Welcome to the first edition of my new journal on relationships! If you've been following along with my journey for some time, you know that I used to write a weekly journal on how I quit my job as a lawyer to start grace + hudson. I quit my legal career after 11 years despite all the external pressures around me that called me crazy for going against the traditional model of career. In that journal, I shared everything I learned along the way. I wrote on a weekly basis for over 2 years and finally ran out of things to say earlier this year. At the time, I knew I was being pulled in a new direction - because I've experienced the same form of transformation in my thinking about traditional models of relationships, marriage, and love. Since most of my customers are either getting married (or have gotten married in recent years), I knew this was something that would resonate. Relationships can be hard sometimes! That's a fact of life. But if you change your thinking - really change the way you look at relationships, and what they are and are not supposed to be - you can see them in a new light and have an easier time navigating them when things get hard, because they will.
So to start out this new journal series on relationships, I want to share more about the biggest learning that's come to me over the past few years and it's this: all that I learned about going against the traditional model of career actually applies to traditional models of marriage and relationship too. It's been a really fascinating learning process for me. When I left the legal profession, people called me crazy. They thought I was plain stupid for leaving a stable and secure job with a very high salary. I was on the "right" track - doing all the "right" things. I was putting money away in a 401(k), getting good promotions, and building a savings account towards purchasing a home, etc. By the time I was 34 years old, I had acquired what was supposed to be my "dream job." Everyone on the outside looking in thought I "had it all," and how could I blame them for thinking that? Most people focus on external measures of success - it's what we're taught. But I didn't feel happy or successful, or even very good about myself. In fact, I felt like a mess inside, despite my outside appearance of success. I was always sick, I had very low self-worth, and I had no personal or romantic life because I worked all the time. I cried a lot, I was easily triggered, and - looking back - I definitely had some repressed anger about some old family issues (who doesn't?!). In short, I had a pretty poor relationship with my father, until he got sick with cancer. I shopped to fill the void I felt inside and spent money on things I didn't need. I was never a big drinker thank goodness, but I definitely had too many glasses of wine some days. I didn't really workout because I didn't have the time. In general, I was living a pretty flat-lined life despite everyone around me telling me how successful I was. Then, fast forward to 2014, when my father passed away after a very short battle with cancer. This event woke me up big time. My dad followed the "traditional model" of career - get a good job, save money in a 401(k), plan to retire by the beach and start living the good life. But he died one month after he turned 65 years old. This made me question the way people live today, especially lawyers. So many say, "I'm just going to work really hard now and retire early." What if you never get there, like my dad? He had a fat 401(k) account that he never needed. Why do we kill ourselves for 40+ years at a job we don't really like with the idea that we'll start living when we're 65 years old? That makes no sense when you stop to think about it. And I proceeded to change my life because I adopted new ways of thinking about career, retirement, and success. I quit my lawyer job and started grace + hudson. I moved from Chicago to Charleston where I live just 5 miles from the beach and can go every day if I want to. I did a TON of work on myself and finally got into a long-term romantic relationship. I stopped focusing on shopping to feel better about myself and started using my free time to go to the beach, take a yoga class, or simply sit on a patio with my dog and enjoy the sunshine. Experiences over things, you know? And six years later, after this big transformation, I can happily report that I am so much happier, but also SO much healthier.
The same kind of ideas apply to relationships. In short, when you focus on all the external hallmarks of what society tells you is a "good" relationship, instead of actually growing and deepening the emotional relationship between you, don't be surprised when you feel unfulfilled and unhappy several years into it. There's a bit of a checklist that society and culture has taught us to follow, isn't there? Just like in career! We're taught to get into the best school we can, get the best job we can at the highest salary we can, get a promotion, buy a house... and at the end of this checklist, happiness will be waiting for us and we will be, by definition of society, "successful." It's all external! Not one ounce of attention is paid to happiness and joy along the journey. Similarly, in relationships, we're taught to expect gifts and roses and chocolates, an engagement ring as soon as humanly possible, a marriage, a baby (or two or three), and that we'll be happy once we achieve these things. These things are all external and, even if you "achieve" them, they reveal nothing about the actual depth of the love between you. Don't believe me? Just look at how many people get divorced one or two years after marriage. The fact that they got the fancy gifts, the big ring, and the large wedding was absolutely no indicator of the actual depth of love between them. Also, think about how your family focuses on all the externals, too. First they nag you about when the ring is coming. Then they nag you about when you're going to pick a wedding date. Then they nag you about when you're having your first kid. Then they nag you about when you're having your second kid. It's all external. And it's never enough. What about focusing on the ACTUAL relationship? When was the last time your parents asked you about the growth and development of the emotional connection between you two? You probably just laughed, that's how uncommon it is to actually talk about the depth of the relationship. And finally, think about all those people - whether friends or celebrities - who post all of these happy photos with their partner only to reveal they're getting a divorce or calling off their engagement. To you, it may seem out of the blue because all of their photos have been so lovey. But behind the scenes it was a totally different story. Again, this is just one way our society focuses on external hallmarks of a "good" relationship (i.e. happy photos on social media) rather than the actual depth of love between those two partners.
So where does that leave us? When you blindly follow the old model of relationships - the one that focuses on external markers of "success" and leads to divorce over 50% of the time - you may find yourself in a relationship that isn't very happy or fulfilling. If you want more, you need to do something different. Thankfully, there are people out there - psychologists and authors and podcasters - who are sharing new ways of thinking about relationships. Who are looking at the way we've always done things and pointing out why those things don't work for many people. In short, we are evolving. Relationships are evolving. They have to! We don't live in the same world that our grandparents grew up in, or even that our parents grew up in. People keep repeating things, expecting a different result, and then they're sad that they're part of the 50% divorce statistic. If you want peace and joy and real, deep love, you've got to do things differently! You have to break out of those old ways of doing things because - if you haven't noticed - many people who have followed the old pathway are unhappy at best and divorced at worst. Just like the people who followed traditional models of career and success and are pretty miserable driving to work every Monday morning, longing for TGIF.
In coming journal entires, I hope to share what I've learned about new ways of doing relationships and thinking about relationships in the hopes it resonates with you. I also will be sure to share all of the psychologists, authors, podcasters, etc who I've found valuable as I deconstruct and pick apart the old things I was taught to believe about relationships. In my opinion, there are still far too few people talking about this. Far too few people sharing REAL advice on how to build and sustain healthy relationships. And there are far too many people who keep following the same old models and ideals you see reflected back to you in Hallmark movies, television shows, and books. There is a complete lack of depth and authenticity, and the tremendous capacity of relationships to grow us and heal us is completely ignored. And we wonder why the world is in the state that it is in? People are unfulfilled at work. Unfulfilled at home. And it's no wonder we take out all of that disappointment and anger out on each other. I hope you'll read along in the coming weeks and months and take some valuable knowledge into your own relationship! (And by the way... you'll see how these new ways of thinking about relationship can also be applied to family relationships and friendships too.)
Wishing you love + growth in all your relationships!