I spent many years in college. Ten years went by, to be exact. And I am grateful for the learning opportunities I was given. I now have 3 pieces of paper, that say I completed my classes, along with boat loads of student debt that won't be going away anytime soon.
I’ve also thought of something -- the real reason I went to college for Marriage and Family Therapy -- I had no idea how to relationship.
It was an expensive way to learn. And a lot of it was based on fear and low self-esteem and having no other direction at the time.
Aside from all the "book learning", did I learn anything about human relationships? Kind of? Before my school experience, my own experience with relationships wasn't great. After my school experiences, my understanding of relationships was...better?
But textbook relationships are not the same as real life relationships. Humans are individual beings. There is no one book that matches each person.
What I did learn were things about myself. I used to not understand my low self-esteem issues. And I used to not be able to find words for feelings and emotions that I was experiencing. I used to not understand different addictive/obsessive actions I was exhibiting. Those things I learned more about in school.
Through different life experiences, I have also realized that we do not learn these things just once. We keep getting "lessons" on subjects -- such as patience. (That has been my major lesson this year.)
So coming back to learning about relationships. I had spent so many years being single / “micro-dating” that I really had no idea how I would behave in a long-term relationship. Turns out I get pretty clingy and attached and co-dependent - attributes that I do not find attractive, and nothing that I want to attract. From all my years in school, reading about human relationships, I couldn't see my own picture of what was going on in my own relationships.
I could tell everyone else what they "should" do. But when I looked to myself, I thought I was doing everything "right" because I had a degree in the subject. Wow -- who am I to say what someone else's relationship should look like or not look like?
Everyone says "relationships are hard". But why? Because there are several factors that make up that relationship. And sometimes we don't accept that we need to take care of ourselves before worrying about what another person is doing, even if they are a family member or friend or significant other. We need to clean up our own side of the street.
Maybe what it comes down to is being real -- with yourself and with others. How about we think about "real-ationships"?
How do people behave in relationships? Loving, caring, affectionate? Sure. People can also behave as manipulative, narcissistic, dishonest, etc. Why be so uncomfortable, just to be in a relationship? It's a pretty good indicator that you are probably uncomfortable with yourself.
Do you understand what your true motives are in your relationships?
I really did not understand this for myself until this last year. I have learned to make myself sit through times of anxiety. I have had to learn to hear what others are telling me, retain what I need and filter out the rest. I have learned to come back to my present moment when I feel anxious or "future trip". I have starred in the mirror while crying my eyes out, and asked myself what is important to me and what I want for my future. I have had to ask myself what feels real and what feels fake, or forced. I have learned to appreciate present moments and people I spend time with.
The traditional sense of school did not really teach me these big-picture things. And, I am grateful that I am learning these lessons and experiences.
Difficult, uncomfortable, challenging -- a few words to describe some of those experiences. Determined, appreciative, accountable -- more words to describe those experiences. Do I have some regrets? A few. And, I am realizing the opportunities I have had to learn from my mistakes. Am I still learning? Absolutely!
It took me a lot of time to realize this. It's difficult to look back to the past and think about things I've learned. It's difficult to become vulnerable to what I need to still learn for my present and future. And using my school experience to learn about myself was a super expensive way to go about this process.
Want a less expensive route to get to know yourself? There are ways. First, read a bunch of. Find a style or genre of book, articles, or blogs that helps you, and keep reading. Talk -- to friends/family or whoever will listen, but about real things -- things you are thinking and things you are feeling. Learning from others' experiences can save you a lot of possible grief. Find a self-help group you gravitate towards. Or find a counselor/coach (like me!) that you like and trust, to help offer some direction.
Keep exploring yourself by expressing yourself. We're all learning together.