"You Make Choices"

Monday, February 27, 2012
I have a very wise Uncle. He is, unsurprisingly, married to my very wise Aunt. As a couple, they are role models to the Smart Man and me, and when we grow up, we want to be just like them.

During a recent conversation, my Uncle said something that has been on my mind of late.

I've discussed before how I believe that love is not an emotion, but an act. My Uncle basically said the same thing, but in a different way. He said, "You make choices. People make choices." To his mind, those choices reflect the priorities of the people who make them, whether we want them to or not. And we're going to be judged on those priorities, again, whether we want to be or not.

I've long known that this is the case, although I occasionally need to put on my Missouri hat and remind myself that people will show me who they are. But the thing that's been on my mind recently is how we sometimes find ourselves surprised by the natural consequences of our priorities and choices. It's simply true that when we choose an act, we choose the consequences of that act. So when I treat others with consideration and kindness, when I prioritize them in my life and act accordingly, I'm choosing to nurture a mutually supportive relationship and can reasonably expect reciprocity. But if I choose not to do those things, well, then I can only reasonably expect to be treated in kind.

I tend to be reclusive, so making sure I prioritize the people in my life with whom I choose to be connected is sometimes challenging for me. But I try to keep this thing at the top of the mind, because I know I can be neglectful when I live inside my head too much. It's important to me that I be the kind of friend, the kind of family member, who prioritizes others, so I try to make that choice. Of course I'm not always successful...but I'm trying, and when I fail, I do my best to make amends and work harder in the future.

It's also true that reciprocity waxes and wanes over the course of long relationships. Sometimes people need more support and attention, sometimes they need less. That ebb and flow is part of what's required when you enter into relationships with other people, and caring adults learn to manage it. But it's still all about making informed choices, accepting the consequences of those choices, and recognizing the choices of others.

I've decided that from now on, I'm choosing to recommit myself to those people who have committed themselves to me. It's no less than I - and they - deserve. And those who choose not to commit themselves to me will no longer be living rent-free inside my head. I have the power to choose - and I will.

6 comments:

Anne C. said...

While you make friendship with you sound like hard work, I have to point out that it's an incredible honor and privilege to be your friend. And not at all hard. :)

Janiece said...

It's not hard work for you, because you're Ms. Awesome McAwesomepants.

Megan@MondayMorningMusings said...

It's funny how different people can see different things from their particular vantage points, while looking at the same thing. Since I have been thinking about marriage and marital longevity, I see your uncle's saying as meaning that marriage (relationships in general, really) is not static, one "yes" and you're done. It means you make choices, plural, every day, with each choice confirming the initial commitment or straying away from it.

I like your characterization of the ebb and flow of mutual support. Where I usually get in trouble is when I get so used to the status quo that I realize too late that I’ve become the crutch in the relationship, and it’s therefore dysfunctional, with me on the losing end of it. I’m working on being cognizant of when my relationships are becoming one-sided and doing something about it (help it get back on track) before I reach the point of resentment.

Janiece said...

Megan, I think that's a reasonable interpretation, as well.

Dana Teel said...

Having only been married for 28 years I'm still a newb at this stuff, but it looks to me as if wise uncle is just saying that actions speak louder than words. Actions that would please one spouse would irritate the hell out of another. There's no one size fits all.

Janiece said...

For the record, the conversation with my Uncle was related to non-romantic relationships. I just happen to think he and my Aunt are the most perfect couple, which is why the Smart Man and I want to emulate them.