The other night when I had dinner with a friend, I heard myself say something that I thought quite nicely described the view point on life lately: happiness is hard work.
What I mean by that is that happiness doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t just come, good relationships don’t just pop up, and anything worth having in your life normally takes some hard work.
*Cue relationship talk.*
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my four-year relationship with my fiance, it’s that communication is HARD. I’m always amazed at how my fiance and I can be speaking the same language, but we’re seemingly on totally different pages. Sometimes it can seem like we’re in totally different chapters of totally different books.
Perhaps the best thing I’ve learned in my recovery and work in therapy (I feel like I say this a lot about different things, haha) is that communicating with our loved ones is super important if we want to have good relationships.
I talked in a previous post about connection and disconnection, and I shared my belief that connection is what we’re here for. It’s the one thing that we all really want and disconnection is something that hurts everybody.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that thrives on connection, but then also shames us for needing others and being relational creatures. That’s pretty freaking hard to balance.
I know that feeling not heard can be super triggering, as I imagine it is for most people. We all want to be heard by our loved ones, and feeling like our feelings don’t matter, or like people don’t understand us can be really hurtful. That’s why I think communication is so important.
I used to do this thing with my fiance where I wouldn’t tell him how I felt about something, but then get upset when he didn’t know what was wrong (I think a lot of people have done this with their partners.) This obviously made things a BIG HUGE mess and it made it really hard for us to be on the same page.
I had to learn that his not knowing what was upsetting me or what he was doing wrong didn’t mean he didn’t love me, it meant I wasn’t communicating my needs/emotions clearly enough.
Taking the risk to communicate our needs or our feelings to our partners and loved ones can feel really vulnerable; it leaves us with a knot in our stomachs and afraid of rejection (which is just another word for disconnection). But the only way we will really be able to connect with others and be on the same page is if we learn how to communicate with those who matter most to us.
I had a fight with my sister recently (I guess fight is a strong word, disagreement is more appropriate, but you get the drift) and we were totally just missing each other. Do you ever feel that way? Like no matter how hard you try to get on the same page with someone, you both are having such strong emotions and it’s just HARD to listen to the other person?
I think it can be easy to feel like if we listen to how someone else feels, or if we validate someone else’s experience, it automatically invalidates our own. But the truth is that if we are able to listen to someone else’s feelings, they’re more likely to listen to ours. Relationships are all about give and take.
So anyway, I was having this disagreement with my sister, and we both had a lot of different emotions coming up. When we finally were able to talk about it in a more calm way, it ended up that we were actually on the same page all along, we just weren’t communicating our own experiences effectively.
We actually pretty much agreed, but we each had our own feelings that were bubbling and we both wanted to be heard. Such is life, right?
I had a therapist a few years ago that once said something like this: Relationships are like really confusing dances. You’re doing your own dance, and the other person is doing their own dance, and then you both have to create a new dance to do together that is unique but still incorporates your own, individual dances.
I think that’s a really beautiful metaphor for how hard it can be to have healthy relationships. We all want to be able to share our feelings and live our truth, but we also need to sometimes make sacrifices and compromises in order to meet the needs of both people.
I think some people have this idea in their heads that in healthy relationships you never fight. I had a friend who used to tell me that her and her fiance never fought because they “didn’t need to.” I was like “on what planet do you live and what’s it like cause that sounds so not like my experience.”
I’m not saying that Logan and I sit around fighting all the time, but every once in a while we disagree about something, or one of us says something that hurts the feelings of the other, and we have to talk about it. And I mean REALLY talk about it.
I am really lucky to have a partner who is super emotionally intelligent and can understand and express his feelings in a mature way. We’ve had some tough conversations about life, family, friends, careers, disagreements, you name it.
What I’ve noticed in these situations (whether it be with my sister, with my fiance, with a parent, or with a friend) is that at the very bottom line, I love the person. I want to have a good relationship with them because I care about them and enjoy having them in my life.
Loving someone doesn’t mean they don’t piss you off. In fact, I think loving someone means they really DO piss you off sometimes and you piss them off sometimes but you’re both willing to work at your relationship because it matters to both of you.
I’m no relationship guru, and I’m in no way saying that all of my relationships are perfect (they’re definitely not). But they are important to me, and I have made a lot of improvements to my relationships throughout my recovery.
The fact of the matter is that being happy and healthy takes a lot of hard work, but it’s really, really, really, worth it.