Relationships are like therapy—they bring all your dirt to the surface so you can work through it.
Relationships are kind of like therapy—they bring all your dirt to the surface so you can work through it and move beyond it. This makes perfect sense because relationships and therapy have the same purpose: growth.
Therapy is especially hard in the beginning because you’re becoming aware of all the dirt you’ve been hiding under the surface for so long. Therapy doesn’t create the dirt, it just shines a spotlight on it.
Same with relationships, except the timing is a little different. Relationships are usually great in the beginning while you’re still seeing your new love in their best possible light. You’re seeing them as the greatest, most perfect version of themselves. And they see you that way, too.
Eventually something happens and the two of you no longer see each other as that greatest version of yourselves—at least not consistently. They start noticing and then focusing on your flaws. You start focusing on your flaws, too. And when you’re down about your own flaws, your ego tries to make you feel better by pointing out all your partner’s flaws. It’s a big, nasty cycle.
You’re suddenly tuned in to what’s wrong instead of what’s right. Your insecurities light up like neon signs. Fear seeps through the cracks because you think you “have” something you could possibly lose. You start all kinds of self-protective behaviors that feel totally necessary (but are always counter-productive) like keeping score, guarding your emotions and holding back.
I don’t have to tell you that none of this feels good. It’s pretty miserable, actually.
Since this feels so awful, you say the relationship feels awful. And this is where I want to save you from throwing away a perfectly good relationship, so listen up: It’s not the relationship that feels awful; that’s just the pain of personal growth.
Growth almost always hurts in the beginning. Facing dirt is hard and that’s what this relationship is doing for you—highlighting your dirt and helping you grow. But it’s not just this relationship. Any relationship will do that to you. Or, better said, any relationship will do that for you.
It’s not your partner’s fault. It’s not that you’re not a good match. It’s not that this isn’t “meant to be”. It’s that you’re faced with the same opportunity for growth you’d be facing in any good relationship and that’s scary. It’s hard. It’s easier to walk away.
It’s always easier to walk away than it is to grow. Always has been, always will be.
So please don’t blame the relationship. And for heaven’s sake, don’t blame yourself or your partner. Just know that this is what growth feels like. Work through the insecurities that come up. Ask yourself the hard questions, like why you’re feeling jealous or scared or vulnerable and if you really have to act on those emotions. Realize you can experience all of that dirt and stick around. When you stick around through the dirt and take the opportunity to clean it up, you’re growing.
When you start wondering if the relationship is all you thought it was, consider that maybe the relationship is just fine. Maybe what you’re feeling is the flower breaking the surface and starting to move up through the dirt. Once a little dirt is cleared out of the way, growth is natural and easy and so worth it.
Amy Johnson, Ph.D. is a psychologist and master certified coach. She writes a popular blog called Modern Enlightenment full of down-to-earth, achievable steps to living a happier, more enlightened life. Grab her FREE ebook on getting out of your own way to create the life you want.