Keeping relationships healthy is hard work. For social and cultural reasons, many people choose to keep their relationship challenges private. I totally get it, and I also think it's sad that many of us grow up assuming that if we love someone, the relationship will work itself out and everything will be okay.
That belief is far from the truth, in my opinion. And most of the time, we don't learn otherwise.
None of us wants to seem like we don't know what we're doing in relationships. That would be vulnerable and scary and may somehow reflect on us personally, individually, as if there is something wrong with us because relationships aren't easy. Again, this couldn't be further from the truth.
If you are reading this right now, I know you want healthy relationships. I know you're trying really hard. I'm right there with you.
I want you to hear this and somehow embed it in your brain so you don't forget: no relationship is perfect. I don't care who the people are, how beautiful they are, how communicative they are with each other, that they have a big house or a tiny house and beautiful kids or no kids, that they have been married for 50 years or 2 months or aren't married but choose each other every day, that they are perfect travel partners or homebodies or have a farm or a business or are best friends or do naked yoga on mountaintops (this is a thing; I saw it on Instagram). Still not perfect. I know this and I want you to know it, too.
And you may be one of those people who is in a "perfect" relationship. What I would like for you to consider is what makes it perfect for you. Has it always been that way, or have you and your partner had to work REALLY hard to communicate with each other and learn each other so you could avoid the pitfalls of humanness in relationships? My guess is that you have put hours and hours of time and dedication toward your partnership because it was worth it to you to do that. I am so happy for you and I love how committed you are. I would also love for you to let other people know the struggles you've had so they can understand how to create a relationship like yours, in all of it's imperfect perfection.
I want to give you permission to change your relationships. To examine them from a different angle; to take a step back and ask yourself "what do I need to do here so I can feel most like myself? So I can be the most authentic version of me, and we can be the most authentic version of us?" Because if there isn't authenticity in your relationship--if you aren't able to be yourself--does it feel fulfilling to you? I realize this concept is scary. I have been terrified by this concept. I have wondered if it would be easier to stay small, to carry on the way I initially presented myself in relationships because rocking the boat could mean risking it all. But the reality is that we all change. If we are engaged in our lives, we change. It is to be expected as humans in partnerships that your relationships will change, too.
The key here is communicating these things with your partner. You may not know what it is or how it will look, but by sharing your insights, you build trust and security. It may feel uncomfortable in the moment, but you can learn to tolerate discomfort together. You can say "wow, how much does this suck right now? This is not where I thought we would go today. But I love you and I know we're going to be okay."
So here are some things I want you to know you can do in relationships. This is your relationship permission slip.
It’s okay to:
- Ask for what you need
- Not know what you need and take steps to learn
- Not know what it means to have a healthy relationship
- Read books so you can learn to make your relationship better
- Ask other people what they do in their relationships when they are working through a specific problem, knowing they may or may not feel comfortable sharing with you
- Not pretend that everything is perfect in your relationship (we all know it’s not, so you don’t have to pretend!)
- Tell your partner you don’t know the answer to their question but you will figure it out and let them know soon
- Need a lot of hugs
- Need a lot of space
- Change your mind
- Say no
- Say yes
- Say maybe
- Take a break from a conversation
- Take a break from sex or intimacy and let your partner know you need some space
- Set a boundary
- Ask for help from your partner or someone else
- Go to couples therapy
- Ask for reassurance sometimes
- Not be sure which step to take next
- Feel confused or overwhelmed at how people can commit to being together for their whole lives when so much is up in the air
- Notice shifts in your sexuality and share that with your partner
- Want something different in your relationship and let your partner know
- Feel like you’re asking for “too much” consent—it just means you are mindful of your partner and they will communicate with you around this. It’s better than not asking, I promise
- Question if this relationship is still right for you
- Ask your partner if this relationship is still right for them
- Go to therapy on your own to explore anything you're curious about
- Be gentle with yourself
- Be gentle with your partner
- Not rush
- Trust yourself
What else would you add here? What do you need to give yourself permission to do in relationships? Does anything shift as you allow yourself to explore these things?
Sending you love,