Relationships: Cliché! Cliché?

It could be a female thing! Not sure, but I have a hunch. I’m not just talking about couple relationships; I’m talking about any relationship: parents to kids, work relations, friends, acquaintances, well yes – and couples.

I’m talking about what people think how relationships should work, what they are using them for, and what they do to make them work.

I’ve been talking to a guy recently of whom I know that he is really interested in people and cares about what makes them tick. And even he looked at me as if I were a bit off course.

So here it is – nothing huge - but still, it bothers me:

It is about something that I’m doing all my life to everybody I am in any kind of relationship with: I’m taking a lot of pre-emptive action to make this person look good in front of others and to keep this person happy at all times. Rather often taking the blame if something goes wrong, putting in my own money and extra time  to make something work, and doing everything myself because they could feel annoyed if I wouldn’t.

I now realise, that given my new approach to life, time management and my love and dedication to the Incredible Ladies website, that this is the last resource I have left over to gain a bit more time, control and – well, probably confidence – in order to become really good in what I’m doing.

I all of a sudden have the feeling that it still is a good thing to make people happy, but not at all cost!

So there I was in my conversation and not even being able to explain what it was that bothered me. As usual, these thoughts started whizzing around in my head and formed questions:

“How can I explain this better?”, hoping that if I can explain it better, I might find out: “Why am I doing this in the first place?”

And then I had a spiritual encounter with my mum.

In some mind-floating situation – don’t know whether I did my ironing or was under the shower – a picture of my childhood shot through my brain: It even was in black and white. I might have been something like 8 or 10 years old. My mum was on the phone telling a white lie. She was fixing something that had gone wrong – apparently the deed of my dad – and she took the blame to make him look good to the outside world. I vividly remember that she was rather grumpy later on, not about the thing itself, but that something like this had happened before, and that she never got the appreciation of my father for her way of fixing it in finding an excuse for him. It had become so much of a routine for the both of them, that he didn’t even realise what she did ‘for him’ – well, he hadn’t asked for it in the first place!

Oh my God! I’m mirroring my mum!  But why, oh why are we doing this? Why are we covering for others without being asked.

It can only be answered by another question. What are we expecting of relationships?

This might be my very personal view, but I would say ‘Safety’ and ‘Security’. If you translate that from German it almost means the same. Although: ‘Safety’ I see more in the sense of ‘safe haven’ while ‘Security’ covers more the financial aspect like having a place to live and a place to build a family.

I truly believe that it is a gender thing on what measures people tend use to achieve this.

There is this cliché of the husband who is working his butt of, doing overtime, making a lot of money, but never being at home and barely knowing his children, while people wondering how and when he managed to make them anyway. He usually has a nagging wife, who after the kids are out of the rough pulls the break and leaves him. While his reaction would be: “But I did it all for you!” his wife would respond: “And I never asked you to!”

Here the relationship is used as a vehicle for financial security to fit into a certain layer of society. He had a certain idea of how a relationship should look like to the outside world, assuming that this is what his wife wants as well – or should want as well, probably interpreting all her behaviour in the light of his perception without ever having a review together with her. Well, here is another cliché: Guys don’t like to talk! But this is what a review is: gather the options and negotiate a compromise.

Probably this is the story I should have used in the conversation with my friend to explain my behaviour.

Only in my case it’s more the ‘safe haven’ version. At first I thought it’s only me behaving like that. However, the more I’m observing my social environment the more cases I see. Not all of them of the same severity, but astonishingly enough all in women.

Apparently we need good relationships to appear successful to the outside world. My boss, my husband, by friend – if they look good, I look good! If something goes wrong then I take the blame. Meaning that the second half still looks good, I did a mistake, but looking good anyway because I’m a good girl taking the blame, and we are a close front: ergo – good relationship, thus successful. Additionally we have to make the other half happy – happiness means that we are bonded. It’s basically what mums do with their children especially when they are with other people. Creating harmony by putting on a big show, and always being prepared by carrying huge bags of stuff, and being creative and empathetic to an extend that gives them headaches.

Things might be changing a bit now, but have a think about this:

A guy with a brilliant job and loads of money without a girlfriend or wife:

What a guy!

A guy who is a territorial bully and leaves corpses while making a career:

He will go far!

A girl with a brilliant job and loads of money without a boyfriend or husband:

Well at least she has a job, poor thing!

A girl who is a territorial bully and leaves corpses while making a career:

What a bitch, she won’t get far!

Well, according to Wikipedia clichés are phrases which are be overused. However there has been a time before that when the phrase was novel. There have been situations indicating that something particular is going on. In using a cliché we try to laugh about it, because it’s actually too sad to acknowledge the reality.

Women are supposed to have good relationships, we observe this behaviour in our mums and grandmas and it stays with us. While guys use their language to submit information, girls use language to bond, to build relationships and to enhance them (see: Deborah Tannen - "You just don’t understand" and other books)

What are we supposed to make all of this?!

Well, I don’t know if any of the above applies to you, or if so if you wanted to change it. In my case it turns out that this behaviour is holding me back quite a bit. I take all this action to avoid mistakes which probably might in thousand years make somebody look bad. Using that time to actually do something creative seems to be the much better option for me. Working too hard on a relationship to make somebody look good who didn’t even ask for it, won’t bring any appreciation. So I’d rather do something that brings appreciation.

Should there be some aftermath coming out of my change of habit – Well, I will be dealing with it then. That’s the risk one has to take and what is called ‘learning’.

I don’t mind restrictions and compromise, they are necessary to make social relationships work – but I want to know where they come from, and I need to know that they make sense. If not they need to be re-negotiated, and I want to be part of that process.

I always thought that my boundaries were set by others.

Isn’t it a wonderful discovery that almost all of them are set by myself. It is entirely up to ME to push them as far as I like and dare.

Well, all of a sudden the Chicken can Fly!

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Author: Rika