Relationship Fit and Running Their Course
Alice’s husband Ben knew me as another person charmed with his wife, not a psychotherapist, when he shared admiringly that Alice had him take the MMPI when they started dating. I cracked up. The MMPI is a psychological test administered in clinical settings by a psychologist to assess personality traits and mental health. What I didn’t know then is that Alice was a practicing psychologist in her former professional life. She is also a talented dynamic woman with heart, strong wit, and great sense of humor. Her most recent professional endeavor is rocking the culinary home cook scene (see allyskitchen.com).
When Alice returned from the locker room I asked her about her decision to administer the MMPI to Ben early in their relationship. She shared that she didn’t want to waste time and wanted to be with someone who was willing to look at compatibility honestly. Besides delighting in the story of Alice and Ben’s courtship, previous marriages, and their successful 20 plus year marriage, this happy exchange reminded me of two things that are important and sometimes ignored among couple’s therapists; the notion of good fit, and that sometimes relationships simply run their course.
You Aren’t the Person I Want You to Be
At different times in life, people cross our paths and stay for a season or years. Relationships are evolving, dissolving, stagnating, or they become arenas of struggle and pain. It is perfectly natural for relationships to run their course. Our suffering in relationships comes from a desire to control the person we’re in a relationship with or the outcome of the relationship. Rather than accept and let go once a relationship has run its natural course, couples can feel like they’ve failed or done something wrong that’s led to the dissolution of a relationship. Couples can fight for years trying to change and/or punish the other in their desire to get what they want in a mate.
Am I Forcing this Relationship?
It’s a good question to ask yourself. Not every romantic partner is meant to travel the path till death do us part. We can become so attached the idea of marriage, what we’ve learned from our conditioning and the desire to have it all that we project desires onto the wrong person. Sometimes people are married to the wrong person for them. Ending a relationship can be heart-wrenching, difficult, and painful. The mind tends to cast blame and criticism and wants to make the partner wrong. It takes courage and emotional maturity to let go with love or simply walk away from a fit that doesn’t match well.
In her book Conscious Uncoupling Katherine Woodard offers a clear guide for navigating a breakup without the unnecessary collateral damage while turning a painful break-up into a healthy transformation.
Aren’t Relationships Work?
After the delirium of the initial bliss of honeymoon phase wanes, there is work. The work is focusing on your own reactions and feelings rather than trying to change your partner. It’s practicing vulnerability, listening, letting go of control, learning to compromise, honesty, as well as endeavoring an unwavering commitment by both partners to nurture the relationship by making it the priority. Like any new skill there are beginners and those who have advanced skills. Mastery takes knowledge, practice and diligence. It takes work to become skilled and truthfully most of us are sorely unschooled in the realm of relationships. This kind of work pays off in ways most couples feel is beyond what they thought possible. Conversely, if the work feels relentless there is something else that needs addressing.
To recognize the right person for you, what’s most important is be clear on who you are. Sadly most people don’t know themselves consciously very well.The better we know ourselves and align with who we are the more natural it becomes to meet people with whom we feel an easy resonance. Focus on doing and being what most lights you up and brings you joy, you will easily attract the people in your life who match your being.
As for my friend Alice, after almost two decades of marriage Alice and her first husband decided to go their separate ways. As Alice describes it, divorce opened the “door to the second half of her epic love story”. Over 20 years later Alice and Ben are delighting in the life they’ve co-created.