It’s not often that we get a chance to observe a successful couple in action. And when we do see one, we might not even notice it. I had the chance to be in the presence of such a couple and this is what I witnessed.
I was at a conference led by two people who have been a couple for many years. What struck me is that they clearly love each other. It was so soft and tender in certain moments, I was really amazed by it.
I started to think about what we all want in our relationships. We want to feel safe, and happy, and taken care of. I think that’s about it. But often we go about trying to get these things by telling our partner what is wrong.
All of us want things to go a certain way. That is the way humans are hardwired. We like this, we don’t like that. We want more of this so we can feel good and we want less of that because it makes us feel bad.
These are our wants and dislikes, or in another way to express it, the stuff we want more of are our desires. We might desire our mate to listen to us more. We might desire out partner to make more time for us. Any time we are wishing for more of something with our beloved, we are trapped in desire.
Many of us try to get rid of some thoughts and focus on others—perhaps more positive ones. And if you have tried this then you know how very hard this can be. All of us have wished our minds would just let go of some of the things it thinks about.
But how many of us are truly successful at it? We can’t do it by force. But lately I have noticed something quite remarkable. Here is how it happened. My husband has been cutting carbs to reduce weight. He has become very devoted to this new way of eating.
I have seen him withhold foods before, but there is something different about this time. He is very focused and dedicated. So when my workout trainer who also knows my husband said to me, “Your husband is really talking more.” The following memory arrived.
How do we learn to be in a relationship? This is a question people have been grappling with for centuries. Some people come to earth just knowing what is the right way to treat another human. Some of us are taught, and then there are others who just struggle.
I used to struggle in my relationship with my husband-to-be. In the early days (20 years ago, before I was a therapist) I was pretty unhappy. And he was unhappy too. We didn’t know what to do to get better, so we went to a counselor.
Most of us in a relationship often focus on what we are not getting. We might remember the early days with our partner when everything felt so perfect, but now things are not the same.
This is very common with couples. All of us stay intoxicated with our new mate in the beginning. And as time moves on we start to feel that all-over love feeling slipping away. Then we might even question if we are with the right person.
When sorrow hits us it often feels like a ton of bricks raining down upon us. The bricks wipe out everything we thought we knew and not only that, but the ground also shifts, and we can’t find where to put our feet. Our earth, that solid foundation we have stood on forever has vanished in an instant.
When grief rips us apart we have nowhere to turn. There is no safe passage back to where we once lived. There is nothing before us, behind us, to the side of us, underneath us, there is nothing left. We are alone with our deep pain and nothing, absolutely nothing we can think of can change that. We are living with a hell inside us that will not budge.
I was working with a couple recently and had a chance to reflect on how often I see a similar situation like the one they are going through. I am talking about couples who seem on the brink of ending their relationship and miraculously finding their way back to each other.
It’s so remarkable how some couples can rebound after something really terrible and yet I see this happen again and again and again. In these cases, I believe these individuals want to be with their mates more than they want to leave them.
We all want to feel connected to the person we love. So, why is it so hard, when we get our feelings hurt, to feel connected? Why does it feel as if we are miles away from that space and as though there’s no way of getting back to it?
Getting hurt by the one we love happens in all relationships. Look back at your family when you grew up. Did you ever get your feelings hurt by someone? Maybe this happened because you fought with a sibling. It might have happened because you disagreed with a parent.
Sometimes in our lives we feel exactly as we should. You know, that feeling from deep down inside us, when we feel alive, happy, and as if everything is right with the world. This feeling may only last for a moment, but when it occurs we can’t forget it.
You may also notice this aliveness when you meet someone that you connect with. It’s as if the other person feels you the way you feel you, and you both feel each other, and then—blammo, something great happens!
“What makes a good relationship?” Sounds like a trick question, doesn’t it? It’s like being asked what is beautiful, or what is happy. It’s one of those questions that might be answered differently depending on who you ask. There might be many answers to the question.
Every one of us who is in a relationship can look to elements in our connection with our person and say, “I like that part.” We might think of our mate and know that when they do that certain thing they do, we really like it. All of us have some things in our union with our mate that we cherish.