Relationships are hard
Let me say that again. Relationships are so damn hard.
And they are even harder during a pandemic! Everything that was under a flashlight of awareness is now under a floodlight of awareness.
There is no hiding from what’s been seeping under the radar for who knows how long!
And want to hear an inconvenient truth?
Love isn’t enough. It’s important, but it’s not enough.
Love is necessary to maintain a healthy partnership, but it’s not the thing that is going to carry you through the expected, and unexpected challenges, that come up when you are in relationship.
And now, our lives are in the midst of the Great Pause. You have the opportunity (if you choose!) to look at what’s been bubbling beneath the surface and work on it – cause Lord knows we have the time! You and your partner can come out of this time thriving.
There are so many things that get in the way of happiness
There are so many factors of what can get in the way of a healthy partnership: attachment style, wounds, traumas, communication patterns, sensitivities, mental health challenges (depression and/or anxiety), addictions or unhealthy habits, anger, emotional unawareness, parenting, chemistry and sexual attraction, self-worth/insecurities, jealousy or mistrust, stability in other areas of your life (work, money, friendships, purpose/meaning, life satisfaction)…
This list could go on and on highlighting barriers to connection, ease and flow.
And right now, we’ve got the add the additional stress and anxiety of the pandemic, and being with your partner 24/7. This brings up a whole slew of other challenges, but we’ll save that for another article.
But regardless of the stressors, you’ve got to start with awareness. You first have to even recognize you are stuck. You can’t change what you aren’t aware of.
Then, respond to that awareness first with compassion, and then with curiosity. The opposite of compassion is judgment, which will only keep you stuck longer.
Curiosity allows you to look at the patterns with fresh (nonjudgmental) eyes, helping you to see more clearly your reactions and triggers. Without awareness, curiosity or compassion, you will continually get hijacked from your ability to access logic, reason and a helpful response.
Easier said than done, but when you can remember to practice these tools, it’ll make all the difference.
Listen to the advice of a love expert
In this week’s episode of Journey Forward with Joree Rose podcast (click here to listen), I interview Shaun Galanos. He is a love coach who imparts honest and straightforward relationship advice on his podcast (The Love Drive) and social media outlets by the same name.
During our talk of all things love and sex (and peanut butter!) he defines partnership as “two people coming together in a common goal.” I love this description; it’s so simple and clear, and yet as we know (dammit!) still so hard to execute.
Whatever your common goals are, the ability to meet them takes work. Not, like a “one and done” kind of work, but ongoing, active attention towards the relationship.
“Everything mentionable is manageable”
~ Fred Rogers
Here are some tools to get you unstuck and back on the road to harmony.
- Extend generosity – approach any situation with compassion and curiosity. This will be sure to soften any challenging conversation that you need to have.
- Clarify your partner’s needs – I know what I mean when I say I need connection, but my partner may have a different definition. So, get clear on what they are saying, and how you interpret it (or vice versa).
- Talk about the thing – Don’t ignore the elephant in the room just because it’s big and seems scary; ignoring it won’t make it go away, it only makes it harder to deal with at another time.
- Practice a softened start up – Ask your partner when a good time to talk about your relationship would be. (If they keep brushing you off or don’t acknowledge your request, that’s really important information to pay attention to.)
- Practice non-attachment – Focus on speaking from your heart. If you get too caught up in what’s going to come of it, you may overlook your needs in favor of pleasing or not rocking the boat, which will never end with you feeling connected or heard.
- Understand that your needs are not mutually exclusive – You likely will not have the same needs and let that be okay – just do your best to honor your partner’s and yours will likely (hopefully!) Allow both to be true.
Know that it’s also possible that you do all the above, and reconnection or understanding may still not be achieved. Over a sustained period of time of this occurring, it may feel like the only option is to jump ship. It’s easy to assume that it’ll be easier with someone else.
And while that may be true (and may not be!), let me share with you a cliché: wherever you go, there you are. Jumping ship when it gets hard gives no guarantee that it’s going to be easier with anyone else.
The value of a growth mindset
So if you’ve taken the time and energy to invest in your partnership and you both have a growth mindset, then there are often ways to work it through.
Maybe you need time or some space.
Maybe you need therapy, either individually or as a couple.
Perhaps you need greater awareness of your triggers and old wounds.
Or maybe you need to work on your sense of self-worth and your thoughts regarding being lovable.
It might be time to release some old stories that are keeping you stuck.
What a great opportunity to grow!
And even if the relationship does not work out, and you decide to grow in different directions, I still see that as growth. Just do the work first so in the next relationship you don’t repeat old patterns.
I believe growth and change is possible. I would not be in the business I’m in if I didn’t believe wholeheartedly that it is possible to get unstuck and journey forward towards lasting happiness and authenticity.
If you want some extra resources on strengthening your relationship, check out my Lovingkindness meditation – it is a beautiful practice of extending to others, and yourself intentions of well-being.