Relationships are challenging. No duh, right?
Relationships as a source of joy, ease, and love? Ha! Relationships as a learning ground and the best school you’ve ever gone to? HaHa! Knowing what makes the other person tick and knowing yourself? HaHaHa! And now we’re laughing like the little boy in the picture. Oh, this is a good joke this idea of relationships going well, feeling good, and nourishing us.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not talking about giving them up. We need them. Whatever sort – parent/child, co-workers, lover/partner, or friend – relationships can feel like something we want yet fear. Inescapable, like a moth drawn to a flame. We can’t get away from people and when we try we feel isolated, lonely, and like something is missing. Yet when we are around people they are frustrating and confusing. We often feel sad, angry, and hurt around the people we care about the most.
This means that relationships are things to survive. Maybe fix. Maybe change or figure out. Most of us are surviving most of the time. Survival mode is form of fight/flight. It’s the response to danger. It’s what we do when we feel our safety is threatened. Other people threaten our safety.
We want to connect. We want to love and be loved. We long to find the right person so that we can be safe and loved. We try to fix ourselves (one could guess that’s why you’re on this website, to find a way to fix yourself or your relationship). We try everything. We work hard. We give up. We give advice. We seek advice. We try to be the bigger person and not let the little stuff get to us. We try to be sensitive to the other person and give them room to be themselves. We try to chagne them and get them to be who we want to be with. We try to change ourselves to be who they want to be with.
It’s exhausting and fruitless.
There is no right answer. The more you try to get it right, the more messed up it gets. There is no way to be good enough. You duck and dodge, surviving the coworker who was rude, the child who came home angry and scared with a D on their report cared, and you think you’re doing well. You’re like “I’ve got this. Wow, I’m not getting angry. I’m calm.” In the midst of your self-congratulations, your mom calls and says they found a lump and she’s going in for exploratory surgery next week. And you fall apart.
Argh. Why can’t relationships feel good? Why does something always take us out?
Because relationships are our best teachers. Ever. They are never done. You are never fixed. There are no guarantees that you are going to be loved or that it’s going to last.
But it doesn’t have to suck. Learning can be a joy. It can be love. The blocks to love can be amazing teachers and building blocks of connection. We can’t get away from them or meditate them away or get enough self-help advice that relationships are not challenging. They always will be.
So what can you do?
Lean in. Listen. Learn. Get vulnerable. Find your courage to reach out and connect. Develop resilience so you can be kind even when you don’t get what you want. Become the lover, parent, friend, and co-worker you want to be. Living your own values while giving up the victim position is one of the kindest things you can do For Yourself. Yes, it’s kind to the people around you and will feel good to them too. But it’s an act of kindness towards youself to notice your own power, your own beauty, and your own desire. What do you want? What do you want to offer?
Resilience and vulnerability get easier with practice. Like exercise develops muscles, practicing vulnerability, courage and resilience gets easier, smoother, and more facile over time.
A good teacher and a safe place to practice make it easier.
That’s what I do with people. I take you just as you are. I love you just as you are. You get to practice being yourself and learning who that is. Most of us have been so busy surviving and fixing the people around us that we don’t even know who we really are. So come spend time with me practicing to be you. Being you will likely involve bumping up against all the barriers you’ve built to protenct you from your own wants and needs, your own love and joy, and everything else about you that didn’t fit the mold of your family and school growing up or the world you find yourself in now.
Come work with me. Whether we meet over the phone or for a therapeutic touch session, whether we work in groups and Community Cuddles or online for listening and relationship skills, we will give you the space, tools, and support to be(come) youself and to be yourself in relationship to others. Stop pretending. Stop hiding. Stop suffering. Relationships are challenging. And they can set you free.