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How to avoid complacency + continue self-development in a relationship?
May 4, 2014 8:03 AM   Subscribe

I am in a new relationship, and it's very much in the honeymoon phase. This person is amazing and awesome and it feels like I'm getting to know the best friend I never knew I had. This new relationship is very promising, and I would like to avoid all the bad relationship habits/mistakes I've made in the past (mostly around becoming complacent, no longer working on myself, not being as ambitious etc.). What is your advice and personal experience with this?

Hi everyone, I'm the author of this AskMefi question and I am very happy to say that I did find someone who took the same "friends first" approach to dating. We met on OKC, surprisingly enough.

I am a woman in my mid 20s, and in the middle of great changes in my life. I made a lot of relationship mistakes in the past. I spent my early 20s trying to fix my partner(s) instead of fixing myself. I was dealing with generalized anxiety disorder, and had a lot of avoidant tendencies in general, so how I dealt with that was by trying to change my partners instead, and got frustrated when they weren't as responsible/ambitious/secure/etc. as I thought they could be. It was pretty co-dependent because my ex-partners in a way were looking for a Nerd Nanny, and the Nerd Nanny was I, and that dynamic stressed me out because I would get angry about their failures AND my failure to change them. And all the while, I'd neglect my own personal development because I was so focused on theirs.

I am a huge extrovert that needs to have a wide and dynamic social circle, and one of the old relationship killing habits was that partner would pressure/guilt/etc. me into just staying at home with him to watch TV and play video games. Unfortunately I would comply (and be frustrated) because I loved my partner and had lazy tendencies, which unfortunately was just re-enforced by partner. Eventually we both would just stagnate together, and as individuals, we survived but we didn't thrive.

Now, I understand these patterns (and several old anonymous AskMefi questions helped me with this!). I count my blessings in that my relationships never lasted too long (they averaged a year each) because I had the sense and strength to initiate an amicable break up, although I totally could've also broken up with them sooner. I've done a lot of self-work and realized that I'm more happy single than in a stagnant/co-dependent relationship, and I'm determined to avoid any of these dynamics in my future relationships.

So back to the new relationship: so far, it looks like my new partner comes with the qualities that I wanted to "train" into my old partners. He's hardworking, ambitious, adventurous, responsible, AND a geek, yet not looking for me to take the role of Nerd Nanny (thank god). He is amazing and awesome, and we are smitten with each other. It's still very much in the honeymoon phase, but I see so much potential here that I don't want to screw it up with bad habits from the past.

I want inter-dependence, not co-dependence. I want to thrive as an individual and thrive within a relationship. I don't want to become complacent or to live vicariously through him and his accomplishments. He inspires me to be better, to be more ambitious, giving, courageous for myself and to be a better partner for him. I want to spend my energy working on myself, and not on "fixing" him (not that I see anything that needs to be fixed!). I want to have the courage to create the life I want for myself, rather than hide behind the curtain and try to "train" him into creating the change for both of us.

How have you achieved this in your own relationships? And what are some general advice that you can give me?

(And thank you, AskMefi community, for all the insight that you have given me in the past, and facilitating all sorts of positive change in my life. You are all awesome!)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (3 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I want inter-dependence, not co-dependence. I want to thrive as an individual and thrive within a relationship. I don't want to become complacent or to live vicariously through him and his accomplishments. He inspires me to be better, to be more ambitious, giving, courageous for myself and to be a better partner for him. I want to spend my energy working on myself, and not on "fixing" him (not that I see anything that needs to be fixed!). I want to have the courage to create the life I want for myself, rather than hide behind the curtain and try to "train" him into creating the change for both of us.

1) Write this down on a card. Put it where you can see it. Better yet write it down on two cards and give one to him. When you start to drift or he sees you start to drift, come up with something that you can use to gently nudge you/yourself back into this mode.

2) Take deep breaths.

3) Slow down.

4) When in doubt, see Rules 1 through 3.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 8:25 AM on May 4 [3 favorites]


I have achieved this but I am 41-years-old. Be careful with labeling yourself and others. My best advice is to be respectful of his needs and your needs. If needs are not filled, the relationship will suffer. Examples of needs:, Affection, appreciation, time alone, clean house, recreation together, sex, etc. If you're together long enough you'll learn his most important needs and he will learn yours. When you actively try to meet one another's needs, without compromising your values, and without feeling sorry for yourself, relationships usually thrive.

Some general advice I can give that may be helpful:

Nearly every complaint about your partner is something you feel uneasy about in yourself.

Respect boundaries and state exactly what you want. Sometimes what you want will not happen. Sometimes you will reach a compromise.

Don't take things personally. Remember that your partner is not trying to make you miserable and is not intentionally trying to upset you. Let go of blame and remember it's rarely about you.

Your partner can support your emotional health, but no relationship can create self-esteem.

If you want something done, do it yourself and be happy about it.
posted by Fairchild at 9:51 AM on May 4 [16 favorites]


Seems like one thing to focus on is making sure you are making time for friendships outside of your relationship, since before you fell into the trap of feeling guilted/distancing yourself from those folks. Having a healthy social life independent of your partner is something you can intentionally do by reaching out, making plans, and meeting up with others. It can be hard to do that when you're in the honeymoon phase, but dragging yourself out and then not dominating the convo with how in lurrrrrrve you are will go a long way.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 6:13 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


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