Does your partner communicate? Have capacity? Is there chemistry and banter in the relationship? Does he have self-awareness and… a job? (Less about the job and more about ambition/passion and the ability to build something). Yes, yes, yes, but you’ve heard these before. Below are four questions to ask yourself that you may not have heard or thought about.
But first, let’s define what a “relationship” means to you. Today. Not what it did when you were in your early twenties chasing sticky dynamics that stem from a dysfunctional childhood and old wounds.
Basically, we have our definitions of love before all the sh*t that went down and we have our definitions of love after therapy and our eat, love, pray journey. Or journeys for most.
If you’re in a place where love means to sacrifice, not have a life, and lose yourself in someone else, then go play that out. No seriously. You’ll get nothing from this article except resistance. You have to experience that sh*t first hand in order for my words to hit. Or they won’t land for you. Messages have no punch unless you’re ready to hear them. You’ll disagree and blame it on being a hopeless romantic. Something you really like about yourself. I used to do the same.
Okay, so if you’re still here, that means you’ve gone through hell and back when it comes to love. You’ve lost yourself. You’ve put people on pedestals. You’ve compromised yourself, had your heart shattered. Many times. You’ve gotten into heated screaming fights. Thrown chairs. Cheated. Been cheated on. Attended meetings. Woke up feeling gross, empty, and confused. You’ve connected the dots. Hated your parent(s). Given up. Got back up. Gained weight. Lost weight. Took many breaks. Dated yourself. The world told you to. But you didn’t really do it for yourself or in an honest way so you did it again after more love storms. And this time, something shifted and you realized that “date yourself” isn’t just a bumper sticker. It’s a way to find your voice and connect back to self, or maybe for the first time, so that you actually have a sense of self in relationships. You started exercising a muscle you’ve rarely used before, communication. You’ve discovered self-help books and therapy, and now you’re ready to redefine some things, to put the love donuts down and eat some love vegetables. To put weight on different things. Because you’re done with flimsy. You want soil. Rich soil. Something you can build something meaningful and lasting on. You want sustainable not just hot. You’re interested in something deeper than skin. You need someone with tools and capacity, not just pretty eyes and charm. You’ve matured. You’ve grown. You have a stronger sense of self. And finally, some non-negotiables.
Okay, then this article is for you.
Here are four questions to ask yourself if you want to know if your relationship has a chance at being sustainable, meaningful, and healthy.
1. Does your partner take ownership?
If your partner doesn’t have the ability to take ownership, of his words, action, energy/state, history, and life, you are building on sand.
What exactly does taking ownership mean? It means he looks at something with honest eyes and recognizes his part in it. It means not blaming or ending sentences with butts or “it was because you did ___”, but instead with periods. It means apologizing for real. It means empathy and compassion. It means looking inward, always. It means taking a full self-inventory. Not once. Often, as a practice.
That’s the first piece. The second piece is to put action behind the words and make changes to improve himself. Not for you but for him, because he really wants to be a better person and love in a healthy way. Taking ownership doesn’t mean he’s giving you something. It means he likes himself and he’s building self-worth.
What happens when he takes ownership? He builds trust. He holds your hand. You grow together. Fights are productive and bring you guys closer together. A bridge is created. People are understood. The love becomes stronger.
What happens when he doesn’t take ownership? He pushes you away, flips the magnet, does life around you instead of with, creating drift and an island for you to live on, alone.
Here’s how to take ownership.
If he NEVER takes ownership or doesn’t know how, it’s almost impossible to build a solid relationship. Assuming you do, the relationship will be lopsided and you will slowly grow tired from all the pent up anger from forcing yourself to have sex with him when you don’t really want to.
2. Does your partner champion your story?
Your life is more than your relationship. If your partner understands and supports this, he will champion your story. He will get behind what you want. Not try to fix but support, encourage, lift. He doesn’t have to agree with your choices or share the same passions as you. But he does need to support you and your dreams because they are important to you, and what’s important to you should be important to him. Even if they don’t line up with his vision of your life. He should see your story bigger than his wants and shoulds for you. If not, he is making it about him and not you. He is taking, not giving.
You know the saying, “You are either growing together or growing apart?” Well, if your partner is not championing your story, by default he is rejecting you.
Our stories make us who we are. They are the most valuable thing we will ever own. If he loves you but doesn’t support and embrace your story or the one you are trying to write, he actually doesn’t love you. He loves the idea of you. Because you and your story cannot be separated. You are your story.
3. Does your partner accept you as is?
Many date “potential” thinking they can change someone. Then they put a sh*t ton of pressure on their partner to change and be someone she is not. Maybe subtly. Maybe over time. And maybe he is not aware of this more about him than you behavior.
But there are consequences to loving someone this way. Everything will be loaded. Enter eggshells. The space will not allow people to be themselves. Love will have conditions. You won’t be good enough. He will love you more if you are being who he wants you to be and love you less if you are not. He will put pressure on you to be a certain way, act a certain way, do things that he thinks is best for you. Not what you think is best for you. Which comes from is own insecurities and/or worth he gets from “fixing” someone. But it’s not yours to fix because there may be nothing to fix. You get to decide what you want to “fix” about you. Not him.
I know first hand the damage this has on relationships and one’s self-esteem because I was one of these guys. I have put pressure on exes to trace my definitions. I wasn’t aware I was doing it at the time. I disguised this behavior as love and convinced myself of it. But it wasn’t love. It was something called controlling. And I wasn’t creating a safe space.
Without a safe space, nothing can be built.
4. Do both of your definitions of love line up?
It doesn’t have to line up perfectly. But generally speaking. Broad strokes. You don’t have to agree on everything and if you do, someone’s not being honest. You will definitely have different definitions about things in life. But when it comes to love, there has to be overlap.
For example, if he believes, like I once did, that love means you do everything for your partner no matter what, even at the expense of self, that two lives come together and dissolve into one life.
And you believe that loving someone means two people with separate lives coming together as two but choosing to share their lives with each other. Someone in this relationship isn’t going to feel loved, based on the gap in definitions.
We all pull from our definitions. They are the blueprints that create our guidelines and direct our actions. If you and your partner have very different definitions on what love is and looks like, you are both following different recipes and your love will be much.
This post was originally published on Medium and is republished with permission from the author.
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