Did you choose the wrong partner?

Hi!

In my sessions and my friendships, we do this dance about how things are going in our partnerships. We talk about some of the good things happening in the relationship, the challenges, and the day to day struggle. Then at some point, we get to the deep, nagging fear that I would venture to guess nearly every person in a long-term relationship has thought at one point or another: did I choose the wrong partner?

Damn.

Let's get real about this, because I hear this all the time and that means we need to talk about it. And it's confession time--because I have moved through this whole process myself on several occasions.

This is a huge question and one that deserves consideration. How could we not wonder sometimes? When shit gets hard in relationships (and it ALWAYS does), our own anxious or avoidant tendencies can cause us to start reconsidering everything, going all the way back to when we first chose to be in a relationship with this person. Folks who have predominantly secure attachment may not consider this question as often, but they do it, too--and I believe it's a sign of a solid relationship.

When we question our relationship, it means we are awake to it. We are aware of it. We aren't on autopilot. We aren't numb--and that is such a gift to the world. We notice discomfort, tension, disconnection and other sensations and bring them into our logical awareness. Now, this is not to say that you should question your relationship just for fun, but I want you to know it's okay if you do. Because we all do.

There are taboos about lots of topics of conversation, but this one especially. We have learned at some point that we wouldn't question our relationships if they were the right ones. I don't believe this is true.

The times where I have stepped up in vulnerability to address issues in my relationship with my partner and gotten curious about this question have ultimately led to more connection, more authenticity, and a deeper appreciation for my partner's ability to meet me there (which is what has happened with my current partner). The times where I have addressed these issues and my past partners have said I'm "ridiculous" or otherwise dismissed my concerns, dodged the topic at every chance, and/or refused to explore it further with me provided much-needed insight into our relationship and how invested we both were. Those people were not the people I wanted to be with in the end and taking the risk to bring these things up helped me learn this important information.

So we know all the reasons we might start to question our relationship with our partner, but what happens next?

I believe relationships are flexible. They can change if we want them to, and if we let them. One of the reasons I do the work I do is because I see the change that happens in relationships when people actively show up, take accountability for their behaviors (including their actions, absence, and criticism), and choose to stay awake. This does not mean that every couple stays together. Sometimes the awareness that there is something happening in the relationship that doesn't feel right leads to the choice to separate--and what a gift to both partners if the relationship doesn't feel reciprocally loving and supportive (it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like hell, but in the end, you deserve to be fully loved, seen, and appreciated for exactly who you are, flaws included).

    And here's the other thing: when things are tough in a relationship, our minds can wander and we can start to believe we might have it better in a different situation. Being with that person would be so much easier because they are funny and nice and they seem to have it together. I'm sure they would take the trash out without being asked. We escape in our minds. I probably don't have to tell you that this is not the way to resolve the issues coming up in your relationship, but it is certainly convenient. I've done it myself. Rather than shaming yourself for experiencing this, I would encourage you to use this information to guide you in your current relationship if you are wanting to work on it. Anytime the grass appears to be greener in a different relationship, focus on what it is that isn't feeling good in yours. Let it guide you in your conversations with your partner. These are the areas in your relationship that can be shored up and can have a big impact on your sense of contentment. The things you are considering can show you a roadmap for how to move forward in your relationship and where there is room for improvement. These are the areas where you might not be getting your needs met. You deserve to have your needs met.

    So could life be better with someone else? Maybe. But here is what I've learned: whatever baggage you are bringing to the relationship will travel with you. You are responsible for your own patterns and behaviors. If you don't know what they are, then you are contributing to the disconnect. There is tremendous value in doing your own work. It will help you get clear on what is really happening in your partnership, increase your insight into your own patterns, and help you understand what you need and how to ask for it. I know how it feels when your relationship is stuck and you are stuck in it. Doing your own work is an opportunity to create movement.

    Having done this work myself, I can't emphasize enough how important and valuable it is. Doing my own attachment work transformed my relationships--with my partner and with myself, as well as how I process and experience the ups and downs of our partnership. Now that I understand the emotional responses I have when I feel triggered, abandoned, annoyed, or exhausted, I am able to stay more grounded and present during moments of disconnection and (mostly) avoid jumping to conclusions about what is happening in our relationship (because this is a process and we are always learning!). Doing this work has saved both of us a lot of emotional energy and heartbreak and has given us both the opportunity to have a relationship that feels genuinely fulfilling, loving, and affirming. We have grown together instead of apart.

    Thank you for showing up, letting me be real with you, and doing the hard work. It's worth it, I promise.

    Love,

    Elizabeth