It isn’t too much to ask is it? Just one other person who gets us? Just one? Just someone who accepts us for who we are and who’s into the same things we are? There’s billions of us. Surely they’re out there. Right?
The reason we’ll always feel we’ve made the wrong choice is because eventually some things don’t work out. But by ‘don’t work out,’ we mean we fight, or argue, or one of us cries or get confused when communicating. We all start with the assumption that if we could just find someone who’s truly compatible then that wouldn’t happen.
But what does compatible mean? Because if we think it means no arguing, no hurt or upset feelings, or no pain or confusion then we’re not understanding or respecting the journey that is our lives.
People often ask me questions like this: how much do you compromise for your partner before you stop being yourself? The real question might better be: how do I grow closer to my partner?
In these exchanges compromise is always seen as a loss. It’s us giving up a bit of ourselves for them, or they’re giving something up for us. That is one way to choose to look at it. But in the best relationships that is not what people are doing.
People in the best relationships are not saying, Stop yelling at me! You know I’m always late! If you loved me you would accept me for who I am! The healthy couples look at each other and the always-late-person remembers that one of the many reasons they were attracted to their partner was because they were so respectful.
If we’re conscious and aware, we likely have also noticed that one of the ways our partner demonstrates that respect is through their respect of other people’s time. So the pressure we sense that they have placed on us, is really just them being themselves for one of the reasons we liked most about them.
The healthy couples eventually realize that they can develop the strengths their partner has if they simply emulate some of their healthy behaviours. In the case of being late, the person may simply start with the simple goal of genuinely trying to be on time more often.
It’s important to note that healthy people aren’t adopting behaviours for their partner. They do it out of a genuine respect and appreciation for their partners approach. They think their partner makes the world a better place by being that way, so they choose to act similarly.
Thanks to this inspiration based approach, the changes we make need not be a viewed as a loss. They’re can easily be an improvement. The problems primarily show up because couples get confused about the order someone else thinks we should make these changes in. After all, these changes ultimately take us all a lifetime and even then….
Yet, our failures can strangely act as a positive force in a relationship.
Since our partners are generously putting up with us clumsily learning to be who we want to be, then it’s not unreasonable that we would put up with their learning too. In this way our mistakes can, over time, come to generate gratitude rather than trouble.
If we’re constantly focused on how our partner is better than us then we’re often in a state of appreciation, which is the healthiest state to be in. It’s an everyday kind of steady love where we really feel lucky. If they simply aren’t someone we can genuinely look up to, then that is when a relationship should end.
If we do start off feeling lucky, then tough times have more padding. From that healthy place, on the times when we are really late, we will find our partner is more patient and understanding because they’re fully aware that we’re trying.
The best part is, they notice that we are trying because they have been watching and appreciating us just as much as we have been watching and appreciating them. When we both are able to do this is when relationships are at their best.
Explaining our behaviour ad nauseum points directly downward. As a general rule, the more we talk about how we see it, the worse we do. The more we try to understand the other person’s position, the better we do. If there’s lots of I’s and you’s in our argument it’s all about ego and not love. Those won’t move anyone forward.
It is always critical to remember that the people in a relationship are in a state of growth throughout their lives. The unaware, ungrateful couples grow apart and more rigid. The conscious, appreciative couples grow ever closer as they both become stronger and more capable thanks to lessons learned —but not taught— by each other.
We can see our partner suggesting a different approach to things as them being incompatible with us. Or we can see it as an invitation to expand ourselves.
If we have a list of things that our partner needs to change for us to be happy then we’re sunk. If we have a list of changes we want to make to ourselves, for ourselves, and those were inspired by our partner, then we’re in a healthy state of mind. We don’t want to direct the world to suit our worldview, we grow by expanding our worldview to include more people.
Which course we take with our relationships on is always open to change, so if right now we think that maybe we’ve chosen the wrong person, we need to just ask ourselves this one question: what are the ways in which I have grown by being with my partner?
If you can’t find any then that’s not their fault. If they were good enough to attract us then they should be good enough to have at least one quality to emulate. If we don’t even know what it is then the problem in the relationship is likely not them, it’s that both parties may have innocently made an incompatible, uninspiring choice. This happens a lot to really nice people that don’t like letting others down.
We shouldn’t think we were ever supposed to crack the code of finding the perfect person for us. There’s no secret formula. For all people the only formula is awareness and appreciation.
We should look for people that inspire us. If we do that, it’s easier to voluntarily choose to try to grow to be more like them because we recognize that it would expand and improve us as a person in our own eyes.
Our appreciation for each other as teachers can then add to our relationship’s cycle of gratitude and appreciation, and it is the couples where that flows best that they have by far the fewest issues. So here’s to all of us joining them on that path.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.