Dating Advice from a Lesbian: When Goings Get Tough
When I was a kid, I thought to myself, “I can’t wait until I grow up because everything will be perfect. I’ll have my own house, and I’ll have a job I love, and I’ll go on all these trips to these exotic places, and I’ll eat out whenever I want because being an adult is AWESOME.” My parents made it seem fairly effortless, but I think that’s part of the deal of being an adult: you don’t show just how much it really sucks. And I see it in my students all the time: they want to move out and get a job and drop out of school. There’s always that day where it gets really bad, and I have a lesson prepared for just that day where I go through what bills look like and how much money a person has to make to be able to live comfortably.
They always give me the same terrified look and make comments about how they had no idea that being an adult was so expensive. Generally, they come to the conclusion that dropping out is NOT the smart choice for them or what they want to do, and I’ll see a change (even if it’s only for a month or so before we’re right back where we started). Now, I understand that high school isn’t for everyone, but a lot of these kids don’t realize that a diploma can mean the difference between minimum wage and a living wage when it comes to the job market.
The point is this: being an adult is expensive, and it’s not something that ever really stops happening. Money is always going to be needed, and it’s one of the most common reasons that couples fight. And gay couples are no different.
I’m a teacher, so the amount of money I earn is not proportional to the amount of work and effort that I put into my job; however, it is NOT a bad salary. I make enough to support myself and the majority of my family. I’m not saying that Erin doesn’t help out because she definitely pays her share of the bills, but I’m the current bread-winner right now (although that will probably change at some point in the next two to three years).
We live on a budget, and it’s probably the budget that prevents us from fighting about money like I did with my exes. We know how much we have at all times, what we can use it for, and what we have left over for fun. We don’t go spending money on frivolous items that we want but don’t necessarily need right now (like we both want kayaks because we kayak A LOT in the summer, but we have more important things to spend money on right now rather than kayaks, so we aren’t going to blow our money on something like that).
We have had our share of unexpected bills (car needs a new X, Y or Z or some medical bill creeps up on us) that left us thinking that we weren’t going to make it, but because we budget as well as we do, we always have the money that we need to pay our bills. We are definitely not in any bad shape! But when those bills creep up, it can leave us both feeling stressed. In the past with my exes, it would start a fight (mainly because I couldn’t afford the extravagant spending of the other and the other wasn’t willing to get a better job that paid more/second job).
So when these situations arise and there’s an unexpected bill or other stress that’s threatening our happiness, what do we do?
1) Stop focusing inward on yourself.
Don’t become consumed with your thoughts so much that you stop realizing where you are and who you’re around. You’re in a partnership. This means that you and the person you are with are supposed to be working together to accomplish your goals and their goals. If something comes up, the first person you need to turn to is your partner. Not your friend. Not your boss. Not your parents or siblings. Your partner.
If the problem/stress is your partner, you may want to think long and hard about why you’re still with them. If it’s something minor, then you have to talk to them and work through it. If it’s something major, it may be time to get out.
Your partner, if they’re in it like you’re in it, will respond to you and help you. They probably already realize that you aren’t happy and that something is bothering you.
2) Approach your partner by focusing on yourself.
But I just told you not to focus on yourself, didn’t I? No. I said not to focus INWARDLY on yourself. When you have a problem or something is stressing you out that you need to talk to your partner about (whether it’s money or something else), start the conversation with an I-statement. “I feel really stressed out. I’m worried about X, Y, Z. I’m scared about blah, blah, blah.”
This takes the conversation off of your partner and focuses it on you and your wants and needs. It lets your partner know that you aren’t blaming them for your stress but that you’re trying to seek comfort from them.
3) Listen carefully and offer reassurance.
If your partner comes to you with concerns, make sure you listen to them fully. It takes a lot of courage to open up and be vulnerable with another person, so if your partner comes to you in this way, realize that it wasn’t easy. Especially if this isn’t something that happens often. When they’re done talking, the first thing out of your mouth needs to be something reassuring and positive, even if you aren’t 100% where to go.
For example, if your partner comes to you with concerns about an unexpected bill, you could say something along the lines of, “It’s okay. We’ll get through this like we always do, and the money will be there when we need it.” Then you could sit down and reassess your budget and see where you can get the money from. (Maybe you give up going out to dinner once or twice, like if you go out once a week, you can go every other week.) You can call the company to work out payment options/plans or something else.
4) Finally, follow through.
If you made plans or changes to your budget, make sure that you follow through with them. If you decided to do something to relieve the other’s stress, make sure that you do it. If you don’t follow through, the stress level will come back worse than when it started for a couple reasons: one, it’s the previous stress that didn’t fully go away with the plan but was just suppressed by the ideas of how to fix things, and two, now you have the new stress of being unable to follow through like you should.
People generally do not like a person who cannot follow through. It adds more stress to the others involved.
One of the hardest things, I think, in a relationship is communication. But not just any communication: tough communication. That communication you have when things are going well or when you have doubts or concerns or misunderstandings. Well, as silly as this might sound, practice having tough conversations so that you know how to handle those situations when the real tough stuff starts happening.
About two years after my ex and I broke up, I got involved with a girl I probably shouldn’t have. She and I weren’t compatible, but I thought she was funny and cute. When things didn’t go well there, I started to feel like I was losing myself again like I had while I was with my ex. I decided it was time to go and talk to someone, so I went and found this absolutely amazing woman who helped me work through my inability to say “no” to people who weren’t healthy for me.
She made a stipulation that if/when I got back into dating, the person I was interested in would come and sit down with the two of us and we’d talk to make sure we wanted the same things and had similar goals. When I met Erin and we decided we wanted to start dating (aka, she asked me out and I said yes), she agreed to go with me. We were given “conversation tools” to help us talk through any concerns that we had and told we had to practice them X amount of times before we came back.
What ended up happening was pretty amazing. I would think of things that I knew would bother me: money/finances, clingy-ness vs. independence, etc. We’d run through the scenarios like good students and it would spark these wonderful conversations about stuff that we knew would bother us based on past relationships we’d been in. We ended up doing so much talking about areas where we might have problems that once we started actually dating, those areas were no longer areas for concern.
It’s resulted in absolutely no fighting. No fights in the entire 13 months we’ve been together and the 18 months we’ve known each other. When there’s an area that we’re stressed about or something that we have a concern over or something that we want, we talk about it then and there and come to a compromise if we need to. We never raise our voices. We never scream or shout at each other. We never fight.
Fighting is pointless and destructive. It can create rifts between couples that words and apologizes and make-up sex cannot mend. Fighting isn’t the answer to disagreements, and if screaming or shouting happens, I’m going to feel like this isn’t a relationship that is healthy for me to be in. Now, I realize that all couples are different, and if screaming and shouting is what works for you and yours, then okay… but that’s a lot of negativity that you could convert into something more positive, and I’d almost wonder if that’s not something you should try doing.
The key to a stable and happy relationship is good communication before, during and after any “problems” or “stresses” arise. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun, but just like unexpected bills and other parts of being an adult… These situations are not likely to every fully go away. Something new will always happen, and how you react and deal and face that situation with your partner will greatly determine your happiness level moving forward.
Posted on March 28, 2014, in Dating Advice from a Lesbian, Love, Relationships and tagged dating, Dating Advice from a Lesbian, GLBT, lesbian, Love, Relationships. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.