I always wonder how both men and women can screw up relationships so easily. We start out any relationship, with the best of intentions. We are excited, giddy to be noticed, and flirt and ease our way into someone’s life.
Once we’ve landed our new relationship, the veneer of perfection and the masks we wear are taken off. We stop trying to surprise and delight our partner, we stop working at the relationship and fall victim to the idea that now that we’re partnered, it takes care of itself.
How wrong we are to assume that just because we have a partner or companion, suddenly we should stop dating them, taking care of ourselves and become complacent in the art of romance. Anyone in any type of relationship will tell you they still want to feel needed, desired, wanted, inspired.
Where does the desire to build relationship with our significant other go after the honeymoon phase? I can tell you it starts with the idea that we don’t need to change and they do.
Want to kill a relationship, tell your partner they need to change.
I’m not saying every person goes into the relationship thinking they can change someone else, but I guarantee every one of us has had a relationship where we thought we could change someone.
As humans, we want to be among like-minded people, this includes our partner. If you’re not in the same place as your partner or believe similar things about life and the world, somewhere along the road in your relationship, one of you will attempt to force a change.
So I say, just stop. Stop trying to change your partner, stop trying to convince them who they are is wrong. Stop making excuses for why they should change, stop giving ultimatums and stop blaming the lack of spark in a relationship on your partner alone. Instead look at yourself and realize the only thing you can change is yourself.
Part of changing is risking the next relationship killer, withdrawing from our partners into our own bubble. When we realize our partner won’t change or doesn’t know how to change, we look for opportunities to improve and change ourselves. As we take a journey of self-discovery, sometimes we leave our partners behind, outside our hamster ball.
When I was first married in my early 20’s I used my marriage as a means of escaping my parents. After the first couple years of marriage, I came to realize I hadn’t married a person who I could live with long-term. I wanted to change him, I wanted him to be different, more motivated, ambitious and focused. He was none of these things.
I retreated into my bubble. I started running, became addicted to my new sport and socialized with my new running friends. I trained hard for my first marathon and left my husband out of the conversation. I was an isolationist in my own marriage.
There are so many ways we disconnect from our partners, in ways, we may not even realize. Instead of admitting we feel stuck, we convince ourselves we will get used to the feeling. As the popular saying goes “It is what it is.” What does that even mean?!
How have we let ourselves get to a place in our relationships where we’re allowed to feel unwanted, apathetic and alone? What happened to the connection, the joy, the love? We kill our relationships with apathy. We forget about the little things and move on to all the ways the relationship is wrong, instead of how we could make it better.
We are changing and growing as we age, learning, adapting and maturing. Sometimes we adapt ourselves to others, even our partners.
Humans are born to adapt. We adapted during evolution, to environment, to people, to technology. We are always adapting. Adaptation keeps us relevant, interested and inspired. However, in relationships it can mean giving up too much of what we value for our partner. We kill relationships when we adapt and change for anyone other than ourselves.
So what does this mean for us? Are we doomed to repeat the patterns of past relationships? Maybe some of us are not meant to be in long-term relationships, or for others it’s less about monogamy and more about companionship. I like to think that what works for some people, won’t necessarily work for others. No two relationships are the same, so the needs and the things that destroy are going to be different.
I know for me, understanding the mistakes I’ve made in past relationships, makes me a better partner in my current one. I’m not perfect but I’m trying, and that is all anyone could ever ask.
As long as we are willing to put in the effort, to stay connected, to listen, learn and grow, then there is hope that what used to kill our relationships will instead make them stronger. We can stop the patterns of the past and change the dialogue, instead of “it is what it is” let it be “It is What We Make It”.