How To Not Overthink Things

One of the things I’ve become really good at is not over thinking things when it comes to other people. I sometimes still fall into the trap but I’ve gotten really good at leaving a conversation once it’s done.

Here is what I do.

  1. Take everything at face value
    I’ve decided that I’m an adult and that the people around me are also adults. So when they say something to me, I simply believe it. I trust that if there was a problem that they would behave like an adult and have a conversation with me about it.
  2. Accept what others say to you
    In a similar vein to the above, accept what others ask of you. If someone asks for space, give it to them. If you offer something to someone and they say ”no” move on to something else. Treat others with the respect they deserve and allow them to make decisions for themselves. Again if they say no to something that you offer, trust that if they do want to take you up on it that they will ask.
  3. Assume the best
    There are many instances where someone says something and it can be taken the right way or the wrong way. Most of the time how you feel about the person at that point in time will dictate how you take it. For example, I was once at a New Years Eve party sitting in a gazebo where there were gaps in the palings. The owners dog peed on the gazebo and naturally some of it got on one of the girls. I said to her “there’s no one better for him to do that to” because she was a vet nurse and volunteered at rescue shelters and loved all animals. She assumed I meant that she deserved it and that it was a negative. At the time she and I weren’t in a good place which is probably why she assumed I meant it as a negative. I don’t blame her for doing that but it taught me to just assume that generally people mean things in the best possible way. And to be honest, even if they don’t it doesn’t matter. If you choose to take it as a positive it means that exchange won’t consume your thoughts.
  4. Communicate effectively
    Don’t beat around the bush. If you want to ask something ask it. It’s the best way to get your answer and that way you won’t have to think about what they meant when they said x and y. But it also helps to avoid misunderstandings. Last night I went to dinner with a friend and the restaurant we went to do take away pizzas. I sent my fiance a text asking if he wanted one. As I was out to dinner when he replied to my text I didn’t really read it and all I saw was if you can’t be bothered don’t worry about it. What he had actually written was if you can be bothered get some but if not don’t worry. If he had just said yes I would have gotten him some pizza and then we wouldn’t have spent 10 minutes when I got home arguing about who was right and who was wrong.
  5. Don’t dwell on things
    If you’ve said something that may have caused someone you care about to feel hurt and they aren’t responding to you, accept it – you don’t get to decide what hurts someone else. Ensure you have genuinely apologised (none of this ”I’m sorry you feel that way” bullshit) but move on. Allow them the time and space they need to work through their feelings. Don’t sit around thinking about it for too long. Allow them to come to you when the time is right for them.
  6. Be honest yourself
    It’s easier to not overthink things if you yourself are honest with those around you. It can also encourage others around you to communicate more honestly and openly with you.

It’s actually pretty easy once you get into this thought pattern of just assuming the best of each situation. I used to spend hours going over situations in my head, wondering what I said or did to cause (potential) offence to someone else. It was a ridiculous waste of time and wasn’t good for my mental health. These days I can say that more often than not, I say exactly what I want, depending on the other person I may have edit or censor myself but generally the meaning is clear. It saves misunderstandings, it saves time and it means that I can move on to other things without thinking back.

Why I Let Friendships Fade Out

I’ve always been pretty good at letting relationships naturally fade out. I’ve always been able to recognise when either I’m no longer interested in maintaining the friendship or recognising when they no longer are. Sometimes there’s hurt feelings but most of the time there is a feeling of loss but no hard feelings.

It is hard to do when you’ve never done it before. I remember the first time I realised I was no longer a priority for someone. She was my best friend from grade 2 until grade 6. We spent nearly every afternoon together. I was usually home alone with my sister for a couple of hours after school every day so instead I’d ride my bike to my best friends house, stay there for a few hours and then make my way home. We hung out most weekends. And then we finished school. I moved but we kept in touch. She went to a school where 90% of my primary school went. I went to a school where I knew exactly 0 people. I was desperate to hang on to my old friendships but them, not so much. I spent many lonely weekends in the first couple of months. My parents worked weekends so it was hard to see my old friends as public transport wasn’t great. My best friend was good at first. Then she got a boyfriend and we were all forgotten. More of my phone calls went unanswered and not returned.  We were mailing letters to each other a lot over the summer break but they started taking longer and longer to get to me. It took me the entire year to come to the realisation that I was no longer a priority. I wish I’d seen it sooner but as a 13 year old kid, I didn’t quite have the awareness I have now. It hurt. It really did, but by that stage I had made new friends. A core group of girls that I still see on occasion and one girl who is now my best friend and has been for the last 18 years.

The point is, that experience helped me see that people have other shit going on. And that I’m not always going to be a priority. That people grow apart. What it showed me is that there isn’t always a conversation about it. Whilst an explanation would be nice, I know myself that sometimes it’s hard to express that someone has done nothing wrong but you just don’t want to be friends anymore. It seems mean and unnecessary.

I also realised upon moving to a new school in year 9 that its ok to have relationships to serve you for the time being. In my first year at the new school, my group of friends were basically the other new kids. We stuck together because we were in all the same situation and that was one where everyone else had known each other for years and were already in their cliques. Year 9 is also a notorious year for girls so it’s hard to break into a new friendship group. Whilst I had fun with these girls, they couldn’t offer what I craved – common interests and close companionship. We all knew why we were friends and we each knew we were biding our time for acceptance by others. By year 11 I had found two groups of girls that I swapped between. Whilst everyone got along, they didn’t mix out of school but each group gave me something that I needed and once school ended, I stopped contact with the ones who I only spent time with simply because they were there.

I have let a lot fade out simply because they don’t serve a purpose in my life. That sounds harsh but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised I don’t have any interest in maintaining relationships for the sake of it. I’m very introverted in terms of energy levels and so I prefer to keep a close number of friends compared to hundreds of friends and if someone new comes into my life that may mean that someone else may be put on the back burner.

I think I’ve been lucky though. I’ve always been very much my own person who doesn’t rely on others entirely for support. I’ve always had that in myself and have had to use it in difficult times. I’ve also always had an awareness of others and how I factor into their lives. I’ve rarely thought that I’m more important to someone than I really was. In fact, I always assume that people don’t think of/remember me and whilst I know that comes across like I don’t think much of myself when I actually do, it also means that when someone does invariably decide they no longer want to keep as in touch with me as they used to, I don’t really notice too much or if I do notice, I’m glad for it.

Like with so much in my life, I don’t want things in it simply for the sake of it. I want all my relationships to add value to my life. So if that means letting go of friendships that no longer serve me then I will. And I refuse to feel bad about it.

Expectation and Reality

A couple of weeks ago it was decided that my fiance’s family would hold a birthday dinner for me that I didn’t want in the first place. Tonight is the night and I really don’t want to go.

The expectation is that I’ll be there and I’ll be pleasant and grateful and full of praise. But the reality is I’m not. I’m having a bad day at work already and I’m really not in the mood to have to spend the night with my fiance’s family who despite having the best of intentions can’t fathom anyone wanting to spend time alone.

Of course my fiance will be beside himself when I tell him I have no intention of going tonight because it means he then has to explain it to his mother. His mother is someone who requires a 10,000 word essay, stat decs and witnesses to verify why you can’t attend something. Apparently “I’m in a shit mood” just doesn’t cut it. Neither does “I didn’t want this.”

And I know how this conversation will go between him and I – he’ll tell me they’re all expecting me and I’ll have to remind him that I said time and time again I didn’t want this.

This isn’t the first of these but they certainly haven’t been occurring for long. It hasn’t slipped my notice that these ‘birthday events’ started about 3 years ago, right around the time fiance’s brother’s jealous ex-girlfriend disappeared from our lives.

So who is in the right here? Do I just suck up going to an ‘event’ that I didn’t want in the first place to appease others or do I stick to my guns and just stay at home like I initially wanted?

Not going means fighting and I don’t have that in me today. It’s too exhausting. But I also don’t want to spend my night in a bad mood being forced to do something I have no desire to take part in.

So the reality is that I will go. But I promise myself that next time, I will say no and enforce it. I won’t be bullied into having something done for me that I don’t want and I will shut down any conversation about it immediately.

Is Competition Amongst Friends Healthy?

Competition amongst friends can create interesting dynamics. For one it can motivate you to better yourself but in an another it can create a friendship based on jealousy and defeat.

The first option is what you’d ultimately want – a relationship where you each drive the other to their best, to lift each other up and to encourage, support and believe in you when you don’t. The latter can become a dangerous thing if you both buy into it.

I’ve never been an overly competitive person. I don’t have the motivation, drive or even the energy for it. I’m quite happy to do what I need to do and accept it whether its the best, worst or somewhere in between. Even as an adult I don’t need to have the most successful career, make the most money, own the biggest house or drive the fanciest car. I simply don’t compare myself to other people to the extent that I feel jealousy or hatred towards someone else.

But it can be difficult if there is someone in your life who wants to compete with you at any cost.

A few years ago there was someone in my life who for some reason fixated on me. She wanted to make sure everything in her life was better than mine. She wanted a better relationship, better clothes, better make up, better looks, better job etc. It took me a really long time to realise we were playing a game – only I didn’t know. But what killed this girl was that I was winning at a game I barely knew I was playing.

Whilst she spent all her time talking about the fabulous dinners and holidays she and her partner were taking, she hated the fact that my partner and I had an honest, trusting relationship. Whilst she went on about her fabulous clothes and how much money her boyfriend made, she hated the fact that my partner and I bought a house.  Whilst she went on about how the house she bought was in a better area than mine, she hated the fact that my partner and I got engaged. She put me down as often as possible but she knew that if our mutual friends had to choose, they would choose to hang out with me over her. She wanted all these things but she was so focused on being better than me and those around her that she forgot to focus on the things that really mattered to her. And whilst it looked like her life was perfect on paper, she eventually lost it all because she wasn’t happy. This is the kind of competition that is ugly. It brings out the worst in you and it’s hard to snap out of. I’ll admit that occasionally I was petty and played this game of hers but ultimately it made me really sad for her. And I really didn’t like who it made me as a person. Despite barely dipping my foot in, I became mean and judgement for no reason other than for my own amusement. It didn’t take my fiance long to tell me I was being a shit person and to grow up and that quickly put an end to my active involvement.

What I like is the healthy competition where you want to better yourself. Where you see a photo of your friend hiking some fabulous trail and you think ”you know, I want to do that!” Where your friend gets an amazing career opportunity and you are genuinely happy for them. Where you can talk about your achievements and not downplay them because you know that no matter how shit your friend’s life is at the moment, they will want to hear every detail and encourage you to push even further. This is the competition I want and like. The one that isn’t about the material aspects and ones that push you to grow as a person and to be the best you can be. These are the people to surround yourself with because as adults, we are no longer bound by having to ‘play nice’with everyone we meet. Sure be civil and polite but if you don’t like someone there is nothing stopping you from cutting communication.

What I’ve Learnt Through Other People’s Relationships – Part 2

Awhile ago I wrote a post about what I’ve learnt through other people’s relationships. I thought I’d do a follow up post because really, there is so much to learn through observing other people’s behaviour.

Relationships can be tricky but they don’t have to be difficult. They only really need a few things to work but for some reason a lot of people can’t manage it. To me a relationship must have trust, honesty and respect. Without those they simply do not work. Here’s what I’ve learnt through other people’s relationships.

  • Without trust a relationship can not function. I think it’s ok to sometimes doubt your partner with good reason but if at the end of the day you don’t 100% trust your partner and they don’t 100% trust you, you’ll spend the whole relationship anticipating the next step. For example, two people I know got together whilst both cheating on their partners. They eventually started dating but every time one spoke to a member of the opposite sex the other was left wondering if they were cheating and all hell would break loose. The reason leads me to my next point.
  • Honesty. People aren’t stupid and can generally pick up if you are being dishonest. A partner is usually one of the closest people to you so it makes sense that they’ll be able to see the clues. Again, a partner is usually someone who knows you inside and out so it baffles me as to why you wouldn’t be honest with them. Case in point – the couple I mentioned above could not be truthful to each other. Despite months of couples counselling one continuously lied to their partner about their escapades and the other downplayed theirs.  Their lack of honesty with each other eventually lead them to stop respecting each other and their relationship and that leads me to my next point.
  • Respect. Respect is so important. We respect those around us who deserve it and who we value as people so again, it makes sense that your partner would be worthy of that. It’s about taking into consideration the other people in your life and understanding how your actions impact them. It doesn’t mean always doing what’s best for them but it does mean looking at the consequences. As with the above couple they became so comfortable in their relationship and the dynamics of it that neither one had any respect left for the other to simply admit they couldn’t go on with the relationship and break up.

Eventually this couple did break up and break up for good which was a blessing for us all who were involved in their lives. The partner who simply could not stop cheating eventually ended up in an open relationship with a new main partner and they couldn’t be happier. The other partner is now happily married with a partner who doesn’t cheat and they are expecting a baby in a couple of months. To me it seems that this couple learnt from their previous relationship and made good on their new one.

But it just goes to show that without these 3 main ingredients, relationships become far more work than they need to be and if you want to work through it, great, but if you don’t it might just be time to suck it up and let it go.

What do you think are key ingredients for a successful relationship?

What I’ve Learnt Through Other People’s Relationships

I’ve been with my partner for 14 years now but there are still things that I’ve learnt from other people to apply to my own relationship. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to fall into a rut because you’ve become so comfortable together.

Here’s what I’ve learnt

o Date nights. Have them. Even if it’s just cooking together, setting the table up nice and having a good bottle of wine together. Probably better to go out but even something simple works. Do this consistently. It’ll help separate the mundane everyday stuff.

o Compromise. This is from everything to housework, finances, in the bedroom, lifestyle and more. Talk about things and compromise. Relationships that work work because they compromise.

o Respect boundaries. This is something that was really ingrained in me by a girl I went to uni with. Her motto really was “I’ll try anything once.” And she did. And because of that she had a number of experiences that probably wouldn’t have eventuated. What I’ve learnt is that if I’ve tried something and decided I don’t like it, I can say no. So if your partner tries something for you, appreciate it and don’t push it if they decide they don’t want to anymore or again. The fact that they tried should be more than enough for you.

o In-jokes. Have them. It can make you giggle at inappropriate times and people around you will have no idea what’s going on but that’s ok. It means you have a bond that only the two of you understand. Friends of mine have a weird thing where one of them will say ‘kitten’ and they will both burst out laughing – I have no idea why or what it means but its really sweet to see.

o Have a hobby together. Most couples I know have very separate interests which is great but there are always one or two things that both are really passionate about and share. Me personally, I’m not really passionate about much except finding out who ‘A’ is on Pretty Little Liars (only a few weeks to go!!) and food and wine. The food and wine does work as a kind of hobby between my partner and I but we also both enjoy walking and trying out new tracks. The rest of our interests are pretty separate but these are the things that we can do together and will always enjoy.

What have you learned from another relationship?

And They Didn’t Live Happily Ever After

I was at lunch with a few friends the other weekend and we started talking about a relationship one of the girls had a few years ago.

At 24 she met a guy who was 42. He worked a lot and travelled often for work but was always attentive and kept in constant contact when he was away.

He even went so far as to buy her a promise ring because they were going to design her engagement ring together. She thought she was destined to be with this guy forever.

Unfortunately she was wrong.

Turns out this guy had a secret life – he was in a relationship with another woman. My friend was obviously very hurt – by this stage she had given this guy 4 years of her life. They had talked marriage, babies, were saving to buy a house, the works.

What shocked her more was that she was the other woman – he had a wife in another state that he had been married to for 10 years. They had 2 kids together.

She found out when his wife called out of the blue. They had an awkward but honest conversation and it was clear to both parties involved that neither knew the other existed.

Both relationships ended. The wife tried to make a go of it but ultimately she was too hurt and betrayed by what he had done.

This is a story you hear a lot.

It’s easy to imagine that the wife was angry and she would turn on my friend and blame her for everything instead of directing that anger to her husband – its easier to blame an outsider rather than looking inward into your own relationship.

Whilst it’s an awful story to hear, what I really loved about it is that both women ended up being friends. Instead of turning on and blaming the other, they used their grief and anger for him and their situation to bond. I wish this sort of outcome happened more often. I hate hearing the alternative – the one where women revert to acting like a 15 year old girl whose boyfriend kissed another girl where the girl is forever labelled a slut and the boyfriend gets away unscathed.

Both of the women involved freely admit that it was so obvious to them now what he was up to but had no real idea at the time because he had always been the way he was. What made it more special was that they were able to talk in specifics, compare notes and ultimately gain closure without either one of them feeling they were at fault.