Friday, June 4, 2010

Don't Work On The Relationship

I'm beginning to wonder about a lot of relationship advice.

Specifically, I'm wondering about the piece of advice about "relationships are a lot of work" or "If you want a good relationship, you have to work at it."

I'm beginning to think that advice is misguided. Here are a few reasons why:

I've seen couples where the care and feeding of the relationship seems to have taken over everything. They're so busy running around adjusting nozzles and flipping switches and shoveling coal into the furnace that they don't seem to have time for to enjoy each other's company.

It is also easy to use talking about the relationship, analyzing your feelings and those of the other person,or strategizing about how to improve things as a way to distract yourself from EXPERIENCING the relationship. It's a way of turning your attention away from what's actually going on.

As a dating geek, I am particularly vulnerable to this kind of relationship-blindness. I remember dating one woman (actually two women--I've combined two seperate relationships for this example) where both of us were very good at saying the right things, and setting the right direction, and being "smart" about things. I loved this woman a lot, and I believed she was The One

However, regardless of what I said, regardless of what I thought, regardless of what I felt, the facts were this: In the short amount of time we had been together we had broken up and gotten back together a number of times with shorter and shorter periods between break-ups each time.

The reason this was happening was because we both WANTED the relationship to work. So we were pouring energy into the relationship without paying attention to what was actually going on.

Another problem with 'working on the relationship' is it implies that there is some Ideal Perfect Relationship out there, and anything that falls short of that is failure which needs to be "worked on," "fixed"...or even scrapped altogether.

These are not good approaches.

Do not work on your relationships.

Work instead on yourself.

Does the relationship need better communcation? Work on being a better communicator.

Are you uncertain whether the relationship is meeting your needs? Take some time to think about what your needs are and how you would know you they were being met.

Are you unsure about what your partner wants? Start putting some thought what you would have to do to find that out.

Do these things, and relationships will take care of themselves. I'm not saying they will always work. But it will become apparent whether or not they are workable.

Do not work on your relationships.

Even if you could, too many things are beyond your control. Trying to get things to work out a certain way is a stressful, pressure-filled, and uncertain. Even when it is effective, you are sliding into the Getting Mindset which is ultimately poisonous to your long-term best interests.

Work instead on yourself. Encourage your partner to do the same.

What would it be like if instead of trying to live up to some imagined or socially approved ideal, each of you resolves to try and be the best person you can be--not for the other person, but for yourself--and then see what happens?

You might be pleasantly surprised.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

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  1. So what about this:

    Imagine your dating someone, things happen kind of fast and you realize from the get go that you are turned on physically when they touch you, but not when they kiss you. I've pretty much focused this down to being an issue of a lack of emotional connection even though we have both been open about our feelings. Its just that when he describes how he feels about something, I understand it but I don't connect with it (even though i have felt simulart things before), and I'm finding myself not having much sympathy. Is it worth hanging on for a connection to develope. I'm starting to think not.

    The problem is, I'm thinking about the person I've had the strongest emotional connection with and that relationship was borderline unworkable/crazy. I'm starting to wonder if maybe all the people in decent relationships just settle for someone who is willing to treat them right, dispite a lack of conviction.

  2. Wonderful post. I was just talking to my best friend the other day about this. She is in a relationship and has changed herself so much and goes out of her way so much for him. She is tired. However, she has been working so hard on the relationship she has forgotten to work on herself. The problem is when you lose yourself you become unhappy and you change so much the other person starts to resent you. The person you are in a relationship with loves you for who you are and the harder you work to fit into something the less you will be you.

  3. Anonymous, it sounds like you're looking for an emotional connection in your relationship, but this one doesn't have it. But the time you DID have that connection, the relationship was unworkable.

    It sounds like the result of this is you are having a hard time trusting yourself and you aren't sure how a relationship should feel.

    I've had similar things happen to me. It always frustrated me when I met a woman who was perfect for me, but I just didn't feel it. It was equally annoying when I found myself having strong feelings for someone knowing there was no way the relationship could work.

    One of the things I've learned to keep in mind is that emotional connection and a workable relationship are not the same problem. You can have one without the other. It's a common thing, so there's nothing wrong with you.

    But I also believe you can have both and there's no reason to settle for any less.

  4. Thankyou that makes me feel better. I don't think I could fake it anyway.