What I’m learning and loving about each rule we discuss here is that every new rule becomes intertwined with the ones before them.
The conversations we have from implementing Rule #2, help us to dive into our own growth in Rule #1. And vice versa. You’ll see that each successive rule allows our weekly posts to become knitted even more intricately together!
As I think about each week’s exposition, I get excited at how the underlying meaning of each rule is not always what it might seem at the surface. You might be saying to yourself:
So what, Molly? What does that have to do with Rule #3? Why can’t my significant and I hang out in public?
Or you might be saying…
Big deal, I’m single. How does this rule apply to me?
To which I will say, I’m glad you asked!
Admittedly, on the surface, Rule #3 sounds like it has to do with social etiquette and how we engage with our partners. But what Molly-Ten-Years-Ago didn’t realize she was speaking to, was this:
Two individuals honoring each other through their independence, and trusting one another in time spent apart.
Still not seeing how this rule relates? Let’s rephrase: Rule #3 is about having so much confidence in yourself, that nothing can shake the confidence you have in your partner.
This rule was inspired by watching a dear friend of mine meet (and fall in love with) a wonderful man (who she proceeded to marry and has 3 beautiful children with), and observing how they socialized.
I remember feeling so impressed at how calm she was in their relationship, and how they both could disengage from each other at social events, without a care in the world.
Most relationships I had observed until that point were heavy on the codependency. Defined by excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, codependency is a difficult trait to hide…and an awkward one to endure as an outsider.
This particular brand of addiction looks like two people who can’t be apart for more than a few minutes, before needing to reunite. From here, this couple proceeds to hang all over each other for the rest of the event. If they do manage to drum up the energy to separate for any stretch of time, their audience endures endless conversations about the missing significant.
So, imagine how refreshing it was for me to see that my friend and her then-suitor could stand to be apart for these large group events. And not only physically apart, but that she spoke of him only briefly and only if asked.
So, we’re going to focus now on those couples that exhibit high levels of codependency. Because nothing oxidizes faster than a toxic relationship in the harsh light of day, let’s discuss why failure to accommodate for Rule #3 might be an indicator of red flags in a relationship.
As usual, we’ll call my favorite witness to the stand: Me-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years.
In my past relationships, there were plenty of reasons I felt compelled to babysit my exes in social gatherings, but I’ve narrowed our list down to the three main insecurities I had:
1. I was worried they would feel uncomfortable talking with my friends or family without me there.
2. I was worried they might act rudely towards someone, and I wanted to run interference to prevent that from happening (or to be able to rationalize it away later).
3. I was worried they would flirt with other women behind my back.
There are so many other reasons I’ve felt the need to hover around my exes. And all of these reasons existed because I
probably knew that the guys I chose to date were guys I should never have chosen to date.
Because in a healthy Green-Flag kind of relationship, your partner should enjoy spending time with the people who make you happy. Your partner should not be prone to making rude comments towards others. And your partner should not be developing an attraction with someone who isn’t you.
These are just basic ground-level standards, Mol.
But here’s the jagged little pill Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years never wanted to take: if you feel like you need to babysit your partner, you should pay attention to that instinct. And honor it.
Dig in and understand the root cause of those instincts. Don’t ignore them or hope them away. Your instincts are important to have, because your heart is a precious thing and should be protected. And you should be The General leading that vanguard, joined only by the partner who is worthy of you. Not the partner who tricks you into letting your guard down.
But even more so, your instincts tell you where you have some reflection to do, and maybe even some growth.
For each of the aforementioned reasons, my instincts set off every alarm system my brain had in place. These instincts were pulling me toward reflection I desperately needed and lovingly avoided.
That reflection should have looked like this:
1. Why is my partner uncomfortable around the people I care about? Why do I feel I insecure about it?
2. Why does my partner make rude comments when interacting with someone? Why do I entertain this behavior in this person?
3. Is my partner as invested in this relationship as I am? Why do I allow myself to feel devalued?
Having made all of these observations, what do I want to do about it?
These are scary questions I didn’t have the guts to face over the past decade. And each of these questions showcased areas where I needed to develop and strengthen myself.
In the first instance, I was afraid that my friends or family would not like my partner. I was distrustful of my own judgment of character. In the second, I was worried my partner would give them concrete reasons to dislike him. Most of the time, my partners had already given me various reasons not to like them, which I justified and ignored. And finally, I was scared that my partner didn’t even like me, and was always looking for someone better. (It goes without saying that I was acutely aware there were reasons to be suspicious of this.)
I think there’s something to be said about hindsight here, but c’est la vie!
I may have a hard time accepting that a man who I feel calm with is someone I am worthy of. I may also have a hard time accepting that the Brooding-Batman types I dated in the past couldn’t be the one for me (read: couldn’t be fixed).
Clearly, I’m still working on Rule #1 for myself, and that’s okay! What’s most important is that, at long last, I chose to stop running. I chose to defend my boundaries, my standards, and myself. (And now, here we are.)
Developing the strength to ask the hard questions early-on, of yourself and then of your partner, facilitates the on-going conversation you should be having with them. Additionally, it commands respect.
With each question you answer together, you build momentum for growth. This rule either cultivates a healthy relationship, or it allows you to make an informed decision on the fate of said relationship.
Beyond the red flags we address in ourselves and our relationships, we should pay attention to the green flags. We should celebrate those positive traits in our relationships!
Considering that I am single myself, I love seeing my friends enter into healthy relationships. And I love taking notes on how they do it, in their own unique ways.
It allows me to identify the various green flags that can (and should) present themselves in healthy relationships: in the way each person honors the other.
Where each partner can reach out to the other’s friends and family at anytime, for casual conversation or to make special plans. For instance, my friend’s fiancé contacted his AND her entire family and her friends to set up an expansive, surprise birthday Zoom call, so she could celebrate in quarantine!
Or where each partner is respectful in how they treat others. My sister’s partner can make anyone smile and feel included by how at ease he is in conversation with them.
But especially where each partner is so enamored with the other, that they could never be distracted by someone else. My new brother-in-law knew the second he saw my sister that she was The One. And his devotion to her is unwavering, and apparent to everyone.
What beautiful couples I get to surround myself with and learn from!
This rule is about cultivating such a strong and healthy relationship with yourself, and then your partner, that you both can withstand a moment (or two) of separation.
And this rule is about facing the underlying fears you may have, which contribute to codependency issues in a relationship.
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are fears you have held in past relationships, or even a current relationship?
How do these fears translate to insecurities you have about yourself?
What Green Flags have been exemplified in the healthy relationships around you?
How can you implement these Green Flags in the way you see and treat yourself?