Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Did You Do That?

Recently, a friend of mine asked me how Lex and I established transparency in our relationship - whether it was something that came naturally to us or if it was something that took a long time to build.

The answer is neither.

Initially, it was not natural by any stretch of the imagination. At least, not for me. Hold on a second and I'll go ask him if it was for him...

OK. I'm going to have to re-phrase by quoting him. Lex says, "It's what I'd always wanted and hoped for in a relationship so any behaviors and processes and social conditioning I had to overcome were, in essence, what was unnatural. Transparency itself is what is natural."

Do you see why I love him?

Yeah. So anyway! Initially, we had a lot of social conditioning to set aside, overcome, abort. Things like passive-aggression, holding onto resentments, having unrealistic expectations, game playing.

And, while transparency is natural, that's a lot of conditioning to, first, be aware of and, second, understand how to navigate through. In some ways, this was harder for me than it was for him for a couple of reasons. A) I'm a woman and that comes with so many passive-aggressive stereotypes and the idea that it's not OK for a nice girl to make waves or have divergent opinions but also because B) for most of my life, I'd simply absorbed fault and blame for the bad moods of others. Not because I heard, "This is all your fault!" necessarily but because actions most often speak louder than words.

That's the natural part.

But it also didn't take a long time to build...at least, not exactly.

When I say "initially" we had a lot to set aside and overcome? I mean, initially in the sense that transparency was something we discussed in depth VERY early on...like before we'd even met face to face. Thus, our relationship foundation from the start - initially - was built upon Intent. We were both committed to remaining transparent with each other NO MATTER WHAT.

What took a little time to build then wasn't that we weren't transparent and would now be transparent with one another but that we could trust that we were already transparent with one another and would remain so.

Now, it's completely natural. It's also something we remain committed to which means that, while the foundation is built, we continue to actively, consciously strive to maintain it - even years later. There is no room for complacency.

As a consequence, for the first time in both of our lives, we have the kind of stability, security, and safety we've both wanted and craved. We both now know what it's like to come home and be safe here, to be loved unconditionally, to have a valued voice.

Subsequently, I have learned a couple of other extraordinary lessons. First, I've learned that it's very rarely about me - especially as it relates to the mood of another. Because our communication is so heightened, as I told my friend, most of the time, I can tell what kind of mood Lex is in just by the way he comes down the stairs and puts his key in the door. If he's in a bad mood? I do not, as a rule, automatically assume that bad mood has anything to do with me. I don't brace myself for blame or an onslaught of abuse. I simply take note that he may need some time to decompress before I bombard him with me me me me me me me *laughing*.

Secondly, and perhaps, more importantly, I have come to understand that, just because I'm willing, able, and happy to share my most intimate thoughts and opinions with him, doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to get what I want. Transparency isn't about getting what I want. Transparency is simply about acknowledging a thought, a feeling. It's an exchange of information. Period. Thus, it forces me to really examine what it is I want, what it is I need, and identify what is an expectation so that I can phrase my communication accordingly.

It's still not safe to assume I will get what I need by phrasing it so...but Lex knows that when I say I need something, it's probably pretty important to comply...if he can...and vice versa.

So. That's the answer. At least, as it relates to us. It sets the bar. And while both of us are now willing to guide and encourage transparency? Neither of us are willing to compromise our desire, no, our insistence that it exists. In every relationship we engage. Period.

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