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Monday, February 1, 2016

The "But Test" for a Relationship

Without a history of sound, trusting, solid relationships in one's formative years, figuring out how to do healthy relationships really just comes down to trial and error.  I think "trial and error" is a fair characterization of my relationship history.

Through this trial and error, I had to learn how to pick out unhealthy stuff even while subject to "new thing excitement", starry eyed dreams of success and wealth and the hormones of puppy love.  To forecast the odds of a relationship being good for me before I've spent years in a bad marriage.  I jest ... but no really... two divorces later, this is a thing I need.

One such indicator I learned (made up) is the But Test.  If a relationship has any buts within the first six months, walk away.

Here's what I mean.  If while describing the relationship to the person to anyone in conversation, you say the word 'but', it means you're rationalizing something.  It means your're contrasting the thing you've said with some other opposing thing.  Example : "He does smoke but he exercises a bunch." or "She is really ornery in the morning but she's a really great girl."

Those are pretty benign buts - I've heard some really drastic things from closer friends who share more candidly like "I love him but I just have to lock myself in the bedroom when he drinks!" (said with a giggle because that's not serious at all)



Although you can use it to listen 'between the lines' when others speak, I mostly use it to more consciously listen to myself.  When I hear myself use the word 'but' in a description of a person, situation, place or thing in my life, I ask myself what I'm rationalizing.  What am I really talking about here underneath what I've convinced myself of?

The buts test works for any kind of relationship - a new car purchase (that shit is totally a potentially expensive relationship that you are stuck with for 5-10 years), friendship, business partnership, a new job at a new company, a fling or a partner.

Why the first six months?  Of course longer term relationships could eventually have buts come up and by then, it's not as black and white.  You've sunk money into the car or business or the relationship really is otherwise healthy and whole.  It's sometimes or maybe even often worth it to work past the buts.  But in the first six months, when everyone is still on their best behavior, if buts exist, it doesn't bode well for the relationship.  Why would you want to purchase, sign up for or commit to something that you already know is not ideal while the stakes are so much lower?

  Photo : Some people belong in your heart... / Live Life Happy / CC 2.0

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