TAKING THE HELM OF YOUR (RELATION)SHIP
Relationships are not all roses. Sharing joys and struggles with others both enriches and intensifies emotions. We are social creatures. Relationships are central to the development of the human brain. Emotions configure to respond to human interactions. Our survival needs are different now than they were a few million years ago but flourishing in this complex society is no simple task. A loving partner offers invaluable resources—financially, emotionally, and physically; but a partner also adds complexity. A partner is not a permanent fixture—a puppet—but a living dynamic being. Partners have their own desires, dreams and motivations. They have their own emotions, struggles, and joys. A partner’s individuality offers resources but also adds new dynamics to the experience of living.
Many expect rescue in a new relationship. We all experience significant disappointments, discouragements and suffering. Life is much more than unicorns and rainbows. Yet we still fantasize about all the difficult being washed away. Much of these fantasies interweave with dreams of a perfect partner; either through the magical transformation of a current partner or the arrival of a new prince charming. Unrealistically expectations cloud our view of reality. The fantasy dulls the experience of reality. Partners never measure up to the idealistic expectations. The conflict between reality and fantasy invites discouragement, disappointment, anger, insecurity and sadness.
Faulty expectations clash with reality; fantasy dampens the joy of living. Dreams add richness to our lives but need to be grounded in reality. With our feet firmly planted in reality, we can be catapulted forward by our dreams. The reality principle applies to many areas of our lives but especially with intimacy.
Partner’s won’t relieve the responsibility of combatting our inner-demons. Problems disrupting our peace of mind before a relationship will return once the relationship settles. The ecstasy of the dawning moments of new romance does, however, momentarily dull many discomforts. These early delights of love appear to be the solution to the past. The new relationship fools us into believing we found a short-cut to the demanding work of personal change.
There is nothing wrong with these powerful feelings. Embrace the powerful emotions. Love is more than a distraction; love is also healing. If not grasped too tightly, these calming feelings of security can be experienced repeatedly throughout the months and years; but if held too tightly, the calming influence of love can quickly fade into fear, anger, and disgust.
Healthy relationships provide additional resources to fight persistent problems. Once the initial emotions of new love fades relics from the past slip out from the shadows. Blaming partners for the bothersome return of emotional pain is common. No partner can serve as a constant distraction from inner-pain. Eventually the pain resurfaces. We can spend our lives finding distractions or we can lovingly accept the reality of our inner-lives.
During the journey of growth, it’s not always clear which direction to take—but through attentive awareness, our inner-reality exposes hurts that need healing. The availability of healing is for those willing to take the helm of their own ship; healing always alludes those who habitually blame. We shouldn’t ignore hurtful and dangerous behaviors—whether the behaviors are ours or our partners. But habitual blaming often interferes with examining personal contributions to a faltering relationship.
By blaming a partner for personal discomfort, we free ourselves of all responsibility. We then unrealistically demand, "Make me happy." By giving away the responsibility and directing our partner to save us, we momentarily relieve the anxiety to change. Blame subtly invades thought processes; we rarely recognize personal skirting of responsibility. We all our engaged in faulty assessment of responsibility. Usually both partners benefit from taking personal inventory. If the only personal fault discovered is “loving too much” than the warning signs of reality blindness should be blaring. In these cases, defensive mechanisms are so pervasive that reality may need the gentle coaxing of a close friend or a professional to be exposed.
Until we take responsibility for our own feelings, we won’t recognize personal changes necessary to achieve intimacy. Close relationships will always remain beyond our grasp. Many fearful dodge the prospect of personal responsibility with defensive rhetoric, "But then my partner will do whatever they want!" Yes, you are absolutely correct. Allowing for individual freedom is scary. It forces us to accept the vulnerabilities that are already present. If your partner is not interested in intimacy, no amounts of control, manipulation, guilt, berating, or hurt will force change. Manipulations don’t make a relationship healthy. Manipulations deepen the chasm. Attempts of control don’t work. Manipulations in reality aren’t forcing closeness; their masking lack of intimacy through shallow attempts to relieve personal insecurity. These thought deceptions are all significant pieces of the pattern that isn’t working. They intrude on all interactions. Our reaction to their reaction, and then their reaction to our reaction continues to create an impenetrable wall—insecurity, fear, anger, disappointment, self-righteousness, discouragement, and depression. The wall that stands between us and the healing power of intimacy.
The bulldozer that can level this wall is personal responsibility; not control. By taking responsibility, we choose the direction of our growth. As we grow, understanding and empathy increases. By allowing partners to be free agents, the relationship strengthens. Trust forges through the jungles of insecurity. Through the embrace of compassion, love and kindness, we create the foundation necessary for intimacy. Intimacy nurtures self-confidence. Personal self-confidence is essential to establish and keep boundaries. Boundaries then strengthens the intimacy. Like all aspects of healthy living, it is a self-perpetuating cycle; a cycle entered through opening to personal responsibility.