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Do you sometimes feel that you’re getting mixed messages about conducting your relationship with your partner? You’ll often hear the culture screaming something in your ear, but your instinct is saying that you should do something different.
If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. It turns out that there is some pretty toxic relationship advice out there. Here are some examples:
Spending Long Time Apart
Spending a long time away from your partner is usually a sign of a serious problem in the relationship – or, at least, that’s how many people see it.
But does it have to be that way? It turns out that spending time apart is actually quite a healthy habit. It gives people time to process the irrational beliefs about their partners and see them more fully as human beings.
In many cases, we can allow ourselves to be consumed by the person we are infatuated with. It is an intoxicating experience and can lead to sleepless nights. All we want is to be close to them.
Unfortunately, when you take this approach, your personality changes. You become somebody different from who your partner fell in love within the first place. Eventually, one person begins to feel suffocated.
Feeling Attracted To Somebody Outside The Relationship
People get into a lot of trouble for feeling attracted to people outside of the relationship. We want to believe that we only have eyes for our partners and never look at anybody else. And the same works the other way: we want our partners to only think of us.
We know from our own experience, though, that this isn’t realistic. Everyone is capable of finding multiple people attractive, regardless of their relationship status.
The trick here is to process these feelings healthily. Don’t bottle them up. Instead, accept the fact that you are attracted to somebody else and then let it go. Try to avoid suppressing feelings or anything like that. And have a conversation with your partner about what you are experiencing, and you might be surprised that they are feeling the same way now and then.
Having The Ability To End It
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In our romantic culture, we believe that relationships should be as permanent as a vasectomy. They are for life.
But this approach leads to all kinds of problems. For one, it eliminates fear in the other person. If they think that you will stick with them forever, no matter what, they won’t worry if they treat you badly. They may behave terribly, knowing that you will stay by their side.
But if they think that you have the power to end it, they will “behave themselves,” and the hope is they start to work on themselves. Self-awareness is a powerful thing and sometimes in a relationship the partner is the one to help push them in that direction. Becoming more mindful and watch what they say and how it affects you. And hopefully, they will make every effort to improve their lives so that they provide you with value. This is healthy empowerment. We get comfortable from time to time, and having someone there to push us even on a relationship level can be a good thing.
Allowing Conflicts To Go Unresolved
Lastly, we believe that we need to resolve every conflict in our relationships to succeed. You shouldn’t go to bed on an argument – or so the saying goes. But it turns out that just letting go of conflict is okay too. You and your partner can disagree on things. You don’t have to agree on everything. Many of the most successful couples allow conflict to rumble on for decades. But don’t forget to manage that conflict in healthy ways rather than let it fester. Think about what matters, and when it comes down to it, not having a picture-perfect relationship doesn’t mean you don’t have a good one. Even a great one.
Some say nothing is forever anymore, and maybe that is true, but then again, maybe someone said that who would have rather given up then figured out a solution.
Fourteen years is a long time…I guess.
Fourteen years seems short when you see others married 30, 40, even 60 years. I love the dance at weddings where couples get up and dance and as their year of marriage gets called they have to sit down. I always try to guess how long the last couple will be married. And at the last few weddings (well the last few pre-COVID-19 weddings), I have been blown away at the years together: one was 56 years, another 63, another 60! How amazing, and the best is when they dance, they look so happy! But truth be told, I’m absolutely sure not every day of their married lives were a walk in the park, was as blissful as that one moment I got to see.
This year marks FOURTEEN years of marriage for my husband and me. I guess considering we are only 36 that is a long time, but then again I’m still 45+ years away from those happy dancing couples I saw dancing last year.
Marring Brian was easy, I knew I was going to marry him when I was twelve years old. How? I’m not really sure, just a part of me knew that. And just when I thought I’d lost my chance, I went all in, and yep, as the story goes, at 17 we became high school sweethearts.
We’ve only been married for 5,110+ days, but I assure you, we know commitment. Life is not easy and when you combine your life with another, well let’s just say it gets more complicated. Day after day, after day, you have to continually consider the other person’s needs, wants, dreams, hopes, even shortcomings, and character defects (because hey, we all have them) and that is in addition to still trying to live your life and do your thing and follow your path.
That commitment pushes your buttons, that commitment warms you up, and in a moment’s notice pours cold water on you. That commitment is confusing, frustrating, and unfair (at times), I bet no one wrote that into their vows.
But commitment is also reassuring, loving, comforting, and supportive, and for me, it feels secure, it feels safe, it’s the biggest promise I will ever make.
I’ve grown a lot in the past fourteen years and I’m sure Brian will say the same, but that growth is kinda part of the ride, like a road trip so to speak, you can plan all you want but the trip usually doesn’t go as planned, and if you get too attached to the plan you will probably always end up disappointed.
So in 14+ years both Brian and I have moved through recovery from an eating disorder, lost our first child, grieved the loss of our first child, opened up a business, took on several other business endeavors, had four kids, bought a house, and are still busy working towards a future together hopefully for many more years to come.
Here’s the thing, I struggled to discover who I was early on in our marriage, I hadn’t really known me for a long time and as I became more myself each day it slowly changed my perception of marriage. I used to think that when you married someone you both then were to be walking one path together. But I would think about that concept often and it just wouldn’t make sense to me and I would be left with confusion as to how this would all work. But then I had a wave of relief one day and for the last thirteen years, I have worked to live my life this way in our marriage.
Married or not, you walk your path, each day you discover more of who you are and what you believe in, how you will help the world. But when you marry, your path aligns with another’s, you don’t walk each other’s path, you don’t block, hurt, or hinder the path of the other. You walk parallel, and when your partner happens to fall behind, you lead, you reach out your hand and help. And then when you find yourself to have fallen, your chosen partner will be there to reach out a hand, to stand strong while you are weak, and lead. Neither person is better than the other because your paths aren’t the same. The roles you share are just that shared. It may be years you carry certain responsibilities and at a moment’s notice that role shifts and the other takes hold.
Marriage is a balance of give and take, there is no room to be selfish, and no matter what there will always be temptation to try to steer you off your path, but one thing Brian and I have talked about is “choice”, everything in life is a choice, and fourteen years ago we made a choice to walk side by side one another through thick and thin, for richer or poor, in sickness and in health, and yes till death do us part. In marriage you learn to ride the wave, if you fight it you’ll end up unhappy, but if you learn to ride it, it becomes just that – a ride!
I don’t know what the next 40 years will bring, heck what the next year will bring, but that is kind of the point. You will never know it all, but as we grow side by side it’s like a new relationship each day, and each of those days is an opportunity to be the best version of ourselves both for our own sake and each other. And that “newness” is a push to learn new things about ourselves, an encouragement to move forward rather than be left behind. Marriage is a balance of all of that and more…
To many more years.. xx