I have been in a relationship for seven years and I still learn something new every day. Not kidding. Every. Single. Day. It’s not always easy — actually, it can be a friggin’ rubiks cube at times — but navigating life with another human being can be the most educating, rewarding, challenging, frustrating, fun, confusing, exciting, spiritual, amazing– someone stop me! Basically, it is everything all at once, and it’s so worth it if you find the right person, but there are some traps that too many of us fall in to and end up hurting ourselves. I solemnly swear that every piece of advice I give to you I have learned the absolute hardest way.
Intro: You meet someone amazing who actually makes it past the hunger games and becomes your boyfriend. You are so swept up in the thrill and infatuation of your new romance that you start revolving around it. You become the physical incarnation of the heart-eyes emoji. All you need is looooove!!! You know the drill. I’ll admit that I was fully sold on this dream. I found my “perfect” guy and I was ready to fly off into the sunset on a magic carpet ride into a whole new world. What I didn’t realize at the time was that while I was putting so much energy into cultivating the “us”, I was effectively leaving my world behind. Dun Dun DUUUN!
Passed the Infatuation Phase
If this sounds familiar, forgive yourself. Losing sight of who you are in a relationship doesn’t happen all at once. It sneaks up on you. Little by little we stop doing things we love, thinking our partner is filling us up with everything that we need. In my case I alienated my friends, then stopped going to the gym, dancing, shaving my legs–the list goes on. Those things that made me the well rounded (and well groomed) person that attracted my SO in the first place were withering and dying. Not realizing why at the time, I became cranky. I started pointing fingers to try to make sense of my melancholy. “You didn’t do this!” “We never do that.” “Why don’t you say this, take me there, listen to me, UNDERSTAND ME?!” The blame game was on another level.
If you are starting to hate me in this story, I’m right there with you. If it’s not disgust you feel, maybe you recognize that person. Maybe you have been there; draining all the energy and happiness from another person and blaming them for your depression, or vice versa. I believe it can happen to the best of us, and I would go as far as to say that whether directly or indirectly, it is the number one killer of relationships. If you can relate, don’t lose hope. There is a road to recovery here, and –as is so often the case — it starts with: Perspective.
Taking a Walk in Your Partner’s Shoes
Now (finally) think about it from your partners point of view. How must it feel to be responsible for someone else’s happiness? Yikes. If the pressure of it doesn’t crack you, the inadequacy of discovering you’ll never succeed definitely will. It is totally unfair to put that burden on the person we love. Can we blame them for the resentment and exhaustion they must feel? When I finally saw things this way, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed to drastically shift my approach if I wanted our relationship — or any relationship of mine — to work. If I wanted to be happy at all…ever! After some soul searching, my mantra became:
NO ONE is Responsible for your Happiness but YOU.
….Let that marinate and let’s talk solutions.
How Do I Reclaim my Happiness?
- Communicate- Don’t assume your partner knows how you are feeling. It’s your responsibility to communicate your feelings without pointing fingers so that they can understand and support your personal journey. Honesty and vulnerability creates intimacy, so this will be good for your relationship on multiple levels.
- Take care of yourself- This may look different for different people. The point is to do what makes you feel good, whether that be working out, meditating, or bubble baths — just make sure you devote some time to your wellness.
- Fly Solo- Doing things on your own can be liberating. Empowering, even. Extra points if it’s something you’ve never done before, or something outside of your comfort zone. You will discover new things about yourself, and develop your sense independence and confidence. Plus, it makes for great stories to tell!
- Make time For Friends and Family- This one speaks for itself. If you have lost touch with people who you love, now is the time to reconnect. I’ll admit that I struggle with this, but every time I make space in my life for friends and family, I am reminded of how important it is and how good it can make me feel. Make a list of the people in your life who you love and want to stay connected to and try to foster and prioritize those relationships. Reach out at least once a week. If plans happen, don’t flake! You’ll thank yourself later.
- Quality Time- Set aside some time with your partner that is undivided. No distractions allowed (YES, phones count!). Just listen, talk, and connect. Be open. Keep it positive. Maximizing your time together in this way creates a feeling of balance and connectedness that will make it easier for you to enjoy your time alone without feeling guilty or selfish.
If your special someone does not support your decision to take responsibility for your happiness — welp…to the left to the left!