Challenging Myself To Love Harder

With permission from my girlfriend, I want to open up about some problems that I have with relationships.

Let me rephrase - I want to open up about the obstacles that I create in our relationship. 

I will be the first to admit that I am probably one of the hardest people to have a functioning relationship with. I have tried many times to have a successful & fulfilling relationship, only to have failed because of my own doings. It is a cycle that I see myself repeating, and a cycle that really needs to be broken. 

I'll start with the root of myself: My personality. 

If I had to describe myself in 3 less than appealing words, I would choose stubborn, angry, and self indulgent (if you end up joining me on this challenge, also choose 3 words that are positive - mine are ambitious, strong, and dedicated). I have spent my life firmly believing that you should always put yourself (your needs, your wants. etc) before others, but sometimes I take that a bit too far. I am set in my ways, my thoughts, and if anyone tries to deter me from my path, I get angry. I have a huge issue with not being able to handle that anger, and more often than not, I take things out on the people who love me most. 

I grew up seeing this type of behavior happen around me (or a variation of it) and I believe that my environment fueled my personality development. 

But, that gives me hope, because that means my environment can change who I am for the better. 

I'll give you a scenario of what isn't working in our relationship because of my negative qualities:

Allison is working late because she is getting her doctorate in Psychology. I am selfish, and feel that she needs to be giving me attention every night, but because she has to work, I am angry. This anger makes me paranoid and irritated about everything else, so I snap and make her life a little bit harder (when in reality, I am not mad at her, I am irritated because I am not the center of attention). Eventually, I have pushed to the point where she is upset, and voicing it. I take offense to this, and decide that instead of facing the fact that I am being irrational and selfish, I run from the relationship, and have hurt the person I care about. 

I tell you this painfully blunt scenario because I think it's important to show that relationships aren't perfect, people aren't perfect, and we should be working out our flaws and kinks, no matter the magnitude. 

// Maybe you aren't irrationally flying off the handle like me. Maybe you're a bit of a control freak who snaps at her partner because they haven't vacuumed the house for you and folded the towels correctly. 

// Maybe you have trust issues, so you get angry at your partner if they want to increase their freedom. 

Whatever the case may be, take a good look at what you are bringing into a relationship (or a friendship, or a relationship with a family member) and decide what you can do better.

When I was journaling at the end of February, I realized that a huge set back for the month was my anger and my relationship. With that realization, I decided to make March my month of showing love.

I should point out that this action doesn't come naturally to me.
I'm not bubbly and sweet and sensitive. I don't think about cute and quirky ways to make my partner smile.
But, I wanted that to change that this month.

I call this a challenge because it is something that takes daily effort. Not because I don't love my partner, or the people around me, but because if I don't actively focus on helping others, I'll revert back to only helping myself.

This month, I'm challenging myself to preform an act of selfless love for my partner every single day. 

I actually started this on February 27th. I was planning out my week in my Bullet Journal, and added a heart on my task list. That heart was a key for an act of love. I added it to my to do list so I could keep myself accountable, and even after the first 3 days, I can already feel the habit sticking.

// One day, I decided to make her coffee before she woke up, and write her a little note to take to work with her.

// Another day, I picked up a bookbag she had been talking about - it was an early birthday present.

// Another day, I simply sent her a cute text while I was at work, and cooked her dinner when I got home.

I think a huge misconception about acts of love is they have to be huge and romantic.
We're so set on flowers and fairy tales that we forget how simple showing love can be.

Showing love can be as simple as asking a person "Did you eat today? Can I make you something?"

Spreading selfless love hasn't become a habit for me yet, but the goal here is to develop the habit over a month, and let it spill into my other relationships and friendships.

I feel excited to do nice and thoughtful things for Allison, and to my surprise, I don't expect anything in return. I just like seeing her smile.

Want to do this challenge yourself? Think of ten things you can do for your partner that will make them happier. Figure out what they enjoy, what they'll appreciate, and what they need. Make an effort to change the less that appealing qualities about yourself that might put stress on your relationship.

Here are a few ideas: 

1// Write them a note
2// Surprise them with dinner 
3// Send flowers
4// Listen to them, and ask questions
5// Ask how they are feeling
6// Remind them of how beautiful they are
7// Listen to their wants and needs - then try to fill one 
8// Play with there hair 
9// Offer to drive to dinner
10// Get them their favorite snack 
11// Send them an encouraging text after a bad day at work 
12// Finish a chore for them
13// Randomly hold their hand 

How did the month go for me? 
I originally planned on publishing this at the beginning of March, only to have it sit in my drafts until today. Reading back over it, I wanted to reflect on the month and let you know honestly how this went for us.

At the beginning of the month, I was making an effort to show more love to Allison. But, I was still getting angry. I was still flying off the handle. Something wasn't clicking. This was frustrating to me, because I thought I was changing a behavior.

I quickly realized that getting someone coffee doesn't mean shit if I'm getting irrationally angry 2 hours later. I still didn't have a handle on my anger, which was the root of the problem.

While I was still working on showing love to my partner, I realized pretty quickly that I needed to work on communication as well. I needed to slow down and take time to identify what emotion I was feeling, and why I was responding with anger.

If you think about it - anger is not a normal emotion. It's an emotional response to something else.

For example, if I felt hurt or sad, I would show that by being angry. That's not right.

I've always been open on this blog, because I believe that the things I encounter allow me to give advice to others. Overall, I don't think this month went well for us until the very end - when I decided to get help with my anger, instead of just tolerating that it was a part of me.

This month has taught me a few things: 

1// Ask for help. You never have to be alone. 

2// It's important to communicate when there's an emotion or a problem. That doesn't mean scream. That means talk, listen, and respond. 

3// Relationships take serious effort if you want to make them work. 

4// Showing love goes far beyond material objects or acts of service. The best way I can show Allison I love her is to be present in our relationship, and ensure her that I am in this. 

What are you struggling with in your relationship? What steps can you take to change things or make things better? What are some qualities about yourself that need a little extra work?