Originally published February 13th, 2020 in Change Your Mind, Change Your life – a medium.com publication.
Do I stay or do I Leave?
Relationships that are challenging or not getting off the ground can cause us emotional and mental torment. We may feel as if we are on a small boat in the middle of the ocean, with huge waves crashing over us. We don’t feel stable. We don’t have trust in a relationship – whether with ourselves, our partner or the relationship itself. Our will power isn’t the right tool to make the changes we need. How do we find our clarity and our strength?
Knowing when to pursue a relationship and when to walk away is often confusing. It can also be difficult to know whether a relationship (or marriage) is worth working on. We don’t know if our troubles can be fixed. We don’t know what we are being called upon to do. We don’t know if we are hearing a voice of fear, or a voice of intuition. This problem will not be solved with a listicle. There is a deeper calling occurring.
Grappling with uncertainty and pain
A woman, Julie, is struggling in a relationship. She has an intense connection with a man, Matthew — the connection appears to be mutual. This relationship has not gotten off the ground yet. Julie is in the role of the pursuer (by virtue of his less active communication), so she initiates more of their conversations. They have not yet moved into a monogamous relationship.
The depth of the connection is intense, but it appears that while Julie wants a relationship, Matthew is unwilling to step into one entirely — despite the connection and harmony between them.
If Julie were to read a “How to Catch a Man” or “When to Walk Away From a Relationship” type article, she may be advised to either get seductive or give up. Neither is the answer.
Instead, the answer is knowing that this conundrum is helping us grow. It involves trusting a process. Something is slowly being built within us during this painful process. As we confront situations that activate us and cannot be molded according to our will, we face aspects of ourselves. We face that we each have different timetables, different needs, different fears. We are, in fact, distinct beings. You are not me and may not want what I want.
Julie has a lot of pain emerging, as well as fear and despair. You could see Julie as zigzagging through different states of consciousness. She fluctuates between feeling stable and grounded and feeling desperate.
As Julie unearths her worries and hurt, she can begin to transcend these parts of herself. She may come to realize this relationship will not save her, that she is worth more. She may come to understand that he is not what she needs long term unless he decides he wants what she wants.
Or she may find that over time, he steps closer, a deeper trust emerges and the relationship resolves into one that is mutually satisfying. Only by spending time in this process will the answer be revealed. We do not know if the relationship we are tending will grow.
Living and experience helps us find our answers
The universe is providing Julie with an experience that offers the opportunity for her to build a better and fuller life. This experience will enable her to develop new capacities within herself. And if this particular relationship doesn’t manifest, it may allow her to attract another more fulfilling relationship. Should Julie choose to open to this concept, she will more easily participate in this process. Yet, we often fight this idea because we want what we think we want when we want it.
Leaving a relationship is difficult because the nature of love is specific. We love the specificity of the color of our beloved’s eyes, of the smell of their skin, of how they laugh. We are sure what we need is embodied in those specifics. We don’t see that we can fall in love with other specificities and that what we ultimately need is more universal: being adored, valued, and cherished.
Julie, take your time. Surrender to the struggle, to the pain. Hang in there until either the relationship moves forward (this may require doing work on the relationship or yourself) or you feel deep inside, that it is over and time to move on. In this way, you develop trust in yourself and ultimately, will have trust in a relationship.
The struggle bears fruit
Sarah was once in a similar situation as Julie. She was in love with Tim, who wasn’t interested in being monogamous. Sarah isn’t capable of a casual connection. Her connection with Tim felt intense and nourishing to her. But Tim was able to disconnect and reconnect intimately with someone else. Sometimes in the same day. Sarah tried futilely, over and over, but she could not fully let go of Tim.
They were friends and sometimes more than friends. Sarah tried to date other people. She did her best to keep her relationship with Tim platonic. This relationship became the focus of her therapy. She wrestled with herself. With her neediness. With her desire. She did not want to be trapped in these feelings of need. But Sarah was powerless over her emotions. She was powerless over the little girl inside who had felt so unloved and was desperate to connect.
Sarah was utterly confused. How could Tim not feel or want what she felt and wanted? He didn’t.
Eventually, she met another man, Malcolm, with whom she had an intense and mutual attraction. In hindsight, Sarah saw how her experience with Tim caused her to tackle her fears, her need, and their differences, She saw how it enabled her to be ready for someone else.
Her feelings towards Tim cooled. She was able to disengage from him entirely. She let go. Malcolm and Sarah moved forward into what was to become a fantastic relationship.
We often don’t trust the universe. Why should we? So many difficult, painful, and challenging events occur. So much seems unfair and unfeeling. Consequently, we tend to live in survival mode. We grab at what we think we need. We do not easily align with a sense of trust and abundance. Yet ultimately, we want to trust ourselves and we want to have trust in a relationship.
See your relationship as a garden
Sarah and Malcolm ran into some tough challenges in their relationship. But they both wanted to make their relationship better. They understood that connection was not a given, but an active process of creativity, nurturing, and love.
They saw their relationship as a garden, and they decided they would till the soil, pull up the weeds, and fertilize the flowers. This is the attitude that enables a relationship to thrive. It enables us to create trust in a relationship. It also helped them to decide that working on their relationship was a worthy endeavor.
Much of life is a process. What are we gaining from each step, each journey? How can we unpeel each finger from what we think we want, so they are open to clasp what is better for us? How can we trust that if we can hold an abundance mentality, we can see from a different perspective? How can we transcend the pain and see the learning and growth that is available?
Stepping out of our human vulnerabilities is a process. It is not quick or easy. We must first go through pain and grief. We must wrestle with ourselves before we can see the gift in the challenge before we can see past the pain. Our human bodies and egos are not designed to let go of our emotional needs. The movement from distress to faith is not instant. Hence the need for sages and wisdom keepers, for therapists and friends, for those who see for us, what we cannot see for ourselves.
Until we get our own internal aha, the perspective of others who care for us can help us understand when to stay and when to fold. When to persist and when to walk away. If we look only at the desired outcome, we may miss the learning we are being offered. We may walk away too soon and have to repeat the experience with someone else. We may stay too long and miss another opportunity.
Dilemmas are solved by acquiring wisdom, which we gain through life and experience. Our growth tends not to be entirely mental but encompasses our bodies and hearts as well. We learn to see beyond the surface process to the deeper movements within. We learn to accept our experience and do the work needed to move to greater fulfillment. This is how we love ourselves.
You might want to check out Jennifer’s Healing Tips Blog for self-growth healing tips.
For other Relationship Tips, check out some other posts on WeConcile’s Blog.
Jennifer Lehr, LMFT writes about relationships, personal development, self-actualization and spirituality in relatable articles. Get these free insights and tips by subscribing to her occasional newsletters.