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The Challenge and Gift of Relationships
Posted: 7/17/2013 | Relationships Comments
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Love is a feeling, marriage is a contract, and relationships are work. –Lori Gordon

When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships. –Andy Warhol
People are not perfect...very often the relationships that are strongest are those where people have worked through big crises, but they’ve had to work through them. So the challenge to us is to work through that. –Patricia Hewitt

Have you ever noticed how your intimate partner, or maybe your closest friend, can really get under your skin? Somehow they seem to know the perfect tone or phrase that triggers you. An avalanche of feelings can occur, and you might find yourself feeling sad, hurt, angry or ashamed. These close relationships challenge us and help us grow as a person. Even if you really don’t prefer to grow in that moment, an opportunity presents itself. You can either blame the other or take a good look at yourself and see what past event is stimulated within you.
This internal questioning and inner observation is necessary in all our relationships if we want to learn to respond from our authentic selves. Intimate relationships just set the bar higher. After all, we’re much more volatile, sad or angry with those closest to us. Romantic relationships are, by definition, more intimate and therefore scarier and more difficult to navigate. 
Relationships have changed dramatically in the past twenty years. We used to meet other people in school, our neighborhood, through friends or at community events. Our relatively recent technological advances have deeply affected the way we relate to each other as humans. Studies show our attention span is getting shorter. Some blame this on cable television, especially the quick paced scene changes on channels like MTV.
With the advent of the internet came the expectation and craving for instant gratification. A click of a button brings you nearly everything you want, and often delivered to your inbox in less than 30 seconds. So, when your relationship hits a bump, it may seem easier to throw it away and start fresh. 
The problem, of course, is that we’ll never have what we truly want. We can’t have fun, rich and fulfilling intimate relationships this way. Those take work. As a psychotherapist and spiritual teacher, especially when I’m working with couples, I’ve found successful, satisfying and happy relationships have a common thread– both people put in the necessary effort.
I think, as a society, we’re all addicted to perfection. We want ourselves and our partners to have beautiful bodies, solid bank accounts and of course they should always put our feelings first. Perfection isn’t possible. I tell couples that if their committed intimate relationship works over all an average of 80-90% of the time, that’s a good relationship. There will be times when your relationship feels 100% satisfying, and times when you’ve plummeted to a much lower percentage. It’s important to remember that this is what a healthy relationship looks like.
How you manage your feelings about your relationship when it’s less desirable is more important than how you feel when it’s all smooth sailing. It requires looking at yourself to see what’s triggered by your emotional past, as well as your partner doing the same. With this information, you’ll be triggered less often and the incident that triggers you will be much easier to negotiate. With practice and attention, you’ll feel far more satisfied, fulfilled and happy in all your relationships. It’s entirely worth the effort.
Please share how you have dealt with feelings that come up in your relationships. Your comments make a difference for all of us.

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