You know the saying that distance makes the heart grow fonder? I never really believed in that growing up. I thought if I love someone then I would want to be with that person. However, every time we would spend long periods together, we would end up arguing.
Did that mean he is not my person? Or was I doing something that was enabling that behavior? Or probably both?
Fast forward a few years and a few major breakups later, I realized there are so many layers and it is never a black and white answer. Rather it is a whole ocean of grey. What is important is how we swim in that grey together. I realised, after a lot of self reflection and learning, that every relationship we have is a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves. This is especially true in an intimate relationship, as more of our own past patterns, insecurities and fears come up. The more we work on ourselves, the deeper the connections we create with others, and consequently a more fulfilling intimate relationship with a partner.
Fast forward to today, those of us who live with our partners, are spending a lot of time together at home. Probably more than we would like to. Some of us might be feeling stuck in the relationship. Maybe we dont know how to navigate all the extra time we have with each other. Routines being messed up and everything being closed, we cant just up and leave to see friends.
I mean, even if you decided to break up it is not like you can just pick up and leave or ask your partner to. So what can we do if a lot of emotional stuff is coming up. How can we use all this emotional stuff to create a better foundation, a better relationship soil, with ourselves and our partners? How can this time be used as an opportunity to create a more solid relationship instead of letting it dissolve into a bickering mess?
One thing that is for sure is that stuff will come up, uncertain times bring out uncertain emotions, that is normal. We are not expected to always hold our stuff together because stuff comes up especially when the external environment is different. We have never experienced social isolation like this before so how are we supposed to just know how to deal with it?
The one thing that absolutely is paramount in creating a better relationship is supporting and validating our partner. That does not mean you have to agree with their emotions, nor does it mean that it devalues your emotions. It simply means showing empathy especially when difficult emotions come up. The ability to sit with each other’s emotions, without feeling the urge to judge, fix, advice or get triggered.
Some mindset shifts that can be helpful
A “through me” life versus a “to me” life – the former which is a growth mindset can be applied to relationships. When we see that our relationship is happening through us means we are the carrier of the relationship. We have an active versus a passive role and the power to shift the relationship to a healthier dynamic. We own our story versus the other way around and have the power to change it.
The latter, which is a “to me” life, is a fixed mindset and is rooted in fear and entitlement. When we see a relationship happening to us, we tend to blame everyone else for their mistakes and victimize ourselves.
Our partners bring out the best and the worst in us. And because of this, we have to accept the whole spectrum of emotions and experiences and then sift through the painful ones. Expecting only fun times is not realistic nor is it sustainable. Life is difficult and uncertain times like we are in causes uncertain and difficult emotions to surface. Accepting and allowing them to surface will cause a lot of calmness in dealing with them when they do surface.
One myth that I would like to bust is many people think intimate relationships should be an easy breeze and not a lot of work. I disagree because an intimate relationship is a reflection of where we are in our lives. We project our pain, our imagined insufficiencies and our unresolved issues on our partners. So if that is something you are dealing with, and projecting on the other, then look inside first. Maybe there is unresolved past baggage of your own that you have not dealt with.
They can become an easy breeze, but that takes work. Some ways to go about it is by first taking the responsibility to look inside and, at the same time, inviting our partner so that a dialogue and a deeper connection can be created. Otherwise that relationship can get lonely if we are always working on our own stuff alone. Also inviting our partner without blame and judgement, rather with an awareness that this is something I am going through and I would like you to support me and hold space for me.
Think of it as an invitation rather than an expectation. Invitations come from a place of giving and compassion, expectations come from a place of fear and entitlement.
Building on an invitation, we can ask our partners of what we would like them to do in order for us to feel love. Also when our words or actions trigger our partner, because of their pain, we can hold space, show support and validate their feelings provided that they are willing to look inside first and not blame the other for that.
I would like to leave you with the thought that to love and to be loved is a choice. Choose to love not from fear but from compassion and curiosity for self and each other. The best relationship is one where it is not a means an end, rather a deeper calling to allow ourselves to become who we are becoming.