That’s being in authentic intimate relationship…
And it’s a job we receive very little, if any, relationship training for…
Intimate relationships can look very different from the inside to what we hoped for at the beginning, can’t they? The person who started out as our soulmate somehow becomes the one put on earth simply to frustrate us! From the seeming the best person in the world to be around to one that can feel scary and even unsafe.
If this is you, then you’re not alone.
Even though you might be thinking everyone else seems to have their relationships sorted we can tell you that this is not true. People have been doing relationships for thousands of years and though their nature keeps changing the one constant is that they all offer their challenges.
We often hear that problems in relationships are simply due to poor communication but we’ve seen the reasons are more complex than this singular factor. Especially in today’s world where our expectations of relationship are higher than ever before. We want our partners to be partners, lovers, friends, providers, nurturers, buddies, therapists, mind readers, sex Gods and much more. Our lives themselves have become more complex, involving much change and challenge, we’re living longer than ever and our relationships need to be resilient enough to cope. Not only this but the person we choose in relationship with may not be the boy or girl from down the road we’ve known all our lives but someone from across the country or across the world, with a different set of beliefs, perhaps a different culture or vastly different life experience. Love doesn’t seem to adhere to any particular sets of rules.
Our intimate relationships are now expected to offer us:
Remember when relationship was automatically about strolling down the aisle and committing to stay together “till death us do part” no matter what? For some of us it may still be. We’ve been taught to plan our futures according to this currently existing model of relationship in society. We’ve wanted to grow up, fall in love with someone of the opposite sex, get married, have a successful career- at work if you’re a man, at home if you’re a woman. We’ve aimed to live together in this ideal family unit that will be there forever and a day. Yet no matter how we try our lives don’t necessarily conform to these ‘rules’. We fall out of love, our work becomes more important than our relationships, we fall in love with someone of the same gender, we get ill and change the way we think about life, our children build our relationships or tear them apart, our goals change, we fall in love all over again with the same person or with someone different. The old ‘rules’ no longer apply, yet we still feel like we’re failing if we haven’t abided by them. This is why we need a new model of what intimate relationships are.
We like to focus on fixing the communication aspect of relationship because it seems like it should be an easy thing to fix, but the bigger picture of the relationship means it is not that simple. We believe that part of the struggles that occur in relationship are due in part to a lack of adequate training.
Our intimate relationships are potentially the most important and fulfilling part of our lives yet we receive very little training for them.
Let’s face it, if we were offered an extremely challenging job requiring multiple skillsets we weren’t sure we had very few of us would be willing to sign on without negotiating some training and ongoing support. Particularly if our income was based on the quality of our daily performance. It wouldn’t make sense.
So why do we do exactly this with our relationships, stepping into them blind and not asking for help?
It’s largely because everyone around us does exactly the same, including those we learn the most about relationships from, our parents. It’s as if we carry an inbuilt belief that once we get in to a relationship everything will magically be ok because we love each other. It’s the same with our sex lives, they should just ‘happen naturally’. So it’s easy to take them, along with our partners for granted, getting into the habit of making them our last priority instead of our first. This unconsciously creates the loss of spark in long term relationship we dread, leaving us thinking that we’ve fallen ‘out of love’. And in this disposable world we can fall into the trap of constantly having an eye out for a replacement, seeking a new and supposedly easier option, draining further energy from our current relationship and reducing its chances of survival. We see this over and over again in our work, couples thinking the spark has gone, when actually it’s just been dimmed by the suffering that’s been put on top of it.
This is why it’s vital to get the training you need to address the challenges your relationship offers rather than bury your heads in the sand, becoming machine like and operating from habit, wishing things were different without taking action. Or doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. This is just suffering.
Where you’re at is not your responsibility. Staying there is your choice.
Understand that as a result of this lack of training when things go wrong you blame either your partner or yourself for being inadequate, uncaring or not good enough, rather than seeing a person simply lacking in skills. A person just like you, who dearly wants connection, who is probably trying just as hard, hurting just as much as you, and is just as much in the dark as you. So the next time you want to cast blame or judgement for your hurt, take a moment to remember it’s not so much a lack of lovableness creating the friction in your relationship as a lack of knowledge and skill. This makes is easier to give each other a hug, rather than a blast.