You've surely heard the saying, "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." This is an incredibly accurate statement, especially when it comes to relationships. We often find that couples, whether they are newly together or have been together for some time, tend towards trying to avoid the conversations and confrontations that challenge their ideas about the relationship and cause them discomfort. It's not surprising, really. In general, people tend to relate to the things that are challenging as being "bad" and things that are easy as being "good".
While I'm sure you recognize that some of your periods of discomfort have also been times of some of your greatest growth, that doesn't necessarily mean that you are ready to take all major challenges head-on. If you're like most people, you'll have at least some hesitation.
Especially when it comes to our intimate relationships, most of us have a tendency to avoid the issues that might rock the boat, and while it might save us a disagreement in the moment, these issues often make their way to the surface over time. When they do, if they are not addressed in healthy ways, they often make their way out in ways that can be reckless and even damaging to the relationship.
All couples will at times find themselves in difficult situations, but there are couples who use these instances to strengthen what they have and those that allow these challenges to tear them apart. In this post, we're looking at how difficulties can bring couples closer together rather than dividing them.
In relationships, most people find themselves in a predicament of being caught somewhere between resignation and resentment.
Some people will choose to spend their lives with another person for money, for comfort, or for other reasons, and in order to make it "work" they shut down aspects of themselves, getting less than what they truly want (and deserve). On the opposite end, there are some people that feel that a relationship threatens their freedom or their peace and so they have short-lived relationships, resisting the inevitable change that happens as a relationship evolves.
Both of these examples are responses to the challenges that are bound to happen in relationships. In the first instance, the person gives in to the challenge, or gives up, becoming a prisoner so-to-speak. When a person sees that the only way to have this relationship is to sacrifice something important, they are in a position in which they must choose to make that sacrifice for the sake of the relationship or risk losing it.
In the second instance, the person resists the idea of having to make a sacrifice(s) and they run from the relationship. They often think that one day they'll meet someone that will not require that "sacrifice" from them. Of course, this is mistaken because truly incorporating another person into our lives involves change. What must be questioned is the idea that making this change is a sacrifice at all.
While both instances are ways of reacting to the challenges that are arising, neither of them actually resolve anything. Rather, they are avoidance tactics: Either cave and resign to the challenges, or run from them.
Successful relationships, on the other hand, are made up of two people running into the challenges. They "take them on".
The challenges that we don't work through don't just go away. If there is an area of resistance or discomfort in your relationship, it's not going to disappear. You can ignore it and you can look the other way, but events will continue to take place that remind you of the unresolved issues and you will feel it over and over again. Until you begin to resolve these issues, you have no choice but to repress them or run from them.
It's important to note that often one partner will want to "take on" the challenges while the other will not. In our work with couples, we have found that there is usually one partner who is more insistent on "doing the work" than the other. One of the partners is really taking in the coaching, doing everything in their power to resolve the challenges they are facing; the other partner wishes they would just leave well-enough alone.
What's happening here is that one partner wants to run into the challenges to resolve them and heal the relationship while the other partner is wanting to avoid them altogether. They might say, "There is nothing wrong with our relationship, I don't see why we need to do this."
If your partner says that there is something to work on, there is. Period. They are telling you that some need they have in this relationship is not being fulfilled. If you want the relationship to work, this must be taken seriously.
If your partner is absolutely closed to growing in this way and you feel strongly that it is important, you can never really be fulfilled with that person.
Coaching is not about something being wrong with the relationship--all relationships have challenges. Coaching is about addressing these challenges on your terms so that you can deepen your relationship through navigating those challenges. When you don't address them on your terms, these difficulties surface in harmful ways that oftentimes end up destroying the relationship.
We have seen many instances in which the relationship might have been salvaged had the couple reached out for coaching support sooner. By the time they did, their bitterness and resignation were so strong, they no longer saw the possibility of being in Love with each other. This is why taking on your challenges together is so important.
The good news is that working through the challenges as a couple prepares you for the future together. On the other side of every difficult situation, discussion, or confrontation, you will find yourselves in a deeper level of intimacy.
The challenges that come up reveal what your partner is not telling you, the things that you would not talk about if the difficulty had not come up; because it did, you now know them better.