What happens after you meet your person? Once the thrill of first kisses, late night phone calls, weekend getaways and hot sex transition into something more. A higher level of commitment, which if you ask me is the ultimate win, but it can be difficult to navigate, for some. Especially once you emerge from an oxytocin fog; the hormonal hit to your brain that makes you feel giddy with desire in the first 90 days. Falling in love and having a relationship are two different things. The early stages, although fun, pale in comparison to the feelings associated with true intimacy and connection.
I once had this perceived notion that relationships had to be fun, light, flirty and exciting all the time. If there were any signs proving otherwise, I would immediately think there was a problem, analyzing what went wrong and trying anything I could to “fix” it. What I didn’t realize then, is that relationships shift, at different times - and that these shifts indicate growth.
I have been with my guy for over a year now. One amazingly beautiful, heart opening year. It has been wonderful, in many ways. The support and love we have for each other is mind blowing and I wake up every morning in gratitude for this man I have decided to do life with. And yet, it ain’t perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. Although we have never been in a fight (it's true), we have had disagreements. All of which we take the time to work through by showing up, talking it out, and allowing the other person to be heard. Often, there are logistics to figure out as we navigate our busy lives, as well as having different views on a few issues, but we remain grounded; knowing that we chose one another for a reason, and that should be honored and protected despite what may be going on around us. Taking the opportunity to recognize and legitimize the other’s feelings helps alleviate tension and conflict.
A significant number of clients come to me with relationship issues, unsure of how to proceed when there are ongoing challenges, and it’s not surprising. We live in a world where we’re constantly interacting with one another, whether it be romantic or platonic, so it makes perfect sense that we would need a little support along the way.
Here’s what I know and believe to be true - love isn’t what we see portrayed in movies. You don’t meet, fall head over heels, overcome a significant challenge in the course of one hour, and end up living happily ever after. It takes grit, commitment, patience, introspection, time and hard work. The notion that love can conquer all, although beautiful, is unrealistic. Having a successful relationship is a daily practice, and one that ebbs and flows, depending on what is going on with you emotionally.
We all have wounds, some deeper than others, but they exist and they remain despite falling in love.
The key is to recognize your triggers and subsequently work through your feelings as they arise. If you don’t, relational patterns will continue, riddling your partnership with unnecessary stressors. When you commit to another person, you are doing so in faith. To maintain a healthy union, faith can’t stand on its own. You need an internal change as well. There is this false belief that if your partner changes, then everything will be copacetic. However, that is not the case. Relationships flourish when you look within and heal your past hurt.
I don’t act perfectly in my relationship. In fact, I too, have triggers and sometimes they make me behave in ugly ways. I can get jealous, insecure and fearful, especially when I am neglecting my own self-care and spiritual practices. When I am in a healthier place, I see things more clearly. I can humbly acknowledge my part and make amends if necessary. When I am tired, overworked and stressed, I project these feelings onto my partner and I eventually act out. When I’m in this space, I stop and ask myself what am I feeling and why, which usually leads to exploring some form of unresolved pain. Trying to stay connected, balanced and diligent in dealing with my past, is part of the process to having a healthy relationship.
I am grateful for the insight and self-awareness that has brought me here; to this point in time, with this man. I stuck it out, despite moments of wanting to run. If I had relied solely on the warm and fuzzy feelings from the first few months, we would have already gone our separate ways. Because a relationship cannot sustain on feelings, sex and oxytocin alone. To have a strong and lasting relationship, it must be nurtured with care, communication, kindness and respect.