If I had to pick my top personal weakness (other than math or cooking, of course), I would have to choose “relationships.”
Sometimes I suspect my interpersonal radar got a little bent on my way into this world.
As one friend recently remarked (in response to my own remark that I thought my social skills could use a little polishing), “Yah – sometimes you’re great and then sometimes I’m just like…?”
I feel exactly the same way.
Of course, some of this may just be a natural friction arising when I meet a person who is wired very differently than me and then we attempt to interact. In other words, with some people, it just seems to flow right from the start – like we just instinctively “get” one another or something.
And then with other people, it is just one long constant “huh?” until the inevitably dramatic (and no doubt mutually satisfying) parting of ways.
With some people, certain aspects might go smoothly, such as when we both connect over a shared passion like cold-blooded pets or love for pizza. But then when we attempt to discuss other important topics such as world politics or coffee versus tea, things go south in a big, public way.
I say all this because, as of this moment right now (literally even as I type this here) I am waking up to how often I mistake comfort for happiness in relationships. This can include colleagues, friendships and personal partners.
For example, let’s say I have known someone for a very long time.
We have a very set pattern. We have kind of learned where each other’s buttons are and both how to push those buttons and how to avoid pushing those buttons. We have worked out predictable routines for different activities we do together, whether it is taking a walk or taking a trip.
These patterns and routines, over time, have evolved to create a semblance of smoothness, a certain type of comfort, even.
But underneath this thin layer of comfort – familiarity – the friction is still there. The buttons are still there. The awareness that, should we one day tiptoe (or leap) into button-laden territory, all of that carefully crafted comfort won’t be much consolation for what happens next.
If you have ever watched the movie called “The Matrix,” you already know what I’m getting at with this. Once you are awake, you can’t ever go back to sleep.
Once I have realized that I have been mistaking comfort for happiness, I can’t un-realize it. I can’t ever convince myself again that the two are identical or that one is any kind of substitute for the other.
And that is where things get really hairy, and prickly, and downright heart-breaking.
For those of you who have been following along here for awhile, you likely know my favorite musician is Sting. One of my many favorite Sting songs is called “If you love somebody set them free” (watch the classic 1985 video here if you like!).
Beliefs can be thorny, especially when they, too, become simply comfortable rather than alive in my daily life choices and actions. Believing in something like setting the people you love free is still a work in progress for me, but with the help of my longtime mentor, Lynn, I am making a lot of progress in this area.
This, as you might expect, has resulted in the need to set certain long-standing friendships, colleague connections and now a dearest partnership free.
These have each been intensely painful in their own way – surprisingly so. My personal process to date has included my own nonprofit, MentorCONNECT (which folded about a year after I set it free under new leadership back in late 2015), two very close and treasured friends whose lives were simply heading down very different and incompatible tracks to mine, and now someone even closer than that.
I like the feeling to tough love – given by me to me.
“If you love somebody set them free.”