Transactional Analysis – Part 1 – Laymans Introduction

Sean gave me another critical piece of the puzzle. I asked him if he has been pacing the information so as to not blow my mind up and he claimed no that it just hadn’t come-up. Transactional analysis is an object-oriented way to document interpersonal interactions. Each interaction is a transaction and the currency of TA are strokes. Depending upon the depth of the transaction, a stroke can have little worth “hi” or a lot of worth “I noticed that you pasted your exam, it’s great that all your hard work is paying off.” Hi is simply an acknowledgement of mutual existence. The lack of this type of stroke will be noticed MORE than it being there. The comment about passing the exam is more complicated and validating to the ego. Acknowledgement of mutual existence is there, the recognition that they exist to the other person when they aren’t in front of them (noticing that they past the exam), the recognition of historic labor efforts, and the social recognition that passing an exam is a payoff.

Ego states and Social states

An ego state is the psychological state from which ones’ comment comes. Child, Parent, Adult. The social state is the apparent state from which a comment comes. For example, it being important that we are on time is socially adult but if we direct a comment towards someone who is always late it is from a Parent psychological or ego state. These states are indicated with a capital letter.

We learn these states from our parents and other caregivers and while we may never be aware that they are there, they are, and while we may never be aware that we jump around from one to the other, we do. They are biologically hardwired through years of experience and validation and for these reasons certain behavioral tendencies are really sticky and may never go away. Your Child is going to be your Child for most of your life. Your Parent is going to be your Parent for most of your life.

The Parent automates the day-to-day stuff that makes life manageable – shopping, cooking, cleaning, going to work, looking after loved ones – because it is both controlling and nurturing. The Child allows for play because it has been cultivated with a sense of freedom. Creativity is the realm of the Child and this represents an essential piece of a human beings spirit. The Child can become overly adapted however with the wrong proportions of control and nurture:

If Parent nurturing Then Child free.

If Parent controlling Then Child adapted.

The Adult ego state is reflective and purposeful. It exists in harmony with the universe as it calls upon past experience for information and solutions but transacts with the others in a deliberate way. It has well-established boundaries and accepts that each person has the right and responsibility to manage their own life and affairs. Adults engage in coaching with enlightenment or independence as the goal.

The goal of TA therapy is to coach the client to transacted with social and psychological states being aligned as Adult. They are aware of and use when appropriate their Child and Parent states but these are tools to use vs. compulsions to serve.

Why would Sean tell me about this? Because I needed to hear it as I was lacking a visual framework from which to logically represent what I have been feeling and living through.

My last post of 2011 was about how I had to accept that I didn’t know what my motivations were in most situations and why I act the way I do. I needed to give-up my belief that I know myself in order to finally observe how I act. This is still the case, but it’s getting easier. What is remarkable about it, is that once it was understood to me it became very easy to see things happen and feel the shift in my psychological state.

For example, I was recently compared to someone I didn’t like very much. There was a moment when I thought about what I had heard and what I wanted to say and then realized I didn’t really know what the comment meant. I replied with “yes, there are similarities between me and him.” It wasn’t the Child reply that initially popped into my head. Their reply was “well, actually, this is the one similarity” which was true. He and I both have a tendency to try and solve the problems of the people we care about; not necessarily a character flaw but it can be a Parent action. MOST people have this problem. The key thing with the interaction was that I didn’t let myself slip into an automatic Child-like reply of “yes, but…” The comment was accurate because the other person made it. The inverse comment would have been equally true – that he and I aren’t very similar. That’s the thing with conversations with people, almost everything is right under some circumstances so, well, what’s the point in arguing?

I know what I need to do, I know what I want to do and I haven’t been showing a lot of control over things. When I work and play, it’s purposeful and passionate. When I am a Parent, it’s about very few things in my own life and I do have a tendency to try and look out for the people I like. When I’m an Adult I’m okay and everyone else is okay.

Negative Love Syndrome – It Can Stop Here

A few weeks ago Sharyl sent me an article. It was a .pdf of The Negative Love Syndrome by Bob Hoffman. It is fascinating and I’ve read it a few times a week since I got it. It isn’t very long and it is another layer of explanation along the lines of how people observe, learn and practice things as a child that become their unconscious adult behaviors.

With Negative Love Syndrome (NLS), just like compassionate love, children normalize the early experiences of “love” they observe from their parents / caregivers interactions with them and each other. No matter WHAT happens, it will be regarded as normal and set the baseline for all love behavior moving forward; these early experiences shape the child’s future actions so they will work unconsciously and often against their own interests to ensure the baseline experience is restored. But with NLS, the children normalize seeking loving behaviors that do not add quality of live or are simply negative.

For example, when mommy withdraws and doesn’t tell dad what is bugging her, daddy yells and then she does. The boys learn that adult females are cold and conditionally open (when they get yelled at), the girls learn to bottle things it up until her partner gets verbally abusive. Provided the boy yells, both eventually get what they want so they remain in “love.” This is in contrast to compassionate love were the women may not talk openly, but her husband accepts that she will talk when ready and will not pressure her. Children viewing this will internalize appropriate boundaries, and both the need for and respect of another person’s privacy. While the boy will not learn how to make conditionally females open, he also doesn’t learn to attack an object. He learns that women are people, with feelings and that they will talk when they need to. The lesson a girl learns from watching her mother set-up and honor the boundaries can on serve to make her more empowered.

If left unresolved NLS will manifest itself as a series of games between the adult and their future partners although little if any of this is conscious. Seemingly healthy relationships will begin to suffer as the adult works to create the relationship of their parents; which is the reason why they suffer from NLS. If their partner doesn’t realize that this is happening and remains committed to having a healthy relationship, they begin to alter their actions and play the game as well. This is why NLS relationships create unusual experiences for those who normally engage others with compassionate love.

It makes perfect sense when you reflect on it. You need and want your parents to love and approve of you so you try to do what they did. Doing something different than what they did will be tough because it goes against most of what you learned; it will feel and likely be perceived as rebellion. The assumption people make when they choose to get into a relationship is to work towards the bond that their parents had. One does not necessarily realize that this is what they are doing because they engage most parts of their life without the impact of NLS such that they may pick suitable candidates for girl or boy friends, ones who offer compassionate love, but once their own feelings of love begin to develop the negative love tendencies start to come out and degrade things quickly.

The confusing thing is that often what they are receiving is EXACTLY what they need and know they want but since it doesn’t feel like negative love it is rejected. The consequence of compassionate love being rejected tends to be a withdrawal from the rejecter – a negative love trait. So by rejecting the thing they want and need in their life, they are able to experience the thing that makes them feel normal and shittie.

People are going to be nuanced when how they manufacture a negative love environment so the games that get played can be very complex, engrossing and red herrings in terms of what is actually happening. Think about it, you are engaging someone with a very fast brain, that has automated and normalized something to the point of it falling outside of their consciousness so they are not even aware of what they are actually doing, let alone why they may be doing it. They KNOW something isn’t right, but resist all coaching in an effort to win the game.

The prognosis is good but only if the person is willing to change, so the outcome for most is poor. I have known a couple of people who have been able to find their way out of the darkness and would be confident that if someone is willing to work at it, they can get better. It takes time and a keen awareness of how you are thinking. But first it takes the person to realize that there is something wrong and a willingness to press pause, let things settle and see how the landscape looks.

In The Wake Of Destruction

When I paddled with the Mississauga Canoe Club I would see the good ones riding the wash that another canoe or kayak was creating. They’d get into the wake and keep their body weight on the down side of the wave coming off of the other boat so it would push them along. It was a skill and when it worked, it saved a lot of energy. When the wave passed you though, you were screwed. Paddling a sprint canoe through the wash of another boat is a different sport. Point the front of the boat, paddle hard and hope for the best. Most of the time they would open up water between you and you’d find matching their speed became possible only when you drift back and out of the random waves they’ve left. It was messy water if you ended-up falling behind. Washed-out is what it felt like.

I did find some comfort in the calmness of the water after the wash goes away. There was a lot of frustration there because there could be. It was easy to berate myself for falling off the wave because I wasn’t trying to hang on anymore. The choppy water was gone, as though it needed some time to regroup and consider its options before trying to tip the next person into the drink. The washed-out survivors were spared the waters torment and given the chance to think or learn from the previous few minutes. The great ones stuck by the water and became national level athletes. I moved on, replacing relationships and work for the water and trying to ride their wash. Sometimes unsuccessfully.

In the wake of destruction there is silence. There is a flattened landscape void of potential, void of anything that was how things just were. If left standing, one is lucky and slightly damaged. That’s all that’s needed. The damage means they’ll try to avoid that type of thing again. They’ll be a little wiser when it comes to the wash of life, at least in terms of how their  choices got them this time round. They’re lucky because they got washed-out and can take a rest in the calmer seas. That race is over, the lesson given. They can now look around with a shifted attitude that lets new or previously impossible thoughts bounce around. There’s a liberation in failing that you don’t get with continuing. There is a massive boost in mental resources. As the brain releases from the battle it can focus on managing the lessons and taking the most out of the experience.

In time things begin again and with enough time those things will be new.

Being Honest About Time

Seeing life slip away can be beautiful. It has a big impact on the willingness for honesty and there’s a dramatic shift towards being authentic. Why pretend anymore? There’s a big difference between having 6 and believing you have 500 and knowing you have 6. When you know you have 6 you’ll enjoy them fully and you’ll not let anyone take any from you.

And I suppose that we all think we have 500 so we float along enjoying some, sharing others, and allowing some to be stolen from us.

Cancer is greedy. It takes more than it’s fair share of the 500. It takes more than what we let others steal. But it gives something in return those who steal do not, it illuminates the end of the timeline. The flash of the terminal diagnosis shines brightly on what you have left so following the path to the end is very easy. You clear your schedule of the stuff that steals any of the time that remains.

You call in your troops and they shield you from the nonsense. The family pick to block obnoxious one on ones, musical chairs to maintain the wall of one between the cancer and the cancer, it’s a play book being written with each visit from someone who never mattered to us and always seemed to cost us energy.

It’s a sad sort of dream team simply because it is needed.

I’ve been left wondering after a well played game why I’m in this situation and what other things have I been letting into my life that share the same root cause.

I really want to be liked by other people. At least I used to want this. I’m not sure it’s worth the cost anymore; not to assume it ever was. I’ve normalized this habit though. I’m more aware of the interactions with people that leave me feeling unsettled than I am about the ones that leave me feeling nothing. In the last 3 years I’ve started to tread away from these types of interactions in favor of ones that leave me feeling good but I still have a tough time telling people to get away from me or just ending “friendships” that never worked.

The new awareness that death comes sooner and that time becomes more valuable as you near the end is forcing the issue about the pointlessness of wanting to be liked by other people. Almost everyone I know now will not be there when I die. The people I am choosing to generate mental friction about are not even aware of it and none of them will be there in the end. Wanting to be liked isn’t working for me anymore so I’m giving up on that habit. It hasn’t been authentic for a long time.

“Relationships Ruin You”

Sometimes people say something and their comment pisses you off. A few years later they say the same thing and you just nod and agree with their wisdom. My dad is a lot like that. He’s said some crappy things over the years only to have them reveal themselves as lessons a few years later.

My favorite has been the evolution of his view on how I interact and behave in relationships.

You shouldn’t take things too seriously” was what he used to say. It bothered me. I wanted to be in love with a beautiful girl and I wanted to be in a relationship with her. My view was that these things were the best way to find happiness and fulfillment. He didn’t say that I was wrong, he just said that I shouldn’t take things too seriously. I didn’t agree and did what I wanted.

The most recent iteration of this thought, “relationships ruin you” was greeted with my nod and agreement, and a lot of laughing. It’s me, I’m just not very good at them. They’ve all ended. 4 of them lasting a few years longer than they should have  – 8 to 10 years spend with people I don’t talk to anymore, in relationships that were challenging experiences for everyone. A decade of my life spend, well, living and experiencing whatever it was that my father was trying to help me avoid.

He was right all along. I take things too seriously and being in a relationship has been WAY too important to me for all of my adult life since I started my first serious relationship 20 years ago this September. I would give-up my identify, my dreams and goals to focus on the other person and “us”. I think it bothered him to see me waste my time and my potential because he appreciates the shortness of life in a way someone my age didn’t want to.

He never said it, but I can imagine it being rather disappointing to watch one of your two children squander their opportunity to make a life they are proud to live and share with others. Dad doesn’t really interfere with my affairs and he’s been a big supporter of anything that I’ve done on my own. He never suggested that I give-up on a relationship and work on myself, he doesn’t tell me what to do, but he’s been there each time to pick me up when things end.

I completely understand and realize what he was saying. And I agree with him, Relationships ruin me. It is no one elses fault but my own. I’ve been doing this all of my adult life and it’s time I stopped it.

Relationships, per-say, are not the problem. It has been my desire to be in a relationship at all costs vs. being happy, build a career or business, being charitable, whatever, that has been the problem. I’ve been making the decision to table everything. A shift in my primary focus is what I need now that I realize what my dad was saying.

Thankfully it didn’t take 20 years to sink in.

Addictive Relationships

In early May Sharon lend me her copy of “I Don’t Want to be Alone: For Men and Women Who Want to Heal Addictive Relationships” by John Lee. She had found the book to very helpful. I read some of it and put it down. At the time it was because I was tired and needed to try and get some sleep, but over the next few weeks seeing the book sitting on the shelf started to nag at me. I told myself that I was too busy to pick it up and last week I gave the book back.

Now that the book is gone, I understand why it was nagging me. I stopped reading it because it was making me uncomfortable. I had been approaching the book from Sharon’s perspective, trying to see and understand how and why the book resonated with her. You get no insight when you read that way because you’ve already made a judgment that taints your ability to experience the lessons yourself. But, as is the way with thought fragments, enough of what was being read made it in and started to make me feel uncomfortable.

And I remember thinking when I was reading it that I could see myself in each of the characters to some degree. Unfortunately, I wasn’t reading the book backwards so any identification with the characters meant that I was relating to them as they were before they uncovered and solved their problems. Oh oh! Better put that book down Pat, if you don’t you’re soon going to find out that you don’t want to be alone; and frankly, are terrified of it. Fortunately Sharon had finished the book and was able to coach me towards having the experiences I needed in order to see this fact.

I fall in love quickly and completely. It is a poets love, consuming, passionate, intense and, sadly, codependent. And as a poet in love, I write and I broadcast out the state of being in love because that’s helps me to feel things. Some of the stuff is great, some of it is good, but most of it is just words typed out to allow me to experience a happy emotion that I think I should share with someone. If these efforts are liked, I do them more until they stop being liked and then become annoying. But I perceive the change in receptiveness as someone checking-out and, since I’m terrified about the prospect of being alone, fear grows, taints my thoughts, and things breakdown rapidly. I’m not fighting for a relationship, I’m fighting for what I feel is my entire identity.

It isn’t a good way to live. Fortunately, Sharon saw it quickly and did what was needed for me to feel the rapid breakdown and identify why it was happening. Now the challenge, addressing the codependency issues that I have been unconsciously expressed for most of my adult life and to move my life to a point were I can want a partner in my life but not need them in order to function. That is my next journey, and I really do owe finally finding the path to Sharon. Thank you Sharon!

Why You Are So Screwed-up – Part 1 Nature

Okay, you aren’t that screwed-up, but you aren’t entirely right are you? Life doesn’t seem to flow the way it does for other people. Everyone else seems to have an easier time with things. Happiness for others is simply a matter of smiling, for you it’s a matter of getting or doing something to be happy about. Success for others is easier too, they just seem to put the time in and everything falls into place while for you, you work and struggle and battle the inertia of mediocrity for months to get the smallest piece of the pie only to find that it’s not apple, it’s made out of liver and dirt and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

But the thing you may be missing is that everyone is you. We all have the same types of struggles as you and we are all prone to make the same mistakes as others. They are suffering life as you are suffering life and they look at you and think the same things you do when you look at them – life is so easy for you while I have to struggle. It’s people, it’s our innate perspective to view us as the center of everything, struggling against all the odds to carve out a tiny piece of happiness, that everyone else is trying to steal.

And as weird and paranoid as all of this may sounds, it is true from an evolutionary and therefore genetic point of view. Your body is running a program, the foundation of which was written during a period of time when the above, based on scarcity, was true. EVERYONE and EVERYTHING was out to take what you had; be it your shelter, your partner, your food, your off-spring or your life. Our ancestors did have to take on this me against the world approach or else they would get killed or not reproduce. Simply put, the paranoid attitude that flows out of us so easily is there because we’ve evolved to have it as our default emotional state.

But this program is antiquated. It hasn’t really been relevant in western society for a long time because of an excess of everything. We have specialization of labor, shelter, and laws so we now have the ability to engage the world in reflective ways vs. immediate or survival terms. Our ability to fire our fight or flight response using thoughts is actually a hindrance in an environment of excess because there is no real need to empower a reactive logic-inhibiting system. The successful happy people spend as little time reacting to their emotions because they understand the role they plays and what they are good for, and what they are really bad at.

What does that mean?

Well, simply put, you need to start using logic or rational thinking more and your emotional system less. Very very simple to say, tough to understand and even tougher to put into practice until you know what it feels like.

What does that look or flow like?

Your actions are direct and goal orientate; something in your environment will change as a result of the decisions your make and the actions you take. This is different from the emotional approach which tends to engender a sense of fear and loss which stirs fear / anger and then action to address these negative feelings as opposed to the trigger. There should be a sense of peace and a feeling of improved momentum – as though you are building up speed and power on a purposeful journey. And your life will get better! Not only will things begin to get easier, but you’ll soon notice that a there are a lot of people in the world who aren’t out to get you or wanting to see you fail. In fact, you will begin to draw in people who take the same logical problem solving approach to their life.

In conclusion to part 1, you are screwed-up because your biology favors you acting in a way that promotes a sense of scarcity and therefore a strong desire to hold onto what you have; even if this means acting in a wildly illogical way. This is because the environment from which our species evolved favored those individuals who possessed this trait – the code that shapes behavior is selfish because it was written when being selfish offered a survival advantage. Part 2 will deal with the nurture aspect of the equation, which we have a lot more control over and which has a much bigger influence on us than foundation program that influences consciousness.

Living And Loving With Blinding Passion

Living and loving with blinding passion, the gift of life, for me at least. Dropping into the moment in high gear and building speed. Eyes closed seeing what I want to be and acting like it is. The world outside a medium for to move, control and shape, to make whatever is firing me exist as it feels it should be.

Cycling, training, writing, hiking, lifting weights, instructing, all done with almost all of my effort, when I am dialed in and bleeding passion. And I enjoy a tremendous amount of success with action activities when I’m present and burning for them. Single minded and unstoppable. It’s great to observe someone pour all of themselves into something and it’s even better when I pull back to myself and realize that I have been watching ms. It’s flow and it feels pure energy and absolute power. And in many ways it is. I’ve created a world in which I am moving effortlessly, taking positive action in service to the passion I’m feeling about, whatever.

A lot of my life is fantastic. When I’m fulfilling my passions I float happily building more and more passion. It flames hotter and hotter, and there’s no way, when I think about it right now, that I’m engaging the world logically. Which doesn’t matter much with most things, in fact, approaching training and athletic stuff with moderate intensity gets you about 50% of the results. Achieving your potential in anything requires 100% of your effort so an overly active passionate emotional response or drive is what is required. People like seeing results of intensity and they need to be coached and trained with passion. I’m doing a lot of the right things in my life because most of the time there is very little push-back when I attack the world with my passionate needs expecting to be expressed.

But, the gift of living completely in a moment has a big down side. A lot of what is going on is only going on in my head. And I make the mistake of interpreting a lack of push-back as confirmation that the world is actually behaving the way it is for the reason I think it is; which is really easy to do when you’ve throttled up the passion and started taking action to make it happen. When the push-back comes, I start to suffer very quickly. I become unhappy and begin to take action to remove the obstruction. Fired up with intensity I engage the road block to restore things to how they need to be. This gets the hill climbed, the weight lifted, the class working to exhaustion. But when the expression of your passion is linked to another person and when its actualization depends on a shared objective and agreed expectations, any misinterpretation caused by the state of passion can be a future problem. Unlike a dead-lift, what other people feel and think isn’t something that can just be lifted out of the way.

Sometimes I forget this, sometimes when I’m really passionate I get angry at my clients for not following the nutrition advice they asked me for and said they would follow. Sometimes I’ll get frustrated when someone else is using a bench that I want to use with a client. I can get thrown off slightly when people talk in my class, and I think to myself that maybe they should shut-up.

Romantic relationships is an area which is most susceptible to distortions when it comes to expectations and objectives. It can take a while to discover who you are around someone you are falling in love with so for the first while, who they are is who you think they are and what they are going to do is what you expect they are going to do. But do you know this? Unless you’ve had a clear conversation about expectations, moving forward based on your own assumptions will eventually lead to disappointment. The degree of disappointment is going to be proportionately related to how heavily my passion has been invested in the expectation that was distorted.

All in all, my approach is fairly good, but it’s just in need of some adjustment. Now what that adjustment is, I’m not entirely sure but I’m confident it will be uncovered very soon!

Antiquated Role Definitions – Moving Into The Future

The world is a complex place so it’s really hard to create an accurate mental understanding of it. Most of us do a fairly good job creating a functional reality that allows us to exist and contribute to society. Whatever assumptions we make about the world to get us through our day to day life tend to work well enough to allow work, shopping, recreation, education, etc…. to continue. This is because these assumptions are trivial – the assumption that a cashier will give you change is a fair one because that is their role. A teacher is supposed to teach, fitness instructors are supposed to instruct and co-workers are supposed to do their jobs. These are basically social conventions – implied behaviors and actions for specific roles. Members of society have a collective understanding of all these roles so it’s expected that those playing one of them do so appropriately. Doing so makes society function more effectively because we don’t need to vet every single interaction.

For less superficial roles like romantic partners, it is a lot more complicated. The interactions are more frequent and cover a deeper range of topics. However, we may still apply the same social convention approach to roles – that is we assume that a girlfriend or boyfriend is a particular thing, plays a particular role and should therefore act a particular way. This is what everyone else in our life does – the sales person sells, the lawyer applies the law to get you what you want, the police identify and charge criminals – so we do the same thing with the more intimate social partners. This works very well for transactional interactions because you are making a very general assumption about their potential behavior based on your understanding of the role; a composite understanding of EVERY experience, real or thought, about anyone who played this transactional role before. This approach doesn’t work as well when it comes to deeper non-transactional interactions. The issue becomes that of assumption testing, and more accurately assumption failure, because the understanding that one creates about a girlfriend and the role that she plays ARE going to be tested in a relationship, and some of them are going to fail.

Your understanding of a romantic partners has been shaped by the modeling of your primary caregivers, television, books, siblings, peers, and social exposure. As you begin to date, the understanding evolves and starts to acquire aspects of each relationship. It’s a complicated thing but over time you start to get a clear understanding of what a girlfriend is supposed to do, why she is doing it, what you are supposed to do and what a relationship is supposed to be like. Eventually the role of girlfriend becomes clearly defined – it too is a composite of all of the behaviors that you have come to associate with the role of a girlfriend. At some point the evolution of this understanding slows and the role become more solidified turning now into expectations. You close off to information seeking and choose to move forward with what you have running on the belief that you know all you need to about how a romantic partner is supposed to act and what they are supposed to be. With repeated exposure, their actions will shape your understanding of how the role is supposed to be played but any deviations from the existing role will be resisted and need to be assimilated over time.

The problems really begin because people now enter your life, not as new people with new things to learn about but instead enter as bit players to fill a role in your life. There are expectations for how they should be your significant other, based on your experiences, and your new partner is being held to your old views / roles. We have less concern about learning from them and more concern about getting them to act in a particular way – a way that is compatible with our view of what a girl or boy friend is supposed to act. This is almost completely unworkable because people tend not to respond very well to having their autonomy replaced with a list of demands and expectations, disappointment and anxiety when they act like themselves.

In my opinion, the key thing that taxes a relationship is a lack of information exchange about ones personal definition of what a romantic partner is supposed to be. It isn’t necessarily that being kept in the dark is bad or the wrong thing, it’s just that a lot of people have the tendency to fill in missing information with stuff they make up based on their past experiences. If we don’t directly ask someone what their motives are, we can wait to hear what they are or we can do what we’ve been doing most of our life and make an assumption about what the motives are based on our experience. The problem with this type of manufactured life is that it tends not to reflect reality. The outcome is that you think your new girl friend acts the way she does for the reasons your OLD girlfriend/s would have had. You are living in the past because you are holding onto antiquated role definitions. Your actions are unfair and generally lead away from happiness because you are transferring your old roles onto new people; you are not allowing them to determine their role and how they should fill it.

I am aware of the impact of my past as I can sense it in the back of my mind telling me stuff that it couldn’t possibly know with any certainty. For example, having had a girlfriend that died, a part of me is always certain that something has happened when I don’t hear from a romantic partner. Most of my friends didn’t have a partner die so they’re just know that they are running late. Time for that assumption to go. I had a girlfriend who lived in a different province so I became accustomed to not seeing her for weeks at a time. While I’ll miss them like crazy when they are not around, it isn’t abnormal for me to not spend a lot of time with my girlfriend because I normalized not seeing them. This one isn’t working for me because I really enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and can’t think of any good reason for us not to hang out. I’ve had three girlfriends who were working hard to complete a second degree so I have been able to normalize tabling couple activities until later when school is out and they have the time to reconnect. Being distant with someone I live with is not unusual for me, in fact, it’s actually what I have come to expect out of relationships because people who want to do well in school HAVE to focus on school and deprioritize the relationship. But since I’m not in a relationship with someone who is in school, there really is no reason for me to transfer this understanding / role onto them. We CAN spend time together and we SHOULD remain connected.

So, what does this mean to the single or the newly involved people? The same thing it means to those involved in more long term relationships. You need to be very aware that you are allowing your partner to be who they are, act how they need to and say what they say without an attempt to force them to behave as your antiquate role template outlines. You need to not transfer or project motive or intentions on them. You need to ask them questions when you don’t know why they did something you don’t understand. You must remain diligent to ensure that you are affording your partner the dignity to be who they are and not use your influence to shape their actions to conform to what your role expectation demand they be.