Everyone wants that perfect relationship, don’t they? It seems that with all the images of intimacy and romance that are thrown around it should be easy. Just follow the formula (if you can) and you will have what you want. From movies to TV shows, advertising to the conversations at the water cooler, it seems there is a collective understanding that once you find The One, your trials and tribulations will be over.
Yet somehow this just doesn’t account for the ever rising divorce rate, the increase in depression and anxiety disorders, and increased expenditures on weight loss and appearance enhancing products and services. Could it be that corporations have figured out how to sell a lie? And could it be that this lie is something we have bought into as a society?
Relationships are tough and often painful. Not just when they end, mind you, but the really good ones are painful in the very midst of them. In fact, they have to be, if they are going to be worth anything to us and give us what we really want. They are not violent and abusive, but they do create fear and pain.
Consider this: If you are being lavished with complete attention, support, listening, and romance by your partner all the time, at some level you are likely to wonder, “When will this end? And if it does, will I still love and want to be with this person? How will I trust that they want to be with me?” You may not even know you are asking these questions. Nevertheless, over time you feel a growing unease. Perhaps you even begin acting in ways around the person that will ensure that the continue the dreamy behavior. You are afraid that without it, you will have to own up to the fact that something is terribly wrong.
And at this point, you are facing the split in the road. Do you take the left fork, continuing to hope for the best, measuring the health of the relationship by how good you are feeling about the other person? Or do you take the right fork, look inside yourself and start to ask some tough questions?
For many it is always much easier to take the left fork. They re-enact the same patterns from past relationships, either becoming passive or aggressive in their attempt to keep the dream alive. Ultimately though, it is likely that these tactics themselves are the very thing that drives the other person away. And the lie that relationships are supposed to make you feel good is never challenged.
On the other hand, when you take the right fork in the road, you are required to challenge that lie and stop buying into it. It is at this point that you must ask yourself, “Do I expect this person to make my world ok? Do I believe that I cannot live without them? Am I sacrificing my own growth as a person just to keep alive a dream that I know isn’t really working anyway?”
Every healthy and sustainable intimate relationship has to hit this point in order to survive. Each person has to look inside themselves and say, “If I lost this person tomorrow, do I know that I would be ok?” If that thought is an overwhelming one, you probably have some work to do to learn how to soothe and empower yourself and tap into your internal resource of strength and resiliency.
Bottom line: The perfect relationship means that you are confident in the difference between what you want and what you need. Figuring this out can be arduous and painful, because it may require you to open old wounds and let them finally heal. You may be required to let go of very entrenched ways of thinking and behaving, and step into a world that is unfamiliar. But in doing so, you will be stepping into your own strength, a new sense of trust for yourself. When you do, you will discover that your relationship is far better than anything the lie could have promised, your pleasure in the other person far deeper and secure, and your confidence in yourself far beyond your own wildest dreams.