Monday, June 6, 2016

A Sea of Thoughts: Compliments

A lot of comments and posts I've made lately have mentioned the idea of "loving freely," "opening your heart," and the like.  A lot of these are very abstract concepts and are internal processes that sometimes aren't readily apparent.

So much of my life was spent in worry.  Risk aversion.  What ifs.  I would have a crush on a girl and remain silent.  What if she rejects me?  What if she freaks out and avoids me?

I lost so many opportunities wasting time worrying.  Even worse, was that the stronger my feelings were for someone, the more I would clam up.  The more I would wallow in a pit of self-consciousness, worrying about how every word and gesture was going to be interpreted.  Looking back, that was really stupid.

What I'm about to say here isn't some magical solution to being able to love freely, but it's a start.  As humans we inevitably spend much of our time in our heads worrying about what we do and how it will be interpreted by others.  When it comes to the one we love, assuming you are already in a relationship with her, this makes no sense.

I think about times where couples go years without having kind words to one another.  I think about people in couples therapy needing a 3rd party to get them to talk openly at all.  It's true that someone almost always has to initiate the process, but that's the start.  The rest is on both parties to grow together, love together, and trust together.

A very easy way to start this is to start giving compliments.  This might seem "cheap" or "shallow" on some levels, but they serve two functions:
1. They have the ability to make someone else feel good with very little work on our parts.
2. They get us thinking externally rather than internally.

I've come across many men (myself included) that struggled like hell to tell a girl that I wasn't involved with, "I like your haircut."

I mean seriously, that's just fucking ridiculous.  When I look back on that, I wish I could build a time machine just to go back and punch my younger self in the face.  When we get used to bottling these feelings up, it becomes easier to withhold them when there is nothing to fear.

After a friend committed suicide when I was 19, I changed how I thought about things.  How many things could I have said to her that would have prevented this from happening?  Hundreds?  How hard were they?  Not hard at all.  After that I started to compliment freely.

If I liked someone's shirt I said, "Hey, I like your shirt."  If I thought someone had an amazing personality that was vibrant, I would say, "Hey, your personality really lights up the room."  These things aren't hard.  They are only hard when we make them hard within ourselves.

I held back with my early girlfriends out of fear.  When I got involved with K and the strong potential for a shelf life on our relationship, I didn't hold back at all.  I just said what I felt at any given time.  "You make me happy."  "I love you."  "I feel lucky to be with you."  "Your laugh warms my heart."  "You are the best thing that has ever happened to me."

We knew from day 1 that she might far too soon.  I chose to fill that with all of the love that I could.

I once gave a sub some advice on this subject.  I told him that every day to tell her something he liked about her (and to make sure to balance physical compliments with personality compliments).  He struggled with this.  I wanted to smack him upside the head.

Even with T, where things have been rocky as hell, I can easily rattle off dozens of things:
-She is very kind, even to strangers.
-She is there for people in need.
-She is a loyal friend.
-She's generous with everyone.
-She has a tender heart.
-She's very goofy, often unintentionally.
-She talks in her sleep and it's cute.
-She wants to be attractive to me.
-She tries to see the best in people.
-She says what's on her mind.
-She eats Asian food with chopsticks.
-She bikes somewhere, misjudges the distance, and calls me for a ride home because she's too tired.
etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

I know everyone that has been in a long term relationship has all these thoughts about someone.  They probably have things that annoy them as well.  The big problem is in many relationships, people readily voice the annoyances but rarely voice the positives.

How hard is it, really, to once a day say something that will make her feel good?
It doesn't matter when.  It can be in the morning.  At dinner.  Some random text over lunch.  Before bed.
"I love it when you're goofy."  "I love that you try to see the best in people."

If this becomes natural, that's great.  Add another.  Once a day, say one thing that you think will make her smile.  "You're beautiful."  "You're amazing."  "You're the love of my life."

If that becomes natural, that's great.  Add another.  Once a day, DO one thing you think will make her smile.  Get her favorite candy bar.  Grab her a flower (or even pick a wild one if you see one driving by).  Give her a hug.

Pretty soon what you'll see is that your thoughts are full of her.  Your heart is open.  You share your love freely.  It's not an overnight process.  It helps to make lists when you're still trying to find your voice.  You'll be surprised as to just how much a few kind words can accomplish, both for yourself and in the heart of those around you.

If this post seems ranty it's because I'm reminding myself as well of who I want to be.