Do I Want You or Just a Relationship

In the last few articles I have been taking a look at what qualities/characteristics need to be present to have a truly successful relationship (http://www.balancedfamily.com/). I have focused on the importance of knowing who you are and what you require as an essential starting point. As part of the continuing discussion on this topic, I think it’s time to address your actual goal for a relationship is and why you want to be in one.

What failed relationships reveal

Cathy was a young woman in her late twenties when she came to my office. She had been involved with David for three years. They were living together and talking seriously about getting married. Cathy was looking for guidance on whether she should ignore her feelings of discontent to fulfill her dream of being part of a committed couple. Cathy had been down this path before. She would meet a guy and immediately start planning their future together, become interested in whatever he wanted – the restaurant he wanted to go to, the movie he wanted to see, or the activity he wanted to do Cathy was ready and willing. Unfortunately, when Cathy suggested doing something the guy would always find a reason for not doing it. This pattern was continued with David. In addition, David was a slob. He would never pick up after himself and actually doing any cleaning never entered his mind. Cathy had done all the straightening and cleaning since they moved in together. She wanted to buy a house but wasn’t sure she wanted to take on the responsibility for more space when she could barely keep up with the small apartment.

During our sessions, Cathy revealed the longest time she had ever been without a boyfriend since high school was the summer after her freshman year in college. She also admitted she had never been the one to do the breaking up. Almost as soon as one relationship ended, Cathy was looking for another one. She did not understand why the relationships always seemed to follow the same pattern. She thought she was giving her partners exactly what they wanted but the relationships all ended up in a series of arguments and recriminations. Cathy acknowledged the conflicts would begin when she would try to talk about her feelings and begin to request more active participation in the relationship by her partner. Cathy admitted she would wait until she was really hurt before speaking up. Sometimes her partner would make an attempt to give Cathy what she was requesting but the change would never last more than a couple of weeks and things would return to the same old, same old. Eventually both of them would get so tired and frustrated with the discord, the relationship would end. Cathy was seeing the beginnings of this pattern with David and wanted to find a way out of it.

Cathy had an “aha” moment when I asked her why what David wanted to do was more important than what she wanted. When she said aloud that she was afraid he would leave her if she didn’t do what he wanted, she “got it”. She recognized she wanted to be in a relationship so badly that she was willing to do almost anything, including discounting her needs. When Cathy could no longer ignore her own needs and requested they be met, the problems would start. She also discovered she minimized the way David made her feel, hoping he would change those behaviors after marriage. When Cathy realized the pattern of her relationships was driven by her fear of being alone, she made the decision to put off marriage until she and David had developed a more equal relationship.

Fear of being alone

Cathy, like many of us, didn’t make the connection between her fear of being alone and her failed relationships. She thought if she could just give her partner everything he wanted and require nothing in return, the relationship would work out. The problem with that way of thinking is it ignores the reality that a relationship is an interaction between two people. When that relationship addresses the needs of only one of the parties, it results in an imbalance which cannot be sustained over the long run. It is essential that each party is aware of why they are in a relationship and what they want it to look like. If either one is motivated by fear of losing that relationship, the other party will then have disproportionate influence even if he/she is unaware of it. A pattern of one person giving in to the needs of the other will develop. Since most of us like to have things the way we like, this pattern then becomes highly resistant to change and conflict becomes inevitable.

To comment on this article or for information on another topic, please send e-mail to lesli@balancedfamily.com

© 2008 Cary Home Times

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