Exactly who is this person I’m in a relationship with?
As a Psychotherapist in Sarasota that specializes in Couples Counseling, I get quite a few inquires from couples who aren’t sure if they should even bother to date the person they are with, much less consider a long-term relationship. They often ask, “Exactly who is this person I’m in a relationship with? The dilemma always comes down to “should I run now, or should I wait it out and see if things improve?” It can be hard to maintain perspective and gain insight on any freshly minted relationship. The romance factor is at its highest levels, everyone is charming and on their best behavior, and except for a few disagreements there seems to be a wellspring of promise on the horizon for this new relationship. So why call then wondering if this relationship is worth it? It would make sense that everything seems fine except for those few behaviors or characteristics that seem barely noticeable at the time that you know eventually would become unbearable over time.
I find it helpful to share with my couples that the characteristics and quality of their relationship will be directly proportionate to what they learned from the people in their life that loved and nurtured them as a child. Why? Because it was these individuals that role modeled love, compassion, and intimacy and overall relationship interaction with their significant other from which you learned as a child. We are all a by-product of our upbringing whether good, bad, or indifferent and that upbringing is what shaped our relationship skills as an adult. Clients who coming from loving, expressive homes have a tendency to be more loving and expressive in their relationships, whereas, clients who came from dysfunctional, non-nurturing homes are more likely to repeat the dysfunction and struggle with nurturing in their relationships….and so on. After all we are creatures of learned behavior and in that learned behavior we can normalize even the most dysfunctional behaviors. When I ask couples to break down exactly what a disagreement looks like, the defense mechanisms, argument style, and how they are able to resolve their disagreements, it almost directly relates back to what they saw growing up. The couples ability to connect emotionally, relate intimately, respect and validate each other will struggle if they do not find a way to bridge the gap in the differences of what they learned about love. So when you are evaluating whether this relationship is worth the effort ask yourself what you know to be true about that person’s understanding of love. Is it similar to what your understanding is? If it is radically different it doesn’t necessarily indicate the end of a relationship but rather a conscious awareness of the differences. Is that individual’s emotional upbringing and experiences something that is beneficial to the relationship or something that could benefit from change. If their background is so vastly different from your own what can you do? Is this the point where you run?
Let me start by saying I am a true believer in the power of positive growth and if an individual sets the intention to change then they are allowing change to enter their life. So even in times when what we witnessed growing up left us with a poorly laid foundation in our future relationships, just the willingness to acknowledge and the desire to change can be the catalyst to move us in the direction of becoming that person capable of a loving and healthy relationship. Couples can work together to develop the loving relationship they want for themselves as long as they both are willing to embark on the path of change. Actually, the beauty of two people coming together is that they are writing the story of their own relationship and it is theirs to create. The strength of the alignment forges a solid foundation for differences in emotional upbringing that can be worked on together as a couple and made part of the new relationship.
So if you are sitting on the fence, unsure of the worth of the relationship you are in, ask yourself if the love you both share for each other is something worth working on to create a even better love? Weaving together a stronger bond, creating something exclusively for the two of you, can allow you to take confidence in your decision to put forth the effort.