It isn’t too much to ask is it? Just one other person who gets you. Just one. Just someone who accepts you for who you are and who’s into the same things you are. There’s seven billion of us. Surely they’re out there. Right?
The reason people always feel they’ve made the wrong choice is because eventually some things don’t work out. But by “don’t work out,” I mean they fight, or argue, or they cry or get confused when communicating. Everyone figures if they could just find someone who’s truly compatible then that wouldn’t happen.
But what does compatible mean? Because if you think it means no arguing, no hurt or upset feelings, or no pain or confusion then you don’t understand the journey that is your life.
People always ask me questions like this: how much do you compromise for your partner before you stop being yourself? The real question should be: how do I grow closer to my partner?
In these exchanges compromise is always seen as a loss. It’s you giving up a bit of yourself for them or they’re giving something up for you. Yeah, you could choose to look at it that way. But in the best relationships that is not what they’re 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 and the always-late-person remembers that one of the many reasons they were attracted to their partner was because they demonstrated themselves to be better at respecting other people’s time.
The healthy couples 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 could simply start with the simple goal of genuinely trying to be on time more often. But healthy people aren’t doing that for their partner. They do it out of respect and appreciation for how they feel their partner is more successful than them. The changes we make are not a loss. They’re an improvement. The problem comes when we don’t tackle these issues in the order someone else thinks we should. After all, these things ultimately take us all a lifetime. But since they’re putting up with us learning it’s not unreasonable that we would put up with their learning too.
If you’re constantly focused on how your partner is better than you then you’re often in a state of appreciation, which is the healthiest state to be in. It’s a everyday kind of steady love. Then, from that healthy place, the times where you are really late–your partner is more patient and understanding because they’ve been fully aware that you’re trying–because they were watching and appreciating you just as much as you were of them. When you both do this it all points upward.
Explaining yourself ad nauseum points directly downward. The more people talk about how they see it, the worse they do. The more they try to understand the other position, the better they do.
The two 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.
You can see your partner suggesting a different approach to things as them being incompatible to you. Or you can see it as an invitation to expand yourself. But if you have a list of things that your partner needs to change for you to be happy then you’re sunk. If you have a list of changes you want to make for yourself that were inspired by your partner, then you’re in a healthy state of mind where you’re not trying to direct the world to suit your worldview, you’re expanding your worldview to include more of life.
Which course you take your relationship on is always open to change, so if right now you think you’ve maybe chosen the wrong person, just ask yourself this one question: what are the ways in which I have grown by being with my partner? Because if you can’t find any then that’s not their fault. If they were good enough to attract you then they should be good enough to have at least one thing to emulate. If you don’t know what it is then the problem in the relationship is likely not them.
You were never supposed to crack the code of finding the perfect person for you. There’s no secret formula. The formula is awareness and appreciation. You are only supposed to find people that inspired you and then you voluntarily choose to try to grow to be more like them because you recognize that it would expand and improve you as a person in your own eyes. That act adds to your relationship’s cycle of gratitude and appreciation and it is those couples that have by far the fewest issues. Here’s to you joining them on that path.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.