Which one is most important?
I used to think it was mostly willingness that was more important in keeping relationships healthy and alive. Lately I’ve had a change of heart and believe timing is crucial.
Most people attribute “bad timing” to a failed romantic relationship. They blame the divorce that’s not yet complete. Maybe it was that you worked long hours and didn’t have enough energy left in your reserves to spend nights together.
For a long time, I thought everything could be overcome with will and a strong sense of personal agency. I believed in hard work and great desire over all other factors. I thought if I had enough strength, I could single handedly make a relationship better.
Was I ever wrong!
When a long distance friend didn’t keep in touch at my stringent pace, I took it personally and tried even harder by calling and texting frequently. When a quasi boyfriend didn’t fully commit, I thought talking more and cooking vegan, gluten-free quinoa and kale bowls would do the trick. When another boyfriend was in between relationships (with me and someone else), instead of leaving, like any sane person should do, I talked it out and we got clearer. I really came to understand him, while also losing a lot of myself.
In these cases, I was pushing the wind. I actively tried to change timing with my own will. I thought love alone was enough.
Unfortunately, I believed I had more power than humanly possible. It was my perfectionism kicking in. I thought, in order to be lovable, I had to do everything without error or mistake. If I couldn’t do it all perfectly, I should not try. I made myself sick with stress and learned difficult lessons.
Willingness for a relationship must be shared
It is not your (or my) sole responsibility to carry all attributes and aspects of a relationship. In fact, that’s impossible. You see, many of us are pretty adaptable, and compromising is second nature. I’ve had a terrible habit of compromising myself out of the scene.
Being ready and willing is important. If someone is about to move, has recently gotten out of a long relationship, or seems like too many factors are in flux, ask if they’re ready.
Communicate about your needs, and listen closely to theirs
Pay attention to someone’s actions as much as their words. Often, people tell you they’re not ready, but their behavior shows you something else. Ask! I’ve fallen for this too many times. Be mindful that actions and words are aligned. Similarly, reflect on whether you’re demonstrating what your words say.
Is there something that is holding you back? Is it family, work, previous pain, a sense that you’ll be ready when… If so, maybe your own timing is off. Be honest with yourself and reflect on what you really want.
When you and your partner or friend truly love each other, you will find a way. If you don’t have a way, the love may still be real, but the relationship may not be able to support your needs.
This essay originally appeared on Nina’s blog, afterdefeat.
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