It’s official!  My boyfriend, and his dog, have moved in with us!  Three dogs, two humans, in a two bedroom condo in Chicago.  Mind you, they were here every weekend, so we have been practicing for this moment for quite a while, but everything feels completely different now that the boxes are unpacked – or mostly unpacked.

The living room appears a hoarder’s residence until our yard sale this weekend; full of a mix of both our items, in order to conserve space and not over-clutter.  I had started purging about a week before their arrival, and as we started to move the totes in for unloading, together we would hold up our matching spatulas to decide which one was best to keep.  Both of us fully aware that we would need to compromise, and be flexible, to actually have the thing we desired most – each other.

Yes, there have been moments where I’ve said, “but I love those conga drums.”  But, truth be told, when I think of the years of dating, hoping to meet someone this incredible who accepted and appreciated me for all that I am; who is amazing in his own rite – goodbye congas!  It was a very easy decision.  It means that we have to keep our hearts, and minds, focused on the big picture.  I think so often when people argue with each other it is because they are allowing their egos in the way, or they are lost in the minutia of detail, and not focusing on what is actually valued.  In our case, what is valued is respecting each other, and knowing that we are consciously aware of how we are communicating with each other, especially during times of stress.

What’s interesting is how often people are willing to maintain this level of respect for colleagues, but yet, in their romantic relationships, they fall prey to victimization or manipulation.  I’ve witnessed it time and time again – in stores, with couples I know; individuals acting out their deeper beliefs about themselves that keep them from knowing they are worthy of love, and thus constantly asking their partner to prove their love through self-victimizing.  Partner A:  “Come look at this lamp!  I really like it!  Are you coming?  I had to call your name like seven times.  Why are you never listening to me?  Do you not care what I’m saying?  Do you even really care about me at all?”  Partner B:  “Come on, already, I was just over in the other aisle trying to price the plants you liked.  Why do you always have to be so demanding?  Why can’t you give me some space to breathe?  I swear you don’t trust me, or even notice all the things I do for you?  Are you sure you even love me?”  We’ve all overheard conversations like this, or dare I say, had conversations like this.  These types of conversations are all safe – but they are not actually honest.

If these individuals were trusting in what they were offering their partner, and they each believed they were worthy of love, then their interaction would likely be more honest.  If one partner was feeling like they weren’t being heard, it wouldn’t be because they believe no one ever listens to them, but rather they genuinely haven’t been feeling as connected lately, then they would likely just express exactly that.  “I don’t feel like you have been listening as attentively as you usually do over the past couple days.”  This is neither accusatory, nor victimizing – it’s honest.  It’s not using “always” or “never,” because those are exaggeration words.  It’s an open statement encouraging dialogue, with an intention of learning more; not accusing, not hurting, but with the goal of deepening the connection, not fracturing it.

Intention is really the key.  Setting aside the accusations that are dancing around the truth; the kind that hurt feelings and leave neither partner feeling valued or loved – and rather choosing to hold strong to your self-value, the efforts you’ve made in the relationship, and seeking understanding to grow and connect you together.

I encourage you to consider the flexibility you are holding for your partner.  Does your language reflect what it is you are seeking to share?  Does your tone and your body language express your loving heart or the heat of the moment?  Are you willing to release your congas to the highest bidder?  Because the truth is, there will always be congas available in this world, but finding that rare gem of a human who lights up your life– that’s the beat I consciously choose to dance to.

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