"In every relationship, I had one foot out because I didn't want to get hurt. And I didn't say what was on my mind because I didn't want to ruffle any feathers. I needed to be perfect," Julianne Hough told Redbook following her breakup after two years with Ryan Seacrest.
In these few words, Julianne packs a wealth of truth about what can doom your relationship. Here's what this quote can teach us about how to cultivate better relationships.
- "...I had one foot out..."
Every relationship counselor knows that being "half in and half out" can keep your love bond from developing fully. Focusing on making your own relationship better when you are imagining how someone outside can make your heart soar inevitably leads to poor results.
If you can take a dress back to a store, you won't grow attached to it until the deadline to return it has past. If you want to research whether your relationship will work for you, close all doors to thinking about other partners.
Commit to exploring what will bring joy back into your time together. Comparing your partner to someone else will only keep you ambivalent. You will imagine the good times with the fantasy person and focus only on the bad moments with the partner from whom you feel distant.
When Julianne acknowledges that she always had one foot out the door, she recognizes the impossibility of showing up to enjoy the present experience. She knew that she was not allowing herself to put energy into creating the good moments. She needed to dedicate herself and feel real gratitude for such times.
- "...I didn't want to get hurt. I didn't say what was on my mind because I didn't want to ruffle any feathers."
Here lies the basic challenge of human relationships: "How do I get close, share my real self, and not feel hurt when my partner recoils at an unlikeable side of me?" Falling in love injects your brain with cocaine-like substances so that you can initially bypass any possible differences and just imagine a romantic forever-after. This helps you get over the fear of making a long term commitment.
But the infatuation wears off in six months to two years. Soon you will face the reality of your differences. Your clarity and certainty about what a caring partner should be like will inevitably engender disappointment.
Only when each of you treats hurt as inevitable will you take on the real challenge that a long term bond offers: to accept the other fully. You can't just hang onto the fabulous sides of your partner alone. Each night you will climb into bed with the whole person, charming but prone to leaving underwear and socks all over the floor.
As an example: when Susan began to realize that her husband had no intentions of spending long holidays with her family, she boiled with resentment. She remembered gathering around a table laden with Southern cooking with her two brothers and sister, having lively conversations covering news, politics, and life's purpose. Her husband, Tom, thought an ideal holiday would be lying beside her on a white sandy beach and reading detective stories. For Susan, not to have her holiday feast with all her kith and kin felt like she was being asked to divorce her own family.
Such common conflicts can make or break your relationship. You can take such differences personally or you can learn the fine art of recognizing that there is no one right way to do things. Compromise can save the day.
After a few serious skirmishes over the subject, complete with slamming doors and accusations—according to each, the other was "just not being a caring human being," they called a truce. They returned to a basic method of building a good relationship: brainstorming about what would work. They challenged themselves to let go of their clarity about "what any fool should know about the best way to spend a vacation" and instead work toward a win-win. Of course, this required them both to move from thinking about who was right and who was wrong to looking for ways that they could meet both of their needs. They slowly got their family used to their spending Christmas Day with Susan's family and leaving the next day for the sunny, warm beaches of the Bahamas. They both felt heard and respected.
So, moving back to Julianne's statement, she realized that she had assumed that she could get close and never ruffle Ryan's feathers. Yet staying hidden and avoiding controversy can only lead to a loss of self. By ignoring something that's important to you to never trigger controversy, you will leave half of yourself outside of the relationship. Keep reading...
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