Your successful relationships with other people form the basis of one of the most needful, necessary elements in your life. Your happiness, your personal feelings of fulfillment, your peace, your love, your joy, all rely heavily on your ability to successfully navigate your relationships. So, what can you do when your relationship lacks some of its original luster? Is there a way to escape the mundane and rekindle the once present emotional availability? Can you somehow steer the ship off the rocks and back into the deep water? Is there even anything you can do about it? Is it really all about your partner, or is it maybe about you?
Any couple who have been together for many years can tell you that things change over time. Goals change. Priorities change. People grow. People regress. The hopes and dreams you held in such high regard in high school are barely recognizable in middle age. Your body ages and things you once took for granted don’t come as easy as they used to do. You’re generally smarter and a little more assured about how things work. And, like anyone that has done the same thing for a number of years, you develop habits; many, many habits. Habits are built for efficiency. But, not all habits are good for you. Habits tend to be morally neutral. In other words, you can engage in certain habits for a lifetime and never feel they need any revision because of how long you’ve been holding on to them. Relationship habits can make for heaven on earth or make life a living hell. But, at the end of the day, they are your habits!
In order to have a successful relationship, you have to embrace the reality that people change. Your spouse is not the same person they were when you married them. Chances are they have grown, evolved and need different things to be happy. You also have changed, grown and evolved. Your needs are now different as well. To hold your partner in some sort of time-lock is categorically insane. To continue to think and rehearse that same old, tired, irritating version of them is also insane and entirely unfair to them. To perpetually strengthen and maintain in your mind all the things they have not done that they should have done or the things you didn’t like about them when you first met or the person you wish they were when you were first building your negative pictures of them, is to drag about a weight of epic proportions! In life, every day is a new day. Every moment is a new moment, unique and one that has not existed before. Your partner is also afforded the opportunity of a new day, a new moment. You have to be able to give them the same chance at doing better that you give yourself. You have to accept the reality that they, like you, can change. You see, things start going south not because of your relationship reality, but instead because of your rehearsed, mental reality! Things become worse and worse because your thinking has become worse and worse. You couldn’t see the things you so desperately want if they slapped you in the face, because you are stuck, trapped in rehearsed negative feelings and memories from the past days! In order for things to get better you have to get better.
Many, many people like to play the victim in their relationships. Poor old, unfulfilled me. “I just need someone to love me.” “I just need someone to accept me for me.” If only they were nice to me, then I would be nice. If they ever took time to offer me love and affection, then I would offer them love and affection back. But, they never do that for me and they’re not going to, so poor, poor me living my life in misery. The problem with this mentality is that you are playing a role in a drama that you are writing. You are acting in a play as the main character that you and you alone have assigned as the victim. And, as the victim it feels good to dredge up all the wrongs done to you and to fantasize about how good life could really be. But, would it really be good for you? How could it be? In order for your role to ever change, you have to change the script. You have to write a new story. Look, if you found a new relationship you would likely change the script and start thinking and acting like the person you wanted to be, which in turn would probably return to you the feelings you wanted to feel as well. Well, your solution is that you can do that now in your present relationship. Change your script. Edit your character. Stop rehearsing and ruminating and harboring and cleaving to every single thing you haven’t liked for the past twenty years and start fresh. Give your partner a chance to be someone else as well. I can assure you that they have some tremendous qualities waiting to be shared with you in your life once you finally give them the opportunity to do so. Don’t remain stuck in yesterday, live today.
One of life’s strangest dichotomies is found in relationships with other people. When you change towards them, they change towards you. You have to give love to get love. You have to show kindness to receive kindness. Waiting for the other person to change is a perilous waiting game. You might be waiting for a long time. Maybe you don’t feel fully accepted for who you are because you are spending so much time rejecting who they are. Maybe, just maybe you don’t feel like they like you because your behavior says you don’t like them! You cannot make other people do anything and you know that. The one person you can control and change is you. Are you doing for that person you are so upset with, what you would like to be done for yourself? Are you willing to let them be something other than the negative picture you have made them to be? You can become so accustomed to your habitual way of thinking that you don’t even recognize it anymore. Change your mind. Change your script. Change your bad habits of negative thinking and negative expectations.
Relationships take work to be successful, but it’s not the kind work you need a vacation from. The work is in learning to think properly. The effort is in refusing to harbor and maintain negative stories, likely only partially based in reality. Your energy is used to build and bless and help and warm which is always reciprocated when done from your heart. You can recover any relationship that has gone astray if you want to, but most of the work to be done will involve yourself first. That’s not to say that every relationship is worth preserving or repairing, as some relationships need to dissolve. In those scenarios there will be no doubt. But, it’s still worth your time to work on yourself to avoid it the next time.
It certainly takes two to tango, but the only dance moves you can improve are your own. Life is short and your chances at happiness sometimes fleeting, but a loving, warm, mutually committed relationship is worth every ounce of your effort! Decide to live love, it’s irresistible… Decide to forgive, it’s refreshing. Decide to make every day a brand new day, it’s life changing…
Just some good thoughts…