The good, the bad and the ugly about relationships.
At a recent training we attended, the group brainstormed a list of all the negative things we've heard about relationships. Here are a few:
"You have to give yourself up, amputate parts of yourself."
"You learn exactly how to hurt each other, and then you do it."
"Betrayal, deceit, bitterness, blow-ups and painful silences."
"You're either controlling, or being controlled."
"Little nit-picky criticisms which destroy the love day by day."
YIKES! If that's the case, why would any of us ever want to be part of a relationship again?
The sad truth is that all of those things do happen sometimes, even when we've fallen in love with the best of intentions. But it doesn't have to be that way! You can find help to make relationships really work and not lose yourself.
Sometimes people feel embarassed about needing help with relationships—like it's something we're supposed to "just know" how to do. Look at it this way: if you know how to drive, it's probably because you took Driver's Ed, right? (Or else someone taught you in some other way.) And if none of us had had help learning how to drive, our roads would be ... well, a whole lot more scary than they already are!
Yet that's exactly what happens with relationships. Not only did most of us get NO instruction on how to resolve conflicts, build intimacy, navigate differences, recognize and communicate our own feelings, and all of the many other skills involved in keeping a relationship humming happily along ... but, most of us actually got some "negative training." I know I did—every time my parents yelled, insulted each other and threw things.
Now, maybe you were fortunate enough to grow up with parents who truly had a great relationship, with fantastic conflict resolution skills and ongoing intimacy. Most of us weren't that lucky! But even if you were, think about it. No matter how many times you've seen someone drive, it's still different when it's you behind the wheel!
So, why do most of us persist in getting into relationships—even though they've caused all of us pain? Well, there's also that other list: the list of all our fantasies about relationships. You know, like:
"You look into each other's eyes and just know it's right - forever."
"You walk off into the sunset together, happily ever after."
"Constant unconditional support and love."
"You meet every single one of each other's needs."
"Neither of you is ever attracted to someone else."
Some of those things—like unconditional support and love—can come true and some can't. It harms our relationships when we expect them to be like Hollywood movies or romance novels, rather than accepting the complex, beautiful, challenging, mysterious nature of our girlfriends (and ourselves.)
When we think a relationship is supposed to be perfect at all times, a great place to start is by looking at our #1 relationship—that is, your relationship with yourself! Is that relationship always perfect? Do you always have perfect harmony, connection with and compassion for yourself?
Few of us can answer a truthful "Yes" to that question. Yet the better our relationships with ourselves are, the better-equipped we are for a smooth relationship with someone else.