It occurred to me recently that I’ve never shared with you the reasons why I write about relationships. I think it is a worthwhile question to answer because of my passion for this topic. So I would like to share with you ‘some’ of the reasons why I write about relationships , and why I hope you will read my writing about relationships.
But first, let me briefly explain why I am so passionate about learning (and sharing) all that I can about relationships. I recognized my interest in relationships about 19 years ago when I was asked this question – What is the most common issue that you work with as a therapist? I knew the person asking the question was expecting an answer such as depression, eating disorders, or abuse, probably a diagnosable condition. I did not have an answer; I think partly because I do not think of people as a diagnosis. However, after giving this question more thought it occurred to me that the most frequent issue I work with is relational challenges (all relationships in our life, with my blog focusing on romantic ones).
As a therapist I have worked with couples who have expressed frustration, hurt, anger, love, hopelessness, joy, and laughter while experiencing connection, disconnection, and a yearning to grow and stay together.
There is one thing that all of us have in common, no one escapes this commonality: So, here is my first reason that I write about relationships:
All of us, at some point in our life, have experienced emotional pain. We all crave connection and connection can heal us.
Some may have experienced an enormous amount of pain in their lives and others much less. So what does pain have to do with why I write about romantic relationships? Well, the reason is because I think that we often turn to our relationships to heal our pain. BUT, I don’t think that we recognize that we want our relationships to heal our pain. However, I do think that our loving relationships can heal some (not all) of our pain.
When I met my now husband, I craved support in my career. Well, more than my career, I craved someone who believed in me. During my schooling years, I never felt that my strengths were noticed. However, my husband recognized my strengths, first as a student and then as a therapist. This was quite healing for me. His support provided me with confidence and belief in myself. This is, of course, the positive aspect of healing through a relationship.
I have also learned so much about myself through the pain, frustration, and challenging times in my relationship. This has not been an easy journey. If you look back at my past blog posts you will notice that I write a lot about ‘learning about ourselves’. I recognize that examining our personal challenges within us can be painful. However, when you recognize your challenges, you can own them and do something about them.
Knowing yourself and having a strong sense of identity is ultimately healing. And here’s the thing, you can learn about yourself through a relationship. You cannot learn about yourself on an island. It is through a relationship that we can reflect about who we are, how we affect others and the kind of person we want to be in the world.
Knowing that people crave connection and recognizing the challenge to stay connected is another reason that I write about relationships.
All of us desire connection with another, most of us want to be in love and most want to stay in love. And yet it is not always easy (for many reasons). For one, challenges to staying connected can be due to pain we carry with us from the past (emotional triggers, 2/18 of my FB page!) and/or pain we experience from the one we love (which ultimately can make a relationship challenging). But I think the thought that many of us have from time to time is that if a relationship is hard, or we feel lonely, hurt, frustrated, stuck, helpless, hopeless, then……we should leave. BUT, I think for most people, you will feel less regret knowing that you’ve done all that you can before making a decision to end a relationship. Learning how to be in a relationship is one of the best ways to be happy in your relationship, as well as helping you to know if you are in the best relationship for you.
But let me share a personal experience that will explain even more why I write about relationships!
There was a time in my life when I needed relationship guidance. I searched and searched for answers. I felt that so much of what I found spoke about reasons why relationships do not work. It just seemed like so much that was written was about how to stay out of a relationship rather than how to stay in it! As I have shared in past blogs, I am divorced and remarried, so it is not that I believe all relationships are good for you. However, I think that if you learn everything you can about how to be in a relationship, and it still does not work out for you, you at least know that you’ve done all you can to make it work. I have never had anyone come into therapy and say to me, “I want you to help me get out of my marriage”. Most know when they are ready to leave a relationship; they don’t need therapy to tell them.
When people come to see me they are either unhappy in their relationship and want to know how to fix it or they may think that they want to end their relationship but still feel that they need to know if they have done everything possible for repair. Again, learning about relationships is how you build confidence, and self-worth in yourself. Learning how to navigate a relationship is how you know what is best for you. For me, I wanted to stay in my marriage. I just needed guidance when I was stuck. And because relationships are complex, I needed to learn all that I could to understand the unique challenges in my relationship. One size advice never fits all regarding relationships. So I write in the hope that something will help you and your unique relationship.
Another reason I write about relationships: The more we understand what couples go through; the better we can maintain a long-term loving connection rather than experience disconnection.
First let me say, there will always be times of disconnection in your relationship. But let me share some thoughts with you. Because of my interest in relationships, I tend to focus how relationships are portrayed in films. Some time ago I viewed a very popular film ‘Before Sunrise’ about two individuals who just met and spend 24 hours together talking about everything, feeling connected. People who have reviewed this film rave at the ability of this couple to engage in dialogue as they do and refer to the film and the dialogue as “magical” and “rare honesty with hypnotizing conversations.” My thought was that I would like to see a film about a couple that have been together for longer than 24 hours who can connect and engage in dialogue as freely as when they first met. True genius would be if someone were to make a film about a couple that have been together for 20 years and can talk freely and feel closely connected. Keep in mind; I loved the film and the two that followed!
I remember the long and exciting conversations that my husband and I shared when we first met 27 years ago. At times, I long for the days when we first met, revisiting the lack of relational complexity and the enjoyment of getting to know one another. Feeling excited in the simplicity of connecting. In the beginning of a relationship, connection is easy. Now, shared thoughts and feelings are sometimes met with different reactions from both of us: disagreement once seen as fun and challenging, now can sometimes be perceived as disapproval and/or rejection of the other and/or perceived judgment. Years of experiences from being together affect our conversations. Not all of our conversations, of course, but complexities sneak in, making it challenging for both of us.
I think what I realized when viewing this film and during my study (and continued learning!) of relationships is what people miss most in their relationship is being able to talk without all the worry of the possibilities of how it could take a wrong turn.
I hear couples frequently turn to pathologizing each other when the relationship is challenging. All too often I hear individuals in relationships refer to their partner as “Nuts” or “Narcissistic” or believing that another person would understand them better, rather than really turning to each other, remembering what they love and trying to understand one another to gain a deepened connection. I think in some way we extend more fairness to another person when we first meet them. We extend openness, we extend interest, and we extend excitement in wanting to learn more about them and learn from them. We extend so much. Somehow, so much of that extending to each other can become lost over the years together.
My wish and hope for people in relationships is that what we extend to each other in the beginning of a relationship doesn’t get lost but grows – extending more fairness, openness, interest, and learning – resulting in growing together and ultimately a deepened connection. No one is to blame for the disappointment, discouragement, and frustration that we sometimes feel: it is a lack of understanding of this very complex thing we all call a ‘relationship’. It is a lifelong study for all us!
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One more thing…..I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. I know it is not easy to do! Believe me, I know, it took me a very long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you! When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section!
Photo Credit: J.K. Califf @flicker.comShare