When I first got married, I thought marriage was about finding the right person and living happily ever after. I wish someone told me how delusional I was.
We are fed so many lies in our society. This is one of them. And we are paying a very high price for it.
The price is lifeless relationships and people sleeping together yet having no idea who the person next to them truly is. People swallowing resentments year after year, growing apart, getting sick, having less and less sex, yet staying together and posting happy pictures on Facebook – to keep up with the rest of the world. People getting divorced, hoping to find the right partner next time, yet repeating the same patterns in their new relationships.
I think it’s time we stop lying.
Why are we not teaching about it at schools? Why are we not setting the right expectations for what relationships truly is about?
We need to tell our young (and not so young) adults that their relationships is a most powerful tool for growth and self-discovery.
We need to tell them that their partners are meant to trigger their deepest wounds. And it will hurt. And it’s ok.
Your partner can be your best teacher that can take you where you want to go in life and help you become the person you were meant to be.
We need to tell everyone getting into a serious relationship that unless you are an enlightened guru, your relationship will be far from pure bliss.
We need to tell them that there is nothing wrong with them, there is no need to run.
That their whole selves are waiting on the other side.
We need to show them how.
The truth is – you are always with the right partner.
This is the person you need to help you heal and learn the lessons you need to learn.
You need to realize that whatever triggers you in your partner is whatever is in you that needs to come out to the light.
I always say that I don’t need ashrams to help me discover who I am – I have my children and my husband, right here, to get me where I need to go.
My relationship is far from blissful. We fight on a regular basis.
I experience the pain of rejection daily. Sometimes it’s from my partner’s forgetting to do what he promised or responding in a grumpy voice to my son’s request or wanting to go to a movie with his friend instead of spending an evening with me.
I have three choices when that happens.
It’s easy to identify where you are in your relationship by looking at the way you handle conflicts.
The first stage.
In the first stage, when I feel rejected, I might suppress my feelings because good girls don’t get angry and too emotional. Because I bought into a lie that relationship is about sacrifice and compromise. And forgiveness. Let’s don’t forget about forgiveness.
What a bullshit!
I’ll tell to myself – let’s forgive and let go.
Will I truly let go? Of course not! I’ll stuff my negative feelings inside and try to distract myself with Facebook or a shopping spree.
In the first stage I don’t know yet that suppressed feelings don’t go anywhere. They will come out in the form of me snapping at my child or getting sick or lacking energy and desire to accomplish my goals.
It’s an illusion to think that by denying what you feel, you do yourself or anyone a favor. You don’t. You make yourself sick. You make your children sick (because they react to whatever is happening with you).
Every feeling deserves to be acknowledged, respected, felt and expressed in a safe way. (Do not confuse with believed in and acted upon.)
So this pretty much sums up the first stage. Two people being “nice” to each other and trying to find compromises.
Too bad that their sex life eventually flattens and both don’t feel much energy for anything.
Many couples get stuck in this stage for years.
The second stage.
In the second stage, I will start allowing myself to express my feelings. We will have open conflicts, talk about resentments, sometimes argue and blame each other.
Our conflicts will be battles of personal values and beliefs and, ultimately, our inner childs who are trying to get what they didn’t get from their parents in childhood.
Each party will try to prove the other party wrong.
One good thing about an open conflict stage is that you at least get to express your resentments. And for some time you might feel closeness and connection with your partner because you allowed yourself to be who you are, to show your true feelings.
You might even think you are doing pretty good. The only problem – conflicts are happening more and more often and seems like you are just repeating the same patterns over and over again.
This stage is better than emotional disconnect you get into by suppressing your feelings. But it’s far from ideal. Some call it a power struggle stage.
Then comes the third stage. Unfortunately, not many couples get there.
The third stage.
So what happens in the third stage when you feel hurt?
First and foremost, you take 100% responsibility for everything that happens in your relationship. Not 50%. Not half and half. Full responsibility. That snaps you out of victim mentality right away.
Any conflict, any hurt feeling, any dysfunction is your full responsibility. And it is your responsibility to fix it.
The way you do it is through honestly communicating your feelings as well as learning to make direct requests.
At this stage all manipulation goes away. There are only two responsible adults trying to find solutions that satisfy both of them.
There is no compromise! You take that word out of your vocabulary.
No one justifies what they feel and what they want. Your feelings and desires are highly subjective, read above about the inner child.
But you have the right to feel what you feel and to want what you want. Just because.
You don’t try to manipulate your partner by convincing him how wrong he was or how your desires are more important than his. No, you simply feel what you feel (and as a responsible adult, you allow yourself to express your feelings without manipulating anyone) and want what you want.
Ultimately, you are prepared to fulfill your desires yourself. Your partner doesn’t have to do anything for you.
He will, however, most likely choose to help you feel better and fulfill your requests. Because he loves you. And that’s the only reason you ever want him to do anything for you.
Not out of guilt, or fear or shame. But out of love.
To get to that love, you have to take 100% responsibility, be honest about your feelings without blaming him and make direct requests.
You both have to realize that it is simply a request.
The way you know it is simply a request and not a threat? You do not withdraw love if request is not fulfilled. It’s that simple.
(Please do not confuse this stage with a compromise stage. They might look alike, but they are drastically different. In the compromise stage you suppress the feelings and true desires, still secretly hoping to get what you want from your partner.)
At the end of the conflict in the third stage relationships we have two people who connected through honest expression of their feelings and found a solution that satisfies both of them.
Being able to do what I described above is an art and I haven’t fully mastered it yet myself. I still spiral between the second and third stage.
The third stage requires radical honesty with yourself. It requires you to grow up and take full responsibility for everything that happens in your life.
It requires courage to be vulnerable, show your dark side, own your feelings. It requires you to accept your partner’s dark side.
It requires you to get rid of any co-dependencies that might exist in your relationship.
In short, it requires being an adult.
Once you are able to do this, there is still more you can do to grow. I consider it a part of the third stage.
After you’ve expressed your feelings and made a request, connected with your partner without manipulating him and figured out a solution that works for both of you, you need to look inside and see what wound was triggered.
Why did you react emotionally?
If I feel rejected, I most likely have some childhood wounding around the topic of rejection. Where is it coming from? How can I heal? Also I most likely reject people myself quite a bit – it’s my shadow that gets reflected in my partner.
Going back to responsibility, we need to realize that whatever triggers us is what’s in us that needs to come out to the light. Your partner is simply a mirror that helps you see your reflection.
You look at the shadow, bring it to the light, accept it and hopefully it will stop haunting you.
How to do that is a whole big conversation I will save for next time.
Not many couples are able to get their relationships to that level.
If you get there though, you are ready for co-creation stage. I guess it’s a fourth stage.
You are ready to use your unique personalities, blend them and create something together. It could be a business project, a philanthropic endeavor or something else.
Maybe that’s where the bliss starts.
The relationship becomes a union of two unique beings who don’t need each other for fulfilling each other’s needs and wants but choose to be together because they value intimacy, connection and growth. They use that connection and birth something uniquely theirs to contribute to the world.
To sum it all up:
Relationships are painful. And it’s ok. They were sent to us to reflect our shadows and to heal our wounds. The faster you understand it, the faster you’ll get to the co-creation stage.
Your close relationships are a gift to you. How will you use it?
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