With the idea that it all starts with us and that if we want to see a change, we need to be the ones initiating it, I often find myself confused about how much it depends on us and where the line is drawn between feeling like I’ve done enough and realizing that it’s simply not working with this or that person. I understand that we cannot expect others to join us on our journey of self-discovery; it’s not for everyone. But I wonder, is it fair to expect ANYTHING from the other person? What exactly is a relationship about? Is it really just a container for personal growth? A space to learn about ourselves and discover old patterns?
I don’t want to end up like my parents!
I’m increasingly afraid each day that my relationship will end up like my parents’. My mother was emotionally complicated, a bit neurotic, and never seen by my father. She was unhappy and frustrated, eventually giving up and slamming the door. My father, on the other hand, was a simple man, easy to please but hardly ever noticing my mother’s needs. He himself didn’t need much from life, and they lived together more like flatmates. When I was a child, I didn’t ponder much on whether there was love between them. It was only years after their 'divorce’ that I realized I had never seen my parents display love toward each other. As long as they maintained the illusion of a happy family, I didn’t ask many questions. Besides, I was a self-centred teenager, preoccupied with my own problems and dealing with my mother, who was never pleased with me and often acted like a bully. Only now do I understand that her behaviour was her way of coping with what she was experiencing with my dad. She was projecting her pain with him onto me.
My concern is: am I repeating this pattern in my own relationship?
After a series of chaotic and painful relationships, I yearned to meet a kind and emotionally stable man. I wanted someone mature and predictable, a grounded partner who would allow me the space to pursue my own interests without constant explanations. I assumed that an adult man I met would be willing to engage in deep conversations about life. However, it seems that a man who has been living life on his own terms for years without introspection may not be interested in delving deep into my soul with me. After all, the saying goes, „If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what if real intimacy and connection, for me, do start with conversation? My relationship no longer sparks joy. It feels like labor, work, and a constant struggle. So I find myself wondering, is it me or them? Or perhaps, is this the challenging phase of a relationship, and typically, I would just walk away, attributing my unhappiness to them?
It’s not about staying or leaving
I often recall an article I read titled ’It’s not about staying or leaving; it’s about learning to love.’ These words resonate with me when I grapple with understanding the dynamics between my partner and me. He says he loves me, and I believe him, but I’ve suddenly found myself in a place where I don’t know what love is anymore. I used to think that love meant chaos, drama, the push-and-pull dynamic, butterflies in my stomach, swinging between „I’m sorry,” „I love you,” and „leave me alone.” Eventually, it would lead to another heartbreak and a fresh start. But now, I no longer desire this. Something deep inside tells me that I should stay, endure this difficult phase, work through it, and discover love through these unfamiliar emotions and triggers.
„I wanted to run away on numerous occasions over the last eight years of my awakening. When my illusions were shattered, and I collided with the real person I married, the discomfort was so severe that all I wanted was to escape. I blamed him for the ways my life didn’t align with the figment of my imagination.” – Galina Singer
Whenever I argue with my partner, I start planning my escape. I visualize how I’ll begin anew, pack my belongings, heal my pain, and never see him again. However, once I calm down, I realize how absurd this is. What am I truly trying to escape from? Am I attempting to avoid the pain my parents inflicted through their divorce? Am I evading the unpleasant feelings I struggle to manage when under stress? Is it an effort to escape from a person who triggers my childhood traumas, conditioning, and pain? Or is it a way to escape from myself because I feel helpless and blame others for my misery and discomfort?
The „Perfect Partner” Illusion
Now, I contemplate whether the reason I’m so irritated with my partner is that he doesn’t always fit my ideal image of a „perfect partner.” He exposes my darkness by giving me the space I wanted to pursue my interests without too many questions (just as I wished!). Even after our most painful exchanges, he still musters the courage to say he loves me, without fail. In contrast, I don’t express my love for him as frequently. Of course, I show it through my actions: making him coffee in the morning, ensuring he’s warm when it’s cold, and cooking dinner after a long day at work. But maybe it’s not the same? Perhaps I do for him what I want FROM him, while he does for me what he wants FOR himself from me? This morning, during my meditation session on the Calm app, I reflected on the „The wind and the sun” story.
The moral of the story is that gentle persuasion yields better results than forceful coercion. It struck me that in most cases, I act like the wind, using force and wanting everything immediately. I employ tools like passive aggressiveness and silent treatments, much like my mother. However, I aspire to be more like the sun—warm and gentle. This is the approach I desire for myself as well. I sense that years of family conditioning have brought me to a place where I no longer know how to break free. I don’t know how to be the sun! Or even a ray of sunshine. I only understand the wind’s persuasion, which is not only ineffective but also toxic. I expect my partner to intuit my needs, assuming he should know how to do things after just one conversation. In reality, even ten conversations might not suffice because we are both influenced by our family conditioning. So, is it me or them? I now believe there’s no one to blame. Blame is unhelpful. What I do know is that I no longer want to escape, neither from my partner nor from myself. I want to be like the sun: warm, gentle, and patient.