5 Questions For Recognizing The Root Of Your Relationship Troubles
If you're feeling a sense of disharmony and separation in your love life, the route to fixing things might be easier and shorter than you imagined. Like so many things, it begins with a choice: You've chosen to be with your partner, so what if you choose to take the steps to create a phenomenal relationship with them, starting today?
Here are five questions you can ask yourself to help you get to that place. And if you find value in these questions, you might want to share them with your enjoyable other.
1. Do I have the freedom to be me?
This is such a big one. In fact, I'd say the cracks in most relationships start when one or both of you become more concerned with meeting the needs of each other at the cost of tending to what you want and desire. In a lot of relationships, this actually starts on Day One, because that's when we're most keen to appear attractive and tick the other person's boxes.
Before long, we're so used to pleasing our partner that we lose our sense of self completely, and in extreme cases, all of our choices are made around what will make the other person happy. Understandably, this leads to resentment and bitterness, though often we don't realize it's down to the fact that we've given parts of ourselves away.
The good news is it's never too late to reconnect with yourself, and it begins when you make the choice to honor yourself by giving yourself the freedom to be who you truly are.
In essence, this means you start making more choices for you, and you stop neglecting those interests and ambitions that you're worried aren't in tune with your partner's. You learn to say no to activities and experiences you're not interested in, and you put aside time just for you—at least 30 minutes a day—when you do something for the sole purpose of enjoying yourself.
Putting yourself first like this can be a problem if you've been taught that taking care of yourself is a selfish act. It's really not—and if your relationship is in jeopardy, it might be the very thing that can save it.
Think of it this way: Airline staff tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first in the event of an emergency—because you can't give your attention and care to anyone else if you don't.
2. Can I allow my partner the same kind of freedom?
This is essential. Encourage your other half to do whatever inspires and uplifts them as an individual, even if you're not included in that. If salsa dancing isn't your thing but they love it, don't try to stop them from doing it. They'll be energized from the opportunity and will come back to you grateful and more alive. In the same way that you shouldn't have to modify or mute who you are, neither should your partner.
The beautiful thing about bringing this mutual sense of freedom into the relationship is that you stop looking to each other for fulfillment, and you stop trying to change each other. You create your relationship together from a place of spaciousness and ease.
3. Am I expecting things to be perfect?
Pretty much everyone has an opinion on what a great relationship should look and be like—so what's yours? What are your expectations of a perfect partner and the perfect union? And, more importantly: Where have those ideas and ideals come from?
A lot of people build a picture about what a relationship should or shouldn't be from the kind of relationship their parents had, or from what they see on social media, or from the marriage their best friend has, or how awesome the couple is in their favorite film or TV show. While I know you're not so suggestible to think that what you see on TV or how your friends present themselves is the whole truth, it's always worth asking why we've come to seek certain standards or requirements from our relationships. So often these standards are out of date—or they weren't actually ours in the first place.
On top of this, when we buy into any vision of perfection or how things should be (note the word "should"—it's a sign you're not choosing for yourself), that vision holds us back. It's not so much that our expectations are high but more that they're too narrow, and nothing can come into our experience that doesn't meet the ideal we're so invested in.
A big element of this comes from the ingrained habit we have of judging everyone and everything, so let's look at that next.
4. How often do I judge myself—and my partner?
Without wanting to be presumptuous, I can guess that you judge yourself, your partner, and your relationship on a daily basis—and your partner is most likely judging you right back.
It's no one's fault: We've been practiced into judgment our whole lives. We endlessly divide people and their actions into good and bad, right and wrong. In the same way that looking for perfection limits what can come into our lives, so does judgment.
When it comes to a relationship, no two people have exactly the same opinions about what's right, wrong, acceptable, and so on, so what you get are two different judgment systems clashing—and two people locking horns and refusing to back down from how they see a situation.
The antidote to judgment is always allowance. Practicing allowance means everything that comes into your experience is merely interesting. You step away from labeling anything as good or bad—and that includes you, your partner, and the relationship.
Note the difference between these two responses to the same statement.
"I'm not as happy in our relationship as I once was."
"What? Why? What do you mean? Oh god, this is awful. Do you think it's my fault? Because if you do, you're wrong."
"I'm not as happy in our relationship as I once was."
"Oh, OK—that's interesting. Let's explore this."
There's so much more lightness, space, and possibility around the second response. It's free of judgment, and that frees you up to actually take a moment to catch your breath, clear your mind, and move forward. When you see everything that comes into your experience as interesting, there's so much less tension and strain in all of your relationships and interactions.
5. How can we make this fun again?
Ah, now I like this question! Think about why the two of you got together in the first place. What did you like about each other, and how did you have fun together? And when was the last time you had that kind of fun (or any kind of fun?)
Sure, if you have kids or other commitments, it can be hard to give time to each other, but it's so vital that you do. When we get stuck in our separate routines, weeks and months can pass by before you realize you haven't laughed together in that giddy, childlike way that only happens when the two of you are connected and at ease.
As soon as you get the chance, ask your partner, What fun can we have today? What can we create?
I also recommend you find one thing each day that you're grateful for about your other half—and then tell them! So often we take each other for granted, and this one simple act reminds both of you how far acceptance and appreciation can go.
From my point of view, a great relationship is one in which gratitude and allowance are a feature of every day—every moment, in fact. It's one where you gift each other the freedom to follow your passions. It's one where you ask what you can create together and what contribution you can be to each other. It's one where you look to the future with openness, excitement, and curiosity and say, "So, what next?"