Before I met my husband and really committed to being in a long-term relationship with another person, if you had told me what to expect from it all, I probably would have shrugged my shoulders, laughed, or just plain not believed you. Probably because I wasn’t ready to hear it all. I think we come to a certain point where we know that we are, or aren’t, ready to take on the work of being in a fulfilling, long-term relationship. I didn’t necessarily know what that would look like, how much compassion, empathy and sacrifice I would have to learn to have, but I knew the willingness to learn was there.
Here’s the real deal: Being in a lasting, healthy and committed relationship is hard. It’s hard because you don’t just get to do what you want. It’s hard because on top of dealing with your own stressors, family dynamics, and life goals, you have to consider all those of another. It’s hard because you live with the risk of your partner changing their ways, their feelings about things, and their path in life. It’s hard because you have to learn to adapt. In a world driven by finding YOUR way, finding YOUR path, and finding YOUR truth, you also have to learn flexibility.
All of those challenges are also what make relationships worth living. Relationships force you to…
…Look at yourself.
A partner is, in some ways, a mirror into yourself. By that, I mean that your partner will eventually expose you to your own vulnerabilities, your weaknesses, your ugly and uncomfortable emotions, and all the parts of yourself that you have probably tried to conceal from the rest of the world. You can only go so long before the truth begins to emerge (be it through conflict or other symptomatic relationship issues). Everyone gets to this point in a long term relationship. Not everyone does the work of riding through this often painful and vulnerable process of self-discover and healing. Many people give up. But…those who stick it through often come out on the other side with a stronger sense of self and more compassion for themselves and their partner.
…Feel Your Feelings.
It is bound to happen at one point or another! Being in a relationship means opening ourselves up to emotions such as: pain, hurt, sadness, betrayal, love, happiness, joy, connection and peace. In a true relationship where you are doing the work of growing yourself, you will allow yourself to acknowledge and feel your feelings without judgement. The best way to work through the challenging feelings you experience will be to explore. In essence, being in a relationship leads all of us to become explorers of ourselves and of our partner’s internal world. There are many positive emotions that can come from this experience!
Relationships are systems. Even the dyad of a couple relationship means that any change in one person will naturally lead the other to changing accordingly. This is experienced in small, every day decisions each of you make and larger, more emotionally driven experiences that affect your values and moral compass. Being in a relationship means you must be privy to change. It doesn’t always mean you will do it together, either. It is your choice alone if you allow that to guide you toward growth in your own life, or toward the safety and sameness of staying comfortable.
I help many people work through this barrier of opening themselves up to change and the world of growing in relationships. For more reading on some of the most common relationship mistakes, get a free copy of my e-book: The Five Relationship Mistakes You Are Making And What To Do About Them!