My first draft of this article was eloquently named reasons why it’s so easy to screw up in relationships. In a last-minute self-censoring huff I decided to rename it to something a little more palatable.
My point is this article will require the ability to face our own short-comings. We all commit quintessential relationship foul-ups, regardless of who or what we are, so let’s drop the perfectionism and tackle our insecurity head-on.
Feelings naturally ebb and flow
In theory our collective ideal of love is selfless and free. A comprehensive wish-you-well that gives everything and demands nothing.
In practice romantic love is rarely ever unconditional (although it may seem like it). Due to small changes (often consciously imperceptible) in needs, wants and desires, our feelings naturally fluctuate. The end result is what I like to call the cycle of insecurity. Here’s a typical scenario.
Jack and Jill are in a relationship. For some time now Jack has begun to notice a change in Jill’s behavior. He’s no longer able to make her laugh like he once did, she has become increasingly less communicative and is showing signs of stress.
In response Jack assumes that her interest is waning. In an effort to seek emotional validation he presses her for answers. Jill feels suffocated by his need to be reassured and takes flight, continuing to create distance. The more Jack barrels forward to seek a cure for his insecurity, the more Jill withdraws. A few months later, as the pressure mounts, the curtain is drawn and she ends up demanding time alone.
The moral of the story
Insecurity is a subtle landslide propelled forward by our innate fear of abandonment or precipitating sense of self-worth. Yes, admittedly, sometimes the distance is intrinsically related to an increasing imbalance of romantic feelings. But relationships are not the be all and end all of our livelihood. What if Jill’s depression was caused by other factors such as poor work performance or poor health? In this case Jack’s insecurity contributed to make the problem worse, in that he piled on more pressure. And Jill became suffocated, and left the relationship in order to find emotional clarity and not because she “fell out of love” as he feared.[alert-warning]Screw up number one: Allowing our insecurity to incorrectly over-analyze a situation and cause a downward spiral of insecurity. The solution is simple; maintain brutally honest and open communication. We must stop ourselves from projecting our fears onto our partner.[/alert-warning]
Change is inevitable
Everyone one knows the “holy trinity” of values that every long-term relationship needs in order to survive. Trust, empathy and respect. What is often over-looked, which I feel is no less important, is the understanding that things change. And there’s not a darned thing we can do about it. Relationships change because we change, and we do so constantly.
Relationships are not unconditional, and ideally our own baseline needs (wants are compromisable) should be non-negotiable in order to safeguard our own happiness as individuals. The problem is, these needs can change. Sometimes no matter what we do, what we’ve invested or what our hopes are; a relationship will become unsustainable.
Thus, in order to maximize our chances at having a long, fulfilling relationship we must be open to change. Encasing our significant other in an immutable ideal is a surefire way to resentment and disillusionment.
If we feel resentful or dejected because our partner is no longer what they were, or what we fell in love with, the problem is partly ours for having the expectation of immutable timelessness.
Things change. And not always for the worse![alert-warning]Screw up number two: Expecting the idealistic honeymoon to last. Everyday is a transition, if we are to aspire to living a fulfilling long-term relationship we must first accept that it should be reworked and rekindled on a day-to-day basis. And not through an ideal.[/alert-warning]
Wants over needs
Perhaps the greatest threat to relationships is our innate desire to immerse ourselves in them — leading to an addictive element that is difficult to overcome without resentment and pain.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, we should never rely on anyone but ourselves when it comes to finding peace. Forsaking our individuality in order to please our partner will often make both ourselves and them, patently unhappy.
Everyone wants a partner in crime, a conspirator with whom to fend off the evils of live. But co-dependence will tear even the most solid relationship apart. In short, a fulfilling relationship will require you to thrive individually as well as part of a team. We should never allow insecurity to turn our wants in needs.[alert-warning]Screw up number three: Depending on someone else for validation will only ever end in emotional suffocation. Never compromise your needs for the greater good. Never let fear dictate your romantic choices.[/alert-warning]
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