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The Relationship List

“Leave it on the Line” – Teddy Grossman


I know what you are thinking — great, another “list” a woman creates about what she wants in a partner or needs in a relationship. Well, you would be wrong, because it’s not that kind of list. While I do think both lists are important, this list is not that list. It does have to do with a relationship, but it doesn’t specifically pertain to a romantic relationship or partner.


Before I explain, let me tell you what prompted me to create this relationship list. I dated this man for 3 short months, but it was the kind of relationship that you spent so much time with each other, 3 months seemed like 6 months. I’ll skip all the details of those 3 months, even though they were pretty amazing, like a lot of the relationships I’ve had.


To be quite honest, since my late 30’s, I tended to date men who would do these insanely romantic things for me, like out of those of rom-coms (or dare I say Hallmark movies, yes, I love those movies). But while they were wildly romantic, they just weren’t good partners. Maybe I wasn’t the right person for them, or maybe I romanticized the relationships. That was something my dear friend Abs said I may have done — because although these men did all these romantic gestures, they still let me down. So, my heart was clouded with all the amazing moments, and I forgot about all the disappointments.


Anyway, I digress. The creation this list stemmed from the ending of a relationship. I’ve had many relationships end, but something was different about this one. Maybe it was because it was so unexpected. With my other relationships, (“situationships,” let me be honest and call them what they were, except for one) I at least had some warning. This one, however, happened so fast. It was like our relationship deteriorated in the span of 5 days. I had an idea of when it started to unravel, but I wasn’t sure because we had moved past that, and we were happier than ever. Well, it seemed that way. Obviously, I was wrong.


The ending of this relationship did something to me that the ending of other relationships (situationships) had not. At the end of this one, like all of them, I found myself wondering, “What did I do?” I asked myself, “Nia, did you do that clingy thing that Nia always does?” But this time those weren’t the burning the questions. I had different questions this time like, “How did I miss that this was happening, or that he wasn’t happy?” “Why did I allow myself to do exactly what I had asked all of my girlfriends to not let me do, which was to get lost?” (By the way, they failed miserably, but it’s OK. It was out of the love for me. They loved how happy I was, so why bring reason into it?) Then finally I asked myself, “Did I really do anything that resulted in the failure of this relationship, or had I failed myself?” Those questions circled around my head; but the last two questions were like ping pong balls that kept bouncing back and forth, up and down, and loudly in my head. It was to the point that I was so fixated I could not stop obsessing over the questions — and more specifically the idea of “failing” again. I thought about failure a lot. I couldn’t sleep. Then one morning I finally settled on an answer: I had not done anything that resulted in the deterioration of that relationship. I was simply not his person, and he was not mine.


He was so worried about hurting my feelings. He thought it would be better to play the part instead of telling the truth about how he really felt, and that is what caused the demise of the relationship. But I realized I had failed at something. I had actually started failing at this long before that 3-month relationship, that felt like 6 months. I started failing at this 4 years before this relationship started. I failed myself years before this relationship, and I realized I had constantly failed myself, over and over, for relationships throughout the last 4 years of my life. It was in that moment when I decided I was no longer failing myself because I want to be a part of a couple. At that very moment I created two lists:


  1. I listed the non-negotiables I needed in a partner.

  2. I listed what I want in a relationship.


I’m sure you are thinking, we all have those lists, that is not a special list. You would be right. There is nothing particularly special about those lists. But after I wrote these lists, I then created a list that would eventually become “The Relationship List.” I decided (with the help of my therapist, friends, and family) that I was going to take a serious break from dating and be very intentional about it.


So, I create this list titled “Adventure Vibes.” This list consists of going to places in nature I’ve always wanted to explore in Arizona, a few things I always wanted to do, and a few things I had been putting off. (I won’t share the list here because it’s personal and very dear to me.) As I work my way through this list, I started to realize that these were things that I really needed to do for myself. I didn’t want to sacrifice them anymore for a relationship. It was at that moment that my adventure list became “The Relationship List.”


It's titled “The Relationship List” because I made a promise to myself that I would not get seriously involved with anyone until I finished that list, or better yet, until I put myself first. Thus far it has been the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I always talked a very good talk about how I always chose me over relationships. Now I’m really walking the walk and choosing me. There are 12 things on my “Relationship List.” So far, I’ve accomplished 5 of them. Surprisingly not one of them has do with my physical appearance. That makes me so extremely proud because too often losing weight is at the top of lists created by women.


I love this list for many of reasons, but what dawned on me as I conclude this little piece is that the word “relationship” can refer to both the relationship you have with yourself — and the relationship you want with a partner. This list isn’t about a relationship with another person. This list is about the relationship you want to have with yourself — before the relationship you have with another person.


So next time a relationship ends, instead of wondering what went wrong in the relationship, ask yourself, “Have I solidified my relationship with myself?” “Have I sacrificed things I’ve wanted and needed to do because I wanted to be in a relationship?” If you find yourself nodding yes, then maybe consider creating your own “Relationship List.”


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