That’s why we are all here.
It may sound cliche, but I think it’s true. Humans are social animals, and we are all looking for acceptance and belonging.
No one wants to be alone. We all want to find that “someone” we will be with for the rest of our life. And sometimes we think we’ve found the person we can imagine ourselves growing old with.
But even still, many relationships don’t work out.
When we sort through the aftermath of failed relationships, it’s always easy to find the reasons it didn’t work out.
Maybe we had different interests, or different values. Or different attitudes towards any number of things.
And looking at the differences that we had can provide validation for why it didn’t work out.
We just weren’t a good fit. They weren’t the right person for us.
Next time we just need to find a person who is a better fit for us. If we can do that, then we would have our forever.
The Right Person
The “right person”. The “one”.
These concepts are driven into us through romantic notions of love.
And there is some truth to them.
It seems obvious that “who” you are with has some bearing on the success or failure of a relationship. Some people ARE more compatible than others, and certain personality traits seem to mesh with our unique makeup better than others.
There will always be differences though. Those differences are actually one of the strength of a relationship, because although they can be sources of conflict they also allow us to complement each other and bring out different sides of ourselves.
Due to this I think the “who” is actually a smaller factor than most people think.
There are no magic wands in life. There is no one person who, once you meet will turn your life into rainbows and unicorns.
ALL relationships run into challenges over time.
Who you are with is only a piece of the puzzle. What’s more important than the who is the why, and the how.
Why are you with your Partner
I am a huge believer in intention, and the question of why you are with your partner is perhaps the most important one you can ever ask yourself.
There are two levels to this question.
The first one I touched on in my last post. What was it that drew you to them? What made you decide this was someone you wanted to be with?
Depending on where you are in life, “what” you want in a relationship may change. What matters to you at 20 or 30 may not hold the same importance at 40 or 50.
If we hope to find someone we can be with for the rest of our lives (in spite of thse changes) perhaps the more important question is:
Why did you want a relationship in the first place?
I believe an honest answer to this question goes a long way towards determining the success of any relationship.
Relationships start with our own needs.
We find someone who we enjoy being around. We hopefully find them attractive, or at least feel we have some sort of chemistry with them.
But why do we want to be with them?
Are we looking for someone who will take care of us and fulfill our needs? Someone to share bills with? To provide a safe environment (physically and emotionally)? To provide a periodic sexual outlet? To potentially raise children with?
Are we looking for someone who makes us happy?
Take a look at this quote on happiness in relationships:
I get the sentiment behind this. Obviously we want to be around people that make us feel happy. But I think the idea is actually quite messed up, and can become twisted into something it was never intended to be.
To be happy, you have to first be happy with yourself.
No matter how good your relationship is no one can make you happy all the time – and in fact, your partner shouldn’t have to. You will always have times that you aren’t happy. And if you associate your level of happiness with the quality of your relationship, then during those unhappy times it can feel like something is wrong in the relationship.
When you are looking for someone to “make you happy”, you are putting a stress on your relationship that it will never be able to meet.
So instead of looking for someone to take care of us and make us happy, we should be looking for someone to share our life with. We should be looking for someone to share experiences with, and looking to enrich each other’s lives.
When we take this approach, the concept of happiness is better represented by the following:
This is a much healthier state both for the individual and the relationship. In either mindset, the actions and interactions in a relationship often look the same. But there is a big difference between wanting someone to make us happy and looking to share our experiences and happiness with someone.
When we want to “be happy”, we are in a selfish state of mind. Our relationship is one where we take more than we give, because we are interested primarily in what we get out of it. Our focus becomes how the relationship is meeting our own needs, and what it provides for us.
That’s not to say that our needs aren’t important, because they are. But a relationship needs to become about more than that.
We need to truly care about our partner and their needs. Their needs should not be viewed as part of an exchange, where we are meeting their needs in order to have ours met.
We should *want* to meet our partners needs and take enjoyment from the act of doing so. We should finding happiness within ourselves from the enjoyment of sharing our life with our partner.
The “we” has to become as important as the “me”.
How do we treat our partner
The next important thing in a relationship is how we treat our partner.
I suspect this is actually related to the “why”. When our focus is ourself (and how well the relationship meets our needs) we have automatically set up an antagonistic approach to our relationship.
When this happens couples get into patterns of conflict and withholding. “Oh, you didn’t do this (for me)? Well fine, then I won’t do this (for you)”.
Everyone falls into this sort of behavior occasionally, but hopefully not often.
It’s petty, it’s destructive, and it’s about power. In fact, intentionally withholding as a form of “punishment” is generally considered abuse.
By focusing on the couple and looking at what is good for the relationship, we can see the relationship in a different light. We are definitely an important part of it, but it’s not all about us. It’s not all about our partner either. We need to be in a position where we are both able to thrive at the same time.
Think about how you interact. About how you treat each other, not just when times are good but also when times are hard.
When you are stressed, do you take that out on your partner? Or do you try to work with them to ease any burdens.
How well do you support each other?
People use “we just weren’t compatible”, or “it just didn’t work out” because it’s the easy answer. When we say this, we are absolving ourselves of any responsibility.
“Who” you are with IS very important. But why you are with them, and how you treat them is equally important.
So instead of focusing on “the one”, focus on what you can do to improve your approach to your relationship each and every day. Don’t look for someone to take care of you. Don’t look for someone to make you happy.
Instead look at the good you have, and find joy in what you are able to provide.
You may find that giving and putting in effort provides it’s own rewards, and as you build you may also receive more in return.