What If You Approached Your Relationship As a Practice?
You finally meet someone you like, not just that you're attracted to. The connection is mutual and air tight and you find yourself using the word “perfect” a lot. Life is brighter now and things that used to bother you really don’t anymore, like traffic. You guys decide to be “exclusive”. Maybe move in together. Then onions slowly start to get peeled as you get to know each other more and more. And more and more, little things start annoying you. The word perfect disappears from your vocabulary and traffic is the worse things that’s ever happened to humans! Due to personal stories and wiring, there’s lots of stepping on each others’ toes regarding communication styles. Sometimes there’s no communication at all. Expectations aren’t matched. Discomfort sets in. Resentment builds. Chemistry fades. You know how this story ends.
What if after the honeymoon phase and the relationship becomes official, whether it’s assumed or announced, you approach it differently. What if you expect it to be rocky? Not in a 'it’s not going to work' way. More of a you 'gotta earn it way'. Like Yoga. CrossFit. Martial arts. What if you know that the relationship starts with a white belt and takes a lot of practice to get to brown or black? And what if earning those belts meant bettering yourself first? What if you approached the relationship as a daily practice as if it was a craft you’re trying to master? Would this change the way you maneuver in the relationship? Would you practice more patience? Would you practice more forgiveness and empathy? How would this mindset change the way you decide to love?
First, let’s define practice. I define practice as any space that promotes growth. Simple. Most people don’t realize that relationships can create that space. That’s fair. We don’t get into a relationship because we know it will make us stronger. We choose to be with someone because they’re hot or funny or both and being with them feels good. Growth is rarely the reason why we decide to build something with someone.
Here are three ways to approach your relationship as a practice.
1. Go into it every day with the intention of learning something.
Most people don’t see relationships as a place to learn about themselves. We resist change, become defensive, and usually blame the other person. If you choose to see your relationship as an opportunity to learn about yourself, your partner, relationship dynamics, and life, you may approach conflict with more openness and wonder instead of anger and judgement.
2. Notice the gains.
So many focus solely on what their relationship is lacking that they don’t notice what is improving. Things may not be perfect or where you would like them to be. But if there’s any positive change in the relationship, acknowledge it. Be proud of it. Whatever you feed grows. Focus on the gains, not the pains. This is how you will be better at your relationship practice.
3. Every practice takes practice.
Remember that you, your partner, or the relationship will never be perfect. The relationship is a journey, not a quick fix. It takes falling down, both as individuals and as a couple, and getting back up again that will make you stronger. Every conflict is an opportunity to understand each other better. There’s a lesson behind every struggle. Practice means learning from these struggles instead of running from them.
Let’s face it. Being with someone is only about being with someone for only a couple weeks or months. Then it is either about growing with someone or controlling someone. If you see your relationship as a daily practice, you are creating soil for growth.