Three surprising relationship facts

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a relationship. Just when I think I’ve heard about every possible nuance or relationship story, something will come along that breaks the mold.

So then how could I possibly write a book exploring truths about relationships that we can apply to everyone? There are very few universal rules or facts about relationships, but just like determining a personality type, there are a few commonalities that seem to hold true.

The ideas we may have in our heads about typical relationships and what idealized love looks like may not apply to what we experience in real life. This, of course, makes us ask, “Am I normal? Is my relationship normal?”—as though there’s a magic formula to making things work.

Here’s the truth in 3 surprising relationship facts…

  1. Love is Messy.

You know your favorite romantic comedy? Maybe that one with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper or that one that came out last year with the girl from…

Yeah, forget the romantic comedies. Forget the fairytales. Forget the Hollywood interpretations of love. Love is messy—messier than that Hollywood stuff, messier than wicked-stepmothers and Prince Charming and sleeping spells.

Love takes work. Couples don’t split up because they fight. They split up because they don’t know how to grow from conflict and use it as a catalyst to strengthen their relationship. One of the most concerning things I hear from couples is when one partner tells me that they never fight, while the other partner has a laundry list of resentments and feelings that they’ve never brought to the table.

Intimacy, connecting with another person, and deep, meaningful relationships take work. They require messiness. There’s sweat and tears and all sorts of bodily fluids and it can get dirty. It can mean that things are said that not everyone in the relationship wants to hear, but these truths are expressed and both partners grow from these truths. They roll up their sleeves and do what it takes because despite being messy, love is also wonderful.

A supportive, loving, intimate and fulfilling relationship can be the very fire of metamorphosis. It can be the catalyst for change, the womb to grow in and the guide for our journey. Change, like love, is rarely linear or clear cut, and it is almost always messy.

  1. Fighting Can Bring You Closer, So Learn to Fight.

As I mentioned before, one of the most frightening things I can hear from a couple is that they “never fight” (particularly when it only comes from one person). Fighting can be scary, particularly if you were raised to be conflict-avoidant. However, contrary to popular belief, fighting can be a powerful tool for a couple to grow stronger.

Time and time again, I hear relationship advice aimed at restoring couples to the early phases of dating—when they were just getting to know one another and just starting to engage. Whenever I hear this, I cringe! Who would want to go back to a time when they were less intimate and less involved?

Couples that are strong have learned to fight productively. They’ve learned to use the rules of engagement to make themselves and their relationships stronger. When used properly, conflict and engagement can strengthen a couple’s bond. Issues that slowly erode relationships and resentments that build up over time are washed away. There’s no passive-aggression or hidden malice. Couples are engaged, communicating and much closer than they were back in those early stages of dating.

  1. You Need to Learn to Identify Your Yearnings.

All human beings yearn—and those yearnings can be at the core of why we choose our relationships. What do you desire from your relationship?

At the heart of every conflict is a yearning that’s not being met. This may be a desire for acknowledgement, to love and to be loved, a sense of belonging, intimacy, wanting to matter, or to trust. Understanding your yearnings helps you to boil down to the underlying motivation and reason for the conflict.

Unlike wants, which are more direct and specific, yearnings are broader and can be met in a number of ways. Our yearnings are deeply ingrained and are evolutionarily adaptive. They’ve helped us to communicate, to express our needs, to bond and develop.

When our yearnings are ignored, it can lead to feelings of conflict and resentment. We immediately feel a core threat and this can lead to a fight.

The funny thing about yearnings versus wants is that we can often express our wants more easily than our yearnings. “I want you to stop drumming your fingers on the table” is a request that our partner may comply with, but ultimately it leaves them feeling nagged at, and it doesn’t make us feel any more fulfilled. At the core of the “want” maybe be that we yearn for our partner to acknowledge us; we yearn for our personal space; we want to be able to work in quiet because we yearn to be successful or for creative expression.

Understanding our yearnings and identifying them can help us rematrix our core desires and many of the unmet needs from our childhood. Many of our yearnings are formed from interactions with our parents, siblings and throughout our youth. As we grow and adapt in our adult relationships these yearnings can still fuel our desires and interactions. They can arouse our conflict and resolve feelings that we may have previously ignored.

Understanding these three facts about relationships can give you a greater insight into conflict and engagement. You can strengthen your relationship and find fulfillment and progress as you work together to make your bond and your selves stronger.

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