Love is something we all desire to have in our lives, to have someone to count on and rely on, to uplift us and comfort us, a person who cherishes us and sees us for who we authentically are. I have loved and lost a lot, I’m not someone who believes that you are given one chance at love. Rather, that love is a learning experience, that it is work, that it is a series of lessons to be learned.
Love, in fact, is a verb.
The reason I think a lot of my relationships have failed is not an individual issue, but actually a widespread misunderstanding of the concept of love, romance, and passion. If we come to terms with how we truly make missteps in our relationships going INTO them, then we can avoid them, we can heal, we can guide others into what true and whole love looks like.
I believe a large reason many relationships fail comes down to the fact that they are built upon a foundation of shared trauma, insecurity, fear, and resilience.
Now I’m not saying that relationships with couples who have experience in trauma are inherently doomed to fail. This would discredit so many people! People who have been physically abused, people who have experienced childhood trauma, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc! Finding someone who experiences solidarity in their truth doesn’t inherently sound bad does it? In fact, it sounds as if someone may have found someone who understands them? The problem I’ve found is that relationships need to be built upon a firm and equal footing of trust, security, mutuality, and humility. We need to be willing to put work in for our partners, we need to see them as our equals, we need to lift them up to be better and do better. Growing up with trauma leads to a lot of pain, and we need to be in relationships where our partners are willing to put in the work to maneuver through that hurt so that when it rears its head it doesn’t tear down the couple. In my own personal experience, and seeing that of many other couples this is what I’ve encountered: Couples coming together passionately excited about their newfound friendship and love, excited to have found someone who understands them, who “sees them” and can relate to the pain they’ve experienced. They experience a lot of highs together, everything is great. However, when the lows are low things are rough. Things are hard enough when you haven’t processed your own trauma, now you have to help process another person’s and what happens? It is compounded, creating a bigger problem for both of you. The other circumstance I’ve seen, is one half doing a lot of work to improve their mental health. But their partner doesn’t see it as their problem, so when their personal issues show in the relationship it overflows, making the healthier partner feel obligated to take care of them and revive them into a state of mental well being. Let me say this. You are not responsible for the mental health of your partner so long as it is outside of your control. To be specific: if you are being a kind human being you are enough. You are not obligated to be anyone’s therapist or support worker. You are not responsible to heal them through relapse. You can encourage them, but it is not your duty. I will also say, your mental health is not an excuse to treat anyone else with disrespect, or expect anyone else to take care of you. You are responsible for your life. You are responsible to seek help if you need it. It is not healthy to put your partner in a situation where they feel obligated, manipulated or trapped for your mental wellbeing. All of this isn’t to say that I think relationships built out of trauma are doomed. If this were the case I’d be pretty hopeless right now. And I know many people who have experienced vast amounts of pain in their life who are in beautiful relationships that are flourishing right now. Love is powerful. Love is such an extremely charged gift.
Below I have written out 5 Tools For Being A Loving Partner
Promote Mental Well-being In Your LifestyleTherapy or counseling isn’t always affordable but if that’s an option definitely seek those out. I understand they aren’t always accessible, so try to find accessible tools for mental wellness where you can, purchase a CBT or DBT therapy workbook from your local bookstore and try to work through the material. If possible watch and join online classes for Mindful Self Compassion hosted by Alayna Joy Fender. Look for local yoga studios that have discounted monthly welcome packages, or try at home videos to promote a meditative mind and self awareness. Look into the EnneagramI know, I know. Another personality test. Instead of taking the test however, I recommend as a couple listen to the podcasts by Typology, the Liturgists, and The Road Back toYou, as well as reading the book The Road Back To You. These will give you a good all around understanding of all the “types” and from there you can decipher where you each fall on the spectrum. Not only is this an interesting way of understanding ourselves, but I have found it to have a profound impact on the way I interact with people relationally. It has allowed me to better understand my friends, family, and my partner, to handle arguments and conflict and to understand how to navigate my pain. It is so worth the exploration! Be direct with conflictWhen we are raised in conflict and we’ve experienced trauma its very common to fear and run from conflict. One of the best things I can encourage is to be direct with it instead. This doesn’t mean to get in your partners face and yell or scream. This is about diffusing conflict, and loving your partner, your best friend, the person you hold dearly. Approach them without hiding information, don’t skirt around the issue, don’t prolong bringing your worries to them. Be upfront, be direct, be forward. Rip that bandaid off and be kind, loving, and honour their love for you by sharing your heart. Processing together is better for you both. Find love for your partner OUTSIDE of your shared solidarity in painYour partner is more than just the bond in trauma that you have, you may have found a shared unity in suffering but remember that they are more than that and so are you! Ignite a fire for life in each other that is about uplifting and edifying each other outside of that. You are both valuable and unique and this is just a part of your story, it isn’t the entire story. Remember Love is an ACTION WORD.Love is not passive, it involves work. Take the time to cherish your partner, learn about them in all the ways that they were wonderfully made. Learn abut their passions, their desires, their hopes and their dreams, learn what makes them laugh and get excited. Figure out their love language, figure out YOURS, work together as a team. Every day wake up and know that another day you are pledging to work toward being a better person with them in your life.