A lot of us have grand ideas of what a “good relationship” with the “right man” looks like. If you’re single, you use this vision as fuel to keep you going through the lonely nights and bad dates, telling yourself that one day all the pain will be worth it, that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel and he will be everything you’ve ever wanted and make you happier than you ever thought possible. If you’re in a relationship, you question if you should stay when things get rocky or problems arise. These doubts make you wonder whether he really is the man for you because aren’t you supposed to “just know” when the right one comes along? And if that is the case, then are these moments of uncertainty a sign that it’s not right?
It’s no secret that our society idealizes love. Starting at early childhood, we get inundated with idealized portrayals of eternal love. From Disney movies to Nicholas Sparks novels, we develop expectations of what love should be, how it should feel, what it should look like…and we feel disappointed when reality doesn’t quite align with that vision.
Here’s the thing that no one really tells you: good relationships don’t always feel all that good…but it’s not for the same reason bad relationships don’t feel good.
Bad relationships are the ones filled with all the drama. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. When I say “bad relationship,” I mean everything from a toxic, codependent situation, to a relationship with a man who won’t commit in a significant way, to a match that is simply incompatible.
These “bad relationships” are a great escape from real life. They give you the chance to lose yourself in someone else’s drama… or your own created drama. When you’re spending hours trying to figure out how he feels…where this is going…what he meant when he said X…why he’s taking so long to text back, you don’t really have to face yourself. You lose yourself in the emotional high of it all. It’s even better if you’re dealing with a guy who comes with a lot of emotional baggage. Investing in his problems is like a vacation from dealing with your own.
But in a good relationship…a relationship where you’re on the same page, when you aren’t waiting anxiously for the next text, a relationship where wondering if he likes you just seems ridiculous because you know exactly how he feels…well, those are the relationships that bring you face to face with who you truly are. Sometimes they will bring out the best in you, because we all have inherent goodness within us. And sometimes they will bring out the worst in you, because a lot of us have been burned or are holding on to traumas from the past that we didn’t even realize were still buried within us.
Sometimes there will be nothing wrong in the relationship but you will feel sad or anxious or upset. You won’t be able to blame this on the fact that he didn’t call or text or that you’re not his girlfriend or he hasn’t said “I love you” because he never leaves you hanging…he was proud to call you his girlfriend…he adores you and you know he does. The feelings aren’t coming from him, they’re coming from you. If you’ve been hurt in the past, this feeling of unease is your deep-seated trust issues. If you can’t seem to trust that he’ll be there for you, then out come the fears of abandonment.
In a good relationship, your actions, your mindset, your behavior, the things you say, etc. all impact someone else. Sometimes you will really hurt your partner and will realize how insensitive you can be. Sometimes they’ll say something innocent and it will become a huge fight because that innocent comment hit an open wound that you didn’t even know existed.
Sometimes you’ll feel unloved, sometimes you’ll feel insecure, sometimes you’ll feel angry, sometimes you’ll want to just run, and sometimes you’ll feel really lonely, and that will surprise you because how can you be lonely in the company of someone who truly loves you?
Some will make the mistake of thinking this is the wrong relationship and they’ll leave. Some will blame their partner for “making” them feel that way and issues will continue to arise until the relationship implodes, and others will realize that you can’t let love in from the outside if you don’t feel it on the inside and will do the inner work to get there, as hard as it can be. They will face their demons, they will deal with the pain from the past, they will communicate openly and honestly with their partners about their fears and their doubts and they won’t hold on to anger and resentment. They will realize that all relationships, even the best ones, take work, but it starts with working on yourself.
There’s this idea that in the right relationship, everything will just be perfect. He’ll be the other half of your soul, you’ll reach a level of happiness you never knew existed, you’ll feel secure and comfortable and confident. A good relationship can give you these things for sure, but not on its own. It has to start from within. If you don’t already feel good, if you still have issues to work through, if you have a void within, you will never fully be able to trust him, you will never truly feel “good enough.” No matter how many sweet things he says or does, you will never be able to give and receive love freely.
When we’re single, we’re often unaware of the work that needs to be done because those parts of us that are hurt and need to be healed don’t get accessed. Or maybe we do know but think the right guy will make it all better. Love forces you to face yourself. Love brings up all that is unloved within us. And you can’t hide who you are when you are in a good, loving relationship. Instead, you are forced to face it and deal with it. Your partner will always reflect back who you really are (and vice versa). And everything that happens will be much more emotionally significant.
When all you’ve had are bad relationships, it’s hard to really know what you’re doing when a good one comes along. You’re not used to this feeling of things just being right. You’re not used to just coasting along on placid waters and you can’t trust it. Instead, you stand on high alert, waiting for a storm to roll in and knock you overboard. For some of us, it might genuinely feel weird to just know how a guy feels about us and not have to guess and decode and look for clues. It can be unfamiliar and we may take that to mean something is amiss and we’re overlooking something. Maybe we pick him apart, maybe we start fights, maybe we feel despair because this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
Someone may be perfect for you, but they still won’t be a perfect person. And you’re not a perfect person. And the relationship won’t be perfect but it will force each of you to deal with your issues and work on yourselves to be better because in the right relationship, you want to be your best self…not just for your sake, but because you’re accountable to him and you don’t want to cause him any hurt and pain. But the path to becoming your best self isn’t always a smooth one. There are bumps and sharp turns and it can be dark and scary sometimes…but it’s OK. It’s normal, in fact.
The road to becoming our best selves takes time, patience, and a lot of work. It involves gaining an awareness of what you need to work on and finding the tools to get there.
Here are a few key things you can do to make a “good” relationship even better: