If your relationship is hard work, ask yourself these 3 questions.
“When you get married, love flies out of the window. You have to work at relationships.” was my father’s favorite piece of relationship wisdom. I heeded it. But did it help me to create good, lasting relationships? Not so much. Mostly, we learn to our cost, that not all relationship wisdom is created equal. If you are working hard at relationships, you need to ask yourself these three questions.
Question #1 Is the wisdom a good fit with the recipient?
Wisdom is not simply a one-size-fits-all. As an anxious, dutiful, people-pleasing woman , I automatically overworked at my relationship. If overworking had already failed to produce the desired result, there was nothing to be gained by doing even more of the same. Sometimes, you need to think outside the conventional wisdom box.
Learning #2 Not every relationship is worth working at.
If you feel that
- your feelings of your own value and lovableness are reducing in the relationship,
- you feel more alone than you did when you were single. I
- you view your long-term future with the other person with a degree of dread,
the relationship is dead in the water. Let it go to its eternal rest in peace.
Question #3 How qualified is the messenger?
Too many people have an agenda when they offer you advice. They have their own reasons for wanting you to do your life their way. If you have enough time, patience – and detachment – you can likely work out what is driving them to park their wisdom at your door. Especially their unsolicited wisdom.
When my father said, “You have to work at relationships” he truly wanted a best for me. His best – which he assumed must be my best, also. From where he stood, being in a stable marriage was what that mattered.
Learning #3 You are the best judge of your best and what is not working for you.
If your partner is not your ally, your cheer-leader and your trusted companion in love and happiness, you do not have a relationship worthy of the name.
How can you be sure?
How do you know when someone is actually committed to the relationship? They engage with you. They listen. They want to make you happy. They care about your feelings. They gladly go the extra mile for you – without ever telling you how much they do for you and how you should be grateful. Spontaneously and consistently, they see the best in you, NOT the shortcomings in you.
In other words, they “do” the relationship in the same way that you do.
If they talk the good talk about “love” and “devotion” and “sharing” but you do not experience their “love”, “devotion”, “sharing” or support, you need to trust your feelings. Much as our head and your heart may seek to reassure you, the message you get from your gut feelings is the truth.
If it does not feel right, it is not right.
Sometimes, you need to walk away
Sometimes, instead of working away at your relationship, you need to walk away. Once you do, you will likely need to work on your own wounds and issues. But that okay. There is no disgrace in a failed relationship. If you have the courage to accept the truth about a failed relationship, you have the courage to heal your wounds and find a partner who will be a better match for you.
When I stopped working at a failed relationship that freed up a lot of time to devote to my own healing and growth. In due course, I met my lovely partner. Together, we have developed a very different view of relationships. Even when times are tough, you have to laugh and love in your relationship.
What my father never told me
I suspect my father never heard – or, at least, paid attention to – that old saying, “If you love someone set them free.” If love flies out of the window that likely means that both you and the other person in the relationship needed so be set free.