It took me 36 years, but I finally found what it takes to keep a relationship happy, healthy and exciting.
I finally understand that staying in love takes effort—it takes work.
Male and female alike, the biggest hurdle we face in relationships is ego. Stubbornness. Pride. And the big one—false beliefs. Let’s not forget laziness.
These are the very reasons people end relationships. Sure we say “it wasn’t working” or “we weren’t in love anymore.” Let’s get honest—love is a choice, and we are either willing to work for it when the butterflies and lust fade, or we aren’t. If we aren’t, then we quit. All to often we don’t take responsibility for our own laziness and refusal to accommodate the other person. So we grow apart and the romance fades. This is a result of our own laziness and unwillingness to put effort in.
Somehow we started believing relationships are like fairytales and they are supposed to stay fresh, passionate and exciting with no effort.
It’s very easy to project our own perception of what a relationship should be onto the other person. The problem with this is we are often misguided in our beliefs. Our beliefs may be outdated societal or familial beliefs that we have been living with for years.
Why not take a look at those beliefs and air them out? Do they still serve you, or have you outgrown them? If your beliefs use any wording such as weak, not good enough, better than, less, than, strong, or they have an element of being rooted in fear, they most likely aren’t serving your highest interest.
The false beliefs (which are clung onto by ego) tell us things like:
If you give in you’re a doormat, you’re weak.
If you don’t give in and say yes all the time, they might get mad at you.
If you stand up for yourself no one will like you.
If you don’t stand firm in what you believe you’re a pushover.
I have no right to speak up and express my needs.
If I act _____way I am more lovable.
I need/don’t need this person anyway, so I’ll do what I want.
When it comes to our most intimate relationships, these beliefs are false. We need to discard them during our interactions with those most dear to us because the truth is this:
- The strongest and longest relationships are built on compromise and trust.
- Healthy relationships are forged when both parties love and respect themselves, which results in open communication and respect of boundaries.
- If someone leaves you for saying “no” you deserve better—and vice versa.
- Going out of your way for the one you love is not weak, even if the task is out of your comfort zone. Your willingness to accommodate the other person is a true expression of love.
Yes, maybe in the world and in the workplace we have to constantly stand up for ourselves and defend ourselves, but we need to drop this when it comes to our partners. For example, I’m not a “public displays of affection” (PDA) type of person. My partner is. So, while I would not bend to accommodate a random stranger’s request for it, I will go out of my way to hold my love’s hand because he enjoys it. Yes, I made fun of mushy gooey couples for a long time. Why? Because I was uncomfortable with displays of affection. Part of this is my personality, part of it is upbringing. Now I can either cling to that “identity” of I don’t do PDA’s or I can swallow my ego and step outside my comfortability to please my partner.
This may seem a small example, but I hope you see my point. We can use this on any pain point in the relationship. If we stop and look at why we don’t want to bend to meet a partner’s need, or why we do everything, we will find it’s immature and fear based beliefs driving these behaviors. Some questions we can ask ourselves when struggling or unhappy:
- Why am I unhappy? (If the answer is full of things about the other person, then we need to ask why we are with them and we need to look at what we are doing).
- Do I love him/her?
- Am I willing to compromise? If so, to what extent? Where can I comfortably meet my partner and still be true to me?
- If not, why?
- What beliefs do I have about compromise? Where did they come from?
Sometimes we spend so much of our lives striving to be independent and establishing ourselves as capable and self-sufficient that we forget how to be part of a team. We want a relationship but don’t want to accommodate.
I have spent my most of my lifetime handling everything my own way and being self-sufficient. I was comfortable in my solo life. I had friends and I lived how I wanted. I didn’t have to answer to anyone and I came and went as I pleased. I travelled as I wanted. I didn’t have to consider the feelings of anyone else. It was quite a selfish existence.
I thought I was strong because of my independence. I now understand real strength lies in my ability to put aside my selfish desires out of love for another human being. I want to keep my relationship. So the question arises—do I want it bad enough to step out of my ingrained comfort zone and compromise on my behaviors of answering to no one, so I can give my partner what he needs? The answer is yes, I do.
In past relationships, the answer was no, I don’t. Which was one of the key underlying factors causing unhappiness and strife in the relationship. Back then, I egotistically believed that changing “who I was” made me a sell-out. That softening my edges for another person would scream weakness. The fact was simply this: I didn’t want to change for anyone because my love was one of immature need, rather than divine and infinite.
Catering to the needs of the man who holds your heart does not make you any less strong or independent as a woman. And men, catering to the needs of the woman you adore does not make you less of a man, or “whipped” as was so commonly said in my early years.
We get lost in these programmed societal beliefs, which are often birthed from the insecurities and fears of others and then we find ourselves ruining relationships based on beliefs which are false. In my own experiences I have witnessed guys giving their friend with a partner all kinds of grief because he goes home to his woman. And I have been on the receiving end of the feminine empowerment talk about how I better not change for him. Theses are generalized examples to make a point, but they exist.
This is not to say that both sides don’t have some merit. Like all things, there must be balance. If your partner needs to monopolize all of your time and attention this is a red flag. And no, you shouldn’t cater to that insecure need. These are matters which call for a deep personal reflection.
You are the only one who can know your true motives behind a behavior.
You are the only one who can feel in your heart what is truly right for you.
And you are the only one who can decide how much effort you are willing to put into your love.
I can tell you this though—the effort is worth it.
Author: Lindsay Carricarte
Editor: Sarah Kolkka
Image: Torsten Hofmann/Flickr