I got my back

So that same chap who suggested I’m over-analyzing all of this, well, he said something…I should say emailed (and, heavens! I do much prefer to actually talk in my relationships — phones are okay, but nothing beats the face to face!) that has me thinking. I haven’t been obsessing over him or anything he’s said, mind you; I was merely meditating last night as I was drifting off and had one of those flashes of clarity that made me go “hmmm.”

First, let me reiterate that I don’t normally share my blogging habit with men to whom I’m attracted. This one, more-like-it (in case you hadn’t guessed), just seemed open enough, strong enough, in the sort of field where he gets the whole creative process thing. It sort of slipped out, I guess. I was hopeful that he wouldn’t take it very seriously…after all, I don’t.

So we’d been flirting a bit and he’d offered to give me a massage sometime…never followed through…and so, in his email, he mentioned that he’s really tempted, but hesitant because he thinks I might interpret that as… And here’s where I have this incredible clarity around the situation:

  • His role is to do as he chooses, push whatever boundaries he wants and, one would hope, to be authentic and honest and communicative in the moment.
  • My role is to mind my own feelings and boundaries, be as authentic in the moment as I can be and, after that, however I interpret his actions is my business. How we react or respond to others has less to do with them and more to do with us. And, thank goodness, I’m at a point in my life where I want to have dialogue (rather than the last word), where I want to build bridges and understanding.

You may recall that I’ve been through the whole marriage counseling thing — and with a counselor who had an excellent reputation. Still, after going through sessions, being called out on my bad behavior and watching as my ex was called on little or none of his…I actually ended up going to individual counseling to deal with the marriage counseling. It would go like this:  We’d have an acrimonious couples’ counseling session in the evening. The next day, at noon, I’d talk with our counselor on the phone to try to re-interpret or process what had happened the night before. (This was great — I got all kinds of juicy information during these talks — but nothing that helped us with our marriage, only stuff that confirmed why it was unlikely to ever really work.) And then I’d go see my own counselor to work on myself and try to get over what felt like an emotional hangover from the couples’ counseling.

My point in recounting this is that I have professional advice as a basis from which to say it… The single biggest take-away I got from my counselor was this:  I am responsible for my happiness. I am not responsible for my partner’s happiness. In fact, she went so far as to say, “It’s your job to make him do the right thing.” And I asked, “Even if he resents me for it?” She replied, “How he reacts is not your responsibility. Let him feel resentful. At least in the end he will have done the right thing.”

This may seem obvious to any emotionally healthy adult but, at the time, I was so in the weeds of my unhealthy relationship that it was a revelation. A huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t have to try to “make” this man (who was depressed and perpetually unable to be happy) happy. I moved forward, worked on myself, took care of the home and children as best I could, and began implementing those boundaries I’ve written about. I’m not saying I did this all “right” or anything, just that I got the concept.

So, while I can appreciate a man who respects me enough not to want to mislead me, the concern might be a little misplaced. Just ’cause some attractive man is rubbin’ on me doesn’t mean I’m going to let the situation venture into something that feels uncomfortable to me. It’s not his responsibility to worry about how I might interpret or react…because, finally, I’ve learned enough to say with conviction:  I’m a big girl…I got my back.

can an online app help couples stay connected?

News of the recent launch of Tokii, an online community designed to help busy couples stay connected, has me fascinated. Can anything online help couples maintain healthy relationships in the real world? Isn’t the fact that we spend too much time interacting with technology and not even relating to one another as humans part of the problem?

Of course I contemplate my own failed relationship and whether anything could have saved us. We tried counseling, I went on a self-improvement binge and, in the end, when we had ultimately stopped rehashing our problems, we stopped communicating about anything. Sure, there were moments of brightness, during which we might share a laugh, but we couldn’t sustain it.

And that’s why I look at this concept and think it’s positively genius! Two people already in a relationship connect on Tokii (it’s not an online dating site) and use simple tools to help them communicate:

  • LoveZones is where you can complete a quiz that helps you and your partner understand how you like to receive love. While I haven’t joined and tried it (because I’m not part of a couple), this sounds a lot like Gary Chapman’s approach in his brilliant book The Five Love Languages, and I cannot say enough about how enlightening this could be for couples! Merely understanding how you and your partner innately prefer to give and receive love could solve many communication challenges for those not feeling loved in their relationship.
  • MoodMeter simply allows users to update their moods, letting their partner know how their day is going (and perhaps what challenges one may encounter when one gets home).
  • Finally, the TradingPost allows couples to make a playful game of negotiating for what they want, whether those wants involve chores, activities (think getting him to take ballroom dancing lessons with you) or sexual fantasies.

I believe there could be tremendous value in Tokii for one simple reason:  Sometimes it’s easier to be honest with an intermediary, even if the intermediary is technology.

Having been in a number of long-distance relationships, I can attest that it can sometimes be easier to be completely honest over the phone or via email than face-to-face. And how many stories have we all heard of people who drag a spouse to a counselor’s office only to notify them (in a safe environment, with an intermediary) that their relationship is over? I can readily see how, during those times when it seemed impossible to communicate with my husband, we might have maintained some small thread of connection if we’d already been playfully sharing our moods and expressing our desires via an online “trading post.”

I don’t know that this tool or anything else can save a relationship that’s abusive or otherwise truly doomed, but I genuinely envision Tokii as a giant leap forward in our collective relationship consciousness. There are computer programs, websites, and online and mobile applications for nearly everything these days — it’s about time our primary relationships, which most of us would say are a top priority, have an app of their own!