Dear Love Me Guru:
I recently started seeing someone I will call “Scott.” He is attractive, and funny, and intelligent, and we get along great. It’s only been a little over three months, but I already know I like Scott a lot, and I want to go from casually seeing each other to something more exclusive. The problem is things are “complicated.”
For starters, we don’t live near each other. Scott lives 45 minutes away, so usually we meet up somewhere halfway between the two of us. It’s not that big of a deal, but it does make it difficult to see each other more regularly. The second complication is Scott has a five year old daughter. I adore Scott’s daughter, and I definitely want to have kids of my own one day, but I feel like Scott will always put his daughter first above all else, including a relationship with me. The big complication is this: Scott still isn’t over his ex, the mother of his daughter. They split up over a year ago. He says he would never get back with her, but every time we talk about relationships, he talks about how his ex was the best at it, and how she set the standard for what he is looking for in a partner.
I know Scott and I could have something really special if he would just knock his ex off her pedestal, and if he would make our relationship more of a priority. But I also feel like I may just be kidding myself, and could end up wasting my time on Scott. What should I do?
– Trying to Make it Work
Dear Trying to Make it Work,
You must like big buts and cannot lie.
To quote you:
It’s only been a little over three months, BUT . . .
It’s not that big of a deal, BUT . . .
I adore Scott’s daughter, and I definitely want to have kids of my own one day,BUT . . .
He says he would never get back with her, BUT . . .
I know Scott and I could have something special . . . BUT . . .
That’s a lot of buts!
Tapping the brakes
Imagine you’re driving in your car, heading to a place you’ve wanted to visit for a long time, and as you’re going along you keep tapping on the brakes. If you’ve ever driven behind someone who keeps tapping on their brakes, you know how annoying that is.
BUTs are the brake–tap of relationships. You’re getting to know each other, BUT. Brake tap. You ignore it at first, after all it’s early in the relationship, and the wrinkles will iron out eventually . . . BUT, they don’t. Brake tap. Pretty soon this person has become very important in your life, BUT you’re not sure if you can trust him. Brake Tap.
When the brakes are tapped in a relationship, it sends mixed signals and pretty soon you’re in a start — stop pattern going nowhere.
I’m not saying things can’t work out with Scott. Many relationships can be successful if both parties are willing to put in the effort. Just be aware that BUTs will make for slow progress, and if you’re not willing to work through them without a guarantee that you’ll get the outcome you desire, then you’d better focus your attention and energy elsewhere.
One of the first rules in improve comedy is to adopt the mentality of “YES! AND.” This means you play along with your partner by adding to whatever the partner presents to you. For example: if you’re partner says the two of you are walking in the desert; you could say “YES! AND we're being chased by a wild herd of desert tortoises.”
The YES! is crucial because it mentally puts you in the frame of mind to agree with your partner. It aligns you with them, and now you’re both co–creators of this new reality. The AND gives you the power to add your unique gift to the scene.
How different would things be with Scott if you applied this to your situation? Let’s pretend!
I’m going to quote you again, and replace the BUTs with YES! ANDs.
YES! It’s only been a little over three months, AND . . .
YES! It’s not that big of a deal, AND . . .
YES! I adore Scott’s daughter, and I definitely want to have kids of my own one day, AND . . .
YES! He says he would never get back with her, AND . . .
YES! I know Scott and I could have something special . . . AND . . .
Do you see how different everything is with YES! AND?
Instead of tapping on the brakes, you move along at a smooth, frictionless pace. There is no start — stop pattern. There are no mixed signals. Instead, you’re an active participant in what’s unfolding. The outcome may not be as you intended, and that’s ok because you’ll have fun along the way, and you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be.
YES! It’s a simple thing. AND it’s powerful. When you practice YES! AND in your life, many more possibilities open up to you.