Relationships have always been my greatest teacher.
Every time I think I know myself or I’ve grown leaps and bounds, my relationship with my partner shows me where I can learn and do more. Or learn and do differently. Or learn and stop doing and maybe start listening.
Like I said, my greatest teacher.
But notice that I didn’t say my easiest teacher. Or my most fun teacher.
Sometimes the lessons I learn are uncomfortable or tough to accept or so honest that I question why it took me so long to realize them.
This morning, as I lay in bed recovering from a rough week, I ran across a video that led me to one of those not so easy, not so fun, but absolutely necessary for growth lessons:
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What’s the key to being married for 64 years?
“You will disappoint one another. That’s a good thing to remember. Doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. It’s part of life.”
With just a few words, this wise woman put my anxious attachment style at ease (well, at as much ease as someone with anxiety can muster).
When conflict arises in my relationship, even minor daily frustrations, my mind tends to go to worst-case scenarios. I watch as my thoughts spiral from small issues that will lead to hard conversations that will lead to bigger fights that will eventually lead to a dramatic breakup—obviously. And even when I know this isn’t realistic, that my mind is just messing with me, it can still feel difficult to pull myself out of that emotional turmoil.
But reminding myself that we will each disappoint each other brings me out of my head and back into my relationship. It reminds me that we have disappointed each other before and yet we are still here, together. And we will continue to disappoint each other in big and small and medium-size ways the longer we are together because that’s just the nature of living a life with someone—with a person who thinks and feels and believes and behaves differently from you. A person who is also learning and growing and figuring out what to do and not do.
It’s a hard truth, but as one commentor noted, this advice “embodies empathy, love, and forgiveness.” And most relationships, including my own, could benefit from more of all three.