies don’t even hold up in court anymore (remember My Cousin Vinny?) The best thing you can say is “I might have said that, and if I did say that, I don’t remember it and I didn’t mean to say it.” No one is going to win this argument unless you have some sort of evidence to back it up, and even if you DO have evidence, it still won’t matter because…

3. Relationship arguments don’t take place in court!

Unbelievable, right? You can argue all day and present piles and piles of unquestionable evidence, but at the end of the day, you’re right and your spouse is still pissed at you. Have fun sleeping on that couch with all your evidence.

If your spouse tells you that you don’t go to the movies enough with them, you can show them the ticket stubs of all the movies you’ve been to lately and prove that you’ve actually gone quite often. But who is defining how much “enough” is? What if “enough” is once a month for you, and it’s every weekend for them? At the end of the day, your spouse is unhappy and you need to find a way to remedy the situation.

Most of the time, it isn’t even going to the movies that is the problem, but something deeper and the movies are just the best thing they can come up with to explain the more complex problem. Maybe you aren’t showing enough affection, or working too much.  Focus on those things and show them that you care about how they feel instead of trying to prove that their feelings are unjustified.

There are plenty of ways to avoid arguments being blown out of proportion, and we’ve really only scratched the surface here. If you can keep these things in mind, though, you should be in pretty good shape. Oh and men, remember that any question about how your spouse looks is a trap, and the only way out is a straight-faced compliment. That last sentence actually might help more than anything else I wrote.

Here’s My Law: Miscommunication in Arguments

“That’s not what I meant!” – The classic exclamation that manages to make an appearance in most any argument. It isn’t any wonder why, though, because one of the most common causes of arguments is miscommunication.

When someone says this, they usually mean “it doesn’t matter if it upset you, you just misunderstood what I said/did.” The problem here is that miscommunication is not an excuse for hurting someone’s feelings, although it might very well be the reason. By using it as an excuse, you can quickly turn a small argument into a huge blowout.

Here’s My Law:

It doesn’t matter what you meant by something. It only matters how it is interpreted by other people.

In other words, it only matters what the other person thinks you meant. If you do or say anything that ends up hurting someone’s feelings and they confront you about it, it really doesn’t matter whether you meant it in the way they interpreted it or not. What matters is that they interpreted it in that way and it hurt their feelings.

The wrong move from here is to blame the other person for misunderstanding and treating yourself as a completely innocent person when, in fact, you were the one who did or said the wrong thing. When it comes down to it, you are the only person who knows your intentions, and so the rest of the world can only go by interpretation of your words, tone, and actions.

The right thing to do is apologize and say something along the lines of “I’m sorry if what I said upset you, but I didn’t mean it that way. What I meant was ::insert intention:: but I am sorry and I can see why it made you feel the way it did. I’ll try to remember this to avoid this in the future.”

It may be hard to let go of your ego enough to say something like this, but the only things you get from being stubborn are longer fights and less friends.

Men Love Each Other Sometimes

Men tend to fear showing any sort of affection for other men. It’s not that they don’t feel anything for each other, but there is some precedent set in society that prevents them from displaying it. Usually, the only time you’ll see this taking place is when they are drunk. That, of course, is because people are much more honest when they’re drunk.

That, however, doesn’t mean that men haven’t come up with a few tricks to get around this, though. Somehow, men have created ways to show affection for each other in a manly way so that society will still view them as strong, heterosexual men.

First up, is the “man hug”:

Men can’t put their arms around each other and hold each other warmly like they can do with a woman, or even like a woman can do with another woman. Instead, they shake hands, pull each other close and “pat” each other on the back. Kind of saying to each other “I love you, but I’m hitting you, so now you know I don’t mean this in a gay way.” But really, who are they kidding? You can easily care about another human being, or even love them, without it being sexual.

The other thing men tend to do to preserve their manhood while showing affection for each other is add the word “man” to the end of any sentence that is remotely sensitive.

The movie “I Love You, Man” captured this concept perfectly. Somehow, men believe that adding the word “man” to the end of a sentence counters the sensitivity of the statement. The addition of the word “man” is the equivalent to the addition of the pat on the back during the hug.

A guy can never say something like “Thanks, that means a lot to me” to another man. They need to say “Thanks, that means a lot, man.” But what does this do exactly? What about these “manisms” makes men feel more comfortable with each other?

I don’t think there’s a logical explanation for this phenomenon besides the simple precedents of social norms. This is what is expected from men, and as long as men follow these manisms, they will not be looked at strangely by the man they are communicating with or the people around them. Even though a hug and a “man hug” are coming from the same emotion, they send different messages.

A “man hug” sends the message “I care about you, man”, while a regular hug simply says “I care about you” which doesn’t specify in what way they mean that. This open-ended gesture leaves too many possibilities in the mind of the man being hugged and that makes him feel uncomfortable. At the same time, it makes the man question the other man’s motives, which is an extremely homophobic line of thinking (but very common).

So rather than taking the risk of their gesture being misinterpreted, men follow the norms and retain their image. I do believe it is very possible for a society to move past these silly insecure manisms, but in our homophobic culture, this is simply the way it is.

The Reason We Fall In Love

Have you ever fallen in love? How long does the fall last? What happens when you hit the ground? Do you crash? Do you land? Do you walk away with someone or run away from someone?

Now that I’ve set up this image for you, I’ll elaborate. There is a very big difference between the beginning of a relationship and the rest of it. This is no secret, and the reasoning makes perfect sense.

When you fall in love, your body produces a chemical called dopamine which, to put it very simply, makes us feel good. This occurs during what I’ll refer to as the “falling” stage. You and the person you’re falling in love with have jumped out of a plane, holding hands, and are having the most exciting time of your lives together. This can’t last forever though, because eventually you hit the ground. The same goes for this “dopamine high”.

As with most highs, whether they come from drugs, a rush of excitement, or love, we become addicted to it. We want to see this person as much as possible, and just can’t get enough. We don’t just want the person, we need them.

Now we come to the “landing” stage. The parachutes come out and the rush begins to gradually slow down until our feet touch the ground. For some people, it doesn’t work this way because the parachutes don’t open (or they were being so careless and spontaneous when they jumped that they didn’t even remember to pack a parachute), so they crash land. The fun is over and now things will just start to get plain old ugly for this couple.

Getting back to the couple who landed safely though. The fall is over and now a few things may occur. The first person could be in love with the second, while the second person (although they may have enjoyed the fall) doesn’t feel so attached. Another possibility is that neither feels attached, and of course the optimal situation is that both people are in love with each other.

This couple will move on and start to feel the effects of long-term love. This is the love that lasts longer than a free fall to the ground. It’s a slow-growing emotion that only gets stronger and stronger as time goes by. This is why the longer you’re with someone, the more attached you become. This type of love doesn’t only occur in relationships, it occurs in friendships and families as well. The more time we spend with someone, the more we trust them, and the more comforted we feel by them.

But since time is needed in order for this to happen, there must be some way for it to grow in the early stages. We’re not going to just let this love grow with someone for no reason; it’s too much of a time investment with no sign of reward. Love appears to have a dilemma here.

So here’s where things get interesting; love has a plan. In order for love to lay its foundations down, it needs something to distract us (like pointing and saying “hey, look over there!”). So what it does is sell us a pair of tickets to go sky-diving, to which we reply “hey, that sounds like fun!” and get on the plane. While we’re falling, love has a chance to begin to grow and we’re too “high” to even notice what it’s getting us into. Our time in the sky is love’s time in the womb – too weak to live on its own right now, but growing. By the time we land, love is there to greet us.

At this point, we’ve spent enough time together to grow attached to one another. For some people, this attachment is enough to keep the relationship going. For others, the idea of never feeling the excitement of falling in love again is too grim a thought, and the relationship has to end in order to have a chance of getting that feeling back. What it comes down to is that some people become addicted to the person they fall in love with, while others become addicted to only the feeling of falling in love.

This addiction, like any other, feels great while we’re getting our fix, and can leave us having withdrawals if we can’t get it. It makes us long for that “first high” and we’ll do whatever we can to try and feel that again with the same person, but it just can’t be. If you ever catch yourself saying “our relationship isn’t as exciting as it was in the beginning” or “you used to want to see me every day when we first met”, you need to really think about what you’re saying. No relationship should feel the same a year in, or 50 years in, as it did the first few months. If you’re saying these things, then you’re putting the “fall” above real love itself.

I hope this analogy has cleared some things up about the differences between falling in love and being in it. Obviously, falling in love is more exciting, otherwise every song on the radio would be about something else (besides breaking up, since songs tend to be about the best and worst feelings, and not so much the middle part), but being in love is more rewarding.

So if falling in love is just a high, and being in love is just the result of spending time with someone and growing attached to them, doesn’t that take all of the fun out of it? Doesn’t that make you feel like you’ve been tricked? Of course! But I’m sure that won’t stop you from jumping out of a plane sometime soon.

Special thanks to Samantha P. for her contributions to this theory.

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Take Some Time Apart

When in a relationship, make sure you give yourself a bit of space and breathing room. Spending too much time with any one person or group is not only unhealthy, but dangerous.

I’m sure this is going to sound like quite a dramatic stretch, but to understand this, it’s important to understand how a cult works. Yes, a cult. I’m not trying to propose that being in a relationship is like being in a cult, but there are lessons that can be learned from one mistake and used to prevent another.

A major condition for a cult to work is isolation. If the members of a cult start spending time with other people, they will begin to compare their cult’s ideology with the thoughts of “outsiders.” This is very healthy for the individual, but detrimental for the cult. While it’s important to socialize and share thoughts with others, it’s more important to do this with all different groups of people. Otherwise, ideas just become justified by the same, like-minded people without an outside opinion.

Couples who spend every day together, and bring each other along for every activity they do, are in a very similar situation as these people who are accidentally sucked into a cult. It’s important to keep a healthy level of independence, and spend an equal amount of time apart as together. This doesn’t mean you love each other any less, but you’ll actually end up getting a chance to miss each other (which makes seeing each other mean a lot more).

As far as married couples go, this tends to happen more naturally. Mainly because at least one person spends half the day at work, and the other half at home. This is clearly a fool-proof system since the divorce-rates are so low right now, right? No? Maybe there’s no rhyme or reason to marriage. Maybe people didn’t evolve to spend 50 years together. Maybe people are only meant to spend a few years together and then move on.

In the mean time, while we try to figure that out, try to keep your independence while in a relationship. You owe it to yourself and each other. Or don’t, what do I know?

Love – Unique, and Common

I’ve been putting this one off for a while, but I think it’s ready now.

Over the years, my view on love has changed. When I was younger, I thought that when you fall in love, that’s it. You’ve found your soul mate and your search is over. If there are problems, it doesn’t matter, because that’s the person you were “meant” to be with.

I put the word “meant” in quotations because right away, there’s the first problem. Nothing is “meant” to be. When you see things as being “meant to be”, life can become very disappointing. Things don’t work out and you think to yourself “how can this be? it was supposed to work out!”. No it wasn’t supposed to, because nothing is.

What I’ve found now is that love, although unique, is not uncommon. If you fall in love with someone, that relationship you have with that person will never be replicated. No one can ever take their place, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never fall in love again.

If you’re in a relationship where you love someone but don’t know if they’re the right person for you, don’t stay in the relationship just because you don’t think you’ll ever fall in love with someone else – you will.

It’s sort of disillusioning when you realize this, but I believe this is the way it is.

Importance of Companionship

I’ve found that one of the most important things in life is companionship. Talking to people (what a concept!) keeps us mentally healthy, and keeps things in perspective.

Have you ever found yourself asking someone for advice and then not taking it? It’s something we all do, and it’s because we have already pretty much made up our minds before we even ask. We just need to hear another opinion or two before we’re sure about what we’ve already decided.

This is just another example of how important comparisons are in our lives. If you’re deciding on something and you just can’t make up your mind, you ask someone for their opinion. No matter what it is they say, you now have a better idea of what you want to do. This is because you now have more than one perspective on the situation which makes your own opinion that much clearer.

If you were to keep your thoughts to yourself, and spend too much time alone, you put yourself in the dangerous position of forming opinions that are completely unreasonable. The opinions become self-justified, and without an outside take on the situation, you can convince yourself of things that someone could have talked you out of before you thought about it so much.

So please, talk to people, but more importantly, listen to them. It may be true, you could be right about everything, but if you don’t want to hear someone else’s opinion, it’s probably because you have some doubts deep down. The more we talk to each other, the more reasonable we become. Never forget the power of a good conversation, it can teach you a lot about yourself.