Let me just start out by stating the obvious: relationships are hard. Anyone who says, “Oh, but they don’t have to be,” has either never been in a passionate one, or is full of sh*t.
It totally makes sense that they’re hard.
We take two mammals with sub-optimal communication skills (aka “language”) and some serious evolutionary biology along with a high likelihood of experiences of trauma with people they’ve trusted, and stick them together.
Then we expect them to go against everything their evolutionary brain has learned about being safe and avoiding discomfort or difficulty so they can experience some sense of…connection and love…and geez, it’s no wonder we can get into it with our significant other.
So let’s just remember: There’s nothing wrong with your relationship just because it’s hard.
However, what’s is wrong with most relationships is that we don’t let the other person be who they are.
We have a Manual for them. We have a long list – conscious or not – of how we think they should behave. How they should treat us when we come home from work. How they should react when we cry. What they should give us for our birthday. What kind of father or mother they should be. How they should smell (or not smell). How much sex we will have with them and what that sex is like. How much money they should spend and on what kinds of things.
“Oh Ana, but I am an exception. I don’t have a Manual for my partner!”
People who say this usually do so because thus far, their partner is following their Manual.
We usually don’t know we have one until it’s not being followed.
If you think you don’t have a Manual, just imagine your partner coming home and not doing everything you like them doing. If they normally cook you dinner, imagine them stopping. If they normally plan fun adventures with you, imagine them becoming a couch potato. If you normally have sex three or four times a week, imagine it dropping to once a season. If they usually end texts with the heart emoticon, imagine them changing it to goats and chickens. If they are always on time, imagine them being late. Always. By a lot.
You might be wondering why Manuals are even a problem. Don’t they just help us get our needs met?
That’s another misconception about Manuals. They aren’t filled with objective “rules” that are legit. They are filled with expectations we have to protect us from feeling bad.
Requests are what help us get our needs met.
Manuals create suffering when we believe they should be followed in order for us to be happy.
Requesting that your partner not be late helps you get your needs met.
Getting pissed when they are always late because in your Manual they are supposed to be on time makes you unhappy. Again, you are not unhappy because they are late. You are unhappy because you expected them to be on time.
(I know. Crazy. We’ll do a call on this soon, because I know some of y’all are like WTF???!!!)
The other reason Manuals create problems is because people evolve. Well, at least people change (Freedom Junkies evolve;). When people change, the Manual doesn’t allow them to act differently. This rocks the boat, even if there isn’t anything fundamentally “wrong” with the change itself. I see this all the time in my coaching clients. They evolve. They start doing things differently. They are no longer following their partners’ manual.
Boom! Shit explodes.
When we decide to love someone, we need to also decide to let them be them. It’s really the mature thing to do, and the way a true Freedom Junkie walks their talk. The most freeing thing we can offer another human being is to let them be them and love them for it.
This does not mean you don’t make requests. It just means you don’t let yourself get all victimized and bent out of shape when the other person doesn’t fulfill them.
Some people ask me, “But don’t I have a right to have certain needs?” Girlfriend, yes. But you don’t have a right to make other people meet them. Ultimately, meeting your needs is up to you.
Plus, when you make your happiness depend on another person’s actions, you are giving all you power away. To them! To something you have NO control over! We don’t ever have control of other people, no matter how much we’d like to believe differently.
Trust me. I’ve been through this debate. I wish my husband was home more instead of up in the sky with his paraglider waaaay out of cell phone range in another time zone all the time, and I feel more than entitled to bitch about it. I wish my mother didn’t criticize me so much when I called her on the phone. I wish so many people who did things that I thought were f*cked up would just stop because “most people” would agree that I was right.
Well, “most people” aren’t who you chose to be your person to walk this life with right now.
If you are choosing to be with someone, then let them be them. Make your requests. They will either honor them or not. They get to be them – another adult, just like you, being them.
Choose to stay or go. But if you choose to stay, let them be who they are. Learn to give yourself what you need so that you aren’t relying on someone else for your happiness.
If you aren’t getting anything out of the relationship and want to go, then by all means go! But know that unless you’ve cleaned up your thoughts about what a partner “should” be doing for you – e.g. if you think they are there to protect you from feeling bad – you will likely repeat these same patterns in the next relationship.
Our relationships aren’t there to protect us from doing hard things, feeling hard feelings, or facing our bullshit.
In my mind, relationships are there to push our edge. To challenge us to grow. To help us evolve and learn how to free our minds so we can love wholeheartedly. Ultimately, this extends to all our relationships – friends, parents, siblings, colleagues…all the silly humans.
Chuck the Manuals.
It will actually free you up to love so much more deeply and freely.
And don’t worry – you will still be OK. If you’re doubting it, then we’ve got some work to do together on building up your self confidence – your ziji – so that you believe you are 100% capable of taking care of your emotional needs. Then, the other people in your life? They become people who are there to make life even more juicy.
Instead of your emotional caretakers, they become the cream cheese icing on that gluten-free Freedom Junkie cake of yours.