January 26, 2015

3 Things to do when our Relationship is Struggling.

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I have been with my life partner for half of my life—two decades.

This is the same amount of time that I have been meditating.

I’m comfortable giving out meditation advice, but I’m always wary giving out relationship advice. Everyone’s relationship is different, everyone needs different things in their relationships and sometimes staying in a relationship isn’t the right thing to do.

But you know, sometimes staying in a relationship is exactly the right thing to do.

Sometimes it is worth working through the tough issues. It is hard. It is demanding. But when we come to the other side of the relationship block, we can find ourselves in a transformative place. Quite like meditation.

In the two decades that I’ve been with my partner, we’ve changed and grown so much. And in that growth there have been several honeymoon periods as well as times of struggle.

I would be lying if I said I always knew we would make it. There have been arguments, disagreements and growth periods where we seemed so far apart that I didn’t know if we could come back together.

But so far we have stuck with it, and for us it has been worth it.

When we go through rough patches in our relationship, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. People Grow at Different Rates

What I mean here is that spiritual, emotional and mental growth are important to humans. It is the way we evolve as a species. However, when one half of a partnership goes through a particularly big growth period it can alter the dynamic of a relationship.

That doesn’t mean the relationship has to end. But it might mean some patience is needed. In my experience, it can take three months to a year for these growth periods to equalize. In order for this to happen, both partners need to commit to the growth process.

Three months to a year might sound like a long time, especially if you’ve only been in a relationship for a few months or a couple of years. But when I look at two decades worth of relationship growth, I can now see that a few months of patience and diligence is worth it to keep the relationship alive.

2. Have fun!

Mostly, people get into a relationship because they enjoy each other’s company. Hopefully, partners find each other funny, interesting and enjoy spending time together. However, when bills, mortgages, deaths, parents and kids come into the picture, our intimate partners can become the place of our worst stress.

We talk with our partners about all the things that make us feel overwhelmed. And we might start to think, why would I want to spend time with this person who causes me so much stress?

That is exactly why we need to go have fun together. We need to take time off from talking about the finances and worrying about the kids and go do the things we enjoy.

My partner and I de-stress by going out in nature or going to see some live music together. We put our fun time on the calendar to make sure it happens. If we aren’t having fun together we can start to feel like, what’s the point of being together at all?

3. Reduce Stress

Unfortunately, stress has a horrible affect on women and men. It can make women clingy and in need of attention and it can make men distant and less interested in romance. Stress can pull relationships apart.

So, there are two approaches to handling stress in our lives and therefore in our relationships.

If it’s temporary stress that is unavoidable, like a sick family member or a busy work period, then we can be honest about how the stress is challenging the relationship, and find humor and grace in the situation. When the temporary stress is over, we can prioritize nurturing our relationship.

If it’s systemic stress that has been going on for years, then it’s important to make a decision: Is it more important to hold on to the systemic stress or to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship? If the relationship comes out on top, then we’ll need to make life changes so that the relationship can prosper.

All things are impermanent. This is what we learn in meditation practice and it also applies to relationships.

We change, we grow and if we’re lucky the relationship itself will, too.

But just like meditation practice, nurturing a relationship takes patience, commitment and a compassionate attitude. When these things exist, we can embrace the growth and change that comes with committing to a long-term relationship.

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