We live in a swirl of distractions, expectations, roles and responsibilities where everything pulls us in different directions. So, we adapt.
It happened to us when Justin and I first got together, we were attracted to each other’s independence and free spirited approach to life. We loved the fact that we both had our own opinions on things (sometimes quite strong opinions). We loved the fact that we did whatever we wanted…but as it happened, after a while our idealistic unit of individualism turned into a combined unit called ‘We’. Around this time, we both stopped valuing time to ourselves as well as our our own interests and hobbies…you know, the typical thing that happens once you fall in Love and can’t get enough of each other. But after a while, in all honesty, any time that we both decided to return to any hint of returning to being an individual, having our own independence, largely came with a taste of either feeling abandoned by the other, or left feeling guilty for needing to spend time alone, pursuing our own interests, and at the end of all that, what we were usually left with was the feeling of feeling flat and confined. Where did those individuals go who once were so unique in their sense of self and expression?
The journey back to ourselves while learning to build (and keep) unity was a balancing act, to say the least. You see, it’s just so easy to fall into the trap of selfishness and claim our own independence back, decide to do whatever we want to do because that’s what we want, telling ourselves how important it is, how much we deserve it, regardless of what the other person feels or says about a situation. Then, it’s so easy to blame the one you Love for not understanding you, for not appreciating you for all that you do. You ever felt like this? Think about your own relationship for a second and ask yourself if there’s something you do that you know gets your partner upset, makes them feel uneasy, insecure or off balance? Or maybe there are a few things that your partner does that makes you feel resentful? You see, the big question here is not whether or not it does happen, because at some stage it is an undeniable fact that it will happen, but rather the big question to ask here is…how do you communicate with each other about it? Do you talk about it, together, being on the same page, having each others backs, helping each other through it? Or do you go silent, punish, start an argument, not knowing how to deal with the emotions, fear, resentment etc. Listen. How you communicate with each other about these things can literally take your relationship from a destructive toxic environment, into an environment that brings support, understanding and growth.
To be fair though, if you’re not used to communicating and talking through difficult situations, it can feel so much easier to just pretend everything is ok and aim to keep the peace by putting on the mask of a people pleaser or becoming the martyr, denying any personal needs at all, keep telling yourself that “I’m fine” or “that’s more important” or “I’ll do it later”, “I’m happier without it”, “It’s a different season of life now”.
We tell ourselves that it’s all ok. But is it though? Is it really ok? What if we looked at the compounded effect of our continual decision to neglect the most basic of human needs day in and day out, year after year. Have we stopped to ask ourselves what the ultimate cost is, of not addressing this issue in our relationship? Do we even think that way, or are we just focussed on today? It’s no wonder that ‘lack of individual identity’ comes as the second most common reason why people get divorced (you can read about the report here).
So, let me ask you this – Are you missing something you used to love doing?
What is it?
When was the last time you’ve done it?
We can all agree that it’s important to keep personal interests and hobbies. Do you want to know what else is just as important though, in keeping your own personal interests? Keeping Unity.
So, it’s time to sit down and write that list of what you love doing and what makes you feel refreshed, fulfilled, joyful and alive.
It’s also time to write down those things that you do (or want to do) that have a negative effect on your partner. It’s time to have some difficult conversations. You know what the beautiful thing about having difficult conversation is? It gets easier. The more you do it, the easier it gets. That’s how you start to build equity and quality into your relationship. You do it by talking about the hard stuff – often.
Ours ideals were often quite different from each other and many times, those ideals even clashed – loudly. I would want to go and hang out with people, Justin would want to come home (or stay home). When he wanted to go for a ride on the motorbike, or take out the skateboard for a skate, I felt left, not included, abandoned. When he wanted to be alone and have time to himself, my desire for connection would spring out like a ‘Jack in the Box’. When I needed time to myself and wanted to go for a drive out into Nature, he wanted everyone together to have family time. Can you see how simple things like this can be the catalyst for huge misunderstandings and difficulties in your relationship?
After a lot of time, effort, learning to communicate and understand each other, we’re glad to say we have come a long, long way in learning to communicate. We had to learn, that while many people talk, few really communicate.
So, in closing, here are few suggestions that can help you in your relationship journey that came from our own blood, sweat and tears (blood is a bit of overstatement, but loads fo sweating).
1. Write down a list of what you love doing and what makes you feel refreshed, fulfilled and joyful. Ask your partner to do the same. How does each activity make you feel? What does it provide for you? Be specific and share this with your partner.
2. Discuss details: the timing, frequency, and any special circumstances or times so that you’ll feel most fulfilled. What would be the minimum that you need to refuel or feel refreshed?
3. What things can possibly be an interrupution? How can you provide safety, reassurance and certainty for your partner that everything will be ok?
4. How can you be supportive and happy for your partner and learn to rejoice in noticing how alive they feel after they do something they love?
5. Now that you know how important and fulfilling these activities are to you, add these activities to your schedules. What gets scheduled – gets done. Mark it as a special time – whether it rains, hails or shines, it’s your time.
Remember – Be committed to following through in doing the things you love, and be just as committed to developing, building and keeping Unity through caring and understanding communication and support for each other as you both grow to a new level in your relationship. Nothing stays the same. Your relationship is either growing or dying. If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards. Create an environment that fosters Growth. Growth requires change, so learn to also get comfortable with change.
We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. What refuels you, and what things have you needed to do to help develop, build and keep Unity in your relationship?