This being said, I think where Americans fall short is the fact that because we are a heavily commercialized, caricatured pop culture society people have unrealistic expectations of relationships and absurd views of themselves based on what they see in magazines, TV shows and Hollywood movies. If you're judging your happiness based on how close your life looks to these shows where everyone drives a luxury car, spends all day in pedicures, personal fitness training sessions, playing golf and then spending thirty minutes in the office commanding trembling interns on what to do, you're not going to be happy with yourself and you're not going to be functional in your relationships with others.
As it is, I know and have worked alongside people in politics who preach the "work/life balance" philosophy of a "whole person concept" but to them "balance" means play all day, lord over people, don't be responsible for your own actions and then leave work early. But hey, isn't that what we see on TV? There are people who consider me "nuts" because I'll come in at 0530, actually work all day long and not gossip, drink coffee and then refuse to go out with the staff for cocktails after work because I want to go to get some cardio in or go to sleep because it's been a hectic day of real work.
So when we get into relationships, American men expect women to be something they're not and the women expect the men to be something they're not and everyone is unhappy and relationship turnover is like seats in Congress. That is the state of the American 21st century lifestyle. America's mind is up in the clouds but her economic, political and sociocultural status is down in the gutter.
Life is not about being at the club all day long and flashing your swag. Life is not about perpetually being pampered. You cannot expect to live your life like an MTV show and expect your girlfriend or boyfriend to be flawless and always looking like a Cosmopolitan or GQ cover model. Normal people do not have a Gulfstream in a hangar to whimsically fly down to Martha's Vineyard for shopping and wining and dining of dates (or a taxpayer financed 747 to fly down to Hawaii for vacations that are frequently "cut short" by work, for that matter). Normal people do not take you on dates to Monaco for yachting, racing and fine dining on Valentine's Day. (Okay, I admit, that last one is something I'd actually like to do soon, and I'm working on it.) That's not normal life and if you expect these kinds of things, you're going to either end up disappointed, poor, crazy or all of the above. It's time for a reality check.
For a reality check, in my national column today I feature an interview with actress, former Model Latina reality TV star and Celebrity Jabber talent host Christina Giuseppe to bring us all back to earth and discuss how Hollywood life is not real life. Christy talks about how you can't go into a relationship a mess expecting someone to clean everything up and bring order to your life, you'll just tear them down too while you're at it. You have to love yourself and be stable before you can truly expect others to love you and reinforce you.
Christy is absolutely brilliant both in the philosophical sense of approaching life and the practical aspects of relationships. I think you'll really enjoy the interview the two of us did, and whether you're a single man or woman I think this is advice all of us need to hear. Read on:
Danny: So Valentine's Day is just around the corner and some people have some pretty big expectations! I think a lot of it can be very unrealistic and heavily shaped by TV and movies. You have people who see all the flowers, the gifts, the chocolates, the expensive dinners and some of them think “if I don't get this from someone, I'm nothing.” Christy, you're an actress. Do you have any advice to help bring some of us back to earth when it comes to dating and relationships?
Christy: Love yourself fully, first and foremost. No one will complete you, no one will bring you happiness, no one will value your self-worth and no one owes you love. It’s not someone's job or obligation to ever do so. Trust me. I’ve made poor relationship decisions that lead me to these awakenings.
It’s on you to know fully that you create how others will treat you, how others will respond towards you and how others will speak towards you. When you have love for yourself, you will attract goodness, happiness and spirit. We emerge from our mother’s womb pure, untainted and undisturbed so that the Universe may lead us and enchant us into a life filled with self-love and for a life greater than we may ever imagine. Then what happens? Society, culture, religion, faith, gender segregation, media and discrimination soon become introduced to us as if the beautiful work the Creator planned for us no longer exists. We become labels, titles, descriptions, profiles, objects, status, telling ourselves things like “I’m not worth love because I don't have a boyfriend on Valentine's Day” or “I’m not a real man because I cannot afford an expensive dinner or flowers for my wife on Valentine's Day” or “I’m not attractive enough to be asked out on a date on Valentine's Day” or “I’m so depressed because it's Valentine's Day.”
We play these songs over and over again to ourselves as if we expect some other person to change the tune for us. It’s not for someone else to change, it’s yours to change! Getting back to earth is easy. Truly, fully, purely loving yourself takes courage, strength and a willingness to say I am worthy of my self-love, my self-worth and my self-happiness. That’s the best kind of love. I encourage you to begin to do so today.
Danny: The economy’s pretty bad right now. Do you think it’s unrealistic for people to still expect and demand being "surprised" with things like Tiffany jewelry or the cocktails at the Carlyle or porterhouse dinner for two at 21 Club? I know that financial success is often seen as attractive but sometimes maybe sincerity and genuine affection might be a better Valentine's Day present? What do you say?
Christy: Again, love yourself first and foremost because when you do so material things won’t define you or hold you down or make you believe you’re only worth the monetary things you have accumulated. The Webster Dictionary tells us a “gift” is “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.” When a gift is given, it’s to say thank you, I appreciate you, I recognize you, I support you without compensation or any expectations.
So yes, it is unrealistic to give a gift that you cannot afford, that you don't really wish to purchase and you don't really wish to give anymore because it has caused you a headache, a massive facial breakout and an overdraft fee on your bank account. Again, trust me when I say my poor relationship decisions have cost me money.
I’m not against romantic dinners, beautiful gifts and lovely flowers. Do them, celebrate them and indulge in them when you can afford them financially, when it’s not a hindrance for you, when you feel you’re not compromising yourself and when you feel ready to share these exciting moments with someone you actually like.
When true love is in full bloom it takes precedence over [everything else]. That’s why when you were a little girl or a little boy and you celebrated Valentine's Day at school you were so excited to get those inexpensive, silly, often cheesy cards that had one candy inside of it or those heart shaped candies in a box because it was the thought that uplifted you, not the price value of the cards or candy. The value was in the gesture and in the thought.
An ex-boyfriend of mine once had written to me on a white piece of paper "I love you so much, thank you for sharing your life with me" he placed it under my car’s windshield wiper and when I walked towards my car I thought, “oh great another parking ticket” – something that’s common in Los Angeles – but when I read it, in that moment I felt the kind of love that the Universe wishes for us, the kind of love that’s pure and without motive.
I’m happy to say we’ve remained dear friends for over ten years now. I share this with you because when you truly love yourself, a present or a gift becomes just a thing not the definition of your self-being and self-sufficiency. Make a promise to yourself and say “I love you” to yourself on Valentine's Day, that will be the best gift given to you and it cost nothing.
Danny: What do you think makes a long term relationship successful?
Christy: The greatness and sweetness to any relationship whether it be a long term relationship, a friendship, an intimate relationship, a new found partnership is that you own every ounce of your self-being. That entails the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the inauthentic, the ego-minded, the insecure, the brilliant, the afraid, the conditioned, the creative aspects of your whole-being and of your whole life.
[It’s all about] owning your wrongs, taking responsibility of your causes and effects, accepting that you do not belong to anyone and that no one belongs to you, taking accountability for arguments, betrayals, misunderstandings, lies that you may or may have not caused, respecting yourself enough to be respected and never ever betraying yourself because it is the poison that feeds your ego and your insecurities that cause you to become completely out of control and self-destructive.
I once was so enraged with an ex-boyfriend of mine that I threw my high-heel at him with such force and venom that he looked at me as if I were another person and it broke me because I was another person, my ego-self. I wish I had more self-control then but I didn't love myself enough to walk away from my ego-self and recognize at that moment that this person did not belong to me, I didn't own them. Till this day I cannot recall why or what happened to have had me spin so low.
It’s taken me years to forgive myself for committing such an embarrassing, juvenile and violent act but I knew that I had to forgive myself or I would never find peace and balance within my spirit, my soul and my conscience.
Many of us go into relationships believing he will save me, she will bring me happiness, he will love me forever, he will ask me to marry him, she will want me, she will take care of me all the while the only person deceiving you throughout the relationship is yourself because you are acting against owning your true self-being.
You are allowing your ego-self, which is not you, to take control in order to pretend to be in love, pretend to enjoy the sex you're really not enjoying, pretend to see a future with him or her, pretend to have the power, pretend to like each other and my favorite pretend to be in control.
I love hearing people say “I'm in complete control of this relationship” when in fact they have the least amount of control because they have to state and justify something that needs no controller. It's when this begins that relationships turn unhealthy, resentful and painful.
A successful relationship in any capacity needs not a controller, a power struggle, a dictator, an owner or a self-sabotaging ego, all it needs are individuals willing to love themselves enough to share their life, their space and their journey's with you. Own every ounce of your self-being and success in all forms will live through you, including love.