Relationships are messy because they involve two imperfect people with their own baggage, trying to combine a life. If you expect things to be smooth, flawless, and easy because you are in love, you are going to be disappointed.
It is when relationships get messy that we tend to walk away, declare it unsavable, and eventually move on. I think it is a waste of time and emotional investment to keep a relationship surfing, hoping to find “the one” and being hurt or hurting others over and over again.
Having a successful relationship isn’t sprinkled with magic fairy dust that some people get, and others don’t. The most successful relationships have a few things in common.
Treat every relationship like a serious commitment
As adults, after a few relationships have failed, I see people taking way too long even to admit they are in a relationship. They may be seeing someone, but they will not own the responsibility of being in a relationship. You are shooting yourself in the foot here, assuming that a long-term relationship is your ultimate goal.
It does not protect you from getting hurt to deny the relationship. Instead, it means that if you are hurt, you have less support because you never admitted or committed to the relationship. If a long-term and healthy relationship is what you are ultimately seeking, why invest yourself in something that falls short of that?
Let go of fear
Letting people in is scary for most people. Rare is the person who has reached adulthood without being scared, hurt, let down or disappointed by someone they love. Because of these battle wounds, we hold people at a distance, thinking they can’t hurt us if we don’t let them get too close.
In some ways, we are right about this. Refusing to invest fully in a relationship does mean that it hurts less when it inevitably ends. But, here is the tricky part. It does still hurt, and it reinforces our belief that we need to keep our distance in relationships. So, we start this cycle, and when each relationship fails, we aren’t devastated by the loss, but instead, it becomes like the slow, miserable “death by a thousand cuts.” In other words, our hearts don’t have the metaphoric jagged cut down the middle. Instead, it is crisscrossed with a thousand tiny wounds that scar us.
Do whatever you have to do to get yourself healthy enough for a relationship that you can fully invest in. Take the time you are investing in unhealthy relationships and invest it into yourself instead. Detox from harmful thoughts, and the ghost of relationships past. Then, when you are as healthy and whole as you can get, fearlessly embrace another relationship.
Adjust your expectations
Adjusting your expectations does not mean settling for less. In truth, many of us need to adjust our expectations up instead of down. Take inventory of what you expect from a relationship, and then determine where you need to make the adjustments. Remember, you both have baggage from relationships in the past, and so does your partner. These past experiences are forming your expectations in your new relationship, and that isn’t fair to either of you.
You have to know yourself before you can truly learn to know someone else. So, what are the must-haves for you in a relationship? We all have those, the things that we can’t imagine not having in a relationship. For instance, your list might include:
- A sense of humor
- A sense of adventure
- The willingness to treat your needs as a priority
Whatever your expectations are, make sure you are not sabotaging yourself by setting the bar so high that you will always be disappointed.
The flip side of this equation is that you can’t expect so little for yourself that you will settle for much less than you deserve out of some desire to not be alone, or because you think that even an unhealthy relationship is better than not being with someone.
Determine your non-negotiables
Everyone has the test that a relationship must pass before it can proceed. We all have our non-negotiables that are not going to change. Is it that they will respect your career choices even when your career means interfering with plans? Is it your friends and family? Maybe you will only become genuinely involved with someone who can take on your crazy family and love them anyway, or understand the best friend who occasionally shows up at 2:00 am because they need to talk?
Whatever it is that is your ultimate litmus test about the potential future of a relationship, get it out there front and center in the beginning. There is no point in investing time, and emotional energy, in a relationship that is doomed to fail.
Do not stay in a relationship hoping they will change, or because they are hoping you will change
This one seems so easy. We all know that, right? No one is going to change fundamental things about themselves for another person. They might promise to change, or we might think we can change for them because we love them so much.
It doesn’t happen. People do change, but only when they reach a point in their life when they truly see something about themselves that bothers them, and they are willing to do the hard work that comes with making such difficult changes. They don’t change to suit the needs of someone else, and even if they try, it usually ends in disaster. Either they are not successful in making the change, or they resent the person who is demanding the change.
Relationships are not easy, and they shouldn’t be. It is the pressure of problems that force our roots to grow deeply. If you are the one who finds yourself walking away every time things get messy, you have to accept that you are never walking toward something better. Who we are, the best part of us, isn’t what we see when things are sunshine and roses in our lives. The true measure of a person is who they are when the storms rage.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love and is republished here with permission from the author.
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