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The Eternal Dilemma of Relationships: Actions VS Words

The Eternal Dilemma of Relationships: Actions VS Words

What would you rather have: a partner who nags you within an inch of your grave but always takes care of you, or a partner who is sweet as honey but hangs about waiting for you to handle everything?

Whispers only sweet nothings plus does everything, you say? Well, I applaud your optimism while chuckling with mild amusement at your childlike dreams. It’s not going to happen — you will end up with one kind or the other (or someone who both shouts and does nothing, if you are one of those particularly unlucky ones). People who will do the world for you while also remaining easy on the ears do not exist. If they do, they become Mother Teresa and avoid the dating scene altogether.

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The Greater the Actions, the Louder the Words

Whoever said actions speak louder than words missed an essential point — it is not an either/or scenario at all. Actions in relationships mostly come with the “and” of words. The ones who are quick to do things for you are also quick to talk your ears off. It is so naturally human that it cannot be avoided.

The more a person cares about you and does for you, the more they expect from you and of you. Actions come with expectations, and these expectations get expressed in words (or shouts if they go repeatedly unmet!). So, if your partner is in charge of cooking dinner and you show up late two nights in a row, rest assured there will be hell to pay the third night — “I’m making the effort to cook and you cannot make the effort to just show up?”. If they have taken over your laundry, you will surely hear about your dirty clothes strewn all over instead of being in the hamper. If they threw you a huge birthday bash and you don’t have any plans for their birthday, well, you are playing with fire my friend!

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While we keep complaining about how much our partners nag us, the fact is that it’s pretty much collateral damage – if you want the care, you have to accept the nagging.

Conversely, the ones who are always quietly pleasant (if they even exist) will just not be that emotionally invested in you — they will not do so much. It’s quite simple, really: lesser the actions, lesser the words. If they don’t do as much in the first place, they will not expect as much from you. If they don’t expect as much, they don’t say so much. That’s probably the reason why relationships that afford both partners a lot of space also work – if no one is waiting for you at home, you don’t get yelled at for coming home late.

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So, is it “Goodbye Meaningful Relationships” or “Goodbye Ears?”

Well, before you place the order for that hearing aid, let me hastily mention that one can, of course, have balance in a relationship. But before that gets figured out, you need to accept the fact that your partner is not Mother Teresa. While we enjoy being taken care of, we need to understand that the expectations, nagging, and parent-like scoldings are a natural outcome of that care. Just the same if your partner is the relaxed one who doesn’t interfere in every little aspect of your life — that will work only as long as you are OK to not have constant care and support.

This is not to say that one or the other is right; it is more about what fits better for two people. You can’t always see the love in the nagging. Sometimes you literally just want to pull your arm out and stuff it in your ear. Just the same, while it is very lofty to talk about space and independence in relationships, sometimes you actually need a pseudo parent — the complete package who pampers you like a child and scolds you as if you really are an erring 5 year old.

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The idea is to balance it out while being aware of the actions-words equation. Don’t expect your partner to do everything for you and don’t do everything for them. Sometimes, leave them alone and let them do whatever the hell they want. Yes, the shirt does not exactly match the pants — let him go anyway. Yes, she is binging on those unhealthy cookies today — turn away!

Use this time to let go, be the cool one, and enjoy the calm and quiet (while it lasts). Just the same, if you have been whining like a baby for the last 3 days because of a cold and your partner has that exasperated-yet-concerned look that reminds you of your mother, well, accept your inevitable fate: there is a big bagful of words and only words coming right at you!

So this is the “big” secret to a happy life: next time your ears are tired, do the laundry. In the case that you are tired of laundry, send a little note to your ears to brace themselves and report for duty!

Featured photo credit: http://www.thebrunettediaries.com/ via thebrunettediaries.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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