HEALING YOURSELF WITHIN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Relationships are funny things. When you decide to be in one, you are prepared to some extent that the person you love will change, life will change, and things may go wrong, but what most of us are unprepared for, is who we become in the relationship. We are unable to grapple with our good-natured, kind and loving selves becoming an angry, unkind and irritated self. It is this phenomenon that sometimes causes us to leave relationships in search of another one in which we can stay kind and good-natured. But we find ourselves in similar relationships, time and again. If we do find ourselves in a relationship in which we are able to be good-natured most of the time, we might find that it lacks sizzle and it becomes ultimately torturous to hold onto our good nature — and thus the vicious cycle repeats.
Is there a way in which we can be our authentic selves in our relationships?
Often, there is an assumption that the partner has induced certain qualities and behaviors in them that they didn’t know existed prior to their relationship. Therefore, the natural solution seems to be to leave the partner till you find “The One”, or to incessantly try to change them till you make them The One.
When a person (by definition, an imperfect being) enters a relationship, they come with history and baggage, and therefore with ‘buttons’. Buttons are placed on us by our history, traumatic incidents and previous relationships. So for example, if your partner keeps nagging you and telling you about the things you didn’t do, you may find yourself feeling low and suddenly feeling like you don’t care about your partner. This scenario is very common and feeling upset is valid — however, you have to wonder where this intensity of sadness and despair about the relationship comes from and whether it really is about your partner.
When your partner complains, does it push the button that is related to your parents being disappointed in you even when you tried so hard?
Or is it that every mistake pointed out makes you feel like you’re not good enough — something you had felt for a long time as a child?
Now, how can not picking up groceries, for example, be related to you not being good enough, or your partner being disappointed in you?
Let’s take another example where your partner comes home late from work. Here, again, it is completely valid to be upset – but if you find yourself feeling taken for granted or rejected, it’s probably time to introspect and trace where this comes from.
Many a time the look inward and the ability to notice a pattern comes after several failed relationships. In effect, every conflict is an opportunity to look inward and to be mindful of your buttons, and to find out how you can remove them or stop them from exerting such a control over your life. Relationships can be the path to transformation in that sense because it gives you the opportunity to identify your buttons, understand them – and if you’re lucky – remove them. You also have to understand that just as your partner is pushing your buttons, you are pushing his/hers as well, and so if you find them angry or upset with you it is easier to bear if you consider that you are only partly to blame.
Our partners have the power not only to show us our buttons, but also to change them. Let’s take a situation where you have felt rejected as a child, and you find yourself reacting strongly to your partner when he/she comes home late. You have begun to realise that your strong reaction comes from the past. At times like this, try talking to your partner about it and communicating to them clearly that you would like it if they tried to convey reassurance in some way, in case you do feel rejected by him/her what they can say to make you feel better. For example, saying, ‘I’m here and I’m not going anywhere’ is more effective for conveying reassurance than, ‘I had extra work at office’.
Similarly if your partner were also to reflect, he/she may be also able to tell you what they would like you to do so that a conflict does not feel like a disappointment in them. Over time the need for this type of reassurance reduces and the buttons gradually fade away.
If we look at relationships as a chance to genuinely grow, the question is not whether the relationship will last or not, but whether you are willing to let it bring up parts of you that you don’t like, and let it transform you.