Ever since I was a tween, there was a sense of mystery and allure regarding adulthood. I was overlooked by it at 16, teased with it at 18, summoned to it at 21 and completely overwhelmed by age 25. During those early years, I craved it and every fiber of my being believed the ever-present desire was mutual. Now as a thirty-something woman, I envy a time when innocence misled my thinking. Unfortunately, as I endured growing pains, I also started to see the difference between aging and growing up. Let’s not overlook the fine line between being of age and being grown. I was told, being grown meant paying my own bills. Well, I’ve learned first hand that paying bills isn’t the only criterion.
Generally, adulthood can be described as a never-ending maze of decisions, corrections and judgments. While all adults may be in the maze, grown-ups have learned how to navigate better due to 4 specific traits. In relationships, these traits can be the deciding factor between connecting with a Laymate or a Soulmate–a seasonal influence or a lifetime partner.
Being in a position of authority and control means culpability when things don’t go right. Grown folks don’t shy away from responsibility, instead seeking opportunities to demonstrate what they’ve learned, what they know, and even to challenge themselves in hopes of improvement. They aren’t concerned with staying in the background to avoid problems and blame.
While a position or title makes one responsible, the response to an issue demonstrates a person’s willingness to be accountable. In dating, I’ve come face to face with the consequences of the ‘unaccountable’ and it wasn’t pretty. Blaming someone else for their issues or problems and never fully owning their role in mistakes was an ever-present reality in our tilt-a-whirl of a relationship. When someone isn’t willing to accept the consequences of his actions, a partnership will never make forward progress.
Touted as a virtue, patience is the cornerstone of relationships. Grown folks recognize the inextricable link between patience and self-control. The less patience you have, the more likely you are to get frustrated, annoyed, or act irate towards someone when you’re delayed or even mildly provoked. When I see a lack of patience in a potential partner, red flags spring up, bells go off, and I’m looking for an exit door. If we can’t disagree without you getting ‘in your feelings’ or losing control, it’s a no-go. If you throw a tantrum because of a slight delay or mishap, it’s a no-go. Life is too short to date the immature or the impatient. Grown-ups know better and have learned to date better.
Empathy is defined as the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, ie, the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes. Many debates, arguments, disagreements, problems, and issues I’ve had in relationships stemmed from a lack of empathy. Dating like a grown-up means accepting that your opinions and perceptions aren’t the only ones that matter. We all have an innate desire to be loved and liked, and our feelings respected. Most people understand their own point of view but struggle to understand the thinking, motivations and perceptions of another, especially if it’s in opposition to their own. Empathy requires us to be comfortably uncomfortable in someone else’s truth. Instead of judging their words, questioning their reasoning or correcting them based solely on what we believe, we have to experience a situation through their eyes and experiences. First, we must be willing to care enough to invest the time and put forth the effort. Second, we have to actively listen. The world doesn’t revolve around one person and neither should a relationship.
New ideas are not crafted from closed minds. To make progress, one must accept what currently exists as possibly flawed. Plain and simple. Relationships aren’t perfect, they have problems and often need to evolve. Whether it’s ineffective communication, lack of career support, absence of intimacy, money management problems, etc, relationships require us to be open to the notion of Other. Other answers, other opinions, other choices, other points-of-views, other upbringing and other possibilities. Not everyone will feel the same way about a situation as you. It doesn’t make them a bad person, it makes them not you. Don’t attach a character attack or a criticism to their response. Accept the certainty that our way isn’t the only way, or even the right way at times. Blasphemy!
Honestly, open-mindedness sits at the intersection of empathy and patience. It reminds us to accept people for who they are because we are all stumbling somewhere on the journey between Being and Becoming.
So, what are your thoughts? How are you ensuring healthy, grown-up behaviors in your relationships? Post your comments below!