In relationships, we set up patterns. We teach the people around us to operate by the same rules we create or allow.
As a kid, my mom was the most incredible cake decorator. Every birthday party was filled with kids from wall to wall and my birthday cake was at the center of it all. From Barbie to snoopy, every year, I had whatever I wanted on my cake. From my perspective, decorating cakes was a breeze for her.
Fast forward to third grade. We had to create a “How To” Project. I could have chosen anything under the sun. So I chose, “How To Decorate a Cake.” This is so easy, I thought. I’ll just have my mom do it. I waited until the night before it was due. “Mom, I need you to help me with my project.” Her response: “Nope. You will not spring something on your mother at the last minute. You chose the assignment and so YOU are going to make and decorate that cake.”
In third grade, my bed time was 8 pm, but not that night. My mom stayed up with me, showed me exactly what to do, but she did not touch the cake. My poor little hands had cramps in them from piping the icing. At 2 am in the morning, I had finally finished decorating that cake. I learned something that day: Making and decorating a cake was really hard work…much harder that I had ever imagined.
That night, my mother taught me more than how to decorate a cake. She taught me the boundaries and rules for how I was going to treat her. In all relationships, we have to do the same.
If you pay for a guy on the first two dates, you are setting up patterns and boundaries that say to him, “She will pay for me for the rest of our relationship.” If you are stood-up on a date and respond with, That’s ok, we all forget things, you are guaranteed to get stood-up again. The patterns you set will follow you around for the rest of your relationship.
The very beginning of a relationship is the foundation, the most important time to establish boundaries and rules. It is also the easiest time to walk away. Three years down the road is not the time to expect someone to treat you any differently than what you set up at the beginning. If you have been collecting $200 every time you passed GO, you can’t expect to now collect $500.
People take advantage of you because you have taught them that it is okay, by what you said or didn’t say. My mom’s last words to me that night, “Don’t ever expect me to do anything unless you have checked with me first.” She backed that up with her actions and I learned that lesson loud and clear that night, with cramped up eight year-old hands and heavy eyelids to prove it.