Like exercise, challenge builds strength.
I saw a short article today from Tiny Buddha called A Simple Prescription for Natural Healing. In it, Harriet Cabelly discussed her method of coping with her daughter's critical medical condition. It required a three-month drug-induced coma to overcome, so she was offered an anti-anxiety pill by the doctor early in the process. The author refused, preferring to pursue her own natural methods. In discussing her own prescription, Cabella reflected on the place of challenge in our lives. She wrote,
"Everyone wants to run in and take away any bad feeling.
Parents want to protect their kids from pain, naturally so, but in the process of “bubble-wrapping” and rescuing them from experiencing pain, we rob them of coping skills—of learning that they can fall down and get back up; that they can make a mistake and learn from it; that they can come through the “scary” negative feelings in one piece.
We all have resilient muscles that must be used in order to grow stronger."
This issue is an important one in all kinds of relationships. We use a lot of energy trying to decide how much challenge is too much challenge. I have offered guidelines for making that decision in my article "6 Steps To Decide If It's Time To Call It Quits". Sometimes calling it quits is the right answer.
On the other side is the relationship that has struggle, but one that is worth continuing. To continue the struggle means learning to balance our own emotional needs against those of another. It means giving up some of what we want to get something else that we want even more.
The challenge of continuing the struggle is complicated by several factors. First, choice brings with it both freedom and burden. The burden is that I am liable to second guess myself. How can I know if I've made the right choice? If things start to get hard, does that mean my choice was wrong? As our lives become increasingly complex due to the abundance of choices open to us, this burden increases as well.
The second challenge is how to weigh the needs of our own happiness against those of our mate, especially when views differ between us on how much personal freedom and happiness we should each have?
I remember reading about Project Everlasting, a fact-finding tour undertaken by two bachelors who wanted to learn from what they called 'Marriage Masters'. They interviewed couples married 40 years or more and published the common wisdom they were able to gather. I remember one husband talked about the willingness to suffer for the sake of the relationship. "I'm not sure your generation can do that," he said.
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