Sunday, September 21, 2014

Returns and Exchanges

I love to shop. Over the years, I have had many of those perfect shopping moments. Those times when you walk into the store and find exactly what you are looking for. And then you discover that it is also on sale. There is no greater satisfaction in life.

Of course, there are also those long term shopping projects. The times when you are seeking something unique and undefined. And when you find it, you will just know.

One of my long term shopping projects involves pillows for my living room couch. I would like to add a pop of color to the room, preferably something turquoise blue since I am already using it as an accent color.  It has been on my radar for months.  Every time I am at Target or Home Goods I check to see what types of pillows they have in stock.

Last weekend I was out shopping with my sister and I found two sets of turquoise pillows at Home Goods.  The first set was a funky turquoise and white zigzag pattern and the second was just plain turquoise, but they were a polished silk with ridges that made them look very luxe. I couldn't choose between them in the store, so I brought both sets home to see how they would look on the couch.

I quickly discovered that the zigzag pillows had too much white in them, which did not blend with the beige couch.  And when I stared at them for too long, they made my eyes hurt.  The more luxe turquoise pillows were a closer fit. They looked nice on the couch, but the color was just a little too bright. It did not go with the more muted tones in my rug. 

I really wanted the pillows to work, so I left them on the couch all week to see if they would blend in with the rest of the furniture. Each day I would walk through the living room and pause to stare at those pillows. The more I looked at them, the more I liked them. The color, the fabric, the way they puffed up to fill the corners of the couch. If only I had a different couch, those pillows would be perfect.

This morning I woke up and realized that I have been trying to make things fit, when the fact is that they don't. I returned all of the pillows to Home Goods, as well as two purses I have purchased in the last two weeks. Purses are another complicated story... I will spare you the details.

As I was driving out to Home Goods, I had a long conversation with my (ex) boyfriend. I have been talking with him a lot over the past few weeks and trying to see if there is any way I can salvage our relationship. He is kind of like those turquoise pillows. I really like him and I want him to fit into my life, but somehow he just doesn't.

Wouldn't it be nice if relationships came with their own return policy?  I could log back into Match.com and exchange my boyfriend for another one who can communicate better. Or I could just return him and get a refund of all the time and energy I invested in the relationship.

The sad thing is that I don't want to return or exchange him. I want him to be a perfect fit. He was the longest long term shopping project of my life. And for a few months I was so happy to think that it was finally over and I would not have to search anymore.

So I guess I am back where I started. Looking for the love of my life. And some new throw pillows for my living room couch. The next time I am out shopping, I promise myself that I will only buy things that are exactly what I am looking for.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Conscious Uncoupling

When Gwyneth Paltrow announced a few months ago that she and her husband Chris Martin were consciously uncoupling, it generated a lot of attention in the media.  I think many people felt that it was just a snobby way of saying they were getting divorced. While Gwyneth Paltrow is not one of my favorite celebrities, I actually respect the way she chose to go about ending her marriage.

Thanks to her announcement, there are quite a few articles on the Internet to help define the term conscious uncoupling. When you read them, it can sound like a highly complex and philosophical process.  One of the best explanations I have found is this one:

In a relationship, each party has brought to the dynamic a set of patterns that they've been living inside of for years. And those things contribute to the downfall, whether they realize it at first or not. The conscious uncoupling method involves addressing those things and their impact on a relationship.

Ultimately, what it means to me is that both people put some thought into the process of ending the relationship and accept responsibility for the events that led to the break up.

And even though it is not mentioned in any of the articles, I think the process should acknowledge that the other person is important in your life and that your feelings for them do not magically disappear just because you are breaking up.

Too often when there is a break up, everyone wants to take sides and declare a winner and a loser. While it may be easier to blame the other person, it is much more productive to turn your attention inward and hopefully learn how to be a better partner in your next relationship.

My boyfriend and I are going through our own version of conscious uncoupling.  Even though we have only been together five months, it feels like I have known him for much longer.  He has become so integrated into my life and daily routines, whether it is going to yoga class on Thursdays, taking our evening walk after dinner or sitting side by side on my couch sipping tea before bed.

So many of my favorite things to do are now associated with him. And there are so many more things we had planned to do.  On our second date, we were sitting in a booth at a restaurant and we started running through a list of things we looked forward to doing together, like cooking our first meal at home, taking a vacation, going to a Tigers game, canoeing and walking around the cider mill on a perfect fall day.  I wrote them all down in my notebook and we have been checking them off one by one.

I think the hardest part of this break up is giving up on the idea of what the relationship could have been. Within just a few weeks of dating I was convinced that he was the man I was going to marry and share the rest of my life with.  I had never felt that way about anyone before.

Some break ups are like ripping off a band-aid.  This one feels more like a game of Jenga. Slowly pulling out one piece at a time, while still maintaining the overall integrity of the structure.

At this point, we both know that the relationship is ending, yet there are still so many little things that connect us together.  He is making a necklace for me out of a piece of blue sea glass that we discovered while walking on the beach. I am watching his house this week while he is on a work trip and picking him up at the airport when he gets home.  There is a pile of his clothes still sitting in my bedroom. I know that I could just toss all of his stuff in a bag and leave it on his doorstep, but I don't want to. This relationship means more to me than that.

I have said many times that you never really know someone until you break up with them. Since the break up, my (ex) boyfriend has been kind, thoughtful and supportive.  On some level, it makes me wonder why the existing relationship cannot be saved. After investing all of that time and energy to get to know ourselves and the other person, it sure would be easier than starting all over again with someone else.

But it is one thing to recognize and understand the patterns and behaviors that have led us up to this point.  It is quite another thing to have the ability to change them.  For some reason, being in this relationship brought out our worst fears and insecurities.

The bottom line is that despite our best efforts, we are broken as a couple. Unfortunately, that means we need to stay broken up as well.