How To Love The One You're With
Are you in a great relationship but wonder if there's someone better out there for you?
It's an issue I see all the time in my counseling practice: The fear of missing out. The fear of making a mistake. The grass is always greener syndrome. And, sadly, we live in a culture that supports the mindset that you shouldn't "settle," and as a result we see countless loving, solid relationships end because people fall prey to the "doubt means don't" mentality and walk away from a good partner. With some simple and accurate information, you can learn to appreciate the partner you're with instead of dwelling in the fantasy of someone "better."
1. Focus on who your partner IS instead of who he or she ISN'T.
If you're a glass half-empty type of person, your natural habit will be to focus on the qualities about your partner that you don't like instead of those that you do. This is probably a lifelong habit that you can't change overnight, but if you bring conscious intention and attention to it, you can start to shift it so that you learn to focus on what you love instead of what you don't love.
2. Remember that every quality has two sides.
Along these lines, every quality has it's upside. You can focus on the fact that your partner is socially awkward or you can focus on the fact that his natural introversion also means he's a great listener. You can focus on your partner's silly voice which you find annoying or on her sweet playfulness. Your partner may not have the depth of your emotional experience or sensitivity, which makes you wonder if he really "gets" you, but if you flip the coin you'll remember that his rocklike nature is what creates the stability in your relationship.
3. Recognize that longing isn't love.
There's a common system in relationships called the pursuer-distancer dynamic: he's unavailable and you chase; he shows up and you run. You're never in the same place at the same time, which creates a level of emotional safety because neither of you are risking your heart. It also creates a dramatic high that many people mistake for love, for when you're in the longing position you're filled with all of the certainty, in-love feelings, and butterflies that are culture defines as love. Longing isn't love; it's longing. Love is action where both people are fully available and committed to showing up for themselves and each other.
The problem arises when you realize that you don't feel the high with your current, available partner that you felt for your unavailable ex. You then mistakenly assume that you're not in love with your partner and it's time to walk away. Chances are high that it's not time to walk away; it's time to learn about real love.
4. Realize that it's not your partner's job to complete you.
Despite what we learned from Jerry Maguire, it's not your partner's job to complete you. If you're feeling stagnant, numb, or bored in your life, changing partners may alleviate that temporarily as you experience the high and thrill of a new relationship, but when the honeymoon ends, you'll be right back where you started. Your happiness, aliveness, and wholeness are your responsibility, and if you think finding the "right" partner will ensure a fast-pass to happiness, think again.
5. Let the fantasy of the perfect partner shatter.
The bottom line is that there is no perfect partner. If you're waiting for Mr. or Ms. Perfect to come along, you'll be waiting for the rest of your life. And in the waiting, you'll miss the wonderful partner who's standing right before you. We're so culturally indoctrinated into believing that the fabled perfect partner really exists that when you realize that he or she doesn't, you may need to grieve the fantasy. That's OK; better to grieve the fantasy than to walk away from your loving relationship because you've fallen prey to the grass is always greener syndrome.
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