Making mistakes, conflict, and confusion in relationship are a big part of the relationship journey. As author, and therapist, Bonnie Badenoch says 30% of relationship is all warm, fuzzy, and attuned and 70% is about rupture and repair. You wouldn’t think so given our pop culture and the ways relationship is portrayed in movies, books, and music. You meet that special someone, you have that special feeling, and boom you’re on your way to happily ever after! Yet the reality is, for many people, that it’s just not that easy. We come with baggage to our love relationships, we were indoctrinated very young with beliefs (and experiences) about others, the world, and ourselves that play a large part in how we behave in relationships and who we chose as our partners. And these beliefs and traumas are not always adaptive.
One interesting fact in 2016 was that the New York Times article entitled, “Why you will marry the wrong person” was the most read, by a long shot, for the year. And this was an election year with highly controversial candidates! What this means to me is that lots of people are thinking, “Shit, I married the wrong person!” The refreshing take from this article is that, actually, you’re ok and so is your relationship; we have just been confused about what relationship is really about.
It’s not about that special feeling, though that feeling is totally yummy! It’s not about looking good to your friends, family, and co-workers. It’s not about conflict free, pain free, doubt free relationship. What it is about is rupture and repair and the intimacy that comes as a result of navigating your way through your inner and outer worlds with another person.
What occurs after we mess up, hurt our partner’s feelings, get our feelings hurt, react, or just do a total bonehead move is what love and relationship are about. Can we stay with the uncertainty in the conflict? Can we slow way down and feel our desire to run, blame, escalate, or otherwise cause more damage without doing so? And if we do react can we forgive ourselves, make amends, and attempt to repair?
We will have to be interested in ourselves, in what makes us tick, to recognize that these relationships we find ourselves in are about our own growth not about finding the perfect relationship or partner. That person does not exist, at least not by our idyllic standards of what we think we need to be happy and content. Of course we should have standards of what we will accept or not in relationship. But consider that you are also very wounded with a whole boatload of issues, and maybe your partner is not the reason why you are unhappy or confused.
Experiment with what it would be like to keep the focus on yourself, treat your partner as someone with deep wounds like your own, and know your capacity to learn about yourself and your partner is much more of an indicator of a good relationship than that special feeling always being present. There is no handbook for how to do this perfectly, but you can start to compile a handbook about yourself based on curiosity, compassion, and courage that any partner of yours would be happy to have access to as you both journey together.
Karolina Walsh Psychotherapy
Providing psychotherapy, counseling, and support for grief, addictions, trauma, PTSD, relationship issues, and GLBTQIA.
“Karolina walks her talk, her ability to meet another in their capacities is sensational because she has done her own work” -Diane Israel
"An effective therapist needs to do at least two things: be compassionate and provide constructive feedback that actually changes the way people experience the world. I see many therapists who can do one or the other. I routinely watch Karolina do both..." -Patrick Weeg