I think we can all remember sitting through at least 12 first days of school and our teachers taking the first few moments to go over the classroom rules: raise your hand, always have a No. 2 pencil, stay in your seat, no shouting, no running, and most importantly FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULE!
If I’m being honest, which I am, I will admit that I didn’t really understand what that meant. I got that it meant be nice and not be a jerk but I didn’t really get it. I wasn’t fully able to understand what it meant to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” until I was able to learn how I wanted to be done unto (that seems way more inappropriate than it is).
I think too often we forget ourselves when we disagree with someone or don’t understand what’s going on but goddamn it’s frustrating when someone rips you a new one for an opinion you had or a phonecall you missed or tells you what you really meant when you said that thing.
Knowing how I wanted to be treated coupled with learning to just be honest finally allowed me to figure out how to apply the Golden Rule to create satisfying relationships in my life whether they were family, friend, or romantic. I ask myself what outcome I want and try to extend that courtesy as best I can.
Opinions, respect them
I have a right to my opinions and you have a right to yours. You may even disagree with me if you want and I won’t be offended. We can debate our differing opinions but not as a means to show you how you are wrong and I am right but to share our ideas. Someone once accused me of always needing to be right (well, probably more than once) because whenever he would share his opinion, I was ready with mine and it was often different. He wasn’t able to understand that I respected he thought and felt his way and I just wanted him to respect that I thought and felt my way. Not right. Not wrong. Just is. Voltaire said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” As long as you do you and you are okay with me doing me, then things will work out fine.
Set people up for success
My birthday is coming up (it’s not really but stick with me) and I really want to do something special with my guy. First thing I do is remind him that my birthday is coming up and no, circling the date on the calendar doesn’t count. Then I tell him that I would really like to do something special with him. If I have specifics in mind, I’ll share those too. I’ve just set him up for success, it’s the right thing to do. Dumb little games like not telling him your birthday is approaching because “if he really loves you he’ll just remember” are not fair. Think I’m wrong? Your guy joined the company anything team, it’s the first time he’s been able to really play that game he’s always loved. There’s a huge play-off tonight after work and he’s really excited about it. So excited. But he doesn’t tell you about it because he knows you’ll come because you love him but you started making lists in your head on the way home from work so you totes forget. When he finally gets home, in a huff, he mumbles “I can’t believe you didn’t come”. It basically ruined his evening and he’s going to have a headache for the next two weeks. Read: No one wins.
Talk to me
I’m not a mind reader and I’m willing to bet you aren’t either. So you have to tell me what you are thinking or I’m not responsible. Conversely, if I’m not willing to tell you what’s going on in my head, I forfeit the right to be upset about it later. It’s the old “that’s fine” problem. If you say “I’m fine” or “That’s fine” or “It’s fine” instead of “I’m annoyed that you didn’t call” or “I was hoping we’d stay in instead of you going out with the fellas” or “That was an heirloom vase your drunk ass just busted” then you do NOT get to be mad at me for not calling, going out with the boys, or breaking your granma’s vase. You just don’t. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If I tell you “it’s fine” it’s because I’ve already decided whatever the situation is is not worth my squawking over so I’m going to let it go and so it really is fine. This leads us to…
For the love of god, mean what you say
I appreciate that we are now communicating but this isn’t going to work in half-truths. You have to be honest. Firstly with yourself and then with me. Is it fine? Yeah, it was an ugly vase anyway. You shouldn’t say one thing and expect me to divine your deeper meaning. It’s not fair to expect people to read between the lines. Guessing makes people wrong, a lot. Wrongness disappoints, a lot. I call it playing stupid but it is really just believing someone is telling you what they mean. Women tend to wonder “What he/she/it meant by that” and men tend to…not. By being honest you say things like “Wow, you look fantastic today.” By playing stupid I don’t have to wonder if you meant I only look fantastic today but I look like hell the rest of the time.
Playing stupid can get you into trouble, however, when the other person isn’t being honest. I was involved with a guy who said he loved me and wanted to be with me but needed to take some time so he could sort through some things. What I took from that was that he loved me and wanted to be with me but needed to take some time so he could sort through some things. I mean, right? He wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. Turns out, I should have been trying to figure out what he really meant because it was NOT, in fact, what he said.
Know that I mean what I say. Do not read in. Do not interpolate. “Do you hear the words comin’ out of my mouth?”
It’s also important for you to speak for you and let me speak for me. If you tell me I look fabulous today, I might answer “I know, right?” and you should be okay with that. You can’t make me say something by saying it first and wishing and hoping I reciprocate the sentiment. If you’re wearing a new shirt and I haven’t commented, my silence doesn’t mean I don’t like it. It likely means, I didn’t think to mention it. So if you are dying to know what I think of your new shirt, just ask me. Also, don’t say “I love you” to your new guy just to see if he says it back. He won’t. He’ll wait until you are into a REM cycle and mumble it into the pillow while facing away from you after roughly 4 years. “That’s just what we call pillow talk, baby.”
Never assume the worst-case scenario
You are going to jump to conclusions and make assumptions. You are. I have already come to terms with it. I only ask that you give me the benefit of the doubt. I promise to do the same for you when I jump to conclusions and make assumptions. I just called you and you didn’t pick up. It is probably because you are busy doing something else and not that you are sending all my calls straight to voicemail because you hate my stinking guts. That guy I just met hasn’t called me yet. It is likely because he’s not interested or he’s busy but less likely he was hit by a bus this morning and I should not call him and check to make sure he’s still alive. You are late to our lunch date. It might be because your baby shat as you were leaving the house and you had to clean his diaper and probably not because you are an inconsiderate, thoughtless jerk who delights in making me sit awkwardly in a dining room alone. I’m sitting through a green light and my emergency flashers are on. It might be because my car has broken down and not because I want to see how extensive your vocabulary and creative your hand gestures. My guy didn’t invite me to Thanksgiving dinner with his family. It might be because I said I wanted to have dinner with my family and he thoughtfully didn’t want me to feel like I had to choose between him or them and not because he’s embarrassed by me and wants to keep me hidden.
A few years ago I was at the Gunks climbing with a group of friends in which there were two couples: Couple 1, Mister & Missus and Couple 2, Lady & Sir. Couple 1 had split up for the day and Mister was climbing with someone else, somewhere else while Missus went into town to get her hair did. When she returned she called Mister so they could meet up as planned but Mister didn’t pick up. So Missus and I hung out with Couple 2. Sir from Couple 2 was climbing and Lady was hanging out with Missus and me. Lady asked where Mister was and Missus said she wasn’t sure but she wasn’t worried. It was Lady’s position that Mister had probably fallen off something and died OR he was being a jerk and intentionally not picking up the phone because he didn’t want to ruin the fun he was having without Missus. Lady was furious for Missus. It turned out that Mister had been stuck on the GT ledge of High E (for my climber friends you know the spot). It is perfectly reasonable that one can get stuck there for hours on a clear day. Luckily Missus had the presence of mind to reserve being angry and frustrated at Mister until she decided whether there was something to be angry and frustrated about.
WHAT WOULD MEGAN DO? You should ask yourselves this more often.