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How you came to be in the relationship is very telling – it sounds as though it was from a standpoint of him needing to fill a void you felt within. I get this, I’ve done it many times myself!
Since many of us get exposed to similar ideals through media, at home and in society generally, my early ideas about relationships were probably similar to yours. The sorts of beliefs that formed in my head were things like:
- it is my job to make others happy, and it is their job to make me happy
- we are meant to be with someone, the right person is out there for each of us
- we ‘fall in love’, an act which is outside our control and completely random
- if it is ‘meant to be’ it will just work… and so on.
While society has changed a lot in the last four decades and some of these ideas have become a bit old fashioned, many of us still hold on to these beliefs somewhere in our psyche. I know I certainly felt I’d failed on many levels as the years chugged on and my relationship numbers tallied.
When I met my current partner twelve years ago, it was almost the first time I had been alone since I had hit my teens. Admittedly I hadn’t been single for very long, but it was the first time in my life I had actually been happy about being single. Getting to that place had given me the chance to really start to understand my own needs better and take a more honest look at myself.
By the time we met in our thirties we were both very aligned on what we had learned from our previous relationships. We agreed on the need to be ourselves, to keep doing the things we each enjoyed (even if it wasn’t something the other wanted to do), the importance of independent friendships and of good communication.
Around that same time I heard two things that really resonated deeply, and have reshaped my beliefs ever since.
The first was advice to let go of the cumbersome impossibility of trying to control other people and circumstances. That phrase “cumbersome impossibility” just felt so rich and on-target and conjures up exactly the way it feels when I am trying to control anything other than my own reactions.
Since I am the only one who controls my reactions, I then began to really understand I am therefore the singular creator of my own reality. So the second thing that stuck – although really confronted me at first – was hearing that if I really understood my ability to make myself feel good, I would ask no one else to be different so that I could feel good.
Over the years I have proceeded down our relationship path with these new thoughts in mind, yet admit I have often been drawn into thoughts and behaviours that are attached to my old beliefs, like looking to the other to “make me happy”.
I’m not saying we should never work on improving our relationship; but our relationship is always improving when I look at each annoyance, disappointment and frustration as things that hold a lesson for me. Then I find the root cause is rarely my partner; he is merely the trigger of some other deeply entrenched belief that is typically not helpful to me anymore.
Neither am I condoning that anyone stay in a relationship. But it is important to understand why you were drawn into it to try to break the pattern and avoid a recurrence as someone else has said. I’ve learned is that life is a mirror, so you are both reflecting things back to each other that you can learn and grow from.
From a broader perspective, whether you stay or go, it’s all good in the scheme of things.