There is you. There is your partner. And there is the relationship. As you guys invest in each other and build, the relationship becomes its own living breathing thing. The dynamic of the relationship becomes greater than it’s parts — you and your partner.
This is the natural progression of any relationship, healthy or not. The amount of time and energy we put into someone plus the daily engagement and exchanges, on all levels, create a strong dynamic that becomes greater than us. We either fall victim to it (unhealthy relationships) or it lifts us up and expands us (healthy relationships).
Hold that thought.
When you go home to see your parents for the holidays, do you or do you not become the fifteen-year-old version of yourself escaping out of your bedroom window? It doesn’t matter who you are today or how far you’ve come, you snap back like a rubber band. This is due to the sticky relationship dynamic you have with your parents. The tracks that have been laid before you could drive. Dynamics that eventually grow into other relationship dynamics like the addict/enabler and the purser/distancer and turn our life upside down. This demonstrates how powerful relationship dynamics can be. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve changed. If the other person hasn’t changed, you can get sucked right back into the old dynamic. It takes a lot of counting breaths and drawing boundaries to distance yourself from the pull.
On the flip side, have you sat down with an old friend, an amazing friend with capacity who has always accepted every part of you and championed your story, and you leave uplifted like a brand new person who has just walked on fire? The dynamic of this relationship gives you emotional milk, encourages your authentic self, and inspires you. If you don’t have any friends like this, first I’m sorry and second, you have probably experienced a version of this after a great therapy or life coaching session.
My point is relationships have an astonishing power over our growth or lack of. Especially our intimate relationship since it is the most significant one in our life. Our intimate relationship can either stunt or grow us. You know this. That’s how you discovered Al-Anon. And hopefully, you’ve also experienced some good ones that made you believe you deserve better and that there is more.
So if you know how powerful your relationship can be and the kind of impact they can have on your life, why do so many of us get into sh*tty ones that ultimately stunt our growth? Because we’re putting our chips on the wrong things. Most of us get into something because we’re super attracted to someone (feeling) or because they make sense (logic). If you’re lucky, both. First, let’s talk about attraction. Yes, there are many layers to attraction. Physical, emotional, spiritual, body, personality, intelligence, soul, humor, or a combination. And yes, it’s mandatory that we feel attraction. As Bruce Springsteen says, “You can’t build a fire without a spark.” But attraction (even on multi-levels) alone isn’t enough. Maybe for a fun weekend or a few months of dating but not for a deep sustainable relationship that grows into something that will grow people. Also, know that attraction doesn’t always come from a healthy place. Many of us are attracted to people who are NOT good for us — hence the “bad boy.” Or we put all the chips on logic and we all know how that turns out. Or we find someone we’re attracted to and that make sense and we have a good shot. But that’s still not enough.
Okay, so what should we place our bet on (look for) in a relationship so that it will grow into something bigger and grow us? After putting a stack of chips on attraction, because that’s the initial draw and you need it to be interested, and a some on logic since attraction alone is only what movie love is made of, you should also bet on the following:
And this is what most people don’t consider and why I wrote this article.
Awareness of self / Emotional intelligence / Capacity. (let’s just make this one category)
I’m not just talking about someone who reads self-help books. I’m talking about someone who actually practices it. Often, as a lifestyle. Someone who owns his own sh*t. Who is aware of his own patterns and makes an effort to break them. Someone who is not defensive but instead curious and compassionate. Someone who has the ability to create a safe space. Someone who isn’t just a walking reaction. Someone who is interested in expanding as a human being. Not just being good at something.
Without the above, he will not have tools to fight fair. He will hold a shield instead of space. No matter how strong the chemistry is, there will be a ceiling. Your growth will be stunted.
Speaks the same language.
People who practice self-awareness speak a certain language. I’m not talking about therapy jargon. His thirst for self-betterment and evolution creates a natural dialogue. Not only when the relationship is in trouble and he is forced to talk about feelings. But because he’s interested in it and wants to share his learnings and revelations. If you were with a filmmaker, you’d probably spend a lot of time talking about movies and plot points. People who are on a path of self-betterment talk about it. They share it. Because it’s interesting to them. Because it’s a part of their life. People who aren’t, well, don’t.
Has a growth mindset.
Let’s face it. Afternoon the honeymoon stage, both of you will be going back to real life. And real life means constant ups and downs in all areas of your life, especially your work/career. And since that’s where we spend most of our time, if he doesn’t have a growth mindset, you will feel the panic, dread, worry, and discouragement like it’s falling on your face. This will directly impact the quality of your life.
Nothing builds trust more than consistency. Consistency doesn’t mean to be one way forever. You can change as a person and still be consistent. The reality is you will change. Unless you’re dead. Some are. We all go through internal changes. Then consistency means to express where you’re at and what you’re going through with your partner. That’s what it means to be consistent. Because consistency equals connection. Without it, you are disconnecting. Connection builds trust. Disconnection cracks trust. Without trust, nothing can be built.
Without these four things, the relationship will not have the DNA to grow anyone. Instead, it will only create fences. Stunt growth.
But just because both people have attraction, capacity, awareness of self, emotional intelligence, a growth mindset, consistency, and the relationship logically makes sense, doesn’t mean people are going to start automatically growing.
Why? Because it doesn’t matter how great the relationships is or how well you’ve chosen, there will be resistance. No. Matter. What. No one is perfect which means no relationship is perfect. No one enters adulthood unscared. Everyone has their shit. It doesn’t matter how much work you’ve done on yourself. There. Will. Be. Triggers.
ENTER MY LOVE BRACES CONCEPT
Like crooked teeth fighting braces, you will feel resistance in your relationship. As mentioned above, there will be triggers. From little things like how he puts the dishes away to bigger things like how she sets something off in you which makes you shut down. No one is being unhealthy. It’s just the stirring of the human exchange when you love each other — spend that much time together. And as far as we have come, we all have shortcomings.
And these triggers will either force you to run or lean in. If you run, you miss the opportunity to grow. If you lean in, your relationship can now grow you by forcing you to look inward.
If you trust the partner you have chosen because he posses the qualities above, your love can start to straighten you. Your love can start to teach you things about yourself. Your love can cause you to grow.
This post was originally published here and is republished with permission from the author.
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