Relationships: can't live with them, can't live without them
It can be said that ultimately, everyone wants the same thing: to love and be loved. So why are relationships so difficult?
In reality, it is only when we enter into a relationship that we really come face to face with our true self, our needs and capabilities. Being in an intimate relationship can bring up insecurities and vulnerabilities that we weren't in touch with when we were single, and this can be a surprise and a shock.
The problem is that both you and your partner were separate people, with different backgrounds and childhoods: because of this, misunderstandings are inevitable. Everyone wants to be known well enough that their partner can read them and anticipate their needs, but this is impossible. Saying how you feel and asking for what you want seems a straight forward, simple thing but it often brings up difficult feelings.
Love in reality
Falling in love is an experience that is ultimately disillusioning as the reality of the other person's faults eventually becomes apparent. What do you do then? The choice seems to be to leave and start again or to work through the sense of disappointment. Both choices can be traumatic and leave you with a mix of feelings including guilt, relief, anxieties either about being on your own or being committed to one person.
Seeking professional help with a qualified therapist can help you make sense of how you feel and work out what you want from a partner.
Tips for improving your relationship
- Feed the relationship
It might be obvious but spending time together, even just talking is incredibly important. People very rarely speak on a level that gives insight into what it’s really like to live in your skin, but if you can talk about yourself honestly and how you feel, you can achieve that level of intimacy.
- State how you feel
Stating how you feel rather than blaming the other person is one of the most helpful things you can do. There is a huge difference between saying, "Why aren't you ever home, your work is more important than me?", rather than, "I feel lonely and I miss you when you're not here". If you can state how you feel without blaming the other person, they will really hear what you are saying, without getting defensive.
It’s important not to hide blame and accusation behind "I feel". For instance, "I feel that you are a lazy idiot," is not a feeling at all. A good guide is to remember if you can replace the word "feel" with "think" in that same sentence, it is not a feeling. Compare this with a feeling statement: "I feel hurt". You can't say, "I think hurt", so you can be sure this is a feeling, not a thought.