Good day. My name is Rick. I have the honor of writing something for this blog entitled “Walking Through Life as a Woman.” I am scratching my head for two reasons. One is I’ve never walked through life as a woman. And two is what the heck am I going to write about. I came up with an idea that has been a challenge throughout my life…relationships. I can only provide one guy’s view and hope that maybe this helps someone out there in some way. First a little about Rick.
I was born and raised in a small town outside New Haven, CT called Woodbridge. It was just my brother and myself and he was 3.5 years younger. My mother was a stay at home Mom and my Dad worked at Yale University. They did the best they knew how in raising us, but I now am aware of issues that I work on that likely originated way back then. My parents were older than those of my peers and between them was a 9-year age difference with my mother being younger. There was also a significant education difference. Mom never finished high school and Dad graduated from Yale with a Physics major. Both smoked and both drank to excess. I will say school, sports, friends and exploring the woods where we lived were awesome experiences to have while growing up and likely kept me sane. I excelled in high school and then went on to Trinity College in Hartford, CT and graduated with a Biology major. That logically led me to a 28.5-year career in Naval Aviation as a fighter pilot. And a superb career it was. I had to leave the Navy due to some mental health issues that dealt with two rough areas of my life…women and alcohol. I next worked for several companies supporting the Navy in some fashion. In 1998, I elected to leave my family. I had been married for 26 years and had a son 25. I was looking for something better. I retired in 2012 and since have been doing volunteer work, traveling, keeping healthy, and reconnecting with family and friends. Read that as building good relationships. My former wife is now a best friend. I am close to my son and his family including a two year old granddaughter. A daughter I fathered in 1967 found me 16 years ago and she is now very close as are her two children (14 year old grandson and 16 year old granddaughter). I am very blessed and grateful at this point in my life (remember those two words!).
This now leads me to relationships with which I had so much difficulty. What the heck is one, how do we start one and how do we keep one? The Internet says a relationship is a noun and is:
- the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
- the state of being connected by blood or marriage.
- the way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other.
For our purposes, I feel it is about two people being connected and how they behave toward one another. A simple sentence but so very critical and complex.
There are several types of relationships but the ones I am talking about all have one thing in common…love. Well, what the heck is love? The dictionary says it is an intense feeling of deep affection. I believe in its most basic aspect. It is caring as much or more for the well-being of the other person as you do for yourself. It took me a long time to come to the realization of how important that this meaning of love is in a solid relationship.
Now let me narrow it down and focus on intimate relationships. This is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical and/or emotional intimacy. I feel that this can include a close friendship to a committed relationship and they both include love. The physical intimacy part can be shaking hands, hugging, a kiss on the cheek for friends. For a committed relationship, it will include holding hands, touching, deep kissing and sex. I think one thing that both share is “mere presence.” I find it often very comforting to be in the presence of another human being whether a friend, a lover, same sex or opposite sex. I believe that deep down inside we are social beings by nature hence the calming effect another person who you care about provides (well maybe not all of the time).
One thing to keep in mind when developing a relationship regardless of the type is motive. Why am I doing this? I spent a lifetime developing relationships that were mostly about me. What could I get out of this friendship or going out with this attractive woman? And as you guessed, they did not last. If my motive was self-centered, that relationship was either doomed to failure or was dysfunctional.
So, what is needed? A few simple words; love, communication, honesty, sharing, selflessness.
Love we already discussed. You have to care for your partner as you do yourself if not more. It can’t be all about you. It is we, us, our proposition! Not an I, me, my deal.
Communication is key. We need to be able to discuss both ideals, goals, problems, concerns, desires, feelings and emotions. If we can’t do this in an open, calm and honest environment, then the relation will have flaws that will likely grow. The two people have to be brutally honest with themselves and with each other. A relationship, particularly an intimate one, has no room for secrets. Open, honest, selfless sharing is a must. There is an old saying that you are only as sick as your secrets. Well, that holds true for a relationship. It is only as healthy as its lack of secrets.
I’ll jump back to sex here as we talk about intimate relationships. For me, sex for years was for my own immediate gratification. I have learned that in a loving relationship, sex is as much an act of giving to one another as it is an act of obtaining gratification. I remember relationships that were for the immediate gratification only and there was this empty feeling after. Maybe even feeling the need to escape. In a loving relationship, the feeling after is one of a closer bond, a desire to prolong the moment and a realization that something special was just shared.
One thing to mention in closing that I was guilty of was my childhood experiences. I never realized the significant impact that that environment had on my attempts to build my own relationships. My parents did not effectively communicate. More often they argued particularly after dinner and after several drinks. They did not show much affection to each other and to my brother and myself. They had this division of labor. Dad brought in the bucks and Mom cleaned/cooked. I viewed their relationship as the norm. So, what happened when I got married. I figured I should bring in the bucks and take care of the outside work (yard, pool, car, etc.) and that my wife did the inside jobs (have a child, raise the child, clean and cook). I thought that you feel in love, had sex, got married and lived happily ever after. I did not ever think that a relationship took work! I was so, so wrong.
So, let me close with a quote from the book, “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck. The very beginning reads, “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” Well, relationships are difficult, but understand that and accept, then they are no longer difficult. But you do have work to do! So, work, work, work! It is worth it.
By Rick L