Mismatched Relationships and Your Assumptions
Relationships are not stagnant. They grow, evolve, and change no matter how desperately we may wish they would remain in the same state of bliss that found you first declaring “I love you”. We can blame temptation, new information, boredom, ourselves or even our partner, on shaking the foundation of what seemed like a loving, balanced partnership. With the introduction of children, new jobs, conversations with friends, and really the list could go on and on you may find yourself, as I have, wondering who that person is in the mirror? And by extension who is the person that you’re sharing your life with? Just accepting that you have a mismatched relationship is difficult enough, but now, you need to take it a step further and decide what to do about it.
When was the last time you asked your partner what they wanted from the relationship? And further, when was the last time you asked that of yourself? Chances are fairly high that it has been a while, if it ever happened. The fundamental building blocks of most relationships are simply assumptions that we are all guilty of making. Honestly, have you ever taken the time to ask the following questions?
-Is emotional cheating the same as physical cheating?
-What is cheating in your relationship?
-Is masturbation acceptable?
-What about pornography?
-Or how about flirting or communicating with a person who is the same gender as your spouse?
The bottom line is figuring out what is permissible in your relationship, before someone crosses an invisible line. Asking tough questions, often and with openness to the answers are what really build a relationship foundation. What key values, or core concepts hold the two of you together? And the main one, what type of relationship do you want or are you willing to put effort into having?
We make assumptions in our daily life, but when it comes to relationships, there is no one size fits all. Thus, not talking about what your relationship looks like in a perfect world will have consequences. And even if you discussed at length what your ideals were in the beginning, we all change, hence why letting go of these so-called givens is necessary and asking the questions now and again will ensure your relationship is not just based on assumptions.
Proactive VS Reactionary
We are sadly no able to time travel, and therefor go back and have the tough conversations before things get out of hand. This is why the majority of us would describe our relationships as reactionary. I mean, who could have predicted a global pandemic and all the struggles we now are facing as a result. And in the before times, how could you have prepared for that hot blond co-worker suddenly making an appearance, and inserting jealousy into an otherwise healthy and equitable partnership? The point is, no matter how great a communicator you are, preparing for every contingency is impossible. But what you can do, is practice having tough conversations, and creating a safe space for reactions, emotions, and follow ups, thereby creating a more proactive vs reactionary relationship.
Living on eggshells, or with uncertainty breeds resentment, anger, doomed to erupt into a stay or go scenario. But the fear of asking tough questions or admitting you have changed as a person often will feel akin to the relationship being over anyways. That is why so many choose to turn a blind eye, sweep things under the rug, compromise until the children are grown etc. If the relationship is irreconcilable anyways, why even bother putting yourself through any additional pain, right?
At this point, I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to try and have the tough conversations instead of just living in a non authentic way. Try not to think of the relationship as doomed no matter what, but instead that there are skills and questions that asking now could turn the tides. Making the initial steps to be proactive, rather than reactive may not save your current relationship, but, it will ensure you know the answers for certain, alleviate any guilt about not trying, and prepare you for a future with healthy and open communication.
What Do You Want?
The first thing, is figuring out what your ideal relationship actually entails. Are you happiest with the freedom to flirt? Are you a person who needs friends the same sex as your spouse just for perspective or companionship? Is porn an integral part of your sex life? Are you curious about non-monogamy or something outside of your current relationship? The questions could go on for pages and pages, and whatever questions you have, it is important that you spend some time thinking about what in your current relationship makes you happy. Then, really address the parts that are missing, or you never thought were possible. Knowing what you want in a relationship is the most basic and fundamental part of having a great relationship.
What Does Your Partner Want?
If you’re thinking about shaping your relationship in a way that better suits your wants and needs, it stands to reason that your partner will need to be on the same page, or at least have all the information. So not only do you need to ask your partner the same questions above, but you have to give them the space to reflect, do research, and actually figure it out for themselves. Change does not happen overnight. This is a process, filled with opportunities to become closer, more open, explore fantasies, or in some cases, realize that you both are just too different. But that realization coming out of a place of calm discussions is a far better alternative than in the middle of fight or a fit of exhausted rage. So be brave, ask your partner to really think about this, and allow them the time, compassion, and love to answer.
Word of Caution
There is nothing more frustrating than relationship limbo, or that certainty that things could be better if only you could hit the reset button and start again. But the reality is, you cannot just take a break in the real world. You have responsibilities and obligations that require your presence. That sense of family and purpose often keeps us living in fear from asking for what we want. And let me be completely honest, when you talk about changing your relationship dynamic you may encounter a range of feedback from anger, hurt, the accusation of selfishness, or someone just walking out the door. These risks are real. However, I truly believe in finding ones happiness and truth, so if you are prepared to do the hard work, hope exists in eventually bringing that mismatch back into a new, and mutually agreed upon sync, not just an assumption. A relationship based on more than just hope and assumptions is a relationship worth working towards.
If you have questions or feedback I welcome them in the comment section, and please stay tuned for more on the subject of mismatched relationships.