“Every relationship needs an argument every now and then. Just to prove that it is strong enough to survive. Long-term relationships, the ones that matter, are all about weathering the peaks and the valleys.”
At some point we all get involved in a serious relationship, be it falling in love with a significant other, or simply establishing an amazingly close friendship. As soon as this relationship is in place, both parties must do their part to nurture it. When they fail to do so, solidarity is gradually replaced with suffering.
Although I sincerely hope your closest relationships are not suffering, if you have found yourself in this kind of predicament (as we all do sometimes), chances are the problem can be traced back to one or a few causes. If your relationships are all rainbows and butterflies right now, consider yourself lucky – this list will simply provide some good food for thought.
1. Presumed expectations about how someone “should be.”
You don’t love and appreciate someone because they’re perfect, you love and appreciate them in spite of the fact that they are not. “Perfection” is a deadly fantasy – something none of us will ever be. So beware of your tendency to “fix” someone when they’re NOT broken. They are perfectly imperfect, just the way they should be.
Truthfully, the less you expect from someone you care about, the happier your relationship with them will be. No one in your life will act exactly as you hope or expect them to, ever. They are not YOU – they will not love, give, understand or respond like you do.
The biggest disappointments in life and in relationships are the result of misplaced expectations. Tempering unrealistic expectations of how something or someone “should be” will greatly reduce unnecessary frustration and suffering. (I’ve written about this extensively in the “Relationships” chapter of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.”)
2. Searching for the missing pieces of YOU in someone else.
When we’re feeling incomplete, we tend to go out looking for somebody else to complete us. Initially we meet someone who’s compatible with us and they distract us from our deficiency, at least for a while. Then a few months or years into the relationship, we find that we’re still feeling incomplete, so we blame our friend or lover. It feels like they’ve changed, but in reality they haven’t; they’ve just become less of a distraction to our own growing, inner void.
Ultimately what you need to realize is that while a close friend or lover can add beautiful dimensions to your life, YOU are responsible for your own fulfillment. Only you can complete yourself. Nobody else can provide your missing pieces, and to believe otherwise is to succumb to a lifetime of feeling broken, as every relationship you enter eventually ends in hopeless disappointment.
3. Poor communication.
Perhaps there’s something that really bothers you about your friend or lover. Why aren’t you saying something? Are you afraid they’ll get upset? Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Either way you need to deal with it upfront, constructively, and avoid burying it until it worsens, festers and explodes out of you.
Great communication is the cornerstone of a great relationship. If you have resentment, you must talk it out rather than let the resentment grow. If you’re feeling jealous, you must communicate in an open and honest manner to address your insecurities. If you have expectations of your friend or lover, you must communicate them clearly. If there are any problems whatsoever, you must get them out of your head and into the open so they can be worked out.
Information is the grease that keeps the engine of communication running. Always give the important people in your life the information they need to understand you. And communicate more than just problems – communicate the good things too. Share what you love about your friend or lover. Share what is going on in your mind and heart. Share your deepest thoughts, needs, wishes, hopes and dreams. (Read The 5 Love Languages.)
4. Little lies that add up.
Anything is better than lies. They are like a cancer in the heart and soul. They eat away what is good and leave only decay and devastation behind. If you spend your life learning to lie to the people around you, not only will you hurt and deceive them, you will also hurt and deceive yourself – you will forget your own truth.
There is perhaps no phenomenon that is more destructive to a relationship than dishonesty, which permits envy, hate and deception to be acted out under the guise of love and virtue. Even the smallest, seemingly innocent lies eventually snowball into larger issues. Stand by the whole truth – your truth – always. If you say you’re going to do something, DO IT! If you say you’re going to be somewhere, BE THERE! If you say you feel something, MEAN IT! If you can’t, won’t and don’t, then DON’T LIE.
It’s always better to tell the whole truth up front. Don’t play games with the minds and hearts of others. Don’t tell half-truths and expect your friends or lover to trust you when the full truth comes out; half-truths are no better than lies.
Remember, love and friendship don’t hurt. Lying, cheating and messing with people’s feelings and emotions hurts. Honesty is the healing remedy.
5. Lack of presence.
Presence is complete awareness, or paying full attention to “the now.” If you do not find at least some amount of presence in the moments you share with those you care about, it is impossible to listen, speak, compromise, or otherwise connect with them on a meaningful level.
Presence is looking inward and learning how to be with yourself, in the moment, see the gears turning, embrace what’s in your immediate vicinity, and thereby put space around destructive thoughts of other times and places, as you apply your full energy to the “here and now.” The idea is that you must first attend to the reality of the moment before you can effectively contribute anything positive to it.
Simply being completely present with someone else is difficult because it requires you to share yourself completely, vulnerabilities and all, and enter a moment of unguarded honesty with this person.
To cultivate your presence, all you need to do is sit quietly for as long as you desire and put your full attention on your breath – thinking only of what each inhale and exhale feels like. Don’t judge or resist your inner-workings. Simply accept and breathe. Practice this a few times a day, and it will start to feel more natural. This way, when you are in the thick of a deep conversation with a friend or partner, you can access that presence and listen without judgment or impatience, speak with clarity, and learn to fully connect and compromise.
Bottom line: Be Present. Give the people you care about your full attention. Let them see they’re own beauty in your eyes. Let them find their own voice through your listening ears. Help them discover their own greatness in your presence. (Read The Power of Now.)
6. Some relationships aren’t meant to last.
There are certain people who aren’t meant to fit into your life in the long-term no matter how much you want them to. They pass through your life in a shorter time frame than you had hoped to teach you things they never could have taught you if they stayed.
So many people think friends or lovers have to be the perfect fit, because that’s what everyone tells you to want – that’s the Hollywood love story. Of course, it’s nice when relationships stay healthy and last, but that doesn’t mean your failed relationships aren’t equally as important. Some people you engage with will be like a mirror – people who show you things that are holding you back, people who show you the ways that don’t work, people who bring your insecurities and misjudgments to your own attention so you can change your life.
It’s these people – the ones who come into your life for a short time and teach you a priceless lesson – that are some of the most important people you will ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you until you’re wide awake.
Do you want to live with these people in your life forever? No way – that would be way too painful! They come into your life to shake you up, tear apart your ego, flip your perspective, show you your obstacles, break your heart and mind open so new rays of light can shine in, just to reveal another layer of YOU to yourself, and then they move on like they’re supposed to.
Take their lessons as gifts and be sure you move on too.
What would you add to the list? Why do some good relationships go bad? Please leave a comment below and share your insights with us.
Photo by: Mark Sebastian