While being in a relationship has many wonderful benefits, like anything in life, it also comes with a big opportunity for heartbreak and disappointment. But if we know this we can acknowledge that these struggles are just part of the ride, it makes them so much easier to navigate.
No one can ever promise that you won’t be hurt in a relationship, but here are four things that will make the ride a whole lot more enjoyable and a whole lot less painful:
1. Stop pretending to be things you're not and just be yourself instead.
Being is our natural state and when we show up as humans being, magic happens. Being allows us to navigate life and relationships as our authentic selves, free of hangups, emotional baggage, or expectations.
In the beginning stages of relationships, many of us focus on showcasing our best selves, attempting to garner love and affection. We become ridiculously, painfully focused on doing because we want to make a good impression.
But it can be hard to be and do simultaneously. It’s difficult to be your quietly funny, book-loving introverted self when you’re trying to convince someone you’re a life-of-the-party type. In every relationship there's work, but we can complete this work best by being ourselves.
2. Know that not every relationship is meant to last forever.
Working as a therapist and coach, I pretty regularly have clients who avoid getting into relationships because they’re afraid of the potential for heartbreak. Shockingly enough, this is not a recipe for a fun and fulfilling dating life.
So many of us put too much pressure on ourselves, the people we’re dating, and our fragile, fledgling relationships. We’re tied to the idea that the right relationship will last forever and we want that forever to start immediately. But the truth is, everything is temporary. Post-breakup we might torture ourselves with the belief that we failed. Silence that voice. Anytime you’ve loved you’ve succeeded.
Sometimes the purpose of a relationship is to tear down your walls, shake you awake, reveal new parts of yourself. The right-for-right-now partner can be a mirror that exposes new dimensions of you. They give you the opportunity to notice personal obstacles. And then actually do something about them.
But all that emotional fever doesn't guarantee that someone you’re dating should be your life partner. Often riveting romances grip us in their clutch just to introduce the prospect of ruthless awareness and introspection.
Relationships can be our greatest teachers. It's often through them that we discover the most about ourselves. Each relationship will run its course, some in a few weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime. This is the unknown that we all leap into.
3. Know that things change.
We’re living, breathing organisms, subject to the changing tides of emotion and circumstance. Change is inevitable.
Next week your partner might wake up and want to change careers, move to the east coast, or have kids (like, soon). Can you allow space for that? Could you create a new life with him/her while he/she pursued something new? Or would you have to lovingly, respectfully wish him/her well and take a different path?
And, of course, things will change for you: your passions, your career, your family, your health. In a perfect world, your partner will welcome and support your changes but make peace with the fact that he might choose a path of his own.
4. We lose the things that we cling to.
I'm a firm believer that the universe will not let us hold onto anything that’s no longer serving us. Sometimes this comes in the form of an out-of-the-blue breakup, a layoff, or an unexpected expense.
When it’s no longer serving our higher good, it will be removed from our lives regardless of our preference otherwise. If you’re over-attached to someone out of fear of being alone, that clinging and clutching will cause you even greater pain when the relationship ends or shifts in another direction.
I call this “white knuckling” versus having an “open palm.” When you “white knuckle” a situation, you’re holding something in a tight fist and there's a desperate energy behind it. When your situation changes, that thing you were clinging to feels like it’s being ripped from your clutches. When you hold the situations of your life in an open palm, they're free to flow with acceptance and your life becomes less painful.
We all have the opportunity to surrender to the natural flow of relationships and to find happiness and satisfaction in love, whether we’re attached or not. Embrace change and step into the world with an open heart and open palms.