When I hear people talk about relationships, there is a lot of talk about compatibility, and how important it is to find the right person.
Compatibility does matter (to a degree), but I think it’s much less important than most believe.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the quality of your relationship often has much less to do with your partner, and a lot more to do with you.
I see/read/hear men and women who are “unable to find the love they want”, and they complain, saying things like “all the men I meet are X” or “all the women I meet as Y” (insert stereotype of choice for X and Y).
Sometimes we run into so many similar problems that we start to lose faith in our gender of preference completely, and start to convince ourselves our experiences are representative of all members of that gender.
Here’s a potentially uncomfortable question for you:
If you have had a number of relationships, and they all turning out badly or you are struggling to even find a relationship, what’s the one common link?
Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I’m not saying that you are a terrible person, or you are unlovable or anything like that.
I simply think that anytime life isn’t working out quite the way we want it to, the WORST thing you can do is think of yourself as a victim.
How your life goes is not “just the way things are” and I don’t believe in “if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”. Those ideas, and the idea that you “just need to find the right person” paint yourself as a passive participant in your own life.
Rather, I believe that life presents us with different opportunities, and it’s up to us to decide what to do with them. We can’t control how things will turn out, but we ALWAY control our own choices, and how we respond to the events that happen to us.
So if a relationship (or life in general) isn’t working out the way we want it to I think it’s important to take a look in the mirror, and try to understand the ways you might be contributing to things.
If people you meet aren’t treating you the way you want, ask yourself what are you attracted to? How are you presenting yourself (as the energy you give off influences what you are attracting)? If you are interested in a “certain type” and things work out the same way, maybe it’s time to expand your horizons and look at something different.
Are you respecting yourself and properly enforcing your boundaries? Do you even know what your own boundaries are? Unfortunately, many of us don’t really know what our boundaries are. We know when they have been violated because of how it makes us feel, but even then, we often don’t know how to enforce them.
Another big question you I think people need to ask is, what are you bringing IN to the relationship?
Yourself obviously, but what does that actually mean?
As people, we are the sum of our experiences – both good and bad. The experiences shape us, and shape our expectations of what we are looking for, and how people will treat us.
What are your expectations in a relationship? Are they realistic? I find that one of the biggest sources of unhappiness for people is that their life hasn’t turned out quite the way they thought it would. Frequently by all objective measures those people have a lot to be happy about, but it is the comparison to the expectations they had for live that lead to their disappointment.
One of the things we bring with us into relationships that can often be damaging is our coping skills.
What are your coping skills? How do you deal with conflict, or respond when things get hard? How do you fight? Do you shut down and pretend things are alright? Do you get angry? Petty? Passive aggressive?
Lastly, what baggage/insecurities do you bring into your relationship? We all damaged in some way, and that’s okay. We all have our own baggage, and although that baggage can seem like it’s part of who we are, it’s up to us to deal with it.
Part of dealing with it involves allowing our partners understand our baggage, so we need to be willing to let them in enough to understand it. We need to be willing to tell them how we have been hurt in the past, what are triggers are, and why we feel the way we do about things. This can be difficult, because these are often some of our most personal and sensitive memories/experiences. However by opening up and communicating these things to our partners we are allowing them to understand us. When someone can understand why we feel the way we do about things, it allows them to approach those triggers with empathy and care.
If we are not careful, our personal issues and insecurities can easily start to poison our relationships, so an important question is what are you doing about them?
If you take the approach “this is just how I am”, you are expecting the other person to accommodate you, and that’s not fair. And they should be understanding/empathic, and try to accommodate you to a degree. At the same time though, you need to work on your own issues (own your own sh*t as some would say).
I believe taking a hard looking in the mirror, and trying to understand what you bring in to a relationship is very important to the health of any relationship; as it allows you to understand how you contribute in both positive and negative ways.
Understanding your own role in something gives you a degree of power. Because you can’t change other people, at best you can influence them. However you are always capable of recognizing parts of yourself you may not like, and working to improve them.
Saying “this is just the way I am” is just as much of a cop out as “I just need to find the right person”.
It’s more accurate to say “this is just the way I am – right now”. But it doesn’t have to be the way you are tomorrow.
I opened with the idea that the quality of your relationship often has much less to do with your partner, and a lot more to do with you.
What you are interested in, the energy you give off, how you enforce your boundaries, how you cope, and how you deal with your own baggage. These are all things that influence the success of your relationships, and they all come from you. And you are the only person who can change these things.
So instead of “I just need to find the right person” maybe a big part of thing is “I just need to BE the right person”. I’m not suggesting you should ever change for someone else. But you are never a victim, and you can always strive to be the best version of you.