A relationship is a little world, with two members.
You and your partner are two tiny person-worlds within this little relationship-world, moving and interacting and reaching and pulling back and giving and receiving. Two little person-worlds within a little relationship-world.
Let’s call it a love system.
Perhaps your partner has gotten in the habit of performing lots of extra little jobs for you, like cleaning up your dishes from around the house, and you get a little lazy, forgetting to notice your little messes, letting your partner pick up the slack. Maybe after a bit, your partner starts to feel a little tired and overburdened, and you feel annoyed, wondering why they have become so moody.
The little love system is out of balance because your partner is doing their share plus a bit of yours. Your partner’s little world is under stress, and your little world is affected too—something feels noticeably off. It’s not sustainable.
Your partner could decide at any moment that they want to move on.
Sometimes in relationships, we get comfortable (read: lazy), assuming our partner will just deal with the bad moments—that ultimately they’ll stick around either because they can’t be bothered to start over with someone else, or they aren’t sure they’ll be able to find someone better or they don’t want to be alone.
However, these aren’t healthy motivating factors for anyone to be in a relationship in the first place, and therefore, assuming our partner feels this way and acting on it, is actually taking advantage of someone over whom we have a certain power. Assuming our partner won’t leave us implies that they are acting out of weakness, while we are not.
Assume your partner is strong. Just as you are strong.
When both partners respect and recognize the other’s strength, they make decisions and resolve conflicts naturally. They don’t have to weigh their options and make calculated decisions. In effect, the decisions make themselves. There are no hidden elements to the decision-making process; no egos in the way, no underlying power dynamic of inequality.
If both partners are considered equal and neither is trying to get ahead or take advantage of the situation for any reason, the behavior of the two is motivated by something greater than either of them: they are functioning as an evolved and highly organized system.
Conflicts can be good.
Conflicts are invaluable opportunities to evaluate where we haven’t been giving enough, and to make a point of doing a little better next time.
So long as you and your partner still like hanging out together, and are both growing individually and doing your part to ensure that your little love system is functioning well, all the work you’ve been putting into your relationship together will be cumulative.
“It is clear that we must trust what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us.”
~ Rainer-Maria Rilke
Will it Last?
We want things to last. But we also know that nothing lasts forever. And maybe when we aren’t afraid to lose our relationships we have the best chance of keeping them.
Life is change, and once we accept the inevitability of change, we don’t have to fear it. Stressful situations will arise, and challenges will still present themselves, and that’s okay.
The system runs itself, beautifully.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Karen Roe / Creative Commons